Before I had kids, I would talk so badly about people who smothered theirs. I would be like, “My kids are gonna have freedom. I am going to teach them to be self sufficient. Blah, blah, blah. Look at that parent! That’s what’s wrong with kids today, blah, blah, blah. So weak, blah…”
Yeah. So then I had kids, and voila! Instant helicopter parent! Did not even want them spending the night some place where Bill, my mom, or I was not. Real talk. I did not say much, but I had a THING going in my mind every time they were with somebody else. As far I as I was concerned nobody else could be trusted. Not even for birthday parties where I picked them up in a couple hours. I know y’all did not know that, right? I was so laid back with it, huh? Yeah, NAWL. I secretly obsessed. And when the kids came home I asked more than 21 questions. I asked CIA interrogation type questions when Bill wasn’t around. Just in case. Real live HELICOPTER PARENT. On steroids.
And it is against THIS backdrop that I share with you that we walked to the park yesterday while it was sunny and beautiful. This is a big deal because. Reasons. In what was a total of about 3 hours and some change, we walked/they ran/I meandered towards the playground of the park, then they ran around with all the other kids (some of whom had on shorts and no shoes even though it is still winter and I am not trying to judge but PARENTS it is still winter time and this is not the way) before making our way back home exhausted. Success! I exercised; they got to go to the park. Win-win.
Usually, I make them walk with me, and I try to walk faster so they won’t get bored. I do this for the obvious parental reason of proximity control: strangers, moving cars, big dogs, dogs off leash, cars running stop signs, cars coming out of alleys, people talking on cell phones while driving, kidnappers, rapists, killers, crazy people…you know, those tiny little fears that will overwhelm you when you are out in public spaces with the most precious of cargo. I found too many varying statistics to make a judgment call about the actual number of kids abducted by strangers versus relatives versus acquaintances, but the numbers I have always seen are still more than I want to experience.
But the boos are growing up (and I am growing fat–so I can’t even walk that fast: send help). We have had a dozen talks about stranger danger and even what to do if they feel uncomfortable around family and friends. So I let them walk ahead of me, their parameters being stopping at any major street crossing and staying within visual distance (which of course Haleigh took to the max. Because. Risk taker. She was a forever dot on the horizon. Ugh).
But I am a helicopter parent trying not to be, so I was still freaked out. Every time I saw a dog bigger than them, I wanted to scream, “GET BACK BESIDE ME!” (And no lie, one time I did. Dude had 2 Saint Bernards off-leash while he was on a phone call. No bueno.) Despite my irrational fears, no one snatched them up as I watched in horror. I did not round a corner to see them being pushed into a nondescript sedan and driven off by some random predator. All the dogs we met (even the Saint Bernards) were friendly or just uninterested in our presence. I really had nothing to be afraid of. At the playground, they played together for a while then spread out among the other kids, sometimes getting lost from my sight. They both even came up to me a couple times to check in. I mean, whose mature kids are these?!?
I wish I could orchestrate every second of their lives down to the millisecond so that they don’t suffer or falter. But I cannot. They have to be trusted to make good choices on their own. And I have to give them room to grow. I sure don’t want them to end up at home with me forever because they cannot navigate life. I want them to be safe but I also want them to take chances and test boundaries without having to overcome irrational fears like the ones so many people have to tackle to move forward (myself included).
I am slowly but surely parking the helicopter more often. Or at least hovering at a safe far away distance, lol. Okay. I’m still hovering, but I am totally not swooping in like I used to. Unless I see 2 big dogs off leash–then all bets are off.