My husband is a helicopter parent. His motto is my babies don’t get hurt, ever.
He drives me nuts when we go out together, because he’s constantly stressing about the kids. How fast they’re running and what mischief they are getting into, hell he even worries about what other people are thinking about our kid[s] behaviour. He’s always within two feet of them, always with his hands outstretched, always ready to catch before they fall, to steady wobbly legs.
I admire that he’s so protective, I do…
But it also can drive me nuts. His anxiety about the kids rubs off on me and then I get anxious.
Matt is like Marlin from Finding Nemo. And as we learned from that movie, if you over-helicopter parent, your child will rebel. And touch a butt. And be kidnapped by a dentist to be gifted to his serial killer niece.
I’m more laid back. I’ll find a spot a safe distance away, like a bench at the park, and I’ll watch. My heart will flutter in my throat every time they get too close to the edge, but they are children. They are boys. It’s natural for them to get too close to the edge.
I’ll let them be children. I’ll let them run and play. I’ll set boundaries, and of course
most times some times they push those boundaries, so I’ll get up and go steer them in the right direction.
And I’ve never had either kid fall off the play structure, either. I’m not saying I never will have a kid fall off the play structure, it’s bound to happen, but it hasn’t yet.
Children have a wonderful gift of turning anything into toys. I have a motto about this; if its broken, garbage, poisonous, or sharp: it’s not a toy.
Take the other day at the baseball game, for instance. Archer was having a blast playing with the bats. He’d grab one or two and carry them around. He wasn’t hurting anybody, and he was being careful so I let him have at it. When the team members needed a bat, Archer would hand it off to them and he affectionately got the nickname “bat boy”.
Matt is really good on this front. He made toys out of everything when he was a kid. He remembers those days well. I was the one with reservations about this rule. So much so that back when Nolan was a toddler, I was constantly armed with a can of Lysol and a bottle of hand sanitizer and obsessively wiped down every single thing he came into contact with. I damn well near took him to the emergency room every time he licked the cart handle at the grocery store.
I’ve since chilled way out about that. Now, if it can’t harm them in an obvious way, it’s free game. Obviously my kids have a generalized talent of turning anything into a weapon, but then when they loose it for a few minutes they typically smarten up.
Matt is doing better about the helicopter parenting with Nolan, as he’s older now. He’s still protective and hesitate to let Nolan loose on the world (he’s too young!, he’ll insist), but he’s even more of a helicopter with Archer. Always one step behind Archer the entire time, hands out stretched (or he’ll tell me to). He doesn’t enjoy going to the park because he gets super anxious when Archer climbs the play structures, and I know…it is heart stopping watching your not-quite-two year old scale play structures triple their size. I battle that too. But helicoptering doesn’t help that anxiety, it makes it worse. It’s exhausting for the helicopter parent, it’s exhausting for the other, not so helicopter parent, and the kid either gets irritated by the efforts or ignores the helicopter parent.
Matt is persistent though. Any time this subject comes up, he stubbornly insists that Archer is still his baby and he’s still too little.
Children like to be independent, and I like to grant that to them…within reason. Our backyard is fenced in, and there’s nothing out there that can harm the kids. I’ll let them outside and clean the kitchen and living room, pausing every 5 minutes to check on them. They’ll be playing happily in the “garden” with their pails, shovels and dump trucks.
Matt doesn’t like this. Matt likes to be outside with them.
I’m willing to let the boys take chances and learn to do things on their own. Actually, I fully endorse and encourage it, and not just for my own sanity. It’s good for them too. It makes them feel big and important, even if its something little like walking into a store holding my hand (for Archer) and having Nolan “babysit” while I go switch the laundry or quickly get dressed and do my makeup.
I can hear them, downstairs, while I get ready.
“No baby Archer! Mommy won’t like it if we go in the fridge….ok one grape baby Archer.”
“No baby Archer! Don’t touch Mommy’s lamps! It makes her sad!”
He takes his babysitting role very seriously, and when I come back into the room 5 minutes later, he proudly tells me what happened.
But I know, there is always a helicopter parent in every family. At the beginning, I thought it was going to be me. But as the days go by, I find myself trusting my gut and them more. Not enough to let Nolan drive me to the beer store (yet) or Archer to trim his own hair (he’d probably do a better job than me, though), but enough to allow them the freedom of playing and exploring without me constantly right behind them.
My mom gave us a lot of independence to do that, actually. With my oldest sister playing baseball games twice a week, my other sisters and I would get to play in the parks by the diamond. My mom would park her lawn chair where she could easily see my oldest sister playing baseball and us in the park. We had a system. We looked out for one another, and we made sure the youngest one didn’t get into any trouble because then our freedom to play in the park would be removed and we’d be forced to watch the game. Boring!
As far as I can recall, we never got dangerously hurt playing on the play structure by ourselves. Sure, occasionally someone would trip and scrape their knees on the asphalt, but scraped knees are a testament to childhood.
I’m going to state a rather unpopular opinion here that I hope won’t grind anyone’s gears, so please don’t stone me.
I’m a big believer in that co-parenting is something that occurs between two parents, married or not. Sharing the duties, deciding how to discipline, how to teach important lessons, who picks who up from daycare or school, who takes who to extra curricular activities. Parenting along side each other, regardless of your relationship with one another. And your parenting relationship is an important one. You have up at least try to be on the same page, you have to come at parenting challenges as a team — regardless of your relationship status.
This relationship takes constant work, and when two people have two different takes on things…that’s when it gets a little frustrating. Feathers get ruffled. But my way is the best way, you think, while your spouse is thinking, I’m right, she’s wrong.
Married or not, it’s a challenge. The important thing is recognizing that and working towards a compromise.
What do you think? Do you and your partner (or other parent of your child[ren]) have different ways of parenting? How do you deal with that?
Lets get a conversation started!