Monday, September 28, 2015

proud helicopter mom

I'm the mom you see at the park, following closely behind my child. Sometimes I play with him and follow his lead. Like really play. Stomp in the puddles and walk up the slide and swing so high that terror dances with exhilaration. He reminds me how good it feels to do things that us adults call pointless. Sometimes I am simply a shadow, making sure he stays safe and is well behaved. Either way I am always close behind.

I have heard it referred to as a helicopter parenting.  It's not a new term, yet one that has resurfaced as of late. The term "helicopter parent" was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott's 1969 book Parents & Teenagers by teens who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter. Ann Dunnewold, Ph. D., a licensed psychologist calls it "overparenting." "It means being involved in a child's life in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting, and overperfecting, in a way that is in excess of responsible parenting," Dr. Dunnewold explains. So you see, it's supposed to be a bad thing, but as far as parenting goes- it's one that is necessary for me.

I don't go to the park to relax. In fact, I frequently have to talk myself into even going, and I pep talk myself the whole drive there. You can do this. You will not let your fear compromise their childhood joys.  And I often make a pact with myself -30 minutes. No matter what you can handle thirty minutes.

I do not mind if you sit on the sidelines. This parenting thing is tough, and if you have a minute or twenty that you can sit and relax, by golly go for it. Heck, I don't even care if you paint your nails while eating a turkey sandwich. I do not mind of you are like me, following close behind. Unless it's dangerous, how you parent is absolutely none of my business. When it comes to parenting there is no one size fits all. There are often two extremes and a million grays in between.

I've seen a surge of- "Dear Helicopter Moms, You're Ruining it for Everyone Else" articles. I feel sad for anyone who would witness my behavior and interactions with my boys and simply see helicopter mom. They are missing out on all the beauty in our gray. Many of us parents doing our best have our gray stories too.

You see, both of my boys have autism. A walk in the park is anything but. I leave often leave the park ponytail undone and speckled with earth and sweat. On rare occasions even tears.

 photo _MG_9826_zpsmivzazyo.jpg

My youngest has trouble following simple directions. STOP. Come here. Wait. 

We work on it daily in therapy- but it is best reinforced through real life experiences. He still tries to run by himself into dangerous parking lots and streets. He would hop into a strangers car without a glance back at me. It would be safer and easier at home, but that wouldn't be fair to him at all. 

 photo _MG_0477_zpslmizyau6.jpg

My oldest has a hard time sharing and waiting his turn. He has problems with proprioreception- the ability to "feel" his body and what it's doing. I have to make sure he doesn't knock over your little one on his way to the slide. He frequently runs into people. He also thinks as long as he says "my turn"- he can have something instantly. The swing, your ball. Your chips.

I love my precious two, and parenting them is an honor. I just wanted to share some gray with you today. Because it's easier to love more and judge less when we know someone's story.  And everyone, everysingleone has a story that has created us into the person we are and the choices we make today. My boys taught me that if all we see is the cover, we are missing out on the very best parts of what makes up the book. I keep that in mind when I feel that pang of unfamiliarity when watching people interact in the world.

The way my children view the world isn't wrong, but it IS very very different. And because they view the world differently, so do I. And that is a gift. It's given me a better perspective and given us a beautiful story. 

Signed a proud helicopter parent,



  1. Thank you for being proud! :)
    I've been told I'm on the edge of of a helicopter mom status but personally- I think it's for parents who ARE trying to perfect their child.
    My child is only 3 and is still working on listening, obeying, not doing dangerous things, etc. When I go to the park, yes I am very nearby just in case something happens. But I am not stopping him from trying new things, pushing him to do certain things, and more. I am there because my child is only 3- the sign at most playgrounds lists the age as like 5 or something for playing on them.
    I am not trying to perfect my child and make them as good or better than the other children there. I am there to prevent broken bones and kiss scraped knees. That's just called love.

  2. I think you are an amazing Mum. Yes, I know you have your 'off' days, but you share them with us and we understand. My son is 51 in a couple of weeks, and I'm now convinced he's autistic, but of course that was never a credible diagnosis when he was a child. But I can recognise so much of his behaviour being similar to your boys. I would like to reassure you that, with help, he managed his life very well (until he had a very bad motor cycle crash) But, he's married and has a son and daughter, and now, a grandson....which makes me a great gran, which is scary lol. He still gets fixated on things....railways, Star Trek, world war 1. world war 2, computers....actually he's brilliant with computers, and when mine has a nervous breakdown he can always fix it. So, although it's probably not a great comfort now, believe me your two adorable boys will find their place in the world, and cope far better than you can imagine at this moment. Take a deep breath and treasure every moment with them ( good or bad) I just wish I'd done that! Blessings

    1. It's so heartwarming, in these days of mommy wars, to see a mom reach out with such sweet encouraging words. :)

  3. I have an 11 boy who has autism. As he is 11, now is the time where parents "drop off" their kids for playdates or for birthday parties. That will never be me. When he actually DOES have an invite to a birthday party, I have to attend in case of meltdowns, behaviors. Life is hard. I try to appreciate the small steps and get him out in the 'public' even if he is anxious. It's tough. I wish more people knew my 'story'... I'm not looking for people to feel sorry for me but to see that it's not so easy and to appreciate their children and lives more. I KNOW I have to appreciate my son more. He's a tough nut. I'm in a thoughtful moment. Thanks.

  4. Great post.

    My son is old enough now that people see him and instantly know he is different and why we "hover" in public places.

    I remember those days of feeling judged though. People will always stare for one reason or another. I try to enjoy it lol.

  5. You are such a talented writer. It is a pleasure to read your beautiful, heartfelt posts. There's not a one that I read that I don't take something away, and I am 70 something and the mother of an autistic son and the grandmother of an autistic grandson. You're doing a great job with your boys. Nobody knows what's best for your children but you. Those who stare and pass judgment couldn't walk one day in your shoes. Christopher Robin said it best, "Promise me you'll always remember: You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."

    Lesley UK is right. Your boys will find their path in life. Mine did. May God bless you more abundantly than you could possibly hope for.

  6. Great post, and I'm loving the thoughtful comments left by your readers. Makes me feel not alone. I am the same with my son. He asks "can I see?" and thinks automatically he should get (which in our world he does because we are so happy he asked!) and that doesn't translate well to a group of strangers. He also has the sensory issues, and loves rough play, and I have to make sure he keeps his hands to himself. Every moment is a teaching moment with him. So I am definitely a proud helicopter mom!


  7. So well written and true! For a long time outsiders in my family viewed my vacation/visitng plans as a bit odd and controlling. Now, they are understanding why-and my child is 8! I'd say its always best to plan a day for success-it may not always feel successful but our children need experiences-it just happens to come with a big supporter and architect (us)