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.
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.
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,