"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world." -Richard Dawkins

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In which we explore the phenomenon known as Helicopter Parenting.

It's hard to find a way to apply such a thing as Helicopter Parenting to your life when your kid is barely even two yet, but I think I have it figured out. As with all things there are degrees, shades of gray, if you will. To Helicopter a teenager means to give them no freedom, or perhaps to write their senior thesis for them to insure their future in an Ivy League establishment.

But we're not discussing that here. Not today. Today is for Helicoptering toddlers.

I've watched too many moms on the playground who see their kid get so much as a fly landing on their shoulder and with a gasp, rush in like a SWAT team to defend their sweet baby from the pestilence. Never mind, god forbid, that the kid should fall off a swing, miss a rung on the ladder, skin their knees on the sidewalk, do a faceplant in the gravel and wind up with a bloody lip. "Oh my god!" They'll wail with panic and woe, "Oh my god, she's bleeding!"

It can't be feasible that I'm the only mother who refuses to jump out of her seat the second her kid falls off the coffee table. What kind of woman is my daughter going to grow up to be if she lives her life thinking someone's going to drop out of the ceiling on a length of trickline like Tom Cruise every time she gets a boo boo? Not happening, guys. Sorry.

Ever since she was old enough to move on her own, ever since the day she could crawl, I have not allowed myself to be concerned unless I see due reason for concern. No, I make her get up and dust herself off. I make her come to me. I'm teaching her that she's strong all on her own, and not to gloat, but... it's working.

She doesn't cry much, Ro. She looks instead a bit perturbed. It's as though she's saying (without saying:) "Did I seriously just try to climb onto the entertainment center by using my playground ball as a step stool? Well hell, that didn't work, did it." And there she'll be, having just landed face first on the floor. She'll pout, furrow up her brow, wander around in a slight circle until she finds something else to occupy her time, and the injury is as good as forgotten.

More than once she's tripped and bitten her lip bloody, gouged up her knees, scraped her elbows. Only once did it bring tears to her eyes. She's a trooper. She's a trooper because I don't make a fuss. In fact, just a few weeks ago she started standing up, looking right at me and going, "Y'okay?" As though she's more worried about me than I am about her.

Example of a typical reaction:

Ro trips over a toy and winds up smacking her head on the bottom shelf of the coffee table. She starts to cry, burying her face in the carpet.
I sit up.
"Ro? Are you okay?"
Crying ensues.
"Can you come here? Come here, you're alright."
She slowly stands up and meanders over, pulls herself up into my lap so I can look her over. By the time she's arrived and realizes she's annoyed about being felt all over for bumps and scrapes, she's forgotten why she was crying in the first place.


That's the end. By the time that small exchange is over, she's as good as new. I find myself wondering why, as a parent, you would be willing to draw out the agony for both yourself and your child by being all dramatic and emo about every clumsy mistake your child makes over the many-year-long process of learning to find their natural agility and grace?

Why Helicopter in?
Why can't we try Aircraft Carrier Parenting?
Let them come to you.

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