Ever hear of the term "Helicopter Parenting"? It's what we do ALL the time. Our kids are over-protected, over-indulged, and over-scheduled. I do it. Everyone I know does it. And if any of us sees a parent that doesn't do it, we automatically think neglect and abuse. We don't voice it, of course, but we glance at each other with head shakes, a tsk-tsk, and very defined frowns, wrinkling our very judgmental faces. When I see a 4th grader consistently walking home from school alone, or up to the local gas station for candy, I automatically think, "Where are the parents??!!" And heaven help us all if I see a couple of youngsters walking along a busy street on their way to or from who knows where. "They're too young!" I cry. "They're all alone!" I wail. It takes a heck of a lot for it to cross my mind that they might actually make it home without being hit by a car or kidnapped.
On the reverse side, last week I saw both parents walking all four (count 'em) kids along a very busy intersection, and nearly had a heart attack as two of the kids - neither could have been more than six years old - walk ahead of the parents and stop twelve inches from the cars pulling up to a stoplight. The parents (distracted, nonchalant, loser parents), lagged behind with the stroller and got caught up looking at something on their phone. Never once did they glance up and see where their kids were heading. My husband and I held our breath as we waited for the parents to look up, catch up, and protect those babies.
Again, it never occurred to me that the kids would be okay. And therein lies the problem.
We are SO convinced that our kids will not survive, thrive, or succeed without our help that we hover over them to the point of smothering to death. With love, of course. Misguided, but "love" is indeed what we call it. We love them sooooo much that we get over-involved in their every waking moment. We never let the babies leave our sight. We run ourselves absolutely ragged trying to keep up with our toddlers, chasing them from room to room, saving them from every fall, bump, or tiny little mishap.
Maybe we should stop. (You don't know how hard it was to write those words. Holy cow.)
I'm not saying we should stop being caring parents, and we definitely shouldn't let our kids walk towards moving cars, but maybe we could cut back on showing our toddlers how to play with every single toy we put in front of them. Maybe we don't need to be in their faces every moment of the day, hovering over their every move. Surely it will be okay if they figure out how to stack those blocks without our help. Maybe we don't need to have them in a different class every day of the week, or chase them around trying to shove that last bit of sandwich in their mouth. They might live without it. Maybe we could let them play, let them discover, and let them develop a desire for knowledge and independence.
One of these days our babies will grow up. They will need self-comforting skills, problem solving skills, and a sense of achievement and motivation. If we keep hovering, how will they figure it out? If you want to discuss anxiety about our kids making it without us, just think to that day when you must let them loose into the world. A world that doesn't think they are the greatest things to walk the planet. A world that could care less.
(Gulp.) Yes, maybe we should stop.