Why I Can’t Stand Helicopter Parents

The playground is fun, but the other parents? Not so much.

A few months back, I was at a mall playground with my kids.  I was in my first trimester, tired, and sick.  I had taken them to the playground so they could have a chance to run around without hurting themselves or breaking anything, and it was in a confined space, so I wouldn’t have to chase them around.  I could just sit and observe and try not to get sick in public.

As I’m sitting back, watching, my son runs past… and trips over his own feet.  He’s not very far from where I’m sitting, so I can clearly see that he’s fine.  I have no intention of getting up to rush over and help a child who has already started to stand up to keep running, and who could honestly care less that he’s tripped in the first place.  (Yes, had he been hurt or upset I would have gotten up to help him.)

Another mother — a stranger — swoops in, scoops him off the floor.  “Oops, buddy, are you okay?  Careful!”  Then she sets him down, quickly checking him over, and lets him go again.  Now I have to get up and check him too, lest I look like an uncaring parent.  And this is why I can’t stand helicopter parents.

I am not the type of mom who hovers over my children.  I watch them; but if they trip and fall (or almost trip and fall), I’m not going to rush to their sides, scoop them off the floor and coddle them.  If they’re not hurt, they’re fine.  If they are hurt, I will pick them up, soothe them, reassure them, and send them on their way.  I will not cry and snuggle and say, “Oh, if only I’d been one step closer, you wouldn’t have bumped your knee!” when there is not even a mark on them.  Kids play.  Kids fall.  Kids get bumps and scrapes.  It is just part of being a kid.

But a lot of other mothers don’t seem to feel that way.

Don’t get me wrong: you’re welcome to parent your child any way you want.  If it makes you feel better to follow them around and make sure they don’t get hurt, scoop them off the floor when they’ve nearly tripped, and kiss every bump and bruise, that’s your right.  Be my guest!  Your parenting decisions, as they pertain to your children, are none of my business.

I hate the helicopter parents, though, when they want to parent my child.

I’m perfectly comfortable taking my children to a safe, enclosed play area and letting them run.  As long as I can see them, I’m okay.  This way, should they do something dangerous, or actually get hurt, I can get up to intervene.  In the mean time?  Mommy gets some rest time.  I feel no need at all to follow them around and make sure they are constantly okay.  (And yes…if they ask me to get up and come play, I typically do.)

Then when some other mom(s) (because this has happened to me so many times) see my kids climb on something that’s, oh, six entire inches off the ground, or *almost* trip and fall, they feel the need to say, “Oh, sweetie, be careful!  Are you okay?”  Look, the room is padded.  Even if they leap off the six-inch toy they aren’t exactly going to kill themselves.  They make me feel like a bad parent.  I end up spending my entire time wandering around the room after them, keeping one hand within inches (just in case they might almost trip), lest any of the other mothers think I am a bad parent.  This has happened to me even when I was standing two feet away from the child who *almost* tripped.  I know they really mean well, but….

I hate it.

Leave my kids alone.  They’re fine.  They are not made of china and they will not break.  They don’t need you — a perfect stranger — to scoop them up (one would actually completely freak out if a stranger touched her anyway).  I don’t need you to make me feel guilty for making different parenting decisions than you do.

Now — I need to say this.  If my child is hurt or crying, and I do not see it — thank you for bringing him or her to me.  This is called community, and I appreciate it.  I’m one person, and I can’t see everything that happens, all the time.  Especially once my third arrives, when I’m trying to keep my mind on three (or more) things at once.  I do not mind at all if my child actually needs me, if someone helps me out.  There have been times my son has climbed to the top of a play structure and gotten worried and cried — and a mom scooped him up and brought him to me.  This, I do appreciate.  My child needed help.  That is the difference.

If my child is fine — let him be.  Even if you’d do differently for your own child.

What has been your experience with helicopter parents?

Top image by gemsling

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