Happy Valentine’s Day from My Helicopter to Yours

What does a mom do when you have no babysitter for Valentine’s Day weekend?

We go to a Valentine’s Day Family Dance!  We have a blast and support a great cause, CJs Thumbs Up Foundation.

Our evening fills with musics, kids running and dancing, and an excuse to dress up!  The Dance Fairy (not at all related to the Lord of the Dance) arrives to “Be Our Guest” and makes such an impression that in the morning, E asks: Where’s the yellow fairy? Because he misses her.

I did have a few moments of being torn between my usual helicopter parenting and enjoying a very kid-friendly venue.  E is getting older and more of his peer interactions are clearly over my head (or around my waist) so I settle for montioring the ebb and flo of followers and leaders, schooling myself to step in only when someone is upset or lost or frustrated.

I know that there is a big debate over interferring too much and letting kids work it out, letting them outside by themselves and fearing a strange man will steal them. I recently read: It’s Hard Being Green When You Demean: Parents Bullying Parents.  (Yes, I think the title is awful, too.)  The article touches upon this debate and its ramifications. And as usual, I fall on both side of the fence.

Although I am a green mama and I am very VERY big on teaching my children independence. (E, you want water? Here is your very accessible drawer with your cups and here is your child-size pitcher of water within small-arms reach.  I’ll be on the couch.)  However, I lean towards the helicopter parenting in public.  It’s mostly a reflection of my own inability to relate to others without direction.  Call your friends back.  Oh, okay.  Say please and thank you.  Oh, okay.  Say ‘I was wrong’ when you’re wrong.  Oh, okay.  I come from the school of thought that we are taught manners and social interactions lest the play date become every Alex for herself.

I have been in situations where a parent clearly finds my style to be un-endearing. I even had a mom very blatantly use me as an illustration of why this non-helicopter book that she lent her friend was SO IMPORTANT for her friend to read. (Also known as you will end up like THAT MOM.  Funny enough the mom’s response was: The book is making me think, but I feel like I’m questioning everything I do and well, I can’t say that I’m ENJOYING the book.)

There is also a deeper motive in my helicopter parenting.  And perhaps it’s as judgmental as the moms who snicker at me.  I have a strong desire to protect my children from, well, possibly you.  And your children.  Before you are too offended, let me illustrate with the only sour moment of our otherwise lovely Valentine’s celebration.

I’m hanging out about 10-30 feet away from E depending on what lap of the rotational pathway he is orbiting.  Unexpectedly, E goes off-course not once but twice into the photographer’s family portraits section.  The first time my husband hustles over there and leads him and another boy away.  The second time he just couldn’t hustle fast enough (see ankle).  The photographer nearly trips over E which leads this GROWN MAN to shove my three and a half year old and yell at him.  E is reduced to tears.

S swoops up E and looks at me as I start nodding vigorously while clutching N to prevent my fists from flying through the air into the photographer’s face.  The moment between my husband and I needs no words because both of our parent bears are unleashed and are discussing the best way to not MAIM this man in front of 200 people.

My husband walks over to the photographer with E still in his arms.

Photographer says: I told him to move.

My husband say: That’s fine but he’s three so you can apologize to him.

Photographer says: I’m sorry.

Although the mama bear inside me is still looking for blood, we manage to enjoy the rest of to the night.  S is proud that he didn’t spend the remainder of the evening standing in front of the camera asking the man to try and shove HIM out of the way.  And I’m keeping my bear at bay by focusing on how much fun E continues to have.

At bedtime, E and I discuss what happened.  His big brown eyes well-up with tears when I mention the photographer which breaks my heart all over again (and brings back my mama bear bloodlust in full-force).  However, I remind him (and myself) that the man, while wrong, apologized, and I let E know that he is such a wonderful little boy to accept it.  Everyone makes mistakes, I say.

And I mean it.  I am not the perfect parent or person.  I have raised my voice at family and strangers.  I have forgotten that we all have places to be and stresses to cope with and I call the woman who cuts me off names or let the cashier know JUST HOW SLOW HE IS.  I don’t think this man should be banned from kid events.  I believe that he apologized and it’s done.

However, when I’m in large groups of parents, I think about helicopter parents and snickering parents and burnt out parents and laid back parents.  And I happened to be thinking about this at the dance and berating myself for being too helicopter.  For not enjoying myself.  For not trusting you.

But when I saw this man parent my child in a way which is wholly unacceptable to me, I realized: I’m all-good with being a helicopter parent.  I’m not saying that my parenting style will keep E and N protected from ever being hurt, but because I paid attention, I saw the incident happen and could step in appropriately.

In the end, I’d rather parent my children (and, if need be, you and your children) than have you parent mine.  If that makes you laugh, I probably won’t notice.  My parental chopper is pretty darn loud.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

4 thoughts to “Happy Valentine’s Day from My Helicopter to Yours”

  1. I LOVE YOU! And I love this blog entry. I saw a Time article on being a “helicopter parent” and knew inside I was one but didn't want to admit it because then I was being made fun of. You know? Who cares! R will have manners and be old enough to fight his own battles one day, but at 2 1/2 he has many years left to navigate situational waters and until I feel he's capable I will helicopter! Quite frankly it stresses me out MORE when I try NOT to.

  2. Hmmmm, I didn't realize that there was this pejorative label for what I would probably call good old fashioned parenting. (I thought helicopter parenting was when you wrote your kid's college application essays for them.) I can totally relate, and, at the risk of stirring up controversy on your blog, I think that 3 is a little early to cut the cord–I mean, I too am all for independence and learning to feel one's way through social interactions. But I also think that little kids still need some guidance. As for those adults who still need some guidance, well, I guess we all do have our bad days…

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