I am, admittedly, a helicopter parent. Through the years of parenting both my 10-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, I've learned that the accumulation of my decisions and actions are based mostly on an upbringing void of neither "helicopter" or "parenting." This isn't to shame my parents for their choices but, rather, to validate all the reasons why I won't apologize for being a helicopter parent. What my parents failed to do are all the things I do — sometimes, however subconscious, to the extreme.
Raised by a single mother after my parents divorced, my younger brother and I could be found wandering the streets at all times with little to no supervision. My mom put herself through college and worked full-time to support us while my father, whom we saw every two weeks, also worked until a mental breakdown left him unemployed, penniless, homeless, and at one time, in jail for non-payment of child support. Both of my parents had various relationships, some as volatile as the marriage they once shared itself, while my brother and I navigated life on our own. I still find myself relentlessly trying to pick up the pieces of the childhood lost while simultaneously working to be a better, more present parent, for my babies. I realize that also means I may hover (at times) because I don't want them to feel what I felt growing up.
While there are many different types of parenting and no one way that's right, I can't apologize for my style because I don't believe being present to guide my children through their decisions means I'm sabotaging their abilities to feel empowered. Actually, I think it gives them the chances to make their own decisions, to develop their own coping skills, and to find their own voices, because they'll have me to talk things through when something doesn't go their way. I'll never be the kind of free-range mother I'd like to be, but if they asked me to back off, I would. I respect the parenting process and all it's taught me, and I want them to find their own paths in life. It's my job to support them in any way I can. On that note, here are just a few of the reasons I won't apologize for being a helicopter parent. If I only get one shot at raising my children, and I want to do it right.
I'm Keeping Them Safe From Harm
Growing up, I was acutely aware of the danger the outside world posed. I often feared going beyond the perimeter of our fenced yard, never knowing if I'd be kidnapped or murdered just as my Dateline-obsessed mom hypothesized. This fear stayed with me well into adulthood, so teaching my kids otherwise has proven difficult (but very necessary).
While I don't scare them to the same degree, I'm a realist. I want to teach my children not to talk to strangers, not to wander too far out of our house's range, and ways to protect themselves if they ever encounter danger. This isn't so much being a helicopter parent as it is giving them the information and tools needed if a situation presented itself.
I Consider Parenthood A Full-Time Job
When I discovered I was pregnant, I was completely overwhelmed. Of course I knew it would be a lot of work to have a baby, but I didn't realize I would have a baby and work the emotional equivalent of 30+ hour days.
The thing is, I don't mind being tired. I don't mind having work interrupted. I don't mind being the go-to person when my partner is five steps closer to my children because, one day, they'll be gone and I'll get to sleep longer, work without interruption, and have no one's random request to fulfill. Part of helicopter parenting isn't wanting to control their decisions — it's the fear of missing moments and memories. So, I can't apologize for being ever-present in their world because it's better than not being there at all.
Sometimes They Need A Warrior
I'm a sometimes-shy introvert with a major fear of confrontation, unless you've messed with my kids. I don't want to be the mom who fights her kids' battles for them (and I'm not, I swear), and for the most part I let them handle things on their own while I watch on from afar.
However, if the time comes (and it has in the past) where they need someone to fight for them, without hesitation it's mom to the rescue, unapologetically happy to do it.
I Want Them To Succeed
I won't tell you I'm not the parent who hovers over homework to make sure everything's correct (because I am), but I also won't apologize for doing it. It's not like I feed my daughter the answers to her math homework, but if she gets it wrong while I'm standing there, damn right I'm going to walk her through the right way to figure it out.
If they succeed, I succeed. Isn't that what parenting is all about?
I Prevent Accidents Before They Happen
I still remember all those days I'd climb the tree in the front yard of my dad's house. It was my favorite place to hide from life, until the day I fell and broke my arm. I never climbed the tree again.
While I could argue I learned by making my own choice and suffering the consequences, I think I'll just use my own cautionary tail to teach my kids and hope they won't follow suit.
My Kids Don't Fear Talking To Me About The Hard Stuff
My parents never really talked to me about serious stuff and, in turn, I never felt safe talking to them, either. Being a helicopter parent has its advantages, in that I usually know something that happened with my daughter before she tells me and I have time to prepare what I'm going to say about it. This goes for things like sex, periods, boys, bullies — you name it. She doesn't fear coming to me because she's come to know and understand, I'm here no matter what.
No One Will Be A bigger Cheerleader Than Me
There will never, ever, in the history of my children's lives, be a bigger cheerleader than me. When I think back on my childhood and how it lacked the support of a trusted adult, I don't want my kids to feel so unimportant or overlooked. Now that I'm a parent, I can relate to the struggles my parents went through and how it was never intentional on their part. Though, I've also learned that I'm not my parents and I can make different decisions so that my children grow up feeling better than I did. Life is one big learning curve.
Parenting is work, however you choose to do it. Being a helicopter parent doesn't make me an overbearing mother and it doesn't mean I'm overstepping boundaries and it certainly doesn't mean I'm not raising smart, independent children. For me, it means using my experiences and remaining present to help my children discover who they are and the value they add to this earth. For that I can't, and won't, apologize.