Like a lot of you, I have been spending the last few weeks at home with my child. And while that has presented some challenges, and there have definitely been days where my son and I would both benefit from being able to run around downtown, get some ice cream, and see our friends, in general, the time together has been really nice.
One surprising benefit is that I have totally abandoned my former mom mantle: that of the helicopter parent.
In the past, I have totally been That Mom who likes to pretend that she’s chill and laid back but who is spending an awful lot of time hovering over her kid. Can you hear the blades chopping? I think somewhere in my head, I have conflated the idea of helicopter parenting with my parenting goal — Keeping My Child Absolutely Safe From Anything That Could Hurt Him, Ever.
Over the years, I’ve worked to be better about this, and I’ve even been aided in this goal by my own kid (who soundly hates helicopter parenting).
But if anything has really sent me hurtling in whatever the opposite kind of parenting is, it’s being home all the time. It turns out that — surprise! — I don’t actually care when he goes to sleep. I also don’t care if he spends extra hours playing video games with his friends. And while I am diligent about making sure he attends his virtual math class on time, I don’t really care how he spends the rest of his time, either. I’m no longer getting involved in his friendships, and I’m not making sure he sets up a time to interact with other kids.
In a lot of ways, he’s running the show.
Is helicopter parenting bad?
If you asked my kid if being a helicopter parent is a bad thing, he would emphatically say yes. While I know that he loves having me around him, and he often (so often) asks my opinion on just about everything he’s thinking of, he doesn’t want me directing his life.
For anyone who isn’t quite sure what a helicopter parent is, Carolyn Daitch, PhD, the director of the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders, defines it as “a style of parents who are overly focused on their children.”
Y’all, that was for sure me.
On one hand, being invested in your child or children is definitely a good thing. You don’t want to veer too far in the other direction and be outright neglectful … but for some of us who have helicopter tendencies, it can be too much all the time.
One of the gifts that this time at home has given all of us is that our days haven’t been nearly as scheduled as they were in the past. That makes it easier to live and let live, since we’re not always rushing from one place to another. In fact, we hope to maintain a looser schedule for our days even after we eventually start going back out into the world again.
I’ve also realized that a lot of what I cared about previously isn’t really that important in the grand scheme of things. While I am typically the first parent to reassure other parents that if they’re focused on making sure their kids are fed and healthy, everything else will sort itself out, I don’t usually give myself the same kind of reassurance. In fact, I have definitely been known to worry way too much about my kid, and that worry manifests in actions that are designed (on purpose or not) to control what he does and doesn’t do.
In theory, I’m trying to make sure he’s on the “right” track, but in reality … he’s the person who decides what is right for him in a lot of important ways. I am here to guide him, not force him into roles he may or may not be into.
So while this extended time at home has been weird for both of us, it’s also been pretty nice. Since a lot of our interactions don’t include me making sure he’s doing this thing or that thing, we get to do the stuff I love instead: watching shows together (he’s very into Upload right now), reading books (we’re on the fourth Harry Potter), and chatting about our experiences and interests. We’ve always been close, but I’m learning a lot about who my kid is right now, and I think it’s partly due to the fact that I’m not worrying about him all the time.
Hopefully, we will be able to keep up this version of our relationship once things in the world shift to whatever “normal” will be like. I, for one, am definitely hoping I can hold onto some of the newer ways I interact with my son and let go of my more obsessive tendencies. I know that he will only benefit, especially since one of the biggest jobs a parent has is raising a kid to be a healthy, functioning adult who can handle their own life.
And you know what? You can’t learn to handle your own life if your mom is always doing it for you.