I’m a Negligent Helicopter Parent

Every parent knows about fear, right? Our one big job is to get our kids safely to adulthood, and good grief it’s a big scary world out there when you’re imagining your tiny baby out in it.

Helicopter Parent?

So as the parent of a toddler, it makes complete sense to me to be a helicopter parent. I mean, Wikipedia says a helicopter parent “pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems”. Um… don’t all parents do that?

I guess the key is the word “extremely”. What is “extremely”?

Not only am I the parent of a toddler, I’m a parent with anxiety. So, yeah, I kind of hover over my toddler. I am hyper aware of where he is at all times, and I’m constantly on the lookout for dangers.

I’m also a parent with depression. One way my anxiety and depression play off of each other is this: because of my depressive episodes, I’m not as interactive with Dylan as I’d like to be. That means I get really anxious about whether or not he’s being stimulated enough and having an enriching enough experience. Sometimes I micromanage his time in order to work in all the different learning categories I think he should be exposed to.

{Image modified from Tyrannosaurus Toddler #ds475 by Brendan C / CC BY 2.0}

Negligent Parent?

If you were to see us in person you might think I was a negligent parent. That’s because I’m NOT afraid of many of the things that other parents are.

Dylan runs up and down the stairs completely unattended, because I know that he’s very proficient at the stairs.

He gets very sporadic baths, because I’m not really that concerned with overall cleanliness.

Sometimes he’s out in the cold without a lot of clothes on, because he’s old enough to let me know if he’s cold, and he doesn’t really like wearing a lot of clothes.

I really value independence, and part of that enriching experience I want Dylan to have is the experience of being trusted to go out and explore the world.

On our little 2ish acre homestead, sometimes it might look to the neighbors like my toddler is roaming the place alone, when the truth is I’m hanging back lurking around corners so that Dylan thinks he’s exploring alone but I’m satisfying my helicopter-y tendencies.

Fear Is Personal

Yes, fear is probably a universal parental burden, but how that fear manifests is intensely personal. Who knows where all the little details of our parenting baggage come from?

Fear is a universal parental burden, but how that fear manifests is intensely personal. {Tweet this.}

Why am I hyper-concerned with “enrichment activities” but not at all with Dylan being well dressed or well-bathed? Why does another parent excel at feeding nutritious meals and banishing all germs but doesn’t own any puzzles or books?

It is difficult and pointless to compare myself to other parents. My experience can’t tell me about their fears and their experience can’t teach them about my fears.

Knowing that fear is personal reminds me that I can’t look to “reality” for an objective right or wrong.

There’s no magic number of educational toys a child should have around for optimal brain development.

There’s no perfect amount of cleaning that kills the most germs while leaving enough time for the rest of life.

There’s no ideal number of minutes a child should have independent play versus one-on-one parent time versus group play with other children.

We can only do what we think is right while attempting to find balance.

I’m reminded to be compassionate when another parent makes a different risk assessment and makes a different decision about something that I fear.

It’s all personal. It’s so, so personal.

As personal as it is, fear itself is something we’re all doing together.

What is something you’re afraid of or something you stress about that you know other people don’t take so seriously?