I might be a lot of things, but a helicopter parent certainly isn’t one of them. I don’t watch my kids. I don’t control my kids and their playtime or run behind them at the playground. I don’t hover. wasn’t that long ago that I recall reading articles about free-range parenting (a term which has thankfully faded into the great unknown) and how parents were shamelessly ridiculed for not watching their kids play every moment of every day.
Let me set the stage before someone calls Child Protection on me for “not watching my kids”. I’m currently not watching them as I type this. There is some army-style sneaking happening by the older kids and the little ones have made a giant mud-puddle after taking it upon themselves to water our newly planted Raspberry bushes and are, I am certain, sitting in it.
They are playing, happily.
We have a large yard with a somewhat secure fence on all four sides. We actually have 2 acres of property. Our backfield is fenced so that, in theory, our asshole goats will stay back there. In Theory. We have sheds, wood piles, a “vintage car” parked on the guesthouse lawn, tool shed, four-wheelers, trees, grass, sandboxes and mud-pits courtesy of an Idiot Australian Shepherd and a two-year-old with a hose.
I can see and hear what is going on out side at almost all times. When I can’t hear the kids I go find them. I can spot them from the kitchen window climbing a tree, a fence or an addition they built to their Little Tykes castle using an old trash can.
They have places specifically designed for them. We have a trampoline, we have a swing set, we have a sand box. Those kid-friendly areas are used frequently but rarely in the way they were intended. The trampoline is more like an MMA Octagon, the Sandbox is a buffet and the swingset has seen some crazy Ninja Warrior Skills from all 3 kids. I have noticed the less I watch the kids, the more adventurous they become. Or, the less they think I am watching them, the more confident they become in themselves. I also notice some weird things being created by them all. We adults would call them messes in our brush-off sort of way – but they are masterpieces and feats of engineering in their own respect. They are created by my kids every single day. Had I been hovering or helicoptering my kids, these things never would have been created.
I have seen some impressive problem-solving occur from the kitchen window as I sip my coffee m and don’t hover over my kids like a helicopter. I have watched the three kids form alliances and make deals and solve fights without my having to ever leave the comfort of my living room. Kids who spend the better part of an entire meal pinching, kicking, poking and fighting have spent hours upon hours working together to dig a hole for a fort or collect the perfect rocks for a castle wall. Granted, I have also seen my herd run screaming past the window with sticks. Just because I don’t helicopter does not mean I don’t parent. I took the sticks away and sent them back outside.
I will not hover, control or helicopter parent. I am what I like to think of as a Drone Parent. If I see or hear something going down, I appear from nowhere and shut-that-shit-down Drone Strike style without warning. Whenever I see some real shit about to go down I appear magically in the front door, hollering in my most serious mom-voice something along the lines of “absolutely fucking not.” The kids look around as though the Voice Of Reason has just called to them and then they quickly scramble to quit doing whatever it was mom caught them doing that they shouldn’t have been. The “absolutely fucking not” is reserved for moments like the time I saw two 7-year-olds transferring a pickaxe and a fire extinguisher from a shed to the backyard for reasons that I could only imagine. Nothing more needed to be said and we haven’t had that issue happen again. Sometimes a quick yell from the window about hitting, sharing, screaming like you’re dying or trying to get out of the gate will suffice.
This Drone Style parenting is not for the faint of heart. There is a risk that while you cook dinner, three feet from the door your kids will be covering one another head-to-frickin-toe with tile thin-set powder. There is a very good chance that you will have to hose your child off multiple times, probably millions, throughout their childhood. There is a good chance that scrapes and bruises will become commonplace, but you will see that tears and band-aids are only requested when absolutely necessary. I have seen small children tackle tasks much larger than themselves with the determination of a nation. There is a good chance you will start to believe that when a tiny voice tells you “NO! I CAN DO IT!” that they can.
Not a helicopter.
I had read an article months ago about somewhere in Europe creating what basically amounted to a Junk Yard where parents weren’t allowed beyond the gate so that kids could do what kids are supposed to do. Apparently, that is break shit and get tetanus. I wouldn’t necessarily take my kids to this pre-fab junkyard to bounce around BUT letting them explore their own surroundings, at their own will, without my constant hovering, nagging, directing and fun-stealing has really allowed everyone to grow.
I don’t miss anything because what I don’t see while peering at my children occasionally they excitedly tell me about. Tugging my shirt to come see their sand castle, mud pie, rock pile – or telling stories over dinner about their day. Sometimes they don’t tell us. Sometimes their dad and I will be out wandering the yard and find something that looks likes an army fort or a ramp or who knows what. We found some Hay Hooks in the bushes once. Immediately moved those out of reach, but I bet that was a really fun game of Pirates.