July 14, 2009
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time at all, then I'm sure it's abundantly clear that I, Amy Lawson, am not a helicopter parent.
For those of you who don't know, a helicopter parent is any person, male or female, who constantly hovers over their child. You know the type--they won't allow their son to walk to soccer practice at age 13 for fear of wild animals, they won't allow their daughter to walk to her 2nd grade classroom on her own for fear of overly-slippery floors, and they won't allow their 15-year-old to trick-or-treat without supervision due to the possibility of Snickers laced with crack cocaine.
To put it simply, any respectable helicopter parent most certainly would not allow their child to fall ass-over-tea-kettle into an electrified pig pen. See guys? I failed the test right there.
It's not that I fight the urge to hover over James--to be quite honest, I just don't have it in me. Over supervision plain and simply isn't in my chemical make-up. The thought of it alone tires the hell out of my big, pregnant body.
On the other side of the token, I'm not a laissez-faire parent either. In other words, my kid has a bedtime, he doesn't eat candy for supper, I limit the amount of TV he watches, and trust me when I say that he'll see stars if he has the audacity to throw a rock, a frog, or an unkind word at any other child.
I like to think that I fall somewhere near the middle of the road--I keep James safe, I'm doing my best to instill him with kindness and compassion, and he has freedoms that are appropriate for a kid his age. He can play in the yard when I'm inside, he can deliver items to our elderly neighbor's house without me tagging four feet behind, he's taking the bus to pre-K in the fall, etc. He's also free to dig at his boogers as he pleases, as long as he's in his bedroom.
I'm saying all of this because this morning I had I really strange experience.
James was in the middle of his swimming lesson, while I sat on the beach and watched. It was a small group, so there were three teachers and three students. James had assigned himself to his very favorite teacher, Miss Tina--and really now, who can blame him? She's 19, a natural blond, and has a very suggestive tattoo on the small of her back. After every single lesson James longingly says, "Mom, I weally luff Miss Tina." And I say, "James, I really don't blame you. She's smokin' hot."
Anywho, Tina turned her head to talk to another one of the teachers, and at that very moment, James slipped off of his kick-board and started struggling to keep his head above water--arms flapping, feet kicking, total look of terror in his eyes. My instinct, obviously, was to tear the maternity clothes clear off my body, dive into the lake and save my son. But the logic side of my brain was saying, "Amy, he's one foot away from his swimming teacher and his head hasn't gone under the water once. He's scared, but he's fine."
About three seconds later, Tina noticed James, reached one foot over and plucked him out of the water by the back of his wetsuit. I don't care if I'd been crowned the International Helicopter Parent of the Year, there's absolutely no way I could have gotten to him that quickly anyway. James didn't cry, he just trudged up to me on the beach, gave me a sopping wet hug, and said, "I'm done."
"Done," I said? Trying my best to sound surprised. "I know you fell in, but you're okay. You did a great job keeping your head above the water, James. Let's finish up your lesson." It took five full minutes of convincing, but he got back into the water and finished what he had started.
That left me feeling pretty stinking proud.
After the lesson, James dried off and changed, clicked himself into his car seat, and we headed off to an afternoon at daycare. I walked him in, kissed him on the head, and wished him a really happy day. Then, as soon as I got into my car and drove around the corner, I pulled over, put her in park, and cried my eyes out.
We're talking a major crying moment. It was an OH MY GOSH MY BABY ALMOST DROWNED OUT THERE kind of cry. One of those cries where you're sobbing so hard you can't make coherent words. A cry where a paper bag probably would have come in handy.
For three seconds, while my kid was helplessly struggling in the lake, I felt fear like I've rarely felt it before. If I had to guess, I felt the same level of fear that helicopter parents feel about the idea of almost everything.
So, to all of you moms and dads out there who just can't help but hover, I say this: "I will no longer think bad thoughts when I see you at the park. I will no longer send snide text messages to my husband about how thoroughly insane I think you are. From this point forward, I will empathize with you, feel compassion for you, and encourage you to get a heavy prescription for blood pressure medication--because DANG YO, I bet you need it."
I, Amy Lawson, have officially made peace with the helicopter parent.