03 May, 2011

Guilty of Being a Helicopter Parent

Over at The Deranged Housewife's blog today, she posted about "Free-Range Kids". She posed the question on her facebook:
Are you totally "free range," a helicopter parent or somewhere in the middle? 
photo from journeyerschronicles.com
 I thought about it as I read her blog...and answered that I'm more of a "helicopter parent" than I would like to be. With Reilly being my first born, and being a first time mom with her, I've always been a little overly protective of her. I used to scoop her up at every little boo-boo or bump and cuddle her till she felt better. I don't really let her move too far away from me...I want her to be in my eye sight, and me in hers, at all times. While my mom and sister-in-law were here, we went to the Aloha Stadium swap meet. I was with my sister-in-law, Trish, Reilly and Ophelia. Reilly said that she wanted to go see grandma, who was probably about 5 booths down or so. I said okay, and I watched her walk down into the booth that she was in. A few minutes later, she was no where to be found! I flipped out...my heart was beating really fast, I was worried...I couldn't find my baby! There were so many people there, and I didn't know any of them, or if they had any intentions that weren't good. 
 It was scary! Eventually we found her...she had walked out of the booth my mom was in to come back to me and Trish. I yanked her arm and we stepped aside to talk about WHY we ABSOLUTELY DO NOT walk away from people without telling them. I was furious and scared. I asked her what would happen if someone swiped her, and how that would make everyone feel! We agreed that everyone would be sad and worried if we didn't know where she was, and she would be scared. 
The idea of letting Reilly walk out our front door with her little bike and helmet and going for a joy ride up and down the block terrifies me. The idea of letting her go run off and play with other kids makes me wanna barf. There are so many things that scare me about letting her be a "free-range kid". I'm scared that someone is just gonna yank her off the street. Just the other day, down the road from us, some guy just grabbed a little four year old girl out of her front yard. Just reached over the fence and grabbed her! He said that the little girl "looked like" his own four year old daughter...I'm sorry...but no. You know what your child looks like. He was just trying to swipe a little kid. This was literally a mile or less away from our home. Now, how scary is that shit, right? 

I want to be able to give Reilly a little more freedom...she's getting older. When I was a little older than her, I would stay out as late as I possibly could with my neighbors, playing around where ever, riding our bikes in the neighborhood, never a worry on my mind. I remember one summer staying in a cold pool so long that my knees turned blue. I used to be able to do that....and now...it doesn't feel so safe. It's not that I don't trust my kid...I do...I don't trust anyone else though. I don't even trust other kids...because lets face it...other kids are mean and sneaky now! 

I know I can't continue to be a "helicopter parent" for the rest of my life...I know eventually I'll have to let my kids do things by themselves. I know one day, Reilly will be okay riding her bike down to the park and I can trust her to come back in safe condition. I'm confident that I can teach her to avoid bad situations and people. But when does that start? When do I let the leash go a little bit, and let her do things herself without me there?  How to a become okay with myself and her ability to be a "big kid", and not stress over it?
I know that down the road, there will be other things along this same line that I'll worry about...I'll worry when she starts driving and stays out past her curfew...which...she's my kid...she'll do it eventually. I'll be worried when she doesn't call me when she's supposed to, or when she's not where she said she was going to be. And I'll cross that road when I get there...but right now, I'm just worried about how to transition from my baby being a baby to a big kid, and how to deal with that.

Mamas (and daddies) -- how have you dealt with letting your child venture out? What do you think is an appropriate age to give them a little more freedom? And how do you calm your anxiety about it?


Lina said...

This is such a hard one. I know I am a helicopter parent and I am not proud of it, but it is so hard not to be.

Sophia will be eight in a month and a half, and still I have to constantly remind myself to stop treating her like a baby and hovering over her.

I have just started reaching the point where I am ok with her in the backyard as long as the dogs (lab, german shepard and chihuahua) are out there with her.

Yesterday I let her stand outside by the front door while I ran inside for something, but I literally ran and I warned her emphatically not to go ANYWHERE.

Mrs. Obie said...

It is REALLY hard to let go...I let Reilly play outside in our backyard...it's fully fenced in with solid fencing (none of that stuff with holes in it) and the fences are really high, so someone would have to physically open the gate to our backyard, come in, and yoink her...and even letting her play outside by herself took me a long time to get comfortable with.

I'm trying to figure out little ways to give her some space without it being too much.