‘Helicopter parents’, that’s what they call them. It sounds, to me, like these mums and dads should be made of steel and aluminium and have the ability to hover over your house creating enough downdraft to shake free any loose slates from the extension.
This, apparently, is a misreading of the term.
Helicopter parents are those of us that take a constant, unstinting (border-line obsessive) interest in the activities of their children. We, I would class myself amongst their number, find great difficulty in stepping back or letting go.
My life as a stay-at-home-dad has, over the years, taught me many lessons. Including (as this diary extract shows) the truth that you can’t always protect your kids from the consequences of their actions.
We’ve discussed (many times) my total hatred of soft play centres. With their stench of vomit and the unending howl of screaming, these ‘fun’ spaces are, for me, the closest thing to Hell on Earth.
Life’s full of little ironies. For example, although many parents (like me) can’t stand soft play centres, their kids LOVE them. I mean they really LOVE them. My son thinks he’s in Heaven when we arrive at our local palace of puke and zombified parents. As a confirmed helicopter parent, I don’t let my 2-year-old do his own thing amongst the multicoloured fun park madness. Oh no, I go around with him making sure he makes good decisions (and protecting him from the crazed antics of the larger kids).
My boy thinks the ball pool is the most exciting thing in the world. He’ll scamper and leap into the multi-coloured orbs as I watch on, wondering if the balls have been disinfected since Tony Blair was in power. He can’t get enough of scurrying about, climbing under inflatables and bopping the… the… I’d suppose you’d call them ‘boppers’.
Yet, what he loves most are the slides. At last, with slides, I find something I can ‘buy into’. When I was a kid, I loved to go on the slides at my local park. There’s something about travelling down a slide at speed, while trying not to give your legs a friction burn, that’s one of the glories of childhood. The thing is, every kid quickly learns that slides need respect. Some slides are for beginners and some you must work up to. As a helicopter parent, I wanted to teach my son this lesson without him encountering the bad experience that usually brings it home to roost.
As you may expect, I wasn’t listened to. Kids always know best, even when they don’t. That’s why today, in the midst of soft play hell, I found myself at the bottom of a slide trying to coax my son (at the top) to take the plunge after he’d climbed up and lost his nerve.
“Come on son, it’ll be fine!” I said, pleadingly.
“I don’t want to.”
A big queue of unsympathetic 5-year-olds was beginning to form.
“Down you come, Daddy’s waiting.”
“I’ll stay here,” was my son’s stubborn reply.
“Will someone just push him down?” said an unpleasant 8-year-old.
“Leave him alone,” I growled. Then to my son, I urged “There’s a queue. You’re causing a blockage...”
10 of the most stressful minutes of my life (thus far) followed.
As a helicopter parent, I learnt a big lesson today. I can’t always things ‘all right’ for my son. Sometimes he’s going to have to face life without my intervention. He did, eventually, come down the slide unscathed. In fact, I think the whole incident will have more of lasting effect on me than it did on him.
His courage returned, my son pointed to the biggest of the big slides and demanded that he had ‘a go’ on that one. I agreed but, returning to my helicoptering roots, only if we did it together.
God was it scary. My son, on the other hand, loved it. Such, as they say, is life.”
Chris McGuire, Outofdepthdad.com