I read an article recently about "free-range parenting" and it has me worried. Parents are letting their kids walk to school by themselves, play in their front yards unsupervised and go to the park alone. I'm not surprised if some of these free-rangers are also letting their 5-year-olds take the car and drive to 7-11 to buy Slurpees unsupervised.
You see, I'm the opposite of the free-range parent: I'm the helicopter mom. I used to drop my kids off as close to the front door of the school as possible (a lot can happen in 25 yards) and pick them up right near the back gate at the end of the day. They finally did talk me into letting them go to school by themselves, but by then they were seniors in high school and they pointed out that the only parents walking their kids in the front doors were the ones who were returning from suspension. Maybe they wouldn’t have gotten into trouble, I argued, if their parents had walked them to school in the first place.
When I wasn't worried about my own kids getting kidnapped from the playground, I was busy judging other parents who weren't hovering over their kids.
The height of my helicoptering was during their last years of elementary school. By then, I knew they were old enough to do some things on their own, but not always wise enough to avoid being hurt. Maybe they could cross the street without me, but would they know when it was safe to walk? Another mom pointed out that they were crossing a quiet residential street with the aid of a crossing guard, but I still wasn't convinced.
What if the crossing guard fainted or got sucked up by an alien craft? Those kids would be stuck in the middle of that street. People don't think about these things and that's why bad things happen.
When I wasn't worried about my own kids falling off the jungle gym or getting kidnapped from the playground, I was busy judging other parents who weren't hovering over their kids. Just look at that mom, talking and laughing so carefree with her friends while her son goes down the slide alone! Or the happy-go-lucky dad who lets his little girl walk, just out of sight, alone to the counter at Starbucks to get another napkin. It's as if he hadn't heard of all the kids getting snatched every day from coffee shops! I could barely sip my double, tall, extra-dry cappuccino until I saw she was back safely at their table.
You might think my kids suffered from my helicopter habits, but I'm glad to say they're grown now and turned out OK. They're self-sufficient and independent, despite my best efforts. I still worry about them and want to know where they are and what they're doing (I consider that feature on Uber that lets me track their rides the greatest invention of the 21st century), but they know it's because I love them and want them to be safe.
Now, if you'll excuse me, it has been three hours since my youngest daughter texted me, and I need to go check her Instagram to see if she's still alive.