11:35 (GMT+2), Mon, 02 April 2012
What’s worse than a helicopter parent?
Apparently, it’s a ‘smother mother’. A smother mother is a mom who’s so overly protective that she just about walks everywhere with her child, even in her own house, just in case something bad happens. At the other end of the spectrum are free-range parents, who allow their kids to roam freely.
To illustrate the difference, let me give you an example. Two families are at a café having breakfast. A few meters away, just out of sight from the breakfast table, is a fantastic jungle gym on the lawn where some kids are having a fabulous time. The free-range parents are enjoying their second cappuccino, having last seen their kids an hour earlier. The helicopter parents’ table is empty except for two cold cappuccinos, because the parents are standing under the jungle gym, arms nervously outstretched, saying, “Be careful Johnny; you might fall.”
I’d love to say that I’m more of a free-range parent than a smother mother, but I’d be lying. I’m the parent who downs her cappuccino quickly so that I can peek around the corner to make sure everyone is okay. My husband is the one saying, “Just relax; they’re fine”.
You see, I tend to be on the overprotective side because the consequences of being overprotective (therapy in later life/kids who are nerds) seem less dire than the consequences of being under-protective (broken bones/missing kids and other terrifying things).
It does get easier once they’re a bit older and a bit more sensible, I suppose. Hopefully, they won’t wander off, or go with strangers, or do something stupid. Although, having said that, my sister tells me that her 15-year-old son was recently very excited to tell her that he and his friend made this rad experiment that nearly exploded in their hands. “It was awesome, Mom!” Great. Something to look forward to. I mean, a seven-year-old roaming freely on the jungle gym sounds far less scary than a science-experimenting 15-year-old.
If I think back on my childhood, my parents were definitely the free-range type. At age six and eight, my sister and I were allowed to play outside in the fields with the neighbourhood kids all day long, and the only rule was that we had to be home by dark.
I think part of the reason for today’s tendency to be overprotective is that it just isn’t possible to do the same thing anymore. I can’t imagine letting any six- and eight-yearold- girls wander around the neighbourhood until dark.
As much as I want to, I know I can’t always protect my children from every threat or danger. But I want to equip them with skills to deal with life’s knocks. I want them to be independent and brave, and to be able to make decisions for themselves. I just don’t want them to hurt unnecessarily. I want my kids to enjoy free range, but only where I can keep an eye on them.
So I think a compromise is called for. I don’t have to stand under the jungle gym, ready to catch someone who falls, but I would like to be able to see the jungle gym from where I’m sipping my cappuccino. l&lparenting, baby, mother, mom