The days of overparenting are over. Not only does Time Magazine say so, but we’ve all been seeing this coming from miles away, haven’t we? Helicopter parents, please move over. You’re blocking the view.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve helicoptered with the best of them. Who wouldn’t want to protect little Aidan or Ava from getting a boo-boo? We don’t want our kids to suffer the same horrible childhood fates that we did — like being left to our own devices. Our parents didn’t play with/entertain us 24/7? How awful! We would never, never, never allow our own kids to suffer that way. Nope, better to suffocate them with yards of bubble wrap love and keep them safe. From everything. Oh, and make them perfect. Yeah, that’s it.
But the tide is turning. Have you heard? There’s a recession out there! Cello lessons and travel soccer teams and French-speaking au pairs and real miniature backyard play mansions cost real hard cash. Cash that we’re seeing less of these days. Suddenly, some things seem a little, well, unnecessary. Never mind cello lessons — go play outside. And if you’re lucky, this year Santa will bring you a rock.
Oh, but it’s not easy to quell your inner overparenter*, is it? The voice that screams NOWHERE IS IT SAFE! DARK-WINDOWED MINIVANS! CODE ADAM! ZERO TOLERANCE! It’s hard to silence that voice. We still can’t even bear to let our kids walk to school and the urge to protect our kids from all possible ills is high.
But kids thrive on benign neglect. Without Mommy and Daddy to wipe their noses for them constantly, Aidan and Ava will learn to do it themselves. My parents NEVER played with my brother and me except for a couple of games of family Whiffle Ball (I kid you not) in the front yard. So we played with each other. Or with other kids. Most of us grew up not being played with. And we didn’t have cell lessons or a French-speaking au pair either. We turned out fine. Me, I couldn’t wait to relive my kidhood through my own kids and play Legos and Tinker Toys again. Eventually that got out of hand and I was entertaining the troops on a nightly basis. (The costume budget alone was killing me, not to mention the lighting, but hey, you do what you have to do, right? If your kids can’t sleep without seeing you perform showstopping torch songs in the living room, you have to go with it.)
It’s far too easy to go from rolling a ball back and forth with your toddler to doing their 4th grade homework. Overparenting is a slippery slope. But like I said, the tide is turning. Some of this is from necessity — if you’re working 2 jobs to keep the family afloat, something’s got to give and it’s probably you. You make compensations. You set new priorities. So your 12-year old is home alone after school instead of attending ballet lessons. Fine. It’s too bad about ballet, but she can fix herself a snack. She can do her homework. She knows how to dial 9-1-1. You just have to let it go. She’ll be fine.
There are a zillion ways to parent. A zillion RIGHT ways. We’ve been looking for a magic formula in parenting, the one thing we should do to make our kids turn out PERFECT, but there is no one right thing. The best thing we can do for our kids is to trust them. And then to trust ourselves as well.
How has this trend away from overparenting affected you? Do you see change in the other parents you know? How have you toned down your own inner helicopter parent?
*It’s a word if I say it is.
photo: cieleke, Stock.xchng
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