On Helicopter Parenting

I am paying a bill for quesadillas and Greek salad. Along with the ‘so-worth-it’ charges for that sweet slice of heavenly bliss in the form of luscious raspberry pie. It is 6:00 in the evening, and I think to myself, as I close the restaurant door behind me- of all I have to do, all I have waiting for me at home. This supper with two friends was a welcome reprieve from the busyness of my life. From the hectic chaos that is our home at suppertime.  But my thoughts are now on home and those precious five that await me.

I head out toward my van and make my way toward the corner, taking a right onto the main street in our little town. I drive about two minutes down the road when I happen to see on the left two young bikers waiting to cross the road. Mentally, I judge them to be about my two youngest daughter’s ages while I simultaneously wonder to myself why they are out on their own without a parent. As I pass by, I can see the youngest of the two starting to move out into the street. I watch as he does indeed leave the curb and then makes his way onto the street. I am just passing by as he is doing this, so I do not immediately notice that a truck directly behind me is heading straight into his path.  All I am thinking is about is the relief that this child is still waiting by the curbside. The Young Biker doesn’t seem to be noticing a whole lot and appears to fail to notice this detail of the oncoming truck as well. As I move ahead, I continue to watch in my side-view mirror this oblivious child- hoping beyond hope that he will stop and do what I have taught my children and still reinforce almost every time we ride bikes together: to look both ways and do so TWICE before crossing. He does neither. And I am horrified to see that not only is he continuing to move into the busy street, but furthermore that the truck which was approaching is nearly upon him. And then, I see it. A squeal of tires and a child- nearly sideswiped. The little boy is just in front of the truck which has slammed on its brakes and come to a sudden and diagonal stop in the middle of the road.

“Oh Jesus, Jesus…” I start to pray. I watch helplessly as the truck remains motionless for what seems like an eternity as the boy crosses over to the other side. Narrowly missing what he might never fully understand could have been a fatal end. And I wonder what private hell that truck driver has just missed enduring as well. What panic he is experiencing even at this moment, having just avoided the most tragic of possibilities.

This one moment in many moments: it is a defining one. A make or break point in time where eternity pauses for the briefest of seconds to take stock and then breathe again. Do we ever fully understand how much we’ve been given?  Does it make any difference at all?

As a mother, I have had some moments lately. Some which have been challenging and trying, to say the least. We are navigating the waters of adolescence, the waters of sibling rivalry, the waters of struggles for independence and its accompanying challenging arguments. We are constantly teaching and mentoring and coaching and loving.  Constantly called on to exercise limited and short-supplied patience.  And at times, we might come across as helicopter parents: maybe to our off-spring and maybe to others looking in. But these children: they are all we’ve got. They are our one shot at this parenting gig. We are never going to get to do this over again; these four- they’re all we’ve got. And whether or not it is easy to stay the course, hanging in there when life gets tough and frustrating is not the point. This is our life. These are our kids. And we have no other alternative than to give them our very best.

Our hearts demand this.  This is the path we’re on.

So when I see children out on a busy street without a parent to keep a watchful eye- protecting and mentoring and modelling and guiding children in safe bike practices, I think of my own four who sometimes find their old mom a little over-bearing. And I think- “thank Heavens you’ve got a mom like that. She might be annoying and embarrassing and too involved, but her heart is in the right place. And she loves you very much”; and this I know for sure: she would travel for her kids to the sky and beyond if that was needed.

Maybe that’s why they call it helicopter parenting.

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