While we're on the subject of independence this week, let's talk about it on a more personal level. In this day and age where helicopter parenting (it's a thing, I promise, look it up) is so popular and so damaging, let's remind ourselves to be more like America and loosen the reigns a bit. When I was teaching, the one thing I always swore was that I wouldn't be a helicopter parent. And while what you say before you have kids and what you do once you actually have them are two different things, this is one thing I have tried to stick to. And while Caleb hasn't started school just yet, and I don't know what I'll be like once he does, I am trying to make sure he doesn't feel like he is still attached to me by the umbilical cord.
According to the article I linked from Parents Magazine, helicopter parenting means that parents are overly focused on their children. In this day and age where we are so consumed with perfection, we sometimes forget all the great parenting skills our parents had, whether they were intentional or inadvertent. I find that I have to be very conscious and tell myself not to hover. We have been taught to fear so much, danger lurks around every corner. The other day, when talking about traveling abroad, someone told me, "You have to watch your stroller every second or they will walk away with the stroller and your child in it." I get it. We want to protect our kids. We NEED to protect our kids.
But it cannot come at the cost of their independence and ability to do things for themselves.
I think helicopter parenting is a term that is typically applied more to school aged children and parents who are making sure their children succeed at any cost, including completing assignments for them. However, I definitely think the tendencies can begin before school begins, and I am trying to do a few things to foster independence in Caleb that will help him adjust to life away from home and Mommy & Daddy's arms.
He plays independently. A lot.
Momma's got work to do. The house needs picking up. Blog posts have to be written, meals need to be made. When we over schedule our kids from such a young age, they never learn to be bored and use their imaginations. They feel like they need to be entertained at every moment. And I do not have the time, nor the energy, to entertain him every minute of every day. He's got a playroom full of toys of every kind at his disposal. This doesn't mean I won't play with him for a little while, or schedule play dates or take him to do an activity of some kind, it just means I'm not planning every second of his day.
He isn't attached by the umbilical cord.
They cut that thing the second he popped out. Literally - it was cutting off his air supply. There's no need for me to keep him within arms reach when we are in open areas. At the playground, at the park, at the beach, I give him space. If I see he needs help or there is imminent danger, I stop him or help him. But otherwise, I'm letting him build up that confidence. And I'm always paying attention and just a short distance away.
He gets hurt. And gets in trouble. And everything he does is not adorable or funny.
My child isn't always in the right. If he hits your child without reason, I'm going to scold him, but you can go ahead and scold him too. If I tell him not to do something because he's going to get hurt, and he keeps doing it anyway and gets hurt, I'll comfort him, but I also talk about the consequences of our actions. And contrary to popular belief, everything he does is not adorable, and we shouldn't laugh when he does something he really should not do. Is this hard sometimes? YES. But it's important for them not think that everything they do is adorable.
It isn't easy. I've had to make a very conscious decision for some of these things. And I know once he starts school, it won't get any easier. But when he applies for college or a job and stands out because Mom isn't the one doing his communicating for him guys this really happens, like for real), then I'll know we did a good job.