I remember the exact moment that I proclaimed that I would never, in the event I had kids, be a helicopter mom.
I was a senior in college and the news editor of our school paper. As news goes, we had some late nights. A reporter on my staff always grew increasingly anxious as the hours ticked past midnight because his mom was up at home, waiting for his call to come pick him up.
On one such night, I finally turned to him and offered him a ride home when we were done getting the paper out the door, to which this 21-year-old replied, “Thanks, but I’m not allowed to ride with anyone besides my parents.”
At the time I was shocked, and frankly I admit I visibly scoffed at this response. Set aside the fact that this guy didn’t drive himself, I couldn’t imagine any parents holding the reins that tightly.
Later that year, I also received a phone call from his helicopter mom who was very unhappy that I didn’t run her son’s story on the front page. She was incredibly invested in that school newspaper…
(I should also note that this guy wore wooden clogs year round – through sweaty summer days into 5-foot snow banks. I’m not sure if that’s relevant to this story, but it’s worth mentioning for some added color.)
Fast forward a decade and here I am, about to go mama bear on a 2-year-old who I witnessed shoving my son off the reading futon at school.
It doesn’t stop there. I lose sleep at night contemplating ways to get out of play dates with kids whose behavior I find deplorable and a bad influence on my innocent offspring. (I’m one judgemental witch!)
I call to check on him during the school day if he seemed, “A bit sensitive,” that morning.
I call the doctor about fevers, rashes, and ear wax (not kidding. I once called and said I worried he had too much ear wax.)
I organize his clothes by color and style, disinfect his toys, and freak if I see another person sneeze within feet of my beautiful little boy.
Please tell me I’m not alone in this.
Am I obsessed? Probably. Ashamed? Partially. But mostly, I’m scared. The idea of Reggie as a teenager hitching a ride with a buddy is terrifying to me, and he’s only 2. Horrible things happen, and I think that’s how the helicopter mom hatches: fear.
I can’t believe it, but I suddenly have sympathy for that mom from 10 years ago. It seems only natural that moms have biological programming to protect their kin. I mean, mama bear jokes aside, have you ever seen National Geographic? It’s instinctual!
From the moment I saw that positive pregnancy test, I become obsessed with protecting my child. I was a by-the-book pregnant lady, and that carried into motherhood. But today I’m realizing that I need to balance my desire to protect his body, heart, and soul with the realities of life.
The best thing I can do is give Reggie the tools and guidance to be able to make healthy choices so he can protect himself someday. Sheltering him from pain isn’t going to help him become his best self. And being a helicopter mom isn’t being my best self either.
A couple years ago, I heard that that reporter from college got into law school downstate. The real news was that his parents sold their house and moved with him. Even though I have new-found sympathy for those parents, I’m terrified to become them.