My daughter is the oldest of our three children. We are on the horizon of having a teenager, as she turns thirteen in just a few short months. We have always been extremely close, between being our only girl, our firstborn, as well as us being surrounded by three other males in our house.
Admittedly, I am a helicopter parent. It’s just who I am. I suppose it was predestinated. My Enneagram Type 6 “expect the worst, hope for the best” personality runs deep. I try to be prepared for any situation but acknowledge that I can go overboard in an attempt to help calm my anxiety.
But in my defense, I feel like I was thrust into helicopter parenting mode from the beginning.
My pregnancy with my daughter was about as textbook as you could get. We were sailing through it beautifully, reading all the books and comparing her to the fruit or vegetable that correlated with her size at that time.
Then unexpectedly, at 34 weeks, I went into labor. At my baby shower. Which was two and a half hours away from where I lived. It wasn’t the type of labor that you see in the movies. It was irregular, dull aches that wouldn’t stop. I brushed it off as the excitement from the baby shower and being on my feet in heels for too long.
I made an appointment with my doctor the next day, and to both of our surprise, I was very far along and in active labor. I was immediately transported to the hospital and had progressed to nine centimeters by the time I arrived. After many medications, a week of strict hospital bed rest, and various uncontrollable circumstances, our daughter was born. Thankfully, besides a quick 24 hours in the NICU, she was happy and healthy.
And so began my journey of helicopter parenting. The stressful beginning of her life made me even more aware of how fragile she was and how much love I had for this tiny person that we were now solely responsible for.
And so, in their childhood, I have probably hovered more than I should over my three children.
For me, the lines between being involved and overprotective can be blurry. For example, I always want to be the field trip chaperone. Is it because I want to be there for my child, showing them that I’m present and care about their school life? Certainly. Is it also because I want to ensure they’re safe, and I know I will keep an extra close watch over them? Also, absolutely yes.
Which brings us to now. In our school district, all seventh graders go on a three-night camping trip about an hour and a half away. It’s basically a rite of passage when you hit seventh grade. This was the year my daughter, our oldest, was able to go. I was so excited when the packet of information came home in August. One of the forms asked for parent volunteers to chaperone the trip. In my twelve years of parenting, there has not been one field trip that I didn’t at least put my name into volunteer to chaperone. I turned to my daughter and showed her the packet. When we got to the chaperone form, I asked her if I should volunteer. It was meant to be a hypothetical question. I was waiting for the enthusiastic “YES!” that I usually get.
Instead, she wrinkled her nose. “No thanks,” she said. Thinking she was kidding, I asked her if she was serious, and she said, “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I would rather go alone on this trip.” I did my best to hide the slight emotional sting from my face and smiled, nodding my head in agreement. It was decided. I was not going to chaperone this time around.
I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt. I wanted to be there, to watch her experience this amazing opportunity. I didn’t want my field trip days with her to be over. I wasn’t ready to let that go. But she was.
After I had digested my feelings, I took a step back and looked at the big picture. I should be happy to hear her say she didn’t want or need me there. Isn’t that our end goal? To create independent human beings who feel confident and ready to go out into the world on their own? I flipped my perspective, and instead of wallowing in the fact that she didn’t want me to go, I was proud that she felt empowered and ready to handle this trip independently.
I’m happy to report that she went on that field trip this week and had an amazing time. When I picked her up, she jumped in the car with a huge smile on her face, gushing about everything that happened. These new experiences were like a badge of honor for her, and I know the lessons she learned being out there “on her own” were a great building block for the person she is destined to be.
So we are learning together, and I am doing my best to land my helicopter parenting ways to benefit both my children and me. I will still be engaged and volunteer as long as they still want me there, but I’ll be ready and waiting as they bridge into a more independent chapter of their life. And I can’t wait to see the amazing things they can do on their own.