So where do you fall on the scale between overprotective and lackadaisical parenting? Chances are a lot closer to the middle than my photos- I went to the extreme on both ends as I know how we choose to parent is a very sensitive topic. But one worthy and necessary to discuss, I think.
When I did a quick internet search for images regarding this topic I found some other interesting things. When searching “overprotective parenting” I saw funny cartoons of kids wrapped in bubble wrap, children lovingly kept in cages, and the very powerful quote that said, “Overprotective parents raise the best liars.” Hmmm….let’s just let that one settle in for a moment. Then when looking for “irresponsible parenting” I saw a picture of a mom taking a sexy selfie in the mirror with the kid watching, the classic photo ops of parents letting a baby have a sip from a bottle of beer, and funny that a picture of Jenny McCarthy showed up but I won’t launch into that debate here.
What got me thinking about where I fall in the spectrum is that my son who is almost six got invited to go to a theme park with his buddy and his parents for an entire day. My son has only been on one playdate; at a neighbor’s house around the corner. Not because I kept him from going to them, he just hasn’t had the opportunities. Anything he has ever done was under the supervision of a teacher or a family member. So this, was huge. I looked at the mom like she was on crack until I realized she was quite serious. Mind you, these people are experienced parents, highly involved in church and school- I couldn’t have asked for better “strangers” to send him with. But my baby, in a huge theme park, with big scary rides and crowded with potentially scary people….“Sure,” I gulped.
Now I’m wondering, am I too protective? I don’t want to be THAT mom. But it seems like whenever I have let down my guard, something bad has happened. Trust me, I long to be one of those moms who can smile at their child who draws on the wall and then frame it as art. Instead I run for the magic eraser and hide the crayons. I hate sending my kids into public bathrooms alone in fear of “stranger danger.” My kids do not play out of sight from me in the yard or at a park, they certainly don’t go barefoot, and you will never catch them without their bike helmet on (when bicycling of course, I don’t make them wear it all the time. I’m protective, not crazy.) Oddly though, I don’t think my kids actually know how neurotic I am. They are watched closely, from a distance, if that makes sense. I feel like I gently guide their choices and they don’t see me holding my breath each time they do a flip in the pool. I still smile and clap. And earn a gray hair as I plan our route to the hospital for when they crack their head on the side of the pool. I can’t help it. I am a worrier. I may be exaggerating a bit. I swear we have fun- it’s just silly, safe, together fun. Our version of “rebellion” is eating popsicles before dinner and leaving the living room fort we built up for a few days.
But what about the parents who let their six and eight year old walk home alone two miles from school? Or who let their kids roam free at a playground completely out of sight while they catch up with a friend? Or that leave their babies in a hot car? They certainly aren’t doing “it” right either. So what is the answer? How do you keep your kids safe without being a helicopter parent?
Does it work to put parental controls on the computer and TV? How much screen time is too much? Do you read their text messages periodically? How do the neurotic moms handle sending their kids away to camp for a week (looking for advice, not making judgments here!)? Do you forbid the friendships with the kids that you know aren’t good for them? How do you handle sex-ed questions from an eight year old? I am a strong believer in Love and Logic but sometimes it’s hard to live by. My kids are still little but I really need to get a grip on this seems how the situations I will face don’t get any easier.
Well in regards to the situation at hand, my husband and I discussed it. We discussed it with our son, and I had a long phone conversation with the supervising mom. I’m still not sure if my gut is uneasy because I don’t want my little guy out of sight, or if it’s really my “gut” instinct. But I think the problem lies with me, not a true concern for his safety. So today my little guy is going to make what will likely be his best summer memory. While I sit at work with my head in a paper bag hyperventilating. Good vibes, prayers, etc. welcome.
I suppose it comes down to being that my biggest fear is losing my babies. And not just literally, but figuratively. Every big life event- a death in the family, bullying at school, moving from a childhood home- makes them a little more aware of the ills of the world and it makes me sad for them to see that. I assume that my best chance to keep them safe is by being right there with them. But I know I can’t protect them forever. I just wish it was easier to find that balance between knowing when to let go, and when to hold on.