When I first started having children, I swore to myself and everyone around me that I would never, ever become one of those helicopter parents. You know the kind: constantly hovering and fretting over their young like anxious hummingbirds. The nickname fits; I wish I’d thought of it.
Those mums drive me batsh*t. I regarded those mothers with as much disdain as a person who had never changed a nappy in her life could muster. I categorised them with the women who let themselves go after they became mothers – I would not, under any circumstance, turn into one of those. Those people have problems. Those people are insecure and want to live vicariously through their children. Ew to the double ew.
Well, as karma would have it, I definitely turned into one of those. See, I mistakenly believed that helicopter parents are overprotective people who want nothing more than to pave a way of ease for their children, with the goal of keeping them bubble wrapped and immune to the difficulties of life forever. The truth is, though, that there are many different kinds of helicopters, all hovering for very different reasons.
In my case, postnatal anxiety was the culprit. For the first year of my eldest child’s life, I absolutely could not relax. I WANTED to hand him over to friends and family who offered to help, but the moment I did, my rotors started turning. I WANTED to rest. I WANTED to put my feet up, but I just couldn’t do it. I hovered, I controlled, I fretted and worried and disinfected everything within my reach. I knew it was irrational, but I’d never had a kid before. Was this normal? I eventually ended up in a therapist’s office, diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and (thankfully) prescribed medication.
When my second child was born, I was slightly better prepared. Again, still striving to be a relaxed parent, I tried to stop myself from hovering. I couldn’t do it. Medicated once more, we had a third child and I found myself stretched too thin to worry about much other than survival. And that seems to be the key for my anxiety-driven buzzing: being too busy to have time to stress out over every little thing. Sometimes when I lament over how jam-packed my days are, I remind myself of what would happen if I had more time on my hands.
Now that I’ve actually experienced it, I’m much less judgmental of other parents who seem incapable of giving their children space to breathe and grow. Usually, there is a reason for their behaviour – not that it makes it right, but instead of disgust, I feel empathy. We’re all struggling, we all want the best for our kids, and parenting is scary. If the other mums are worried about checking their kid’s grades online, does that mean that I need to worry about it, too? If the other mums don’t let their kids play by the street, does that mean that I need to keep mine closer to the house and within sight as well, even though I know that they’re old enough to be cautious and aware?
I constantly switch back and forth, gut-checking myself to make sure my worrywart tendencies aren’t inhibiting my kids from growing into capable, confident adults. Time will tell if I’m succeeding.