by mom blogger, Tracy Ashley
You’ve probably heard of the term helicopter parents, dolphin parents and free-range parents but do you know what they mean or where you might fit into any of them?
I’m not much for labels or being boxed into a category but a few recent things got me thinking.
The first was a recent camping trip to a family campground. Within two minutes of arriving, both boys were off on their own biking and playing with their friends. We only saw them a few brief times before dark. I was completely okay with that and was more than comfortable having them wander around freely in the light of day. When they went to play a game of hide and seek later in the dark I got nervous and my mind easily slipped into thinking the worst. I was relieved when everyone came back accounted for.
The week after we came back I heard a piece on the radio about free-range parenting. I found myself thinking back to the weekend and wondering what my nervousness said about my parenting style and me. I also started to think about other times where we’ve held back. We don’t let our boys walk or bike on our road yet, and have only crossed our road on their own once.
For me these lines and limits make sense for the situation. We live on a very busy through-fare and it’s less about my trust for the boys and more about the speed and people driving on the road. It’s also a little bit about the differences in the boys’ ages and their personalities. Our oldest is much more of a cautious, think-it-through kind of guy who we’ve always been able to trust to be safe and exactly where he’s supposed to be. Our youngest is much more impulsive, reckless and fearless. I honestly think he thinks he’s invincible.
The other tricky factor is always when you let the oldest guy do it (because of his age and personality) it’s hard for the youngest guy to understand why he can’t do it too, despite their 3.5 years age difference.
The last thing I want is to do is smother them or be an overbearing Mom but it’s hard to allow yourself to stretch the limits sometimes. I tested myself a few times in small ways this week. We let Aidan venture farther away from the house with his friend on a playdate and I let Rylan watch the lobsters at the grocery store while I went to the other side of the store to get milk.
I love my children and would never forgive myself if anything ever happened to them. On the other hand I know that growing and stretching and learning on their own is part of their job. I think for me, and most parents, I fit somewhere along the spectrum between being a helicopter and a free-range parent. I think for now I’m comfortable sliding up and down the line and feeling it out as I go. I’m okay with not completely fitting into either camp or having a label. For me it’s part of the adventure and learning curve of parenting.
I’d love to hear from the readers to know where they think they fit and how they’ve helped to stretch their limits in safe and successful ways.
Tracy is a self-employed Mom of two boys, trying to get it right the first time. By day, helping companies tell their stories through words, media and events. By night, navigating the world of Lego, Minecraft and Harry Potter.