I’ve been thinking a lot about helicopter parenting lately.
It started when a friend of mine with two school age children ages 8 and 11 told me that she’s begun letting them walk home alone without the babysitter. My first reaction was to suppress a gasp. Mind you, when my brother and I were roughly their ages we regularly walked to and from school on our own and our house was at least ten minutes further away from school than theirs is. There was even a period when my mother went back to school and we had to come home and – gasp – make our own lunch! (The thought of this now with my own kids, ages 8 and 5, makes me tumble over with laughter…) But I still had trouble believing that this friend would let her kids do this at such a tender age.
Then a close friend of mine, whom my husband and I both agree is a model where parenting is concerned, confessed that he and his wife may encourage their 17 year-old son to attend the state university in their home town next year when he goes to college. They’d like to help him navigate course selection and the like.
Again, I suppressed a gasp, but this time for the opposite reason: Really? Isn’t finding your own way what college is all about?
But then I read this post on the Motherlode blog. Turns out experts are actually divided on how much independence you wish to foster in children and at what age. (If you haven’t already, it’s also well worth spending some time over at Free Range Kids, a blog devoted to the idea that we smother our children with our over-protectiveness.)
As someone who still struggles with the appropriate degree of independence/dependence in my own life, I must confess that I’m not sure where I fall on this one. On the one hand, I hate the idea of my kids ever getting hurt because of some stupid lack of oversight on my part. On the other hand, I feel like I practically raised myself as a child, and that independence has proved invaluable to me as an adult, giving me the confidence to take chances and experiment in life.
But maybe it’s a moot point. Maybe kids figure out for themselves how soon they’ll make their own choices, and whether and when we decide as parents to cut the proverbial chord isn’t really the deciding factor. See below….
I thought I’d share a recent conversation with my five year-old daughter, who sprung the following on me at roughly 6:58 a.m. this morning:
DAUGHTER: I’ve decided that I’m going to marry another lady when I grow up and she can have my children.
ME (still half asleep): Ok, honey. Why do you want to marry a lady?
DAUGHTER: Because having babies hurts.
ME (Unable to articulate a sufficiently sound counter-argument): Good point.