Why I am a Helicopter Mum
Something I have been thinking about lately is the fact that Mr Point Five and I are helicopter parents. For better or worse we tend to wrap our boys in cotton wool and be over cautious with them and what they do. Despite other neighbourhood kids doing the same, our boys have not ridden their bikes down our street without me standing/sitting at the bottom of our drive to watch their every move. I accompany them to the skate park. I refuse to let them go on the school bus with the other kids to the next town up if I can drive them myself to something like swimming lessons or a school disco. We fret if the kids are driven by anyone else apart from us, even their grandparents, although we are working on trying to relax about that. A perfect example of this is a month or two ago, three months or so after we moved here, Master J was invited to go out on a boat with the father of one of his new friends at school, as well as his new little friend. It seemed a casual invite as we live in a fishing town, obviously just inviting Master J along on a regular event their family does often. His little friend was very keen for Master J to accompany him but when it was brought up my stomach immediately knotted. My instinct was to say No immediately. I thought perhaps I was being irrational so I rang Mr Point Five who I thought might tell me I was being silly and to let him go out. Mr Point Fives immediate reaction also was No. Neither of us were comfortable with our five year old going out on a boat without one of us there.
I have been mulling over why we behave like this. Perhaps it is because we have moved so often? Being put out of our comfort zone so much I try to control what I can…..
Mr Point Five attended a country road accident last month with a fatality of a little boy, only two years older than G Man. He was witness to the pain of his Mother, losing her baby boy. He has been to many fatal accidents, some children, some adults. The grief he has bore witness to must be unimaginable. I cant even. He has witnessed the ultimate worst consequence of human error on the road. He has seen the result of fatigue, carelessness, distraction and accidents that just weren’t even fathomable to the imagination to begin with. He has seen the very worst of human nature; seen the awful things we can do to each other. What you see on the news headlines for 2 minutes on the TV is actually in our lounge, in our home, in our beds at night. I think because of Mr Point Fives reality we tend to try to make extra sure it never happens to us and our family. We imagine the worst possible scenario with every invitation the boys get. What if Master J falls off the boat? What if nobody notices? What if the bus driver fell asleep? What if someone’s parent got distracted driving with our boys in the car? What if someone took our child from the street whilst he was riding his bike? Mr Point Five has experienced many of these scenarios and they are our reality as a police family; they have set up camp in our thoughts. It is so freaking hard to let go of my imagination when our boys are offered an opportunity.
Last Friday evening I drove the boys to the next town up to their school disco. Driving up was not so bad as it was 5pm, still quite light but I know that is when the kangaroos come out. The trip there was 50 km at 110 kph. As I was driving down our street I spent the first 5 minutes imagining every possible scenario on the way there and how I would react. I envisioned a kangaroo jumping in front of the car. What would I do? I saw a car coming towards me on the other side of the road. What would I do? I imagined drifting across to the gravel edge and losing traction. What would I do? I mentally prepared for all these possible situations even before we had reached the 110km sign out of town. Same again on the way home. Whilst other families might have been chatting about the disco and what a fun time they had my mind was sharp on the road; the boys and I searched for hiding kangaroos along the roadside. I was steeling myself with every car that we passed coming the other way, predicting them coming across into my lane. What would I do? How would I react? I pulled my speed back to 90 kmh and when the boys wished on the evening star outside their car window I simply wished that we get home safely. I know that our lives are never so fragile than in a car on a country highway and I take nothing for granted. When I travel to Perth (a six hour trip) with the boys, I stop and text Mr Point Five along the way to let him know that the next callout he gets on his work phone wont be about us.
Its a really hard balance for me between knowing about first hand and expecting the worst, and letting our boys have experiences that other kids their age would. Master J was picked up from home by another parent and taken out to a farm of one of the kids in his class a few weeks ago for a play date. My heart said No, but in this instance my head said let him go. It was a huge step for me as a parent as I wasn’t in control, and his life was in someone elses hand (and car). The next time G Man has a friend who wants him to go for a bike ride down the street I will have to try to come inside and have a cuppa. I just hope it doesn’t happen too soon.
I know being a helicopter parent can be unhealthy, both for me and the boys and I am trying to be more rational as the weeks go on, and lovely opportunities present themselves for our boys in our small country town. Mr Point Five agrees with me that perhaps his job and his experiences, especially the road trauma, do take their toll on us as parents. A casualty of a police life. All the moving, getting to know the people in town over and over again, trusting them with your kids; its huge! Hopefully we can settle a bit more here for the next few years and allow our boys the freedom to be just regular kids at school, doing regular kid things without me always having my heart in my mouth. Baby steps.