Hello, my name is Amanda. And I'm a helicopter mom.
I've recently come to grips with the fact that I may have - okay, I HAVE - some helicopter mom-ish tendencies. (If you've never heard this term before, imagine a mother who hovers.) At MOPS two years ago we had a great speaker who was describing this phenomenon and she said, "Who are the helicopter moms? Look around! They're you!" Her point was that women who sign up for MOPS are often cut from the same fabric as women who tend to go slightly overboard with their parenting.
Last week I read something about what helicopter moms are like at playgrounds and I had to admit that was pretty much me. And playgrounds are probably the place that brings it out in me the most. Listen, I love rolling my eyes and laughing at over-the-top-mom stories. I do not want to be, or to hover, in their company!
As I was telling my friend Missy last night, there is one half of me that is pretty laid back but the other half gets easily wound up about ridiculous things. I would like my phlegmatic side to win more, but my melancholy side really wants to be perfect, look perfect, and have a perfect environment. She will fight and strive and fight and strive until she's miserable. Phlegmatic Me is just too chilled out to get up and fight her off. (Actually, she must be winning tonight for me to be able to write this.)
Sadly, this can translate into me being too hard on my kids in public because I don't want someone to look at me/us and think _______. Later, this will translate to me pushing my kids too hard to _______ because it makes me feel _______ when they perform well. The words that describe this behavior are sick and pathetic.
If I don't yield to God on this perfection issue, I will project a performance attitude onto my children. Sure, I want my kids to succeed just like any other mom does. But this is not the way. Their character and the health of their little hearts and minds are so much more important.
Do I look at my own former academic accomplishments and consider that they came from a healthy place? Well, the first time I remember getting in trouble in school (there were very few) was when I threw away my spelling test in first grade because I'd gotten a B. So no.
We were with my extended family today and my Aunt Mary brought some videos of Christmases past. I got to watch my geeky fifth grade self do an array of early 90's dances while wearing Hammer pants. I was mortified. Oh, the pain of my husband seeing my tween shame! You know what's hilarious? We got in the car and Curtis told me how amazed he was at my awesome dance moves. He was dead serious. He said he wondered what could have been if I'd never become self-conscious. How sad is that? I admitted that back in those days I'd wanted to take a hip hop dance class but I was afraid of not knowing it all when I arrived in the class on Day 1. Sick, sick, sick.
This brings me to my next big revelation...the scariest moment of parenting is when you realize your kid is turning out just like you. I asked Jackson a question the other day and he said he was afraid of telling me the wrong answer. Help me, Lord Jesus. He is four years old. At least God is letting me see hints of this now. If I turned out this way without parents who pressured me, what will he be like if he has natural performance tendencies and a perfectionist mother? Lord, how I need your grace.
The weather is finally getting more bearable in Houston and people are starting to come out of their houses for the first time since the 4th of July. Last night we spent some time hanging out in the back yard. Annabeth made a beeline toward the play set ladder and climbed up on the platform. Curtis and I were a little flabbergasted. I should note that another aspect of my helicopter mothering is in regard to safety. But you guys already know that. I was completely freaked out seeing my 19-month-old walking around up there. Curtis and I were close by and she didn't try to do anything insane, so we relaxed a little bit. In fact, eventually I got my video camera and recorded her climbing the ladder. I said to the camera, "For the record, I never would have allowed Jackson to do this at this age." I was trying to get a grip on my issues and was proud of my progress! Three seconds later, she reached the very top...and fell through the ladder! The camera recorded my shriek but not the thud as she hit the ground. She screamed bloody murder for twenty seconds, but she'd landed squarely on her diapered bottom and was smiling again in no time.
I've always held a tight grip in playground situations. So far, no other mother has confronted me about my kids being out of control. We've been able to avoid the ER. But I've taken some of the joy of childhood away from my kids. Then I loosened my grip and watched my daughter fall through a ladder. I can only conclude that they can get hurt either way. I'm not completely sure, but I think at the end of the day they'd rather get some bumps and bruises and learn from them than be suffocated by a hovering, perfectionist mother. Balance is obviously the key and I'm praying for God to bring me to that place.