The Way I See it: The helicopter has landed

Michele Blais examines differences in parenting, from extreme hovering to relaxed and hands-off

One of the great aspects of vacations is time for conversations.  Time to re-connect with friends and families or have a long conversation with a new friend.

A recent conversation was around parenting styles and the helicopter parent, hovering parent, smother mother as I used to call myself. The conversation was about extremes in parenting, from those who overprotect to those who seem to ignore. I can laugh about it now, but sometimes I worried too much and it did restrict my children from play that wasn’t going to hurt them. Both have their drawbacks, from anxiety for one and our fear of safety for the other.

I believe that a mom’s anxious behaviour will be picked up by her child, and her anxiety will interfere with her own joyful times with her child. Parenting is tough, our children are very dear to us, we love them a great deal, and I don’t believe the yardstick for measuring our love is over-protection.

When the lads were about eight and 10, I read a story in a newspaper asking us smother mothers to back off.

My own childhood was carefree, and I survived. Biking without helmets, biking 20 miles a day without telling my parents where I was going — no safety plan, no cell phone, just off with my buddies on our one-speeds on a bike adventure. I grew up in a small town that was surrounded by farms, one of which we used to live on. I would share with them at dinner where I had been. “That’s nice, dear.”

My mother and father were attentive but it was just different; you would go out and play and most times say where you were going, but sometimes we would just go on our bikes. We knew we had to be home for dinner, or in the evening when the streetlights were on. We rode in cars without seat belts, with eight kids piled in the back seat with dad driving, and we thrived.

I would not have liked the lads doing that, however they could play in the yard with their friends without me suggesting the games and the rules. Kids need these opportunities to be leaders, followers, create rules, live with them, settle arguments, learn to play fair independent of the watchful eye of Mommy dearest. I could be in the house, front yard, and didn’t need to hover.

As I learned to relax, I found this good for both the boys and myself. “Worrying about my children is disrespectful. Concern shows love — worry shows a lack of faith.” This quote came off a calendar and has hung on my wall for years.

Another great conversation involved a young adult concerned that maybe he was missing something as he wasn’t always happy and feeling up. The daily routine of working, owning a home, playing sports did not always match the TV commercials, or movies he watched, or the ideas he had created about adult life.  That’s life, most times it is very flat and maybe we need to prepare our youth for the doldrums that is often a lot of daily living.

At a certain age, or after a few ups and downs of intense life with marriages,  babies, schools, illnesses, activities, job changes, career climbing, busy schedules, home maintenance, finances, dull is good.

It’s why those moments when you share a great laugh, cry when you hear someone sing, smile so much your face hurts, or feel that overwhelming sense of love, pride or accomplishment, are marvelous.

Which leads me to my next deep thought which involved another conversation about our fast world and instant gratification. In my kids’ world if they want to know something they Google it. Instantly they know pretty much the answer to any question. If I was to compare the quest for finding the answer to a question to a wrapped Christmas gift, they don’t experience a period of not knowing what is under the paper. No shaking, searching, guessing. All their presents sit under the tree unwrapped. Instantly they have the answer and miss the joy of the quest.

Which leads me to my hope that this summer you make sure to unplug, have great conversations, ask questions, discuss answers, let your kids play. Take time to swim, hike in the woods, enjoy a view, the sight of trees, flowers. Unplug and connect with each other.

Michele Blais is a Realtor in Vernon, B.C. and longtime columnist with The Morning Star, who writes on a variety of topics, appearing every other Sunday.