Thursday, August 13, 2009

Start Hovering... or Else!

I think one of the main causes of "helicopter" parenting is that people simply aren't having very many kids. They only have one or two, so there are no older kids to keep an eye on the younger ones, and the parents think they must watch little junior every second or he will be molested or killed the minute he walks out the door.

Well, this is too bad, really, because it's terribly boring to have to follow your eight-year-old kid with neosporin and pepper spray any time he wants to go to the playground.

Or, as some mothers suggest in today's Dear Abby, you should even be following your seven-year-old son into the men's restroom, because you never know what kind of creep could be hanging out in stall number one.

Oh, for heaven's sake. Send your poor boy to the bathroom by himself. There is no need to hover and ask, "Are you being molested, darling?" as your son makes use of the facilities. Teach him to yell for help if he's in a distressing situation and call that good. You can stand outside the door and wait for him, but it is simply ridiculous and intrusive to insist, as one mother does, that her son talk to her the entire time he's peeing, to let her know he's okay.

Of course, while I am not the hovering sort, I do get a little paranoid that I should hover more - not because I think Michael needs to be watched every second of the day, but because it is inevitable that the one time I leave him on the sidewalk in his stroller while I pick up the dry-cleaning, even if he is in my view the entire time, will be the time a police officer drives by and arrests me for child endangerment. (Which has actually happened to more than one woman while running errands, ridiculously enough).

Even this story annoys me. A babysitter tasked with taking care of a one-year-old fell asleep on the couch while she was supposed to be watching the little tyke. The kid took that as an invitation to escape the house and hang out in the road, which earned his babysitter a felony charge and a little jail time.

Now, is it wise to fall asleep while you are supposed to be keeping an eye on a toddler? No. But does this mean no mom should ever be allowed a nap for fear of facing felony charges? Kids have been escaping houses since the dawn of time. Just be grateful the neighbors found the kid and lock your front door next time. But there is really no need to involve the police unless the woman was passed out drunk on the couch or something.

As the mother of an escape artist myself, I have to say that Michael is equally adept at mischief whether I am awake or not. Luckily, we currently have a chain on our front door, but if we didn't, I have no doubt he would often be hanging out in the lobby or taking a ride down the trash chute. All it would take is two minutes for me to go to the bathroom by myself and he would be halfway to the train station.

We shouldn't make parents live in fear of giving their children a little latitude when it comes to playtime. And we shouldn't punish them with felonies for falling asleep on the couch.

It's no wonder people are paranoid nowadays.


MyDonkeySix said...

Yeah, because I never fall asleep during quiet time.
Of course, I am a bad parent because I let my kids go to the park, and the park bathroom, by themselves. It's amazing how they survive.

Stephanie Black said...

I think you're right that helicopter parenting has a lot to do with smaller family sizes. When our grandmothers were raising nine kids, they COULDN'T hover. The older kids had to take responsibility and to develop the maturity both to help with the younger children and to care for themselves. I suspect that children of earlier generations were much more competent and mature at a younger age because they were given the opportunity to develop those skills.

fiona said...

Who has time/patience/energy for that kind of parenting? And I must say it sounds like it would tend to breed Yeah, do what we can to keep them safe, but teach them how to do it for themselves, as their age/maturity level dictates.

I think the family size has a lot to do with it as well!

Julia said...

I have three friends who were molested in public bathrooms. A certain amount of vigilance is definitely warranted!