I Never Wanted to be a Helicopter Parent, but I am one.

I like to think of myself as fun and relaxed, as brave with a touch of crazy. I’m the one who loves to laugh and awkwardly dance in public, the one who jumped off the cliff first and who shaved her head because she felt like it. I’m the one who traveled across the world alone.

So naturally, I thought I was going to be a really fun parent. A free spirit, spontaneous and unconcerned with dirt or danger. I’d probably raise kids who were sponsored by Red Bull they’d be so fearless and capable.

And then I had them. And then my heart was turned inside-out and was crushed by a million tons of brick.

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It turns out that when it comes to my kids, I’m not brave. It turns out a lot of the time I’m not even that fun or relaxed.

I’ve become more like an underpaid body guard.

I never wanted to be a helicopter parent, but I am one.

They have so much creativity, these children. I hope to someday channel that into saving the planet or inventing spanx that don’t cause profuse sweating, but for now it’s primarily resulted in head wounds and triangle cut-outs in the table cloth.

I live in fear that my kids will run into the road. Just spastically. Probably showing me a cool dance move or something.

Sometimes I psych myself up and say – today is the day I’m going to be “chill”. Then, I remember there are reasons I am not chill.  I find them licking the playground equipment or inexplicably throwing rocks in the general direction of our rental van. I glance away for one second and they start hoisting themselves over the fence guarding a 70ft drop into a rocky ravine.

Some of these things are clearly more detrimental than others…but all of them make me question their critical-thinking skills.

The thing is…when I look at them with their smooth cheeks and bright eyes, I see their soft hearts and tender innocence. The thought of them being wounded or broken or hurt feels like a knife in my heart that I just couldn’t take.

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It’s too much.

At the park, I feel like I’ve got to keep my eyes on every child all the time. This would work really well if I also had four heads.  The result is a stressed-out nutcase of a mother constantly calling for my kids. Sure, something terrible happening is highly unlikely, but even the faint whisper of that idea…feels like my gut being trampled by a stampede of horses. It’s too sickening for me to find my rational mind…and then I’m the helicopter parent at the park.

I’m not the cool mom like I thought. I’m the one that my son puts his hand on my arm (after I tell him not to step near the road) and says, “Mom. I’m ten.” I should probably let him know that I’m going to be doing this until he’s 27, just so we can all lower our expectations of my rationality.

 

I want to be chill and relaxed like my mother-in-law who let her kids build fires and walk to the pond a mile away to go swimming. That’s the mom I dreamt of being. The “yes” mom. Sure babe, you definitely should carve those sticks into weapons and fight each other. Also, while you’re at it…have you considered building a fort 50ft up in that maple tree?

I don’t know how to turn it off. I don’t know how to let go.

I worry I will slowly push my kids away as they get older, my lack of trust making them feel trapped. When I hear myself talk, or when I herd my kids like a flock of ducklings…I annoy myself.

I’m just so damn scared. I’m scared of hotdogs and cliffs and predators. I’m scared of water and sickness and some bully speaking poison to their identity.

I never wanted to be a helicopter parent, hovering over my kids’ every move, but I am one. 

I want to protect them the best I can, but I also want them to find their own strength, to make mistakes, and to stretch their wings.

I want them to remember me fun and wild, not the stressed out and controlling.

Being a mom is hard.

Harder than I thought.

I can only hope and pray that I’m still in the process of becoming. I can only pray that trust is something I can pursue one shaky footstep at a time. And someday when they look back on memories where “mom got all crazy because I wanted to eat my cereal with a steak knife”…I hope they know, that even though I didn’t always do it well or right…

I loved them more than they can ever imagine.

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For more like this follow me here on wonderoak, on Facebook and @wonderoakblog on Instagram.

We are currently traveling the world with our flock (yes I can be a helicopter parent anywhere it turns out). To follow along on the adventure check @grahamsjohnston and my instastories as well as our travel besties @aubspoff and @benjipoff. 

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17 thoughts on “I Never Wanted to be a Helicopter Parent, but I am one.

  1. eightegg1

    Dear Jessica…thank you for sharing. In my professional, albeit old, opinion… you have cultivated, very carefully, a deep sustaining “Mother’s Heart”!! May you always be graced with such a gift!! Love you…Aunt Gay

  2. Ellie

    Hey Jess! Loving every post as always and loving following your adventures. I just have to say though… thank you especially for this one. For the vulnerability and the honesty about where you’re at is so encouraging… because honestly? I have always thought of you as such a cool mom! It’s funny what perception does… and I have always perceived that cool, chill vibe from your parenting and have aspired to have so. much. more. of that myself. I’ve always struggled thinking I was an over the top, reactionary parent and the one who lets the stress of trying to do it right and keep them safe and not make messes and mistakes dictate my mood. So, thank you for just being you and being real in the way that lets other moms (or maybe just me) know that we’re all doing our best and we’re all getting there… one step at a time! <3 you!

  3. Jane Chapman

    Jess, you may not remember me, I’m Jill Holland’s mom. I love your blog. At 68 I still relate to every word. I’m still a helicopter mom from afar, my tribe has just grown by 4 grandchildren and a daughter and son in law. I want to say one thing to you, God is true to His word in Proverbs “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” You are doing a great job. I admire your transparency and courage. Have a great trip. Your children are and will be wonderful!

  4. Tish

    WORD! Your children will be patient with you as mine are with me when I ask them to text me when they arrive..they are 29 and 32 years old and I will ask this until they are 85 or I die, which ever comes first!

  5. Monica

    Oh my God! I loved this post! Just so you know, you’re not alone. My last one is graduating in 12 days. Yes, they were all smothered and now I hardly see them. I’m a control freak and I just can’t help myself. I always wanted to protect and lead them the best I could. Someday they will have children and they will understand everything we went through.

    BUT, If I knew back then what I know now, I would not have had children at all. I love them to pieces but it hurts like hell!

  6. israelisalad

    I can totally relate. I don’t like pillow fights, wrestling, playing on the top bunk, the way they climb on the swings, sugar coated in food coloring… I am such a stick in the mud.

  7. Laura fuchs

    I love reading your blogs ! This is me to the T… wowza it is hard being a parent ! Just want them to be safe happy and loved ! Keep me coming !!

  8. stomperdad

    I’m more of a P.I. Dad. I watch from a distance, but I’m always watching. I’ll intervene when necessary to keep them safe and/or out of trouble. I think we all have an idea of how we want to parent. I would venture to say that 99% of us aren’t the parent’s we initially thought we would be.

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  10. Maybe I'll Shower Today

    It’s definitely hard to not hover, but it’s not impossible. Great post, thank you for your candor.

  11. Melissa Myers

    I love the comment “I am scared of hotdogs…”. I once drew a diagram of how to cut a hotdog into non-chokable pieces for my babysitter on the 2 page long list of instructions. 😳

  12. Bonnie

    This was great! I was a helicopter mom before I knew the term. Now I’m a helicopter grandmother! Life was so simple when I was a kid and we had so much freedom. We left home on our bikes in the morning and came home when we were hungry. My daughter had less freedom but a lot more than my grandkids do. Life was a little less simple then. Now it’s darn right scary! I was always told not to talk to strangers and that there were bad people out there. But—I never knew anyone who had been kidnapped. Wish my grandkids lived in such a safe simple world and i didn’t have to be a helicopter grandma.

  13. Vonnie Davis

    Jess,
    What a royal blessing you are to so many readers! I am now ” hovering” from a distance and mostly giving mine all over to prayer! God truly is our seatbelt on this ride!

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