Monday, December 28, 2009

Am I a Helicopter Parent? (Or, In Praise of Hand Sanitizer)

One of my favorite bloggers, Annie at Phd in Parenting (excellent content, informational and opinionated), has a definition of a type of parent in a post about her recent vacation:

Helicopter parents: These parents hover over their children and their every experience on vacation. They are always armed with hand sanitizer, life jackets and sun block, even while holding their child’s hand in the just-been-cleaned ankle-deep shaded part of the baby pool. Some keep their kids securely on a harness, in a stroller, or in a high chair at all times. They take the burgers from the buffet and bring them to the grill for extra grilling. They bring bottled water, juice boxes and bed sheets from home because the ones at the resort are not good enough.

I am FAR too lazy to bring my own sheets and food, but everything else sounds about right. Hand sanitizer, safety equipment, being careful that Q doesn't get hurt, keeping him in a high chair or stroller if I don't trust that the environment is clean or baby-proof... but is that bad? I think I am just safety conscious. I believe it's my duty to keep him safe. Why SHOULD I trust anyone or anything else to keep him safe? I don't. And sunburns are BAD.

I think it's important, of course, to not go too far. I think helicoptering is bad if it prevents the parent or kid from enjoying life. A kid needs to be able to explore, which might include some bumps and face plants. Right now, for example, I'm ignoring the Q as I blog while he explores our (mostly) babyproofed room. And my goal, after he's asleep, is to go to the gym. Yes, I do trust his Dad to care for him, and I do think he needs to learn to be away from me. Maybe I'm not a total helicopterer?

Only the end part of Annie's definition- the bringing of sheets and food- sounds excessive to me- and maybe the constant hand sanitizing- UNLESS you're talking about the pen at the prescription counter at CVS. You think I'm going to touch THE ONE PEN THAT EVERY SICK PERSON IN TOWN HAS TOUCHED? SERIOUSLY? A few days ago, I told the cashier, "Can you forge my signature, because I am NOT touching that pen." And then the guy in line behind me touched the "accept" button for me when he saw me trying to find something to press the keypad with so I didn't have to use my hands. Sorry. I'm a TEACHER. I KNOW that surfaces get disgustingly dirty, and I'm not going to be the one to catch the cold or flu. (I didn't have hand sanitizer with me, so I didn't want to touch anything, because those are the same hands that have to put the baby in his carseat, which inevitably involves touching his hands, which always go in his mouth. That's not crazy, OK, that's just SMART.)

Now, here's another definition of helicopter parenting, from Wikipedia:

Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach, whether their children need them or not. In Scandinavia, this phenomenon is known as curling parenthood and describes parents who attempt to sweep all obstacles out of the paths of their children. It is also called "overparenting". Parents try to resolve their child's problems, and try to stop them coming to harm by keeping them out of dangerous situations

So, if helicoptering means you never let your kid experience failure, I don't want to do that. They need to stumble a little before they can walk... you get the metaphor. They'll need to bicker with friends, cry a little when you leave them to go to work, not always get what they want. I think as a parent it's hard to see what looks like your kid suffering, but they have to do that to learn sometimes. The only thing I'm completely against, at least for this baby of mine, is letting him cry at bedtime. I don't think that will teach him to sleep. It's hard though. He wakes up so much at night. I am reading books about it and trying to figure out what to do...

But in the meantime, I'll be sanitizing my hands at the CVS, and I will NOT be using the same pen to sign in at the pediatrician's office that EVERY OTHER PARENT OF A SICK KID HAS USED. No, I carry my own pen, or I just don't sign in.

1 comment:

AmyBow said...

My girls love "magic lotion". Even the 1.5 year old knows how to rub her hands together after applying it. Not a helicopter parent - rather a "hella-awesome" parent.