Are you familiar with the term "helicopter parent"?
According to Wikipedia, "Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach, whether their children need them or not. 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." Wiki also points out that it is an "ineffective parenting style" .
If you know me at all, you know that I don't plan or try to be a helicopter parent. And hopefully I'm reaching that goal! I've tried hard to let my children learn thru trial and error when at all possible. No, I didn't let them run out in the busy street and get run over by a car... not effective. And I have no desire to see my children dead, or to be reported to DCFS! But I have let them fall of bikes, trip over rocks, break toys that they didn't want broken, lose toys that they wanted to take in the mall, etc. I've let them live life and try to let them learn a lot on their own. I'll suggest to them, "Hey let's leave your favorite dinosaur in the car." But if the argument is good/long/strong enough, I've let them bring that fav toy into the mall. Hopefully we don't lose it, but we have lost things and it's been upsetting for my children. Yes, it sucks at the time... but the next trip to the mall, they didn't argue when I asked them to leave their toys in the car. Lesson learned!
I clearly remember a playground incident when Trev was about 2 years old. I was sitting nearby, under a tree, nursing Blake. One moment I looked over and T was happily playing, the next time I looked over (30 seconds later?) he was being held upside down by a boy probably 5 or 6 years old. WOW!!! I flew across the playground, grabbed him and helped him get right-side-up again. A few seconds later the other parent appeared and took her son away to talk with him (thank goodness, cause I don't know what I might have done). Do I enjoy this memory? Nope....Trev was obviously scared. But I wouldn't change that I wasn't hovering right over him to change that it happened. Do I think the other parent should have been hovering over her child? Nope... she saw the problem right away and responded by removing her child and disciplining him. No one was hurt, Trev went back to playing shortly after, and all was fine in the world (oh,and Blake was still nursing....no interrupting him when he's eating!!!).
Okay.... right turn, Clyde....
Recently I read an article about car seats. (Stay with me here, this will all tie together I promise.) In the article, the author used a great analogy..."the whole idea of the car seat is to act as your child's parachute in a crash". The full article can be read here but the basics are this... The car seat is a child's parachute in the event your car crashes. It slows them down and helps them come to the slowest and gentlest stop possible. If their parachute (aka car seat) is loose, the forces of the stop are much more jolting potentially causing them much more harm than necessary.
This is such a well written understandable analogy. In her article she goes on to talk about why big puffy coats under car seat straps are bad. After all, you wouldn't want a big puffy coat between you and your parachute harness right? But I digress. As much as I fully agree with her point and am a big proponent of car seat safety, that's not the point of my post today (shocking, I know, can you believe it!!!).
Upon thinking about it further, this principle extends far beyond the car seat to me, it's a valid parenting analogy. I want to be a parachute parent. (I'm trademarking that term right here, right now!).
To go back to Wikipedia, "the word "parachute" comes from the French para, meaning "to prepare for" or "to protect against".
I want to help my child stay safe, and slow down enough not to get hurt. I want to help them glide safely through life and land in adult-hood (gee, that was cheesy!). I want them to remember what I've taught them, carry it with them, and use it when they need it. But I can't and don't want to be hovering over them every second of the day, to do it for them. They have to carry their own parachute and know when to pull the rip-cord. I want to prepare them for life and the challenges they will face so that I know that they can handle them.
So there ya go.... I've got my new philosophy. And yeah, my kids still don't wear puffy coats in their car seats. They've got their parachutes on, and I want those straps tight... just in case.