Reflections

Hovercraft: Balance in Parenting (31 Days of Balance – Day 19)

I first heard the term soon after I began college. It wasn’t mentioned among my peers, per se, but more from our advisors…the teachers of our freshman orientation classes. We certainly made reference to it, even if we never used the actual word.

Helicopter parents.

You may be familiar with the term. It was featured in a recent article in Parents magazine, weighing the benefits versus the detriment to kids when their parents begin hovering, chopper-like, over their lives.

(Photo Credit)
Thankfully, I have no personal pictures of this phenomenon.

It’s a real thing. I didn’t experience it from the child’s perspective, as my parents were adamant that I spread my wings on my own when I left for college. (Actually, if memory serves me well, I remember wishing for more contact with them within those first few weeks. I digress.) I remember making a mental note, though, to never, EVER hover over my own children. I saw the stress and the grief it caused for some of my friends. I didn’t want to do that to my children.

And now…here I am. My daughter is our only child, in big-girl preschool for the first time this year. She has a field trip coming up – her first ever – and her teachers have begun asking which parents will undertake the endeavor of wrangling three year olds through a corn maze with them. At first glance, I want to run from the very mention of the idea.

I’m a realistic woman with a vivid imagination. That does not sound like fun to me.

However, I do want to go.  I want to go to witness my daughter’s experience. I want to see how she does with the other kids. I want to watch her on the crazy bouncy slide thingy they have there.  I want to see her at the petting zoo.  I want to experience it with her, even though I know my motives to do so are more selfish than altruistic.

This is but one example of an ongoing struggle I have. It’s the struggle for balance between being an involved, attentive parent….and becoming the dreaded helicopter parent.  It’s the struggle between allowing her to develop independence and protecting her to a fault.  It’s the battle between letting her be her own person and keeping her forever my baby.  It’s the constant head-to-head of wanting to be her lifelong protector but needing to trust God with my little girl’s life.

And that, I think, is the real gist of it.  That’s why it’s hard to drive away and leave her on her very first day of school.  That’s why the thought of kindergarten is terrifying.  That’s why mamas and daddies cry at graduations and weddings.

We want to protect our children, but life constantly throws us reminders that we are not equipped to do that.  Every milestone shows us anew that this illusion of control we’ve carefully constructed is fragile and fleeting.

So what do we do?  How do we find a place of being okay with all of this?  God gives us these little people to take care of and nurture and protect, and then we are shown on a daily basis that we have absolutely no power to really do any of it.

We do the only thing we can do.  We hand them back to the One who has loaned them to us.  We lay them at His feet every day and trust Him to take care of them.  We train ourselves to believe that He is big enough…strong enough…God enough to handle their lives in a way that we only hope we can.  We remind ourselves daily that nothing in their lives – nothing in them – nothing they will face today or tomorrow or ever – will be a surprise to God.

He made them, and He knows them even better than we do.  He can take care of it.

We have to learn to let go.  We have to relinquish this grip on these tiny little people.  We have to trust God to empower us to do our jobs as parents…but we have to trust Him enough, too, to be all that they need and then some.  It’s not about us.  It’s about God, ultimately, and how He wants to work with our kids.  We are wise to not try to be God over our children.  He has it covered.

Will I go on her field trip with her?  That’s hard to say.  I think I probably still will…but not as an official chaperone.  That way I can watch from a distance…which I feel like is a good start.

This is part of a 31-day series on balanced living. Click here to read the introduction to this series, and click here to read all of the posts.

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