Mother of two little girls, Jessica Rowe fesses up to being a helicopter parent. But she refuses to feel guilty about it.
I am a helicopter parent. I hover close to my girls. It's not as if I've chosen to be this type of parent, for to do anything else is not in my genetic make-up. I used to turn my newborn daughter's baby monitor up to full volume just to make sure I didn't miss a sound she made – even if the noise of trucks passing outside caused much more static and disruption to my sleep than she ever did.
By the time her little sister came along, I'd ditched the monitor because I had developed superhero-sensitive ears and X-ray vision to keep an eye out for possible hazards. And there are plenty out there in the big, wide, scary world.
The playground is one such location. I have to confess I don't like to venture to parks very much as I can no longer endure the boredom, loneliness and chaos. As a result, my youngest daughter hasn't had a lot of slippery-dip and swing time. Her big sister did go to the park a lot with me – until I realised I didn't have to put myself through the brawls over buckets and spades with other kids, nor the supervision of other people's boisterous children.
It can be such a struggle to know whether to intervene if another child is having a go at your children, or to wait for their parents to take a stand. The politics of the park put the politics of a newsroom to shame. It can get down-and-dirty among the mums and dads. And I put my hand up – I am always the first to leap in if something is not fair for my girls.
But is my helicopter parenting style going to turn my girls into clingy, cosseted princesses? We've all heard the statistics and the theories that we're spoiling our children. We're apparently producing a generation stuck on materialism, addicted to the internet, Facebook and their phones.
For the record, my three-year-old has a Barbie laptop and is already better at navigating around my iPhone than I am. Both my daughters like nothing better than watching Snow White or Cinderella on the television as I try to prepare their five-food-group meal.
No, they're not out climbing trees and getting fresh air. Nor are they getting the bus, or wandering off down the street on their own as I did when I was growing up. (Nothing happened to me – but I think that was more good luck on my parents' behalf rather than good management.)
However, I've had enough of the guilt-mongering. I'm a hoverer and I'm proud of it. And I'm going to make a stand for the praising generation of parents. I think you can never praise your children too much. My five-year-old is a sensitive soul and I know better than the "experts" that tough love won't work for her. She will blossom best with gentle encouragement instead of stern words.
I can't help but arrive early at school pick-up to sneak a cheeky look through her classroom window to see what my daughter is doing. I can't help but make evil eyes at the girl who has been unkind to her in the playground. I squeeze my daughter's hand, and let her stay close by when we get to parties and play dates. There is no point pushing her into a group and telling her to get on with it. And I also make evil eyes at the parents who are quick to comment on how quiet she is. Just give her time to warm up, I say. Besides, as a grown-up I still hate walking into a crowded room on my own. I'm shy, and now you also know that I can be evil, all in the name of being a helicopter parent.
I have also been known to steal another little girl's pass-the-parcel prize to pacify my children. However, as I was trying to pass off the pink beaded bracelet as belonging to my daughters, the pair of them shamed me into admitting that it didn't belong to them.
I understand strict parenting; my parents are still criticising me, nowadays for being too soft on my own girls. I used to get whacked with the wooden spoon, and then it was the black Mason Pearson hairbrush on my legs. Funnily enough, by the time my little sister came along, smacking had disappeared as a form of discipline in our family. I wouldn't dream of smacking my girls.
My dad tells me that I indulge them too much. But I've spied him giving them jelly beans and chocolate biscuits for breakfast and letting them watch television for hours when he's babysitting them. He, however, insists such treats are conditional on "good behaviour".
You can never love your child too much. And you know your child better than anyone else, and what they need to be happy and reach their potential. But stealing pass-the-parcel prizes? Well, that's another thing. Perhaps I need to put myself in the naughty corner.
From: Sunday Life