We are always hearing about 'helicopter' parents. The kind of parent that hovers neurotically around their child shielding it from harm, danger, fun and just about everything else. They can actually damage their child's motor skills by not allowing then to climb, run and fall. There is a growing concern that children are being stunted physically and emotionally by over-protective parents.
I can speak with some authority on child-rearing because I have five children ranging from 25 down to 7. Four boys. One girl. I have never been overly-protective although I am guilty of calling an ambulance for my first son when he fell off the coffee table and got an egg on his head. I rang 000 and screamed that my baby had a bone sticking out of his head...it did look a bit bone-like but turned out to be a bruise.That was a scared first time mother and my son actually held his breath and passed out so I was justifiably concerned. The more children I had, the more blase I got. I let them play with guns and watch violent films. They stayed up late and ate lots of junk. Whenever there was a scraped knee or blood nose my response was predictable 'You'll be right!' My eldest sons have said that they will put that on my tombstone 'You'll be right, Mum!' But all jokes aside, my 22 year old told me the other day that if he had to choose one remembered gem from his childhood, it would be that attitude of 'you'll be right'. Because short of a disaster which may not be within one's control, the kids generally will be okay if you let them be and let them grow.
I was never one of those Mums who always looked immaculate and had labels on drawers and child-locks on all the cupboards. I forgot to put the medicine box up high and one son helped himself to my contraceptive pills while another pigged out on laxatives (which became awfully evident half an hour later on the trampoline). Over the years we had scrapes, bruises and burns. But I am pleased to say the kids are all still in one piece and we all still like each other. We have a relaxed relationship which is brutally honest and loving. I was always watching my children grow but let them make mistakes so they could learn from them. This has made them resilient and mature.
I grew up in a strict Catholic household and was monitored quite vigilantly so I had to sneak out the bedroom window to go and make my mistakes.
Children are by nature, messy, smelly, dirty little creatures who love to climb and jump and run. They are adventurous and curious. I believe in the idea of letting children be themselves. Answering back and questioning me was encouraged. I think children have a valid voice that needs to be heard. Sometimes they were right and I was wrong. Parenting can't be learned from a book because I had to adjust and fine tune my attitude with each and every one of my children because they are all completely different people. One liked rules and boundaries. One was a highly strung artist. The girl. Don't get me started. After so many boys I just don't get daughters!!! She won't wear a dress but loves Barbies. She listens to One Direction. She's like an alien. But just like I let the boys play with guns I let her listen to the silly boy band and play with anatomically incorrect rubber women who personify the 'dumb blonde' cliche.
I feed them all healthy food but one day a fortnight we have candy day and eat ice-cream and nutella for breakfast. I often let them stay up late. My teenage son is often awol and hanging with his homies at the mall doing god knows what. But I trust him and I know that he is proud of that and won't abuse it (much). I also know that teenagers are curious and adventurous. I teased him mercilessly about the hickies on the neck last weekend where I would have been grounded and sent to the school counselor when I was 16. Maybe even sent to a nunnery.
So, I'm more of a satellite parent than a helicopter parent. I love my kids intensely and powerfully but I don't own them. They are not clones of me nor do they have the same drives or interests. I appreciate their uniqueness, their various tattoos, piercings and troll-doll hair-dos. I don't worry too much about them because I know that the kids are alright.