I’ve always been quite happy to admit that I’m a helicopter parent. Husband and I both are in fact (me more so than him), and our ethos has always been “We’d rather be safe than sorry”, but a couple of things have happened recently which have made us reconsider our positions.
The first thing was Sausage’s first pony lesson last week. As I mention before, she’s started a course of pony lessons throughout the Summer Holidays, a half-hour lesson a week and once she’s five we’ll see if she wants to carry on with regular horse riding tuition. So, we took her to the stables, watched her get kitted out, set off with her trainer…and then stalked the through the woods as she took her lesson.
Okay, stalking may be a *bit* strong, but most of the other parents waited back at the stables for their kids to get back, while Husband and I walked (at a respectful distance, which was more his choice than mine…I’d have been hanging off of her stirrups if I’d had my way) the whole way and didn’t let her out of our sights for a second. As we were walking back, we started chatting and Husband suggested that if we were going to let her do these things then we really needed to let her do them, without us eyeballing her all the time. It must be off-putting, having your own cheer-squad trotting through the bushes next to you, but I find it very difficult to take a step back.
Another prime example of this is an accident that Sausage had last week. We were getting out of the car and walking up our drive when she tripped on the remnants of the old metal gate post that our landlord never properly removed. She scuffed her knee up pretty badly (it bled quite a lot) but she really lost her cool and screamed all the way into the house. I can’t help but wonder if she’d have been better equipped to deal with this if she’d had a few more scraped knees in her life? She’s never really fallen like this because Husband and I are always there to catch her, which means now, at almost 5, scraped knees are a massive deal.
I’m not sure that my reactions always help either. When she fell over, my instinct was to scrape her up and kiss her tears away, which doesn’t necessarily help when she’s looking to us to gauge how to deal with pain and trauma. Husband is a lot better at these things, he’s able to suck up his own need to comfort her, in favour of a ‘come on, walk it off’ type reaction, which is far more healthy for Sausage to learn.
I’m not saying that I think our parenting tactics have been wrong all these years – Sausage is a very bright child, who knows how loved she is and is confident in many areas, which I can’t help but feel is because of parental involvement. However, there are areas in which she could do with a boost, becuase she’s unsure of how to proceed when she doesn’t have me or her Dad behind her.
It’s a diffuclt balancing act – at this age, a change of direction could seriously pull the rug out from under her and I don’t want to shatter the confidence that she does have. However, I know we need to step back at times. This week, we’ve said that we’ll stay behind with the other parents at the stables, or maybe even go to the cafe next door for a cup of tea. It’s a small step, but it’s a step nonetheless. I just have to ignore the nagging, nauseating feeling that I’m taking the first step of many out of my daughters’ life.