Parenting · Personal

Scraped Knees and Pony Stalking – Confessions of a Helicopter Parent

Helicopter Parenting


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.

8 thoughts on “Scraped Knees and Pony Stalking – Confessions of a Helicopter Parent

  1. I hear you. My youngest (who has special needs) started school September and one of the first things I told the teacher was that I am a helicopter parent. I think you can still be there to make sure she deals with the situation well (if that makes sense). I hope all is going well.

  2. Another interesting post.
    As you know, I’m writing from a childless standpoint, but I think somewhere in between is best. I like to hope that I wont be a helicopter parent, I like the idea of ‘free range kids,’ but if/when the time comes I do worry that I’ll feel like you and be unable to let go.

    Of course from your point of view it’s going to be more and more difficult for you as Sausage grows and becomes more independent, so I think you’re right to start to ease off now.

  3. Ooh interesting, I think I’ve been the complete opposite of a helicopter parent, my daughter is so independent she’s always pushed us away and wanted to be shown to be doing everything herself so we’ve not had a chance to. I actually wouldn’t mind the opportunity to ‘hover’!
    I think once the kids are in school you will find your methods adapt. For us, starting reception and also swimming lessons – two things we cannot stand by her for, really made us accept taking a back seat and letting our daughter do things by herself.

  4. This is a really interesting post, and something that I could totally relate to in parts. It’s such a hard balance isn’t it – and for what it’s worth I think you sound like an awesome, loving family rather than a clingy one. It’s kind of cool to have a little person who you actually ‘*like* spending a lot of time with isn’t it?! But it’s true also that you need to foster that sense of independence by stepping back a bit.

    I’ve been giving similar questions a lot of thought recently and have come to two conclusions – first being that being a parent to only one child makes you more inclined to be a helicopter parent, both because you have the time/energy to always be there, and because there aren’t any siblings to keep an eye on things and let you know if there are any problems. In a way it’s more of a responsibility to be a parent to one because the onus is all on you to pick her up if she falls.

    Second I think it helps to spend a lot of time with close friends – both of your own age and of your child’s age, because that also helps with the ‘letting go’ in a way that is less formal than handing over to a teacher or instructor. When we were on holiday recently we stayed with friends who have a 6 year old and 9 year old, and it took me a good few days to relax enough and realise that I didn’t have to watch T like a hawk – if he fell in the garden, or woke up coughing in the night (he was sharing a room with them) they’d come and tell me. The 9 year old, bless him, even took T to the bathroom when he woke up at night and waited outside the door to tuck him back in. Similarly, T was totally happy to go in the pool and be supervised by adults other than me, which felt odd at first, but then actually made me feel really proud of what a cool little independent guy he was becoming.

    I’m not sure where I’m going with this except to say YES! ME TOO! But also to say that if you do find ways of letting go a little bit, which it seems like you’re trying to do, you might be really pleasantly surprised of how happy and proud it makes you feel, rather than feeling like you’re losing out on anything xx

  5. Any small changes you make (if indeed you do) needn’t pull the rug out from underneath her, and just like she might have to adjust to being more independent as she grows, she will adjust to your style of parenting changing.

    Letting go a bit can actually give her more confidence, you can imbue her with other qualities like being brave or adventurous, and it means a little bit more I feel, because she becomes in charge of telling you the story of what she did, rather than knowing you were stalking her all along.

    without ANY critiscm to you personally, I am not aware of what the latest printing manual would call my parenting style, but I feel like I am aware of what they are doing without having to be 1ft away from them at all times. Also you mentioned in a previous post that because of certain issues Sausage might to have the freedom you and Husband had as a child, letting her ride alone is a ‘controlled’ way of doing this. I guarantee you any changes will be more difficult for you than for her, let her build her resilience a tad, she’ll be all the more beautiful to you for it. Don’t call my three Hero’s lightly or for nothing, they earned it…all by themselves x

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