Parenthood. It happens. Mommyhood… The dynamic changes. We go from stroller toting, diaper bag carrying, car seat installing, sippy cup schlepping mamas to insurance paying, car loaning, FAFSA filling-out, money lending, wine drinking mothers. (OK, I’ve always been a wine drinking mama…) We start out with these little bitty humans that rely on us for their every single need. They are swaddled in blankets their grandmas made them and they smell wonderful! (The babies, and sometimes the blankets.) They takes naps. They snuggle. They are in bed most nights by 8 o’clock for the first several years of their lives. They love having their clothing picked out the night before a big day, and choosing lunch from the kids’ menu at restaurants. I miss those days.
Do you want to know why? Why I would go back to all of the sleepless nights, screaming children in the supermarket, and several trips to the emergency room? Why, you ask? Because I was needed. I was their protector. Those little humans relied on me for everything. E-V-E-R-Y-THING! Being married to a firefighter, I was “both parents” for a few days in a row at times. Don’t get me wrong, my hubby changed just a many diapers as I did! But these mini people needed ME. I was IN CONTROL! I was there to prevent all accidents and all mishaps from happening. Seriously. The proverbial mother with eyes in the back of her head. OK, I am still that mom. My hair may be getting a little gray, but I still have eyes back there! I was the mom who had the spotless home, the neatly dressed children, and dinner on the table at 5 o’clock sharp each and every night. Imagine a mama duck with her ducklings… keeping them in line, in a straight line, every single second of every single day. I was always there. I was a hover mother. I didn’t know it was a “thing” until I looked it up. That, and a very observant comment from my sister about my parenting. “An overly cautious mother who thinks her kid is in extreme danger all the time and can’t bare to leave it’s side.” That’s the definition. I am almost afraid to google the images, as I would probably see a picture of myself. And not a good one, either. I’m sure it would be a picture of me throwing a plush down mattress under one of my kids. Ready to catch them if they fell. They were little and they needed me.
And then there are those middle school, teenage, awkward years. The years that they have to go through. Preferably without their mom breathing down their necks. My kids didn’t. I was there. I was ALWAYS there. From volunteering in their classrooms to eventually working at the school they attended, I was there. If one of them got in trouble at school, I knew about it. If their grades took a nose dive I knew about it. If they had problems with their circle of friends, I knew about it. I KNEW EVERYTHING! My son and daughter couldn’t make a move without me knowing who, what, where, when, and how. Now, being the parent of two young adults, I am finally realizing that it wasn’t healthy. I was a hover mother. A smother mother. A helicopter mom. Seriously, I meant to be their savior, but I ended up being the opposite. And I regret it.
My 23-year-old daughter constantly reminds me that she is an adult. She no longer needs/wants my input, my opinion, or my advice. She strives to be her own person. Have I stunted that at all? Did I put up a barrier that prevents her from being the person she is meant to be? Is there some kind of need to have her mother’s approval in all matters? Is there fear? Did I fail at protecting her from all evil? Did I do enough? My 19 year old son, who just graduated from the Marine Corps, has figured it out and has called me on my actions more than once. “Ma, I gotta do my own thing. You can’t always be there.” “Ma, let me figure it out!” I can’t shield them from pain, hate, or hurt. I tried and failed. I can’t fix my daughter’s broken heart any more than I can get in my son’s senior drill sergeant’s face and tell him what I think about his behavior towards my boy. I can’t map out my children’s lives. I tried to. I’m not going to lie. My introverted extroverted self can’t fix or plan it all. I’ve finally realized it.
So, if you can take anything away from this, I guess it’s that our kids need to make their own mistakes. They will learn from them. Us helicopter moms mean well, don’t get me wrong. We love our children fiercely. And I mean FIERCELY! But they need to own their behavior, actions, and reactions. Don’t be a hover mother like I was. The long term effects are NOT positive ones. As my daughter tells me, she needs to learn how to fall and then how to recover. On her own! I will not catch her anymore. And though it breaks my heart that she is no longer in need of my helicopter service, she is right. I am proud that she figured it out! My son is off on his own adventure of being a Marine. He’s only 19! He’s my baby! He tells me of his experiences with his drill sergeant and I cringe! Do I want to grab his superiors by their collars and scold them? Yes. I do. Actually, I want to punch them in the throat, and let them know that I mean business. Am I going to? No. (And don’t think that I couldn’t… because I so could.) There is a certain order of things. The other sage advice I have? Don’t put the mattress, bubble wrap, or duct tape away just yet. Hang onto it. When our children come home as adults and need a safe place to land, then you can bring it out. Put it under them as they fall, just to soften the landing, but only if they ask for it. Our kids will always need their mamas. No matter how old they are!