It has rained pretty much nonstop here all summer. On days that it doesn’t rain, the forecast still says rain, and it’s been nearly impossible to make outdoor plans lately. So, if we want to get the kids out of the house for a little bit, we have two local options: weekly library story time or the indoor playground at Chik-Fil-A (we live in a really small town). Now, I had a bizarre childhood, and I never got to play at fast food restaurant playgrounds; so I don’t really know the etiquette that parents are supposed to follow in these places. Do you sit in the room with your kids? Do you let them run loose? Do you give them a book of matches and tell them to burn the place down? I don’t really know.
But this Saturday, on another super rainy day, we broke down and went to Chik-Fil-A to get out of the house. All three of the kids immediately took off on the playground equipment, totally unaware who was watching them or what we were doing. Tom and I still sat down in the glass room where they were playing, and even though that room was full of a dozen other kids, we were the only parents. I was a little confused by this ratio, so I asked Tom where the adults were, and he said, out of the greatest of intentions:
“Probably enjoying their lunch, not breathing down their kids’ necks”
Ouch. Totally true. I sat there on a hard plastic bench for over an HOUR, watching my children’s every single move. But they never needed me, they never came over, they never acknowledged my existence, and they probably would’ve wanted me to eat some dang waffle fries in peace and leave them the heck alone. But I couldn’t.
I am a helicopter parent. I am actually so much of one that my husband calls me “Velcro Mom” because I’m so stuck to the kids at all times. If my children are in our playroom, I’m sitting in the floor with them. If they take a nap, I seldom even leave the room. When I’m at work, they’re at the daycare center literally next door to my office that has cameras on them at all times. And if we’re near anything remotely dangerous (bodies of water, stoves, cars, animals, ANYTHING!!) I’m watching everything like a mama hawk, ready to pounce and rescue my babies at moments notice. I’m making myself out to sound crazy, but it’s all true–I struggle with giving them space, and I work on it daily as we all grow.
My husband is the opposite–when he’s alone with the kids, I inevitably come home to all three babies in a mud puddle outside, playing with bugs and whatever random not-toy-things they can find in the yard, while he gardens OUTSIDE of the fence. He always has his eyes on them, but he gives them the space they need to grow and develop on their own, which I have learned to totally respect…while spying on them through our baby monitor connected to my phone. No shame.
Co-parenting with someone who has a completely different parenting style than me has been eye-opening. I see the relationship that Tom has been able to develop with our children by giving them room to breathe, and I admire it–some days, I wish I could be the “cool” parent, instead of “neck-breather” parent, but it takes BOTH of us to balance out this family and manage the chaos. Kids can’t live in mud puddles, but they also can’t live in bubbles.
And so, here’s the thing: being a helicopter mom isn’t a bad thing. No, my kids didn’t need me at the Chik-Fil-A this time, but another child got stuck in the equipment and was screaming for his mother, who was no where to be found. And is it a bad thing that she wasn’t there? Not at all. Because I was there to help, while sitting on that hard bench breathing down every single kid’s neck. It takes all kinds of parents to make the world go round, and I don’t blame her one bit for wanting to let her crazy kid loose for an hour while she regained her sanity.
It takes a village, y’all–a village of velcro moms and live-and-learn moms and fun moms and serious moms and moms who wanna eat nuggets in peace and moms who oddly get joy from having ketchup thrown at them 24/7. We’re all in this together, and as long as you don’t judge me from outside of the glass at the Chik-Fil-A, I’m never going to judge you from inside of it. Now, excuse me while I go stare at my baby monitor like the crazy mom that I am. 🙂