It seems you can’t avoid hearing about how my generation of parents is overprotective and isn’t allowing its kids to learn about failure and resilience. Every time I’ve read an article about helicopter parenting, I’ve sighed and thought “so glad that’s not me.”
The other day, however, I heard the propellers and they were coming from me.
Each morning I drop off my six-year-old at school and I wait on the playground until the teacher comes to take the kids inside. While we wait, my daughter usually heads off with a friend or two, and I chat with a few other parents. No harm, right?
Well, a few days ago I needed to leave the school immediately to make sure I wasn’t late for an appointment. I had told my daughter this the night before to prepare her, but as we approached the playground, I felt her anxiety and my own ramp up. She started worrying that she wouldn’t know when her class was heading inside or that she would have to stand by herself. Even as I pointed out to her the adults and kids on the playground whom she knew, I couldn’t stop myself from worrying that a stranger would abduct her or she would injure herself and no one would help.
We were both being irrational. In that moment, I faced my growing suspicions that I may not be doing a good job of teaching my daughter to be independent.
When she doesn’t want to order her meal at a restaurant, I do it for her. When she wants help getting dressed, I help even though she doesn’t need it. When she needs five hugs before going into school, I indulge it. When she refuses to walk 50 feet to get the mail by herself (with me watching) because it’s “too scary,” I don’t push.
I will admit to bouts of nostalgia and sadness that she is growing up, and at times, this prevents me from realizing that she isn’t as young as she used to be.
Am I just being attentive to my highly sensitive child or am I limiting her?
In the end, I steered my daughter toward an older girl whom she likes, and she was fine when I left. I, on the other hand, had to focus on ridding myself of my anxiety. The irony that my appointment was with my doctor to discuss my anxiety treatment wasn’t lost on me.
It’s a fine line between attentiveness and smothering, and I often don’t know which side my actions land on. As parents, we constantly question ourselves and our motives. How do we know if we are doing the right thing?
I love that my daughter and I are extremely close, and I want to maintain that intimacy while recognizing that though we are similar in many ways, we are still individuals.
My goal is to raise a strong, confident woman. And to do so, I must be strong enough to let her grow. If I am constantly hovering, she will never learn to fly.
Am I the only one out there who has trouble letting go?
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