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Why I’ve labeled myself a co-pilot mom

Kim Steele

Did you make it to 2015 without hearing about Helicopter Moms, Tiger Moms, Dolphin Moms and Platypus Moms? (OK, I made that last one up.) It seems everywhere we look on social media, there is an article about how someone has come up with a new label for parents.


t “Why do we need to label everything?” the comment sections on these articles always seem to ask.

t It’s a valid question. And yet, when I started a personal blog with a family focus back in 2012, I wanted to find a snappy name that said something about me and my role as a parent. I chose the name Co-Pilot Mom. Yep, totally chose to label myself. But I really feel this is a good analogy for the way I look at parenthood.

t I spent several years as a preschool teacher before becoming a mom. I held on to my belief that children, even at a young age, are capable and deserve our respect. I feel that, ultimately, our children are the captains of their own lives. (That’s why I chose to give my sons captain code names on my blog.) As parents, we are their co-pilots.


t I know it doesn’t seem like it in the early years. Babies rely on us for everything; parents are flying those planes full-time. Yet all the while, during all those repetitious, mundane tasks of feeding and changing and helping them settle to sleep, our children are learning from us.

t Before long, we hear the confident toddler say “I do it myself!” and woe betide anyone who argues with that kind of determination.

t Of course, in the event of an emergency, the co-pilot parent can assume control of the aircraft.

t That mom you saw carrying a kicking and screaming 3-year-old to the car after she chased him down in the busy shopping mall? That might have been me, assuming command of a flight that had gone way off course.

t As my young captains have grown, I gave them side-by-side flying lessons. I schedule activities and plot course changes when the washer breaks or we get hit with the flu. I can navigate their interactions with their friends. I guide their public adventures by reminding them to say excuse me and thank you and to not eat all the M&M’s from the shared bowl at the party.

t They are their own people. I cannot solve all their challenges or win their battles or make sure nothing terrible ever happens. I cannot live their lives for them; the best I can do is show them how I do it.

t When they crash… and they do, they will… I will be there to help them chart a new course.


t My oldest is a now a tween. I see that my years of co-piloting are not infinite. In the coming years, I will be out of his plane. I foresee a move to the role of air traffic controller, where I will try to keep an eye on his airspace, while letting him take the controls of his present, his future.

t One day, this co-pilot will retire. I will use all my accumulated miles and sip a fruity drink with an umbrella on a remote beach somewhere. Or, more likely, I will kick back on my kid-stained couch and not have to watch the latest Pokemon episode for the umpteenth time. Either way, I will always treasure the time I got to be their co-pilot mom.

t If you had to give yourself a label, what would it be? And remember, if Platypus Mom does happen to take off, you heard it here first.

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