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I’m an Unapologetic Helicopter Mom — So Back Off

Leah Campbell

At 6 years old, my daughter is very rarely out of my sight. She goes to school, sure. And I have a babysitter I love, as well as a few very close friends I trust her with. But outside of that? There aren’t a lot of places, or a lot of people, I’m willing to leave her alone with. I’m pretty much always by her side — and I don’t care if anyone judges me for that.

There are a lot of things from my past, from my own childhood, that I wish someone had protected me from. A lot of deeply traumatic, scarring events that I still carry with me today, at 36 years old. These events have had an impact on how I engage with other people, how I behave in relationships, and my own confidence in myself.

I go to therapy, I do the work, I even take the meds — but there are some scars that don’t ever fully heal.

And I won’t apologize for doing what I can to protect my daughter from having the same stories to tell.

Because of my own past, I’m completely against slumber parties (and confident my mind will never change). I don’t do drop-off play dates with families I don’t know extremely well (I don’t even like my daughter being in the neighbor’s house without me, and I’ve known them for six years). I send my daughter to a private school, specifically because it’s a smaller environment. And if she’s outside playing, I’m right there with her.

There are definitely those in my life who would call me a helicopter parent. And you know what? I don’t care. Because these parenting choices I make? They come from a place of knowledge — a place of experience.

I know too well the things that go bump in the night. I’ve lived it.

I know that even the kindest, coolest-seeming parent at school drop-off and pickup can have a ridiculous amount of skeletons creeping around behind closed doors. I know that they can have drinking problems, a drug dependency, an abusive spouse, or just a willingness to turn a blind eye when kids are getting into things (alcohol, porn, exploration of each other’s bodies) that I would personally intervene on.

I know that not all parents have the same views on guns as I do — and that far too many leave theirs out in the open, where any child could access them at any time. (In fact, on the very first play date I brought my daughter to, a loaded gun was right on the dresser of a room she and her friend were running in and out of.)

And I know that kids, little girls especially, can sometimes be awful to each other — and without appropriate adult supervision, the things they say and do late into the night can sometimes leave lasting scars. Both mental and physical.

I’m not here for any of it.

I have friends who grew up protected and safe. And today, I’m in awe of the way they deal with the world, every day. They have a confidence and ease I have just never had. That’s what I want for my daughter.

So yes, I protect her — because no one ever really protected me.

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Six years ago today, this little girl became officially and legally mine. A Campbell. For keeps. The courtroom was filled with people we loved, the laughter and tears flowed freely, and she pooped everywhere – a full-on diaper blowout in the middle of everything, resulting in her being passed back to aunties as I attempted to continue answering the judge’s questions with a straight face, everyone else died of laughter, and the judge refused to shake anyone’s hands after. It was, and always will be, one of the very best days of my life. As per tradition, we celebrated Cheeks For Keeps Day with an adventure today. My girl has been asking to ride the train for forever, so that was what we did – open dome seats on the train to Talkeetna, a few hours spent playing in town, and then a bus to the lodge, where we got a perfect view of Denali’s peak. It was a day of disconnecting from work and responsibilities, and reconnecting completely with the love of my life. We laughed, we ate, we hiked, we explored, we told stories and held hands and soaked up every ounce of sunshine Alaska decided to grace us with. My heart is full, and I’m once again overwhelmed with gratitude for the mama who chose me – who LET me be this child’s mother. There will never be enough words to express how much being her mommy means to me. #MyWholeHeart #CheeksForKeeps #OpenAdoption #AdoptionDay #AlaskaLove #TakeMeOutside #Talkeetna #Denali

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On top of all this, my daughter has an autoimmune condition that requires her to be on immunosuppressant drugs, leading to an extra level of need when it comes to protecting her; my child could literally die from things most other kids might easily recover from. Her private school helps a lot with that, since she has less exposure there than she would in a bigger school.

Plus, we live in Alaska, where run-ins with bears and moose are fairly common. There are frequently moose right outside our front door; I’m not letting my 6-year-old run free into that and have to face it alone. One day, we’ll get there. But we’re certainly not there yet.

Make no mistake: I may be a helicopter, but I’m also a fiercely independent individual. I adopted my daughter on my own at age 29. I run my own business, I own my own home, and I’ve been physically and financially on my own since I was 18 years old. I value my independence deeply, and I want my daughter to have the same. So I do work to find ways to instill that in her — albeit in a safe and protected environment where she can make mistakes without being at the mercy of the worst humanity and nature have to offer. She dresses and bathes herself, can cook meals on her own, and even went to sleep-away camp by herself for the first time this summer.

Yeah, I know — that last one might seem shocking, given everything I’ve said about playdates and sleepovers. But this particular sleep-away camp is one specifically for her chronic condition. I attended myself for two years by her side. I know the camp layout, I know and trust the counselors, and I recognize that this controlled environment with trained individuals all around is much different from a private home with only the adults living there to supervise.

We make the choices we’re comfortable with, and for me — this is one I can live with.

That’s the thing, though; it’s all about balance. I can instill independence in my daughter while still working to protect her from environments that have the potential to be unsafe. I can rely on my own gut and recognize when I need to let go a little, as well as when I still need to maintain my grip. And I can build her confidence without pushing her out into the world and expecting her to face it all on her own.

There’s balance. And while I hate these labels (helicopter parent, lawnmower parent, free-range parent, attachment parent…yuck), I’ll own whichever one you want to attach to me, as long as my daughter is safe. And I dare anyone to question the lengths I go to in order to ensure that remains the case. This child has already faced plenty of adversity in her life (being adopted, having a single mom, dealing with a chronic health condition.) At this point, what my daughter needs is stability and love and protection — not more difficulties to overcome.

And I am not in any way ashamed of being the mom who provides that protection for her.

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