Parenting

I Never Wanted to Be a Helicopter Parent, but I Am One

I like to think of myself as fun and relaxed, as brave with a touch of crazy. I’m the one who loves to laugh and awkwardly dance in public, the one who jumped off the cliff first and who shaved her head because she felt like it. I’m the one who traveled across the world alone.

So naturally, I thought I was going to be a really fun parent. A free spirit, spontaneous and unconcerned with dirt or danger. I’d probably raise kids who were sponsored by Red Bull they’d be so fearless and capable.

And then I had them. And then my heart was turned inside-out and was crushed by a million tons of brick.

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It turns out that when it comes to my kids, I’m not brave. It turns out a lot of the time I’m not even that fun or relaxed.

I’ve become more like an underpaid body guard.

I never wanted to be a helicopter parent, but I am one.

They have so much creativity, these children. I hope to someday channel that into saving the planet or inventing spanx that don’t cause profuse sweating, but for now it’s primarily resulted in head wounds and triangle cut-outs in the table cloth.

I live in fear that my kids will run into the road. Just spastically. Probably showing me a cool dance move or something.

Sometimes I psych myself up and say—today is the day I’m going to be “chill.” Then, I remember there are reasons I am not chill. I find them licking the playground equipment or inexplicably throwing rocks in the general direction of our rental van. I glance away for one second and they start hoisting themselves over the fence guarding a 70ft drop into a rocky ravine.

Some of these things are clearly more detrimental than others…but all of them make me question their critical-thinking skills.

The thing is…when I look at them with their smooth cheeks and bright eyes, I see their soft hearts and tender innocence. The thought of them being wounded or broken or hurt feels like a knife in my heart that I just couldn’t take.

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It’s too much.

At the park, I feel like I’ve got to keep my eyes on every child all the time. This would work really well if I also had four heads. The result is a stressed-out nutcase of a mother constantly calling for my kids. Sure, something terrible happening is highly unlikely, but even the faint whisper of that idea…feels like my gut being trampled by a stampede of horses. It’s too sickening for me to find my rational mind…and then I’m the helicopter parent at the park.

I’m not the cool mom like I thought. I’m the one that my son puts his hand on my arm (after I tell him not to step near the road) and says, “Mom. I’m 10.” I should probably let him know that I’m going to be doing this until he’s 27, just so we can all lower our expectations of my rationality.

I want to be chill and relaxed like my mother-in-law who let her kids build fires and walk to the pond a mile away to go swimming. That’s the mom I dreamt of being. The “yes” mom. Sure babe, you definitely should carve those sticks into weapons and fight each other. Also, while you’re at it…have you considered building a fort 50ft up in that maple tree?

I don’t know how to turn it off. I don’t know how to let go.

I worry I will slowly push my kids away as they get older, my lack of trust making them feel trapped. When I hear myself talk, or when I herd my kids like a flock of ducklings…I annoy myself.

I’m just so damn scared. I’m scared of hotdogs and cliffs and predators. I’m scared of water and sickness and some bully speaking poison to their identity.

I never wanted to be a helicopter parent, hovering over my kids’ every move, but I am one. 

I want to protect them the best I can, but I also want them to find their own strength, to make mistakes, and to stretch their wings.

I want them to remember me fun and wild, not the stressed out and controlling.

Being a mom is hard.

Harder than I thought.

I can only hope and pray that I’m still in the process of becoming. I can only pray that trust is something I can pursue one shaky footstep at a time. And someday when they look back on memories where “mom got all crazy because I wanted to eat my cereal with a steak knife”…I hope they know, that even though I didn’t always do it well or right…

I loved them more than they can ever imagine.

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For more like this follow me here on wonderoak, on Facebook and @wonderoakblog on Instagram.

We are currently traveling the world with our flock (yes I can be a helicopter parent anywhere it turns out). To follow along on the adventure check @grahamsjohnston and my instastories as well as our travel besties @aubspoff and @benjipoff. 

Jess Johnston
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Jessica Johnston, her husband and her four kids (Malachi 8, Scout 6, Oaklee 4, Haven 2) live in the heart of Montana. She’s passionate about community, adventure, family and KEEPIN’ IT REAL in the process. Her writing has appeared on Mother.ly and Scary Mommy. She loves sharing laughs with you at wonderoak.com. You can follow her there, or “like” her page on Facebook’s WONDEROAK Blog.

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