I’d say my parenting style is riiiiight in the middle of helicopter mom and hands-off mom. My girlfriend calls it “drone parenting” — where we can hover from afar, but swoop in when needed. It’s worked great for me for the past eight years. I don’t feel the need to be hovering over my kids, watching their every move to make sure they don’t get hurt. I also don’t feel the desire to have them out of my sight for extended periods of time, even while at the park. I read all these blogs and threads about how ridiculous helicopter parenting is, and then I read the opposing articles about how we should be completely hands-off and WHAT ARE WE DOING TO OUR KIDS this day and age?! So middle of the road seemed pretty acceptable for me. I like to let my kids learn as they grow, and I grow with them.
Until this summer.
Last month, we were visiting in Binghamton, NY with my husband’s baseball team. If you’re ever at a game on a Friday night, you know there are fireworks after the games. Prior to the fireworks, the stadium was having a “kids’ run,” where the kids run the bases from one side of the stadium to the other. Being the laid-back mom (I was trying to be), the kids asked if they could go; I didn’t hesitate, and off they went! I saw them run from one side to the other and watched their heads bobble as they walked their way through the stands coming back to where I was on the other side of the stadium. And then it happened. The stadium went black. My two little specks on the other side of the stadium were no longer visible to me. Or I to them.
I started walking in the direction I last saw them. My heart started racing. No one knows me here. If we were at our home stadium, they know us, they know my kids, they know my husband. NO ONE KNOWS US HERE. Panic set in. I remained calm because I know panic can fog your brain. Fireworks started going off. I was hoping the lights of the fireworks would help me make out their little faces in the crowd. They didn’t. I finally walked up to a stadium worker, told him who I was and that I had lost my kids in the crowd after the run. He saw the panic in my eyes. (It may have been only a few minutes from the time all this happened, but it felt like a lifetime.) He immediately said he had seen my kids. He walked me to the administration offices, and THERE THEY WERE! My kids had gone to a police officer at the stadium and told him they couldn’t find me. He stayed with them until I got there. As soon as I laid my eyes on them, my 8-year-old had a look of sheer terror and tears rolling down his face. My 4-year-old was petrified. They both ran and hugged me as they sobbed. The overwhelming feeling of gratitude that I felt at that moment was one I’ve never felt.
I can honestly say that I was mad and sad at the same time. I was mad at myself for letting them go by themselves. The amount of guilt I felt for those few minutes and the remainder of the evening was unbearable, because in your head you go over it all… over and over and over. It makes sense, but it doesn’t. I was sad because I knew this changed my kids. The first few days after this event, they’d constantly be calling out our name to make sure we were in the house with them. Or they’d come “check on us.” This happened a few weeks ago now, and every ball game since, when they call to do special activities with the children after the games, my son clutches my arm a little tighter and whispers to me that he doesn’t want to go. I whisper back at him, “It’s okay, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.” We’ve had many talks about how proud we are of them to go straight to a police officer when this happens. We’ve also talked about how we don’t need to be scared with new experiences.
That day forever changed how I parent. It also forever changed how I view how others parent. I don’t care what you do — it’s not up to me to tell you what’s right, nor is up to you to tell me. How you feel in your heart is what’s right. That day confirmed that my parenting style is the right one for my kids… maybe at a lower drone level these days. And that’s okay. Judge if you must, because I know what really matters — my kids and their safety.