29 Aug
Pardon My Propeller

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

A friend recently made an off-hand comment that I’m a helicopter mom.   It really upset me because I consider myself a responsible parent, but I certainly don’t hover.

At least I don’t think that I do.   I don’t let my 10 year old daughter go out by herself, I wait with her for the school bus, and I watch from a distance when she goes to the store that’s  two blocks away.   I trust her, but I’m worried about the world that we live in.

Is this a mistake?   Am I a helicopter mom?

Signed,

Cautious Mom

_________________________________________

Dear Cautious Mom,

Welcome to my world.   I’ve been called a helicopter mom, too, but unlike you, I embrace it.   Of course I like to think of myself as one of those sleek shiny helicopters, with high cheekbones and no cellulite or stretch marks.   See? Your friend was practically calling you Angelina Jolie and you got offended.   Go apologize to her right now!

What?

Oh.

We live in a terrifying world  and unfortunately we’ve all heard of too many horrible things happening to children. To children with wonderful parents who did everything right.   It’s unfair and it’s maddening and I’m never going to let my children out of my sight again.

Except, somehow in all this madness, we need to raise our children in a way that will let them function in society.   And that includes going to the store by themselves, walking down the street without their parents, learning how to make a margarita for their mothers and even taking public transportation.

Please give me a moment. I need to uncurl from this fetal position I seem to be stuck in.   Although I’m pretty sure that it doubles as a yoga pose.

I can’t tell you if 10 years old is too young for your daughter to be outside unaccompanied by a (carefully screened) adult.   That depends on your daughter’s maturity, responsibility, your comfort level and too many other factors to list.   But I can share that when my daughter was 10, I was not even thinking of letting her go to the store without me.  For one,   she had no money, so what exactly was she going to do there? And also, I didn’t think that either she or I were ready.   I can happily report that now that she’s 13, she does run errands by herself in New York City.   Last month I even got an urgent text from her asking me to report to the local Abercrombie & Fitch promptly with my credit card because her allowance money wasn’t covering the purchases.

So trust your instincts.   That and your relationship with your child should guide what is age appropriate for her.   Even if it involves a bit of hovering.

Good luck,

Marinka, TMH

 

 

 

 

24 Responses to “Pardon My Propeller”

08.29.11#1

Comment by Katina.

I immediately thought about the blonde on the movie The Toy!!!! Ha!!!

Well I must be the president of the Helicopter moms club!!! I too am Uber proud’

The next time your friend says anything just look at her and say Nothing!!! Silence is awkward for the person who stuck her foot in her mouth!

Aubrey Anne Reply:

I could not agree more. It’s no more her business than the blemishes on your face. If someone said to you, “You have a lot of zits,” you wouldn’t take it personally. You would look at her like she was a freak for pointing out something totally obvious and completely none of her business. Make her feel like the one who is out of place. You are put in charge of your daughter’s safety for a reason!

Aubrey Anne Reply:

BTW, I’m not trying to say you have a lot of zits on your face. Of course I don’t know that.. it’s just something someone said to me once, and it was absurd that they pointed it out to me.

Marinka Reply:

Of course not! My face is blemishfree! Especially if you look at it from Mars.

08.29.11#2

Comment by Amy.

I think it depends a lot on where you live. I live in a college town in Indiana, and I know all of my neighbors (literally, all of them) so I feel perfectly safe sending my 4 and 6 year olds out to play, knowing that 1) my kids are good kids and they won’t run in the street, etc., (I know, because I’ve spied on them!), and 2) my neighbors are good neighbors and they won’t hurt my kids (I know, because last year one of the neighbor girls who was 5 at the time got lost, and everyone dropped everything until she was found – in her own back yard, hiding).

I think the important thing to remember is that our kids’ world is actually MUCH MUCH SAFER than the world we grew up in. Violent crime of all sorts is at a 48 year low. 48. That is not a typo. So not only is the world safer than the one you grew up in, it’s possibly safer than the one your kids’ grandparents grew up in!

However, we feel like there’s danger lurking around every corner because all of our TVs are tuned to 24/7 news, which has 168 hours to fill every week, and has to talk about SOMETHING, and then we watch CSI and Law and Order to “relax.” Of course we’re paranoid.

Turn off the TV and let the kids outside. It’s probably a lot safer than you think. And if you think I’m wrong, at least base your opinion on facts instead of feelings – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_cities_by_crime_rate

(*I grew up about 15 minutes from Gary, IN, Murder Capitol of the World at the time, and I played outside, and I lived to tell about it!)

wink212 Reply:

please, please don’t base your facts on something you read on wikipedia.You do realize that anyone can log on that site and write whatever they want.

Amy Reply:

Well, sure, but it was the most concise list of crime rates for 2009 that I could find. You can also click through for the source data. Or google “crime 48 year low” and choose whichever source you trust – I think it’s generally accepted as fact that violent crime is at the lowest it’s been in our lifetimes in the U.S.

In fact, better still, get the data for your own area, compare it with the data for the area you grew up in, and see if your kids aren’t truly safer than you were when you were playing outside until the streetlights came on. The difference is CNN and CSI, not reality.

I'm a big ol' b with a captial B! Reply:

Indiana is not NYC or Washington DC or Las Angeles or Las Vegas or…or…or…. You do what you feel is best for you. Let other moms do what they feel is best for them. Period. Seriously, glad you know your neighborhood but don’t pretend to know others’ neighborhoods or advise them to not watch their kids.

Trust your gut and go with it. Don’t let others tell you otherwise.

I'm a big ol' b with a captial B! Reply:

Oh, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read in horrible news articles from unsuspecting neighbors, “I can’t believe it happened in a neighborhood like THIS! We’ve never had any trouble here. I’m stunned.”

Never be subdued into a false sense of security. Sorry. But shit happens every where.

Marinka Reply:

I actually don’t think it depends on where you live.

I mean, to some extent, sure. But overall? No.

Because terrible things can happen even in the best, “safest” neighborhoods and until you feel confident that your kid has good judgement, why not hover? At least from a distance.

08.29.11#3

Comment by Elle's Mom.

Hover away, Mama! She’s 10!

08.29.11#4

Comment by Karin.

My oldest daughter is about the same age – she’ll be 10 in November. My thought is that kids need some guided independence if they are ever going to be responsibly independent as a young adult. that being said, my daughter LIKES me to walk her to the bus stop so I do that (or on days that I need to get my son to preschool, I drive by the bus stop to make sure her friends are there). She can play outside by herself (well, with friends or siblings – safety in numbers) and stay home alone for an hour to 90 minutes (neglect guidelines set by the county for 8-11 year olds) and I even leave her alone to finish her nuggets while I take preschoolers to the potty at Chick-fil-A while a helicopter mom with a 12 year old follows me to the bathroom and yells at me for how irresponsible I am to leave her alone.

Also, from a healthy lifestyles perspective, think about how much exercise we got as kids by being outside, running around with friends and riding bikes/roller skates and how much time our kids are getting. I know I have things I need to do that take time and if I have to be constantly supervising my kids activities, it will never get done – plus, they come up with good solutions and fun games when left to their own devices.

Amy Reply:

Sweet Jesus, I send my 6 year old to the bathroom alone at Chick Fil A, and I make her take her little sister.

It’s a wonder the parenting police haven’t hauled me away in chains.

Karin Reply:

this lady was a piece of work – she called the police on another mom who left her preschooler with her 13 year old while she went to the car after the manager wouldn’t.

I don’t send my 7 year old or 4 year old to the bathroom alone – I’ll send the 7 year old and the 9 year old together but if I send the 7 year old by herself, she’ll take absolutely FOREVER! The 4 year old will pee all over the stall (he’s kinda short but likes to pee standing up and not looking) and not wash his hands on the way out so he needs direct adult supervision in the bathroom!

Amy Reply:

Wow. Now I’ve called the cops on people who have left their dogs in hot cars, but I can’t imagine calling the cops on someone for leaving a preschooler with a 13 year old! I was babysitting infants when I was 11, by myself, at night, until 10 or 11 pm.

The world has gone completely bonkers.

Karin Reply:

me too Amy – I started babysitting at 12 yo after taking the Red Cross class. Now, I can’t find a parent who will let a 12 year old babysit for my (fairly well behaved) kids in the afternoon so I can go do something before my husband gets home from work.

08.29.11#5

Comment by Plano Mom.

What’s your husband think? My husband has always been an excellent way for me to relax about my boundaries. My worst fear is someone taking my children, so I wasn’t sleek and silent, I was a big huge Huey copter. Hubs has always been the one to push for letting our children leave the front yard. At 10, our son was making regular trips to the corner store. Did I like it? No, I was a ball of worthless anxiety. Was he okay? Absolutely. And now he’s enough of a regular that the folks that work there, as well as the other regulars, keep an eye on him and know him by name.

08.29.11#6

Comment by Kati.

When my 10 yr old son wailed to me that I’m overprotective and “smothering” him, I took it as confirmation that I’m doing my job as a parent.

I'm a big ol' b with a captial B! Reply:

Amen!

08.29.11#7

Comment by VG.

You need to maybe “let go” in baby steps. You said that you watch her go up to the corner store. When you do this, you should time her. When you ask her to go up to the store again, go back into the house and do something that’ll occupy you, and set a timer for the amount of time she would normally take. If she comes back within or at time, then fine. If not, then go out and check on her. Baby steps…

08.29.11#8

Comment by Angie Uncovered.

I latch-keyed my kids at the age of 11 and 7. With no family, no friends, too broke to pay for after school care and not broke enough for a subsidy I broke the law. I let my kids walk the 6 blocks from school and hang out together at home for 90 minutes while I finished work.

I know parents who do not let their middle school aged children be in the house alone. It is odd for me because I was babysitting at 11, but we’re all different. What works for you and your child is not what works best for others. Your friend should kindly close her yap.

Marinka Reply:

I definitely get that every family situation is different and I think that as parents, we really need to trust our instincts.

I’m glad that your arrangement is working for your family.

08.29.11#9

Comment by Cate8.

It is hard to know what to do. We live in a nice rural/suburban area. BUT there is a level 3 sex-offender who lives a mile down the road. fun, huh.
The whole topic is scary cuz once the kids become teens they are off on their own anyway in friends’ cars.

09.02.11#10

Comment by sisterfunkhaus.

Statistics from the FBI show that 115 children are abducted by strangers each year. Of those, about 50 are murdered. The rest of the kids (overwhelming majority) are kidnapped, molested, etc.. by PEOPLE YOU KNOW. Crime is at an all time low. If you want to ignore these statistics to make yourself feel better, that is your business. But, it is not an incredibly dangerous world we live in.

I personally would rather give my child a bit of freedom and teach her to spread her wings. Making my child overly dependent on me, and making her feel like she can’t be trusted to do anything on her own is not my idea of preparing my child to be an independent, successful human being.

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