I wanted to write a post titled In Defense of Helicopter Parenting but then I realized that I’m actually not much of a helicopter parent. I only hover when safety is a concern, and my goal is to avoid homework supervisory duties as much as possible. Still, I wanted to articulate my response to what for a while seemed to be the near constant message that I should calm the fuck down and drop my kids off in North Wales so they can set things on fire.
I can’t calm down — at least not without a lot of medication — and my kid doesn’t even want to go down the street by himself much less take public transportation. Maybe my daughter will be more adventurous but, for now, every time someone shares a piece celebrating the virtues of the self-reliant child, I kind of roll my eyes. Because while I agree that the goal of independent kids is admirable, I can’t change my kid and I can’t change who I am as a parent. And I think that’s probably just fine.
It’s not that I have a problem with the Free Range philosophy. I agree that we shouldn’t criminalize parents for making what are reasonably safe choices and, again, I think the broad goal of fostering independence is fine and dandy. But like any other parenting philosophy or method — I question the extent of its value. Does the philosophy enlighten you or does it just resonate (or not) with what you’re already feeling? Can we ever stop talking about how we should be parenting?
What you need to know from a parenting book or philosophy can usually be boiled down to a solid one page from which you can feel free to pick and choose as you please. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is great for its explanation of how baby sleep patterns change week by week. Happiest Baby on the Block has those helpful 5 S’s. I used the Ferber method but I didn’t read it cover to cover. Why would I? The actual method is covered in a page or two. And if you think Ferber is the Pol Pot of pediatric sleep, just skip it. Some of you may remember that New Yorker article from forever ago where Ferber supposedly “recanted” an earlier opinion about co-sleeping. Ferber was just acknowledging that his method isn’t an exact science. If you don’t want to sleep train your kid, then don’t. I’m sure they’ll sleep eventually. For the CTFD fans, calm the fuck down about calming the fuck down. Some of us like to worry. And I come by it honestly — my mother worried all the time about her kids and that was back in the 1980s!!
I hate the way every idea about parenting comes with a clever title or — dare I say it — a brand? Don’t tell me Lenore Skenazy’s kids are free range. She lives in Manhattan. When I first told my dad about attachment parenting, he scoffed – as opposed to detachment parenting? To wit, are my kids factory farmed? Independence is one value amongst many. I worry about the quality of my kid’s education more than whether or not he can bake cupcakes better than a French toddler.
Perhaps I’m just feeling lost in a world in which every parent seems to have found their tribe — homeschoolers, free range kids, Tiger moms, atheist parents, elimination communication enthusiasts…I’m just not so sure that any of us have the right answer but perhaps I’m wrong. Fire starters of today might be the visionaries of tomorrow. I guess my kids and I will have to console ourselves with a prescription for Xanax.