Anxiety Makes Me Hover, So Please Don’t Mock My Helicopter Parenting

by Mary Katherine
Originally Published: 
Getty Images/ Taiyou Nomachi

I never wanted to be a helicopter parent.

In fact, if you were to ask Pregnant Me how I was gonna raise my children, I would’ve responded with some daydreamy, la-ti-da type anecdotes: my children would play barefoot outside and climb on trees. They’d wrestle in the grass with their siblings, and scrape their knees and drink from the water hose, just like I did growing up. They’d eat quick PB&J lunches and run back outside to hop on their bicycles for afternoon-long neighborhood adventures.

Pregnant Me didn’t know a whole lot about what kind of parent I was gonna be. But I knew for dang sure what I wasn’t going to be.

And that was a hoverer. A smother mother.

I always admired those parents who let their children run around like free range chickens. I still do. I pace around at the playground and watch as their children fearlessly swing across the monkey bars. While the Free Range Mamas are on the park bench laughing with their friends, I’m standing under my son as he makes his way across, bar by bar.

Those mamas never freak out at the sight of a little blood. They are comfortable in the fact that childhood carries with it an inevitable element of danger and risk. That danger doesn’t make them squirm. And maybe that’s the difference between us.

Those laid-back mamas are total badasses, in my book. I always believed I’d be one of them. I want to be one of them. But, I’m not.

The truth is I hover. All the time. If there was a level up from a helicopter mom, that’s probably what I would be.

If grandma wants to strap my children into their carseats, I’m there, chirping about chest clip placements, and following behind to test the tightness of the buckles. If my kids are on a playdate and the host serves up grapes, I’m the mom that swoops in to cut them down the middle. And heck, why not cut them twice. Just to be safe?

If my oldest son is playing with his baby sister, I’m there, barking over him in the playroom.

“Don’t be so rough! Don’t pull on her arm that way! Don’t climb on that toy — your sister could get hurt!”

I thought my children would be the kids swinging like monkeys from the playground equipment, but the truth is…I can’t handle the nerves. No, I’m not the free range mom. I’m “spotter mom,” always one lunge away to prevent any impending accidents.

It cracks my friends and family up, because they can’t believe me. How is it that the most laid back person in our family morphed into this neurotic monster mom whose four-year-old has to eat grapes in quarter (not just half) slices? Who is this woman following her kids around the playground like an ambulance-on-call?

“MK, calm down,” they laugh. “It’s a freaking jungle gym. Nobody’s gonna die.”

And I feel embarrassed. Ashamed, even. Believe me, I wish I could calm the heck down.

But I can’t.

When my firstborn entered the world, it felt like my brain woke up from a happy, little slumber. All of a sudden, a world that was once rainbows and butterflies became a scary, dangerous place that was out to get my children. Every car on the road, every over-plump grape was one more threat I needed to protect my baby from.

I realize how ridiculous that sounds, even as I type it. But I can’t change my brain chemistry. My parenting choices are rooted in very real, carnal fears. There is no turning off the biological triggers in my head.

And boy, have I tried.

But then I read a tragic article on Facebook about a toddler choking on a grape. Or I see news about how a child was forward facing in a car accident and died. Believe me, no amount of therapy or SSRIs will keep those headlines from reeling in the background of my mind. They replay themselves constantly, and validate my worst fears.

I am constantly on edge, trying to keep my children alive. So, I make choices that are different from other moms. And I know people think that’s ridiculous. I know they mock me for it.

But for heaven’s sake, it’s not like my children will be 18, eating sliced grapes.

Pregnant Me wanted so badly to be that laid-back mama, lounging on the park bench with her friends. But reality is, my anxiety has made that damn near impossible.

Some of us are naturally nervous mamas, and you know what? Our kids will be just fine.

So, please. Don’t mock my helicopter parenting. It’s anxiety that makes me hover.

I’m doing the best I can.

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