“Ugh, you’re such an airplane mom,” my daughter said to me one afternoon.
I can’t remember what we were discussing, or what I was reminding her to do or take with her out the door, but it took me just a split second to realize that she was searching for the term “helicopter mom,” and accidentally tossed out the name of the wrong aircraft.
Helicopter Mom? No way. Not me.
That remark stung a little because regardless of whether you are referring to wings or a propeller, I have really tried to be a mom who is empowering. And while I’m a pretty far cry from the free-range parenting fields of milk and honey, I’m certainly not a hovering, smothering helicopter mom.
Or am I?
The realization set in further when I got the memo that my daughter would not be able to take her phone on the middle school youth retreat for our church. While she was 100% fine with this little detail, it left me panicked. Not because I was afraid of missing an update from her Pinterest board, but if she could not take her phone, then I would not be able to sit on my couch and track her every move up the mountain on the Life 360 app.
And if I could not track her every move, how in the world would I know when (and if, gracious, if!) she made it to the top of the mountain? And certainly, there was no way she could make it to the top of that mountain without me watching her little bubble move and willing her there the whole way, right?
And then there are the daily reminders. Did you put on sunscreen? Brush your teeth? Put on deodorant? Remember your umbrella? Perhaps the reason for the incessant reminders is the fact that half the time the answers to these questions is “no,” and I’m just a wee bit concerned that having a sunburned, stinky, soaking wet kid would lead to tears, complaining, and a whole host of other avoidable unpleasantries.
But where is the fine line? Aren’t those reminders and that amount of parental concern part of the job description of a mom?
I suppose the difference comes down to control. I may be just a tiny bit of a control freak and feel the need to orchestrate my own life and that of those closest to me as best I can. Perhaps I’m more of an air traffic control mom rather than a helicopter mom.
I say that because it’s not that I don’t want my kids to leave the house. I truly want my children to go out into the great world and have meaningful experiences without me around and come to learn life lessons on their own. I would just like to control those experiences so that things like human traffickers, car accidents, tsunamis and packs of angry wild wolves are not in the picture.
But, alas, I know it’s not my job to control those things, which is probably why I work so hard to control the small things still within my sphere of influence.
As an over-thinker who imagines a variety of consequences for every situation, I just need to stop and realize that while it’s okay to have rules and boundaries in place that will safeguard my kids from inherent danger, at some point I have to let go.
I have to trust that she will know from all those years of parenting that have already happened that things like seatbelts and deodorant and using the buddy system when going to the restroom in a giant sports arena are non-negotiables. And that wrapping her in bubble wrap is not going to do any good.
As you might imagine, my daughter returned home from that youth retreat safely. And I didn’t ruin my weekend by hunkering down over an app-tracker.
Perhaps it is possible to relinquish control every once in a while. If I’m going to make it through this next phase of parenting, I’m going to have to remember that my place is not in the air traffic control tower.
But I’m still going retain my mom-license to send those gentle reminders over the loudspeaker. She might just be listening to them – especially in the event of turbulence.