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Santa Maria Sun / Humor

The following article was posted on October 8th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 31 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 31

Helicopter Parenting

By ROB KRIDER

I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a helicopter parent. You could actually say I’m more like a battalion of helicopters with satellite tracking and state-of-the-art-ground support. It’s true. I’m that crazy sort of parent who tries to ensure that my kids are absolutely safe every single millisecond of their lives. What can I say? I love the little buggers. I don’t want to see anything bad happen to them. I only recently allowed my son to stop using his car seat because he was taking his driving test at DMV.


In being an overprotective parent, I understand that I have taken most of the fun out of my children’s lives. My defense is: What’s fun about sitting in an emergency room? My kids have never fired a BB gun, never climbed a tree, and have never been pulled behind a moving car while riding a skateboard. My kids have no idea what those experiences are, and they also don’t have the scars, broken bones, and stitches to go with those adventures. Ironically, I had all of those experiences and hospital trips before I completed the fourth grade. Those exploits made me who I am, yet I’m working daily to ensure my children don’t have any of those same life experiences.

For instance, by design, we don’t have a trampoline in our yard. Every parent knows that kids can break their necks on those things. And every kid knows that trampolines are the funnest things in the world. Fun equals danger. I know this firsthand, since my favorite recreational activity is racing cars. Will I let my kids grow up to be a part of the racing team? No way, it’s too dangerous.

I mandate my kids to wear helmets when they ride their bicycles. For obvious reasons, I don’t want them cracking their heads open. To rebel against my helmet rule, my kids refuse to ride their bikes. Fine with me. Bike riding can be perilous even when wearing a helmet. If they don’t want to ride their bikes, cool. Stay at home, where I can see what is going on 24/7.

I do battle internally with this dichotomy of what I’ll allow them to do versus what my parents allowed me to do. Like most helicopter parents, I mumble the same baloney mantra: “It’s a different world these days.” Is it truly a different world? Or is this helicopter parenting thing just a way to save on copays at the ER?

In reality it is easier to be an overprotective parent. If the television, iPad, or Xbox is entertaining our children while they’re safely sitting on the living room couch, nobody’s worried about little Johnny getting a scraped knee. It’s pretty hard to break your arm playing Xbox. I actually have to wonder if I had an Xbox in my living room when I was a kid, would I have bothered to go in the backyard to climb a tree and shoot a BB gun at the neighbor’s cat? The game Grand Theft Auto is much more compelling.

It isn’t that my parents loved me less than I love my kids. They just gave me small freedoms and responsibilities over time, which allowed me to grow into a man. First, I was allowed to ride my Big Wheel to the end of the driveway. Then, I was allowed to ride my skateboard around the block, and eventually, I was allowed to ride a bicycle to school. As I grew, so did my radius of travel. I learned balance, how to tell time, how to navigate, and I also learned that cars running into bicycles hurt. Most importantly, I learned that if I rode my bike back and forth in front of Amy Smith’s house, eventually she would come outside and kiss me.

My son is never going to ride his bike back and forth in front of some girl’s house. He will just text her and schedule a time to meet. Or they may never meet at all and just have a digital relationship. Why not? His favorite toy as a kid was a Nano pet, a keychain that required you press buttons to feed it every hour to keep it alive. My son has replaced his Nano pet with an iPhone and a girl. The concept of the game is exactly the same. If he doesn’t text her within seven minutes, the relationship will be over. It’s weird to me that these digital relationships are occurring with my kids, but it shouldn’t be a surprise because they’ve grown up in a digital world. They never really learned to interact face-to-face (which is appropriate because their digital relationship involves mutually shared photos of everything except their faces).

When my son finally got out of his car seat and started to drive, my wife and I had a very powerful realization. He had a car, which meant he could drive anywhere. Anywhere is a very long way from our house. Up to that point we hadn’t let him ride his Big Wheel to the end of the driveway or let him ride a skateboard around the block. Since he hadn’t even gone around the block, how would he actually find his way to school in a car? My wife, whom I love, and I were thinking in an ancient manner. How would our son, who never left the living room, navigate his car around the world?

With his iPhone, of course.

We failed to build upon the expanding freedoms and responsibilities as our son grew up. We just kept him in the safe cocoon of our love. The same cocoon that kept him from getting hurt also kept him from learning balance, growing up, learning independence, understanding risk versus gain, and getting a chance to kiss a girl. Sure we got him through his formative years without any scraped knees, but at what detriment? Check in with me on his 30th birthday, when he’s still living in my house, and maybe then I can give you the answer.

 

Rob’s children haven’t even enjoyed the taste of eating raw cookie dough due to irrational salmonella poisoning fears. For more of Rob’s storytelling check out his first novel Cadet Blues available on Amazon.com.




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