Welcome to my world. The following is an accurate account of what happens during one of Parker’s naps.
After dutifully picking up and cleaning around the house (that part’s a little fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure it’s accurate), I sat down to write. I stared at a blank screen and my mind went wild. I never expected to be a father. I read a book about open adoption when I was in my early twenties. I thought, “how cool, but it will never happen to me.” I’ve always known I wanted to be a dad. It’s in my DNA. It’s a massive part of my identity at the moment.
Like earlier in the week, I went out by myself to an “adult” birthday party. I was flying solo (and exhausted). I was introduced as the guy who has a kid, people asked about Parker, and I missed Parker 99% of the time I was there. Even when I’m not with him, it seems my life has been taken over by Parker. Which is understandable. I have the best kid in the world. He makes me laugh so hard. He’s so sweet. I mean c’mon. His favorite thing to do right now is a big family hug. And, he keeps saying, “more.” So, we end up doing like 10 family hugs before the day officially gets started. I want the best for this kid, and I’ll do anything to make sure he has an incredible life.
Record scratch. “Dear God, am I a helicopter parent?”
Before starting my research for another article I’m working on, I took a detour and googled “helicopter parenting.” As I was reading from Psychology Today, my eyes were drawn to the massive ad on the right side of the screen.
Struggling with addiction?
Uh oh. Am I addicted to my kid? Am I a hover-er? Do I have a problem? Do I need treatment? The questions started swirling around my head. I must admit it. I had a little anxiety attack. But, I’m used to it. I have like 30 a day now that I’m a parent.
To understand whether or not I’m Chopper Papa, I decided that I needed to ever so gently research the topic, look at ways that I could potentially, possibly, maybe be one of those parents, and research how to overcome my hovering tendencies.
Here are some of my favorite terms I’ve found for this particular approach to parenting:
- The first one is obvious, the Helicopter parent — it’s all about the hovering. And, Travis is so sweet. When he sees me doing it, he makes the chopper noise. It’s precious (if only my laptop had a sarcasm font).
- The Blackhawk parent - which is helicopter parenting on crack. You’ll do anything for your kid and you aren’t afraid to get aggressive. I thought for sure this would be Travis.
- This one’s for my Canadian friends. The Curling parent — frantically sweeping the ice, clearing a path, so your kid can reach their goal easily and unhindered.
- The Lawnmower parent — mowing down all obstacles you see in your kid’s path.
- Some close runners-up. The White Night, The Rescuer, or The Bodyguard (and no, not the Whitney Houston movie).
So, here’s the thing. My thoughts are consumed with Parker. We’re nineteen months in, and I still wake up in the middle of the night and go into his room to make sure he’s ok. I whisper, “I’m here if you need anything. Sleep tight buddy.” When I see him playing by himself (because I’m sitting two feet away), my head gets filled with questions and doubts. Does he want me to play with him? Is he lonely? Does he need a brother or sister? (Insert subtle message to Travis about having a second kid). I’ll often reach back and hold his hand when I drive. It’s our thang. My chest tightens and my breathing gets very shallow when I watch him walk up and try to play with other kids. Are they going to be nice to him? When I watch him kick a ball, with purpose and direction, I wonder why the media outlets and professional scouts aren’t busting down my door to meet this little sports prodigy. I cry whenever he…well…basically, does anything.
Holy mother of…I am Chopper Papa…crap. Yep.
Maybe it’s genetic? I guess the first step is really admitting you have a problem.
There are some good things about being a helicopter parent, I reassured myself. But, and this is a big but, I refuse to be the parent that calls my son’s boss and asks why he didn’t get a raise or promotion. That’s taking it too far. Unless, he really deserves that promotion, then I might write a blog post and accidentally tag his boss. But, that’s years down the road.
No, I want a balanced relationship with my son. So, here are some of the things I'm working on. I think they’ll be a nice balance to my crazy.
- I’ll follow my brother-in-laws advice. No one ever mention to him that I said I’m doing this. EVER. He always says, “one good fallin’ is worth a hundred good talkin’ to’s.” I guess I do have to let Parker explore, climb and fall. My job’s is simply to keep the cords and other dangerous objects outta the way.
- I’m going to let him solve his own problems. If he pushes a kid and the crying starts, I’m going to let them work it out. It’s hard not to swoop in when the other parent is all over the kids like stink on a cow patty (not sure why my Texas roots are so strong in this post). So, please back off other helicopter parent, I’m working on something here.
- He’s in this phase of making me do things first - especially anything he’s uncertain about. For example, when we go places where someone hands out stickers, he says “Papa” and grabs my hand to give to the strange sticker-giver. That’s some irresistible sh*t there. But, I’m forcing myself to say no, and let him figure it out.
- He gets choices. He doesn’t like those choices, we move on. He throws a fit. I move on. It tends to work itself out quickly after I leave the room. I don’t go too far, in case he really needs me.
- I’m learning that I can’t take things personally. Yesterday, in the car, when I reached my hand back. You know, for our thang. He said “no.” It was like someone ripped my beating heart out through my nostril and then punched me in stomach with it. “Don’t let him see me cry,” I thought to myself. Then, five seconds later, he said, “Papa hand.” Awwww, the universe was back in working order. But, I get it. There are going to be times that he doesn’t want me around or asks me not to embarrass him in front of his friends. I wonder if I get a discount if I buy bulk therapy sessions?
- And finally, this is my best idea. A beer (just one) in the evening seems to help with the anxiety a bit. I like a good IPA.
Parenting is hard. We want the best for our kids. We don’t want them to experience pain, or hurt, or anger. I was listening to a podcast on my run yesterday morning. I can’t remember which one. Usually, I’m pretty good about keeping track. So, please don’t sue me for not citing you as a reference, person who said this. The person said, "if you look back over your life, it’s the times where you felt the most pain, anger or hurt that define who you are. It’s those times where you grew emotionally and learned the most about life. Those moments are the ones you remember. They make you who you are today."
I’m not saying I’m quitting cold turkey. But, I will work on cutting back on the aforementioned hovering. Parker, if you’re reading this, I’m trying to be a good Papa. As my dad used to say, “it hurts me, more than it hurts you.” I promise buddy, I’m doing it for your own good.