The helicopter kid

There’s a gorgeous family with young ‘uns living down the road from us that we’ve come to know on evening walks.We’ve watched the kids grow from cute little buttons to awkward, gangling teenagers with fluffy features. The parents are friendly enough, but they’re your classic overprotective types.If we stop to linger for too long, pay any special attention to the kids, they’ll move you on, quick smart with a hiss and a snarl. Swans, you see.Passing by the this week I noticed a patch of grey feathers strewn beside the path. My heart sank.Further along, sure enough, the family of six was down to five. The parents had lost a baby.“It must be so sad for them,” I said, barely imaging the horror of seeing one of your darlings carried off by a fox.Because I believe that mother loves her children just as much I love my own child, by the way she circles around them, keeps them close, keeps an eye out for any dangers. For strangers.It’s true you can’t protect them from everything, but where do you draw the line?I watched a documentary recently called The Lost Adventures of Childhood, a Canadian film about the impact of reigning in the freedoms kids once experienced as part of a normal childhood.The film highlighted the fact that playing freely, out of the confines of a Colorbond fence, is pretty much a thing of the past for many children, and the consequences of that are vital life skills like creativity and problem solving are being lost.Many of the examples on the screen were pretty extreme – we’re talking kids so scheduled with sports that they have to do their homework in the car travelling between training.And then there was the father who kept track of his kids’ every move, literally, through GPS. Basically, it says we’re clinging so tightly to our children, through fear of something happening to them, or fear of them not reaching their full potential, that they have no independence or self-confidence.It’s called “helicopter parenting”. On a side note, in Googling the subject I found there’s a swath of blogging mums and dads on the other end of the spectrum, and they’re called “free rangers”, allowing their children to grow up as “free range kids”.If only swans could blog, maybe we could learn a thing or two?There’s a label for everything!All this talk does bring about a tendency to reminisce – about the romance of long days spent exploring the neighbourhood and coming home at dusk for tea. Of needing only a blue dragster bike and a best friend for freedom and fantasy, for a life independent of the one you shared with your family. After watching that film a girlfriend and I took our kids across to the bush just metres from home, and set them free.We told them to have a good time, find some sticks, do something (mildly) dangerous. But it backfired for me. It wasn’t long before my son came looking for me, with great concern that he’d left me by myself in the bush and would I be OK?What’s the name for a helicopter child? Am I alone? How to cope? Please, just don’t let me join a bloody on-line forum, I’m with the swans on that one.

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