Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Helicopter mother? I'm more like a space rocket...

I was thinking about this the other day. I have never been described as a helicopter mother and I don't suppose I'm ever likely to be. Don't get me wrong - it's not that I'm a cold and distant mother who doesn't care about her children because that would be so so wrong and I like nothing better than getting hugs from them.

It just means that I see myself as an enabler, rather than their enforcer. If they express an interest in a new activity, I will find it and, if we can afford it, arrange for them to start. In recent weeks, Monkey has started tennis lessons and Missy Woo at ballet, on top of other things they already do. I've found the lessons. I've obtained the basic things they need to do them. I've paid for both. I take them to it. And then, I walk away.

The rest is up to them. I am not an expert in either. Quite the opposite, in fact - I love watching tennis but my own personal hand-eye coordination borders on the rubbish. I don't even tend to hang around - largely because I always have one other child in tow, that I need to amuse or feed. It doesn't help that ballet lessons fall the same day as Monkey goes to football training and the overlap is such that Monkey needs to eat whilst Missy Woo is dancing. All I want is for them to enjoy what they are doing. If they're feeling a bit anti, I normally encourage them and remind them that they will get better with practice which takes time and means more lessons. If I thought they were really not enjoying it, I wouldn't hesitate to stop. But usually the feeling passes when they get there and remember what fun they have.

I know, from the knowing looks shared between certain parents when I turn up to collect one of them from a particular activity, that others do not approve of my leaving my children. But the children don't want me to stay, although Monkey sometimes asks my husband to watch him play football if he takes him. Missy Woo virtually pushes me out the door sometimes. It's not that I am not interested in what they do. It's just that it is their activity, not mine.It will be up to them if they want to take any of those things further. They are both still young, they're learning, and developing their personalities and identities. Doing these things allows them to do that. Do they need me there to do that? I don't think so.

Monkey told me this morning that he wants to be a tennis player when he grows up. I nearly said to him that he'd have the British public on his back if he did that (unless he becomes the next Federer, Nadal or Djokovic of course!). I think it's great that he has that dream, for now. Next week, it could be something else altogether. I'm not about to sell my house or push him to try harder in his lessons, because that would be ridiculous.

I think I'm painting myself as a very neglectful parent. I'm not. They read their school books with us most nights, and do their spellings if they have them. More crucially, they're fed and watered and cared for. I'm just mindful of the need for them to find their own ways. Force a child down one particular route and you risk resentment and them hating it; that's how I see it anyway.

So I do not hover over my children and instead shoot off like a space rocket. I think that means I then go into orbit, circling round invisibly, keeping one eye on them and in a place they can easily find me, should they need me. Does that make me odd? I wonder because I hate the looks I get when I turn up to collect them and some other parents purse their lips, give each other a look and I know I'm being judged.

I hate that. My style might not be right for different children - and I've established before, my two are pretty independent little souls. Surely it's up to me how I choose to raise them? Or am I falling victim to the "mothers can never win" culture that we have adopted? What do you think?
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