Digest for a while this great little article about Helicopter versus Hands Off Parenting and deduce where you think I sit in this conversation. Watch the video below at the end of the post.
This question has become a bit more sensitive recently because I’m trying to keep the fact that we’re leaving our kids home alone while we swan off on holiday under wraps from the local delinquent grapevine at the moment. So not because I’m concerned about a visit from social services, because our two are legally adults, (physically, if not mentally), but just in case any of Kurt’s friends catch wind of our imminent absence and try to coerce him into the sort of feral antics he is attracted to.
If I over-think what could happen, (and I do, daily, the physical result being a visceral pain in my stomach), while we leave the boy at home as we gallivant across to the other side of the world, I’d never sleep. But that might be just symptomatic of an over zealous, over-anxious, sleep-deprived brain.
Even though I know in my heart that it’s time to do this.
I hope that some of you may sympathize with my concern at not being able to whirr full-time over the top of our apartment, or track the little bugger on my iPhone for a whole twelve days.
It’s not like we haven’t instilled some good, responsible stuff in our kids, leading us to fear they won’t survive without us for two weeks. They can both cook a pizza and know where the Spray N’Wipe is – although they may need a refresher course in recycling and a reminder of how many times in real time the dog needs a wee.
And there were three very good modes of thought when we eventually came to this brave and interesting decision, which as many of you will know comes on the back of three years of hell with a teenage, ADHD son, hell-bent on self-destruction and taking his family down with him.
- To offer him the chance to prove himself to us – to set him the challenge of independence, for him to meet and prove to us that we can trust him.
- To give the two of our offspring the chance to bond and strengthen their sibling relationship.
- To validate the idea in our own minds that at some point we have to trust him.
There has been a lot of criticism leveled at the over-protectionism of our parenting generation and in my case it is not unfounded. Had I birthed two NCs (eldest, almost model of perfection), I’m certain that things would have been different, because I’m fundamentally a selfish person that loves her own company and the idea of swanning off on child-free holidays without a care in the world would have been very appealing.
However, a child like Kurt both strengthens and weakens the core of every assumption you made before you had kids.
Not that wild, defiant kids like Kurt haven’t been around since time immemorial, and previous generations of parents managed to cope with them; although admittedly most would have left home by now, been kicked out or fathered three children by three different mothers by the age of eighteen.
And look at how we were raised, in comparison to my helicoptering approach. Only the other night we shared quasi-funny, therapy-inducing stories with friends about our own parents’ skills, with me recounting how my mum used to only get out of bed once one of us had lit her first cigarette of the morning; how one night my teenage parents were forced to snip the end of the teet on my bottle so the coagulated milk (left in the airing cupboard to keep warm) would flow more easily; and how all our parents always left us babies in the car in the street while they partied.
Meanwhile, here am I, fretting about the safety of the dog and writing up a mental risk assessment of what my son can possibly do (that he hasn’t already done) while we’re away, even though I’ve got a posse of father-heavies lined up to come and read the riot act, friends booked in to stay during the middle weekend and NC on the promise of a visit to Uluru to study the rock formation if she does her job of chief-minder, sibling-intimidator well.
It’s that old ad for Yellow Pages that I’ve added above that haunts me. Anyone remember it? The aftermath of the teenage party that happened when the parents were away, where the damage is being hastily repaired by the son the next day, just before their flight lands and the French polisher has just saved the day by touching up the scratch on the coffee table, when suddenly the son notices the black texta face drawn on a painting…
Now tell me I’m being over-anxious.