With all this surrendering to being the mum I actually am, not the one I thought I’d be, one big fat hint has been staring me in the face- I’m a helicopter mum. I loathe the term and all it suggests, but that’s me and despite all my greatest efforts I can’t help but hover cautiously near my children like a Health and Safety Officer of the highest ranking. Actually in all fairness I don’t really hover, but I’m there. I’m a worrier, that might be a better term- I’m a Worrier (absolutely not to be confused with the polar opposite- the Warrior).
As with all of the hints towards realising I’m not the perfect housewife/mother (you can read Hint 1 and Hint 2 to bring you up to speed), accepting that I’m a Worrier has been a challenge. I don’t desire to be this way. Please don’t tell me all about the benefits of not being a Worrier, that’s the whole point of this. You see, before I had children I was the BEST mother in the world. I am a teacher and I used to dish out that parenting advice with no shame. I cringe now when I recall my 23 year old self shamefully sharing my parenting knowledge with the parents of children I taught. Oh yes, I knew it all. I could anticipate the relaxed parent I’d be and the dream was perfect.
My children would be the perfect mix of confident and polite, considerate and enthusiastic, and don’t even get me started on how resilient they would be. They’d be little rubber bands, flinging back at the world whatever was thrown their way. Resilience was big at the time. Teachers were encouraged to build “resilient” learners and little people in general- a nice word, a great concept and a wonderful ideal (unfortunately I’ve learned the hard way over MANY years that this is harder to attain than the leaflets had suggested).
So insert actual real life children into the mix and guess what? That 23 year old would be telling me to relax, to take a step back and let my children be. I really am good at allowing my children to play rough, to be outdoors and to make mistakes. Worriers are a step below the helicopter, we don’t hover, we just sit biting our fingernails and spend most of the time in our own heads creating several possible scenarios which inevitably result in a child being seriously hurt, getting lost or stolen or getting knocked out and being taken to the ER in an ambulance. I think the Worrier is more focused on the awesome sense of responsibility that comes with being a parent, rather than the outcome no matter how bad it is.
If I’m a Worrier, my husband is the Horizontal parent- super chilled out. Beyond chilled out. For every “where are they?”, “what are they doing?”, “can you see them?” I worriedly ask, he has a “don’t worry, they’re fine”. He can say that without even knowing if they are actually okay. It falls out of his mouth with ease which usually infuriates me even more as I take it upon myself to double up my worrying to make up for his lack of contributions. I even annoy myself doing it, I follow Maggie Dent and I know what she’d say about it all. I one hundred percent understand how important it is to let my children make mistakes, to get hurt and to be free to be children, but I just don’t want to it to happen on my watch (the hurting, not the freedom).
Being a teacher means that I’m responsible for the safety of a whole bunch of little people who don’t belong to me. That’s huge, and it’s a responsibility I take very seriously. Unfortunately for me I’ve found it hard to lose my ability to scope out a playground terminator style and scan for potential dangers and threats when I’m with my own children. School playgrounds are no longer the place to take risks. There’s a duty of care to keep children safe with no exceptions. Risks are for home. Children are now part time risk takers. It takes the greatest effort on my part to make that switch so that my children can actively participate in risk taking.
This was a big area of focus for me this year on my journey towards balance, easing up and backing off. I was well on track when a big fat challenge slapped me in the face. My eldest son was diagnosed with the filthy, horrid chronic illness, Type 1 diabetes. If you don’t know much about Type 1 diabetes, you’re not alone- not many people do unless there’s a direct connection, let me explain as briefly as I can. It’s a disease that cannot be prevented. My son’s pancreas no longer works through no fault of his own or ours, and he requires daily monitoring and injections of insulin to keep him alive. It doesn’t go away, it can be temperamental and basically gets in the way of everyday kid life. It requires a lot of monitoring and tweaking and is just a real nuisance.
All the progress I’d made towards being a more chilled parent appeared to have been wasted, my Worrier level was amped up to maximum ability. Now my son required me to monitor him constantly, including waking during the night to test sugar levels. Sometimes we even have to wake him to eat if his sugar is low or to have insulin if it’s too high to prevent him from, well, dying. It’s brutal, but I’m responsible for keeping my precious boy alive EVERY SINGLE DAY. The urge to never let him out of my sight is overwhelming. Sleepovers at friends, even a play at a friends is no longer the simple event it once was.
But with all things I’m discovering on this balance journey, the act of surrendering is so powerful. All I can do is my best. Worrying doesn’t keep my son alive. Responsible parenting does, doing what I know is best does, educating myself and the people around us does. I had to just throw my hands up and accept that I can’t control everything in his disease. And the most bizarre thing has happened, I no longer sweat the small stuff quite as much. Seeing how big the picture could be helped me to widen my perspective and I’ve recently been downgraded to a Mild Worrier of the Cautiously Aware but Ten Steps Away Variety.