Monday, August 10, 2009

First Goodbye- confessions of a helicopter mom

Last week we loaded our car a set off to take my son to summer camp. At age eleven he was about to embark on his first independent adventure. For several days we prepared packing his bag, shopping for the perfect tools to insure success in the wild. We bought him a fancy flashlight, digital camera, travel clock and first aide kit. We packed clothing for every possible weather change.

This was a huge step for both of us. He would be away for one week without me to hover over his daily life. He would have to remember to wash his hair, brush his teeth and of course brush his hair after he washed it. He would need to know what foods are OK and which are toxic. Would her remember to drink water? Would the other kids be nice or would he be trapped in modern version of "Lord of the Flies?". What if it rains and he clothes get wet? What if there is a forest fire or he gets struck by lighting!

I am a helicopter mom, it is my dirty little secret. Not in the common sense, my affliction is seeped in denial. I like to think I have set him up for success. The problem is I tend to intervene if I sense a roadblock. He is after all just a child and that is my job. So this will be the first time I can't intervene. If he encounters a bully he will be on his own. At lunch I will have to trust he knows the chocolate cake will make him feel sluggish. I hope he knows he doesn't brush his hair we will have to shave it because I can't get the knots out.

My son had his own concerns. He didn't want to ride the horses because Christopher Reeves fell off a horse and lost his mobility. He went to check out the camp web site and saw they were still advertising for a nurse and lifeguard, how could I send him away to unsafe territory? What if he was drowning who would save him? What was injured or worse struck by lighting? My child is not a wimp but he is more of an intellect than and athlete so everything is up for analysis. This time I would need to cut that short and push him firmly out of the nest.

Well I did, sort of, he didn't pass the swim test when we arrived. I was shocked because he has taken swimming lessons and loves the water. So I explained to the newly hired life guard that he was tired and maybe his allergy medicine was affecting him. Problem solved. He could swim in the deep end with the other kids. I mingled with the staff , parents and kids to make sure it all felt safe and then it happened. He told me to leave.

So we waited for one week. Evey day looking for the letters he promised to send. Every night resisting the urge to call and check up on him. finally the day arrived. His session was over and we could go rescue him! I was surprised at how happy and healthy he looked. He was bubbling over with joy and kids were swarming us. It had been a success.

He settled on the couch to tell me the tales of horseback riding, scuba diving and archery. He told me the food was awesome and we should get Frosted Flakes like camp. He told me how they slept in a tee pee one night and he woke up with half his body outside under the tent drenched from the rain but it was fine because his face was dry. He lost his flashlight but it was fine he just shared with his friends. His travel clock went off at night because he forgot to turn it off. There was a huge fire. It turned out to be the farm next to camp burning their fields. Everything was not only fine but awesome!

He then told me a large (fat, in his words) boy tackled and punched him the first day. He was just sitting on a bench and pow! I was horrified. I asked how the staff responded and this is where I learned of my son's strength. He told me the pain was nothing. He said " I am not big enough to fight this kid so I used my strength. I am much smarter. If I told on him he would find ways to continue to bully me. So I found the coolest high school kids and became friends with them. He left me alone and I protected the other little kids by including them."

So he is already asking to go back next year, this time for 2 weeks.


Carolee said...

I love this blog! I can't wait for more posts. You have a lot of parenting wisdom and insight here -- plus a lot of fun!

Saints and Spinners said...

I have to wrestle with my helicopter parent tendencies, too! My 6 year old daughter has particular challenges of her own (partially blind, low-muscle tone, some developmental delays). Fortunately, she has hardly ever been clingy, and has told us to GO when we lingered after drop-off at school or camp.

haddy2dogs said...

Well poo, do you ever notice that we all have our challenges if we look past the expectations of the modern mom! We are all in the same leaky boat and it is a blast!