I try not to be a Helicopter Parent….

….but I probably should hover just a little closer sometimes. The fact that I only temporarily “misplaced” three out of five household boys during a recent event seems pretty good (unless you calculate the percentage and then 60% loss is…well… kind of high).

In my own defense, I’m going to argue for the “it takes a village” philosophy and I had an over-reliance on the village….perhaps without informing them too clearly that they were the village. It’s those crazy situations where you are so thankful that everything worked out, but looking back, it probably would have been nice if it didn’t seem like every 30 minutes one of the organizers of the race was searching for one of her kids!

JP5K (293)You see, it was race day. The first 5K run/walk we had organized for the non-profit I’m working to create. I was there early for set-up and my head was spinning all morning trying to keep details and people organized. I was not prepared for my “work role” as well as the role of attending a function as a mother of three kids. So before I knew it, the gun was going off and both 6-year-olds of the house wanted to “run” with me for the 5K. This meant that Ryan wanted to RUN and Micah wanted to sprint….walk…. sprint….stop…..sprint….. stroll…. sprint. Meanwhile, Ryan was “gone.” And though I was informed that he had made the turn-around at the 5K water station, my sister’s face when she said she hadn’t seen him cross the finish yet made me a bit concerned when we sprinted-walked-strolled back. So I sent a villager off to find him only to realize that my Godson had already discovered the young nephew – who had run almost all of 5 miles! Nice job, Ryan. Next time can you do it without panicking everyone??!?

I returned to meeting and greeting people and shortly afterwards found myself searching for the curly headed boy in a red and grey shirt. No, not at the Family Fun activity booths. No, not at the playground. By the time I had 5 or 6 villagers looking for him, he was discovered by my mom in the bathroom by the playground. Don’t anyone panic!

After this second one, I decided I needed a better hover strategy. We reviewed the “you must check with me first” policy as well as “blue shirts are safe” new rule (since the race volunteers wore blue).  I kept my eyes on the boys much more closely, though it was also easier as a friend had decided that Seth was adorable and she would just follow him wherever he walked. My mom took over supervision of Noah’s mud pie factory and I had the “easy” job of making sure Micah was scampering around under the watchful eye of other friends and their kids.

It’s not always easy in a crowd, however, and soon I was at the point of wondering why I didn’t see him with the group of friends I thought he was with. Knowing they had all been down by the lake, I looked behind the boat house and just froze. There was the most picturesque scene of a little brown boy in a white t-shirt sitting next to a tackle box with a fishing rod in hand….perfectly still. The water lapped near his feet. The wind rustled in the trees. And the stranger beside him cast out his line.JP5K (311)

Now I wrestled with all the analytical thinking. I had just spent two days at a “child maltreatment” conference and though we know statistically that strangers are far less dangerous than people the children know….I didn’t know this fisherman at all. And as peaceful as the scene was, how could I trust that it would remain so? And yet, Micah clearly was in his own little heaven. He had just asked me last week for a fishing rod for his birthday since a classmate had brought one in for show-and-tell.

So….I hovered. I walked down and “checked in” – thanked the man for teaching Micah to fish, chatted with Micah for a bit….and then retreated to the top of the hill to watch from there. I knew that Micah needed a bit of space. As hard as it was for me to juggle “work” and “mommy-ing” at this event….it had been hard for Micah to deal with all the crowds, with the disappointment of not winning a medal (as Ryan had for his 5 miles of running), and with a mother who was clearly distracted. Watching the bobbin bounce along in the water, scooping a worm out of the bucket of dirt, anticipating the possibility of a catch….this is what Micah needed.

I could hover as much as I needed to feel a tad more comfortable….but I also needed to give him a little room to engage the world….to connect with a stranger….to learn a new skill.

The smile on his face when I walked down to him and he turned and said “Mommy, this man is learning me to fish” was just priceless. Sometimes we work so hard to keep the kids in a safe “bubble” that we lose out on moments that can just “be.”  It’s clearly a hard balance for me.

(ps…and such a hard balance the last few days that my writing got terribly delayed 🙂

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