Over the weekend, I was *lovingly* referred to as a helicopter mom…
Considering that the only person I know who has been called that was my sister, who is an amazing mom with two super smart and sweet kids, I feel honored. However, I started wondering… Am I? what does this term even mean?
Who is a helicopter parent?
“Although the term is most often applied to parents of high school or college-aged students who do tasks the child is capable of doing alone (for instance, calling a professor about poor grades, arranging a class schedule, manage exercising habits), helicopter parenting can apply at any age. “In toddlerhood, a helicopter parent might constantly shadow the child, always playing with and directing his behavior, allowing him zero alone time,” Dr. Dunnewold says. In elementary school, helicopter parenting can be revealed through a parent ensuring a child has a certain teacher or coach, selecting the child’s friends and activities, or providing disproportionate assistance for homework and school projects.”
Read more: http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/what-is-helicopter-parenting/
It doesn’t sound like me at all. Besides, my baby is barely 3 months old and depends on me for his every need, so hovering is part of the job right now. He needs his mommy more than anyone else in this world. But, just because he’s a baby it doesn’t mean that I have to treat him as if he’s clueless. In my short time as a mother, I’ve come to appreciate babies like never before. They are so much smarter than we give them credit for. At five weeks old, my son first tried to communicate with me, mostly through cries and grunts. When his needs were met he rewarded me with a heart exploding smile. He’s 12 weeks now and I can safely say that he’s perfected this skill, along with many others.
“Between birth and age 3, the number of synapses (connections within the brain) increases twenty-fold from 10 trillion to 200 trillion. Because this is too large a number to be specified by genes alone, the new synapses are determined by experience. A baby is adding synapses at more than 1 million per second, responding to its experience of the world. During this period, synapses become ‘hard-wired’ by repeated use, implying very rapid learning via early life experience.”
Read more: http://www.wavetrust.org/our-work/the-evidence/6-messages-about-violence/wired-in-brain
So, if it seems like I’m already a bit regimented with his schedule, you’re not entirely wrong. In order for our household to function effectively all of us need to be on a routine. Starting from when we wake up to when we fall asleep, each hour is somewhat defined based on the baby’s needs. His schedule dictates ours and we’re more than happy to accommodate him. Since he was a week old, I’ve been tracking his input, output and resting patterns. Yes, there’s an app for it! Why? Because,
I’m a nerd understanding his nature helps me better care for him. He wakes up around the same time and goes to bed around the same time every single day. What happens in between those hours can really throw off this schedule. So, my job as his mom is to make sure his need for a rhythm is met. He eats every 4-5 hours depending on how much we feed him at each meal. He sleeps roughly every 2 hours or so with a longish nap in the middle of the day. Some days he takes 2 longish naps in the middle of the day, and on those days I do my happy dance, but as long as he’s had at least one long nap he’s the happiest baby on the block. There is nothing unpredictable about his schedule, really, only variations.
My mother was a doctor when she met my father. My grandmother didn’t think that my dad should marry his equal- welcome to India in the 1970’s- but my dad married her anyway. Within 10 months I was born. Back then, having kids was the pathway to solidifying your marriage. My mom was a feminist in her own right! She wasn’t going to give up her career so, I was dropped off with a family friend every day. Some of my earliest and fondest memories are with this other mom, who loved me like her own. While this arrangement suited my parents’ lifestyle, it was the cause of deep anxieties within my own. Imagine being an infant where constant transitions, surprises and excitement were the norm. Now combine that with the knowledge that babies experience rapid growth on all fronts during these years and NEED some sense of stability and security. I was well into adulthood by the time my issues of abandonment and lack of discipline were reconciled.
This is not intended as a referendum on my parents’s parenting skills. I have immense respect and admiration for all that they’ve sacrificed for us. They weren’t bad parents by any stretch of the imagination, but let’s face it parenting wasn’t taken as seriously as it is today. But, I digress… Two decades of research in early childhood development has proven that boring works when it comes to babies! Children need routine. Babies, especially, thrive on monotony and since I can’t be there for him every minute of the day, wouldn’t it be nice to depend on some daily experiences? To be able to predict, for example, that after his morning nap, he’ll get changed into new clothes and go downstairs to play. Or that afternoon naps will happen in his crib at approximately the same time every day and when he wakes up he will get to play with his toys. Or walks will happen in the evening, or bath time will start around the same time, followed by the same nightly ritual concluding with a bottle. When he knows what to expect every day, he is better prepared to enjoy it.
“Infant expert Magda Gerber emphasized the importance of establishing a daily sequence of events — not arbitrarily imposed, inflexible, or on the clock, but formed together with our babies in response to their individual needs. “In a predictable environment, and with regular, dependable schedules, they feel comfortable, cry less, and life is easier for both infant and parents. Infants who do not need to adjust to too much unnecessary stimulation will eventually regulate their sleeping and eating patterns. This regularity will, in turn, give parents some predictable time for their own needs and interests.”
Read More: http://www.magdagerber.org/blog
I want my baby to start building trust in his environment so that he may become better equipped to deal with unpredictability in his life. If that sounds like a contradiction, I assure you it’s not. Helping him develop this trust is the single most important thing I will ever do for him. And, almost all of it happens in the first year! While I’m not a stay at home mom, I have the luxury of working from home and I intend to take full advantage of it. This means, I get to be ‘around’ him every day, reassuring him when he needs it. Forming a secure bond with my son is vital to his happiness. This also means that his environment is controlled and relatively constant. Our home will be his haven. Sure, there will be occasional stays at the grandparents or travels to far away lands, but those will be the exception, not the rule.
As a parent, I want to give my son every advantage in life. The constant push and pull of wanting to let him develop on his own and doing things for him is what good parenting is all about. I think what people mistakenly think of as ‘helicopter parenting’ is actually a respectful approach towards caring for a child.
Do you have rituals with your children? Please feel free to share them in your comments.