When I was pregnant with my first child, I thought I would be the stereotypical first-time mom: sterilizing everything, hovering over my baby as she played, and being extremely selective about who got to hold her. When my daughter was actually born, I found out that wasn’t the type of mom I am. I wasn’t worried about her being directly on the carpet at our house, I don’t think I ever boiled one of her pacifiers and, as long as someone wasn’t sick, I was happy to share the joy of holding a brand new baby with almost anyone (alright, they had to at least be a friend. I didn’t let strangers at Target hold my newborn). Now that my daughter is three, I’m still not a mom who has to be on top of my child at all times. As long as I see my kid once every couple minutes at play places, I’m sure she’s fine. She loves playing in the patch of dirt in the backyard where grass doesn’t grow. That builds the immune system and gives her a connection to nature, right? But you also better believe I won’t let her get out of my sight when we’re in a store or walking downtown.
Since I’ve been in the parenting game for three whole years (I know, vast amounts of experience), I’ve seen many types of helicopter parenting. Here are the three most common types of helicopter parenting I’ve witnessed:
The Black Hawk Helicopter Parent
These moms and dads are ON IT. They carry wipes to sterilize restaurant tables and highchairs, dropped toys and other potentially contaminated surfaces while out in public. If they had to choose hand sanitizer over water for a day, there’s no doubt they’d go for the Purell. If their kid is in a play area, so is the parent. (Side note: I once saw a dad climb all the way to the top of the highest tower in Monkey Bizness with his young child. I was impressed. I’m too fearful of my birthing hips getting caught to attempt that. You go, Monkey Bizness Dad!) A child eating dirt or sand would be the ultimate downfall for a Black Hawk parent, and you’d better believe they only put their child in a shopping cart if they have one of those fancy covers with the holes for the seat belt, so the kid can be securely in the cart without actually touching the cart. Didn’t you hear that the swine flu originated on a Target shopping cart?! THANK GOODNESS YOU BROUGHT THOSE STERILIZING WIPES! (I made up that part about the swine flu. Is that even a relevant reference anymore?)
The News Helicopter Parent
These parents are always around to see anything that happens, but still at a distance. “This is Mom checking in after what appears to be a child-vs.-shelving collision in the produce section of King Soopers. There’s no blood on the scene, so we’re still waiting for a verbal update about the severity of the injuries sustained by the child involved.” News Helicopter moms and dads usually see something less than satisfactory (i.e. dirt eating, kissing a plush pig at Target), but aren’t within arms reach to stop it, or have decided that looking at curtains without a toddler actually hanging on their leg is worth the risk that their child is smothering themselves with a Peppa Pig pillow that another kid with dirty hands has already played with. But they definitely draw the line at allowing a child’s face to make contact with the floor of the store. They’ve mastered darting their eyes around to find the right salad dressing on the shelf, while also making sure their child isn’t rounding the corner to the bakery section to try to steal donuts or get himself kidnapped.
The Flight for Life Parent
These parents are laid back and only intervene when necessary. They probably have the healthiest blood pressure levels, because they aren’t worried about every little thing. Their kid is two aisles over in the store? It’s fine! You can hear them scream from this distance AND do verbal check-ins. Pacifier got dropped on the floor at Chick-Fil-A? Nothing a quick wipe on your high-waisted (but not because they’re stylish, because they cover your post-baby pooch) mom jeans can’t fix. These moms and dads have no fear at the playground; They’re kids go for the rope ladders, narrow steps and merry-go-rounds without an adult to spot them, or maybe a different adult spots them. They have no problem with other parents stepping in. It’s a group effort, right? Of course, if there is a big tumble or injury, the parent is there in no time, ready to administer help as needed.
We all represent each of the helicopters at some point throughout the course of our parenting careers, or even in a single day. There will always be someone who thinks you’re too uptight, not strict enough or, of course, deliberately setting your child up for failure as an adult.
So, which helicopter do you identify with?