parent opinion

'I was at the park, when a mother decided to helicopter parent my daughter.'

My kid is a climber. From the moment she could pull herself up on the furniture she was attempting to scale it.

Once when she was two, I raced to the toilet hoping she would stay on the ground for the minute it would take me to pee and return, only to find her on the top level of our cat’s scratching pole (about my chest height) standing up and reaching out for the switched on ceiling fan.

I realised in the moment (Lord knows how I kept a lid on it) that if I let the panic set in and I screamed at her, it would probably make her fall so I calmly asked her to stop and get down.

She said, “Okay, mummy,” and then proceeded to jump from the top of the pole to our lounge. She has given me a near heart attack almost daily since.

Classic phrases all mums say. Post continues after video. 

Video by MMC

For this reason, we spend a lot of time at playgrounds. On the weekends, we set out from our house in search of a new place to play and to allow the climber to channel her need to be higher than everyone else at a place that is relatively safe for her to do so.

We have a favourite spot, one that has one of those spider web-looking climbing rope frames with little mat landings at intervals. It has a rope bridge that requires the climber to manoeuvre herself across to reach the slide. While she does this, she likes to pause at one spot and just free swing, you know, just drop the legs and swing back and forth.

Sometimes she’ll end up hooking a leg over to the next rope or if she can’t she’ll drop down into the soft sand below. Either way, swinging is one of the climber’s favourite things to do, so when I saw another mum reach up and pluck my 4-year-old off the rope and deposit her safely on the ground, I saw red.

I am firmly in the ‘work it out yourself’ camp when it comes to the playground. Unless she specifically asks for help (and even then I sometimes talk her through it so she can work it out herself), I leave her to run, jump, climb and slide on her own. I sit off to the side and watch, ready to help should she need it.

At the time this mum intervened in my child’s welfare, she was completely fine. She was hanging from a rope and swinging her legs back and forth. She was in easy dropping distance to the sand and wasn’t asking for help, yet this well-meaning mum took it upon herself to help her down.

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Why? I have never touched another person’s child unless they were crying, distressed or asking for my help. What made her think that the climber needed her assistance?

Then I watched her with her own children. She has a very different parenting style to mine. Where I am in the ‘figure it out yourself’ camp, she is in ‘assistance’ territory. Her children were boosted, lifted, pushed and protected through every piece of playground equipment.

Now I promised myself when I became a mum that I would do my best not to judge other people’s parenting skills, at least to their knowledge. My husband and I have certainly discussed our circle’s child-rearing choices and have made some of them the basis of the things we agree we won’t be doing with ours, but when a parent’s choice directly affects my child, do I say something?

I didn’t. I was too shocked when it happened. I just turned to my sister who was with me and unleashed my anger in her direction. As sisters do, she told me to calm my farm. 

When working on The QuickyI have had the opportunity to speak to people who are well versed in modern parenting.

Author David Gillespie spoke to us for our ‘Concierge Parenting” episode and gave us a fascinating insight into why we protect our children so much these days.

He explained it can be a mixture of factors; including time-poor parents who want to make sure all the time spent with their children is happy and issue-free, so we don’t want tears from a playground fall.

We may also only have one or two children, and feel like they’re precious little bundles that need our undivided attention and protection – even if they’re incredibly capable. 

Listen to the full chat with David Gillespie on The Quicky. Post continues after podcast.

Clinical Psychologist Dr Judith Locke told us that our need to make our children’s childhood perfect is doing our kids harm, and explained that we need to step back so they can step up, helping them build resilience and coping mechanisms.

So to that mum at the playground, thank you for looking out for my child and being concerned that she wasn’t okay. I respect the fact that you are choosing to raise your children differently to me, but what happens when you’re not there to help her down? Will she then just hang and wait until an adult takes care of it for her or will she drop to the soft sand, brush herself off and run back to the start?

I’m hoping my kid does the latter.

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