I sat poised on the edge of my chair, a whispered plea in my throat.
The bridal party stretched before me, picture-perfect, words of promise and endearment mingling with the buzz of bumblebees courting lavender.
Meanwhile, two pint-size pink puffs frolicked stage right, giggling with the effort to leap and pluck leaves from a silently weeping willow. One of those puffs was mine.
The audience politely ignored their merriment, though in my mind, I couldn’t help but think there were a few out there wondering why the parents weren’t “doing something about those kids.” Perhaps it was all in my head… ghosts from weddings past rudely inviting themselves into an otherwise lovely present.
Twice I came a millisecond from leaping up and whisking her away, but finally concluded that the addition of a frazzled mom on the scene would only up the ante on the ruffled distraction factor.
Later, kind parents (apparently much more laid back than I) chuckled and assured me no one had a problem with a toddler being a toddler. This continued throughout the evening … as I found myself fretting over cherry stains … and ripped tulle … and the elusive “nice” family photo always just out of grasp.
Meanwhile, I gazed with envy as other parents sipped wine, laughed, and let their kids scamper delightedly in a danger vortex of country roads, bee-coated bushes, and electric fences.
“Am I a bad mom?” I wondered to myself. “Why can’t I just let my kid be a kid?”
I truly want to let go, but how? Any tips? Because I do NOT want to be a helicopter parent, and in that moment, I caught a glimpse of myself with propellers firmly on.
Help … ?
One thought on “Helicopter S.O.S.”
I received several insightful comments about this post via Facebook. I wanted to include those here as well, for any other parents potentially struggling with this issue–to which I might add: Good luck, and hang in there!
AMBER: I think most parents have been in this situation at least once. I have found myself there more times than I can count with an ADHD kid. You are not a bad person or a mother for wanting a “near perfect” picture but at closer glance I’m sure it was… Two loving people got married in front of friends and family in a picture perfect backdrop with what appears to be perfect weather. I’m sure all that matters to them in the end is that they are married. If no one was injured and everyone had their health then… Well, you can’t ask for more. “Toddlers will be toddlers” is right and you just can’t fight it. I think most will understand. How to fight that helicopter urge? I’m not sure sista! When you find out please let me know. It’s a motherly instinct that will probably never go away. I’ve found wine helps!
JENNIFER: If people decide to have toddlers as flower girls (or invite toddlers in the first place) I figure they know what they’re getting into. As a toddler flower girl myself, I apparently started picking my nose during the ceremony and then calling out for my mom to clean it.
JENNIFER: This isn’t great advice, but here is what I do: I generally ask myself “What are the benefits to Faris and/or Others for me to divert his attention (or otherwise control his behavior)?” This gives me a moment to figure out if I am intervening more for my own ephemeral benefit or if there is an actual point. Hopefully I decide on the latter, so I can grab a glass of wine and kick back
JENNIFER: Forgot to add… I think it showed great judgment on your part that a parent scrambling after a toddler would have been much more distracting.
AMY: It is hard to let go, but keep practicing. That’s my only advice.
PETER: This is the perpetual struggle of any parent, finding the right balance of control and freedom. About the Sz running around thing, it depends on context. If they’re not disrupting the ceremony, no big deal. If they’re making a loud ruckus that might bother some sensitive people, maybe you could find a way to handle it discretely (a stern look or a lollipop can work wonders!). But I’d suggest to focus on predicting and preventing the awkward moment from happening in the first place, so you aren’t put in a difficult position (I know you can’t always predict everything). We have a 3yo and so mom will sometimes bring some play clothes to fancy/outdoor events to switch into, that way we don’t have to worry about helicoptering. The boy can play all he wants without fear of stains on clothes. If we’re going to some event we’ll instruct the kids to come back to us or stay with us and have them repeat the instruction so they might do it. As a parent I try to anticipate the normal craziness of a kid and do my best so I don’t have to worry about them, and put them in a position to succeed by themselves, but keep them out of harm’s way when you know they can’t recognize certain dangers.
TYLER: Oh this is nothing. In a wedding last year, I had to play piano and Keegan had to sing while our kids decided to invent a new game of dropping their toy cars loudly on the hard floor … if dagger stares could paralyze … /sigh.
LAUREL: I was at the wedding and I didn’t even notice they were running around. Maybe that was because I was there with two kids myself! I did think Sz was sitting so nicely at the table eating all her dinner. With a fork.
ME: Thanks so much for the comments, everyone. What I’m taking away is: It’s all in your perspective. If you’re Amber, Amy, Tyler, or Laurel, you’re probably focused on wrangling your own kids, and may not even notice such trivial distractions. If you’re the blissful couple, you’re focused on the ceremony, each other, and your love. If you’re Jennifer, you have a highly calm and cultivated inner dialog that tends to produce good results. And if you’re Peter, your parenting strategy reflects good game strategy. My tendency to tune to other people’s feelings needs to be dialed down now that I’m a parent. I need to focus on my kid, what I can affect, and the bigger picture rather than worrying about others might think. Does that sound about right? [Two which I received five very supportive “Likes”.]