When the triplets enrolled in preschool, the teacher had several questions for me. One in particular sticks out in my mind still -- almost 14 years later.
"Mrs. Shrader, can your children cut with scissors?" I stared at her blankly. Scissors? Scissors? I am certain that my voice rose in my eagerness to point out that I had three three-year-olds in my house, we didn't OWN a pair of scissors. How would I know if they could cut? Cutting was dangerous.
|Three toddlers ready to ride!|
My lack of scissors was probably not the only clue that forced our fantastic preschool teacher to consider me what is so popularly called today a helicopter parent -- a parent that hovers over their children in an attempt to protect them from harm, pain, failure.
I read one of those ever-popular "10 Things...." posts yesterday that admonished parents not to hover. The post said children need to fail, learn, try again. And I absolutely agree. A generation of young adults who have never had to work to succeed, never had to overcome adversity, etc, DOES make me shudder. But I feel a bit prickly at the mention of hovering. I feel a need to explain why sometimes hovering is absolutely necessary; I feel the need to educate; I feel the need to scream that sometimes you have to hover.
Shoot. Maybe I just need to hug all the special moms out there and say emphatically, yes, I get it, you have my permission to hover. You have my permission.
|I am close by...hovering to ensure my boys don't fall off their new tricycles.|
Because honestly, you can not even understand the meaning of the term hovering mother until you meet a special needs mom. Until you have watched a little boy work and work and work to make one foot move in front of the other, please do not speak to me about facing adversity.
Benjamin was three when he started using a little walker to get around. He worked so hard to make it move but his strength was completely exhausted getting his leg to lift and move his foot forward, he had nothing left to move the heavy stabilizing walker. So his physical therapist got him wheels to go on the legs. Oh, now he could MOVE.
I was proud. I was so proud of him. And blast it, if I didn't try to not hover. So I was standing in the yard when he took a walk down the sidewalk. Two steps. Three steps. But on the fourth the little wheel on the front got lodged in a crack. Benjamin's momentum didn't stop even though the walker abruptly did. He fell flat on his face. Children with Cerebral Palsy often do not have the automatic reflex that typically-developed children have of putting their arms out to catch their fall. Benjamin's lip took the force of his little body meeting concrete.
I may have hovered closer after that.
|Play date with our new walker. Minutes after this photo, he would tumble on the sidewalk.|
At our first preschool parent-teacher conference, the teacher reprimanded Claire for not sharing. I think I laughed out loud. Not share? This child has shared since the womb! How can that be possible?? Apparently, my darling daughter, would sit in front of Benjamin and Mason with her legs open in a V, keeping their toys in the middle of the V so that the boys could reach them but no one could take them. Do you understand? On the floor, Mason could crawl but Benjamin could just sit. If someone took their toys, they could not retrieve them. She innately knew this and protected their stuff. I shook my head and explained this to our teacher assuring her that Claire would NOT be punished for this lack of "sharing".
Not only do I hover...I apparently instilled hovering in my daughter.
But really, if I am honest, I will tell you that if I could I would hover more and more and more. These children of mine battle real battles -- Benjamin has endured more than 10 surgeries. Ten. In 16 years of life, he has had an average of one surgery every 1.6 years.
Mason has had less surgeries and yet still far more than one child should have to have.
And Claire and Cate have spent days and days without the attention of their parents, helping in ways young girls should not even KNOW how to do and serving their healing brothers in amazing ways. If I could protect them from further adversity, I WOULD. I absolutely would.
So excuse me if I want to protect them from the pain that life is going to throw at them. I think they get that. They understand pain.
Forgive me if I want to hover as my trio choose colleges, want to date and make life decisions. They have been through so much. They have hurt so much. If I could protect them from more pain, I am sorry, I would. I would hover and intervene and protect them with all the strength of my Mama Bear self.
Basically, I could not care less about that list. If I could, I would hover MORE.
The realization that my helicopter might not be able to be in two or three locations at once -- as they choose colleges -- struck me hard this weekend. How will I keep them safe? How will I ensure the sidewalks have no cracks?
As they grow, I have also learned that I can not protect them from the pain of people letting them down, disappointing them and rejecting them. They are even now -- though living under my roof -- moving out of my helicopter's range for protection.
I feel completely helpless. I feel sad and mad and scared. I feel defensive and protective and the need to move to an island somewhere and protect from further pain.
But the truth is my kids will hurt. They will be heart-broken. They will make mistakes. They will fall down. My hovering will not prevent that.
Sigh. Oh deep deep sigh.
|Family pic while on a college tour...|
Don't expect me to step away from the helicopter. I will be where they need me to be at a moment's notice (obviously this could be hours depending on their college choices). It is what I do. It is who I am.
But hear this, for it is far more important: I long ago placed my children under the one who hovers perfectly. I trust in the one who loves them more than I. I trust in the one that wrote their stories before I even knew they would be. He alone can protect them. He alone can keep them from harm. And He alone can heal all brokenness -- bodies, mind, heart.
"He [God] will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." Psalm 91:4 (NIV)
And I love the Message translation of this verse:
"His huge outstretched arms protect you -- under them you're perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm."
What a blessing to serve the ultimate helicopter parent! Praising God for his arms of protection; for his comfort in my helplessness; and for his validation that hovering is not always a bad thing.