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July 9, 2012

Am I a Helicopter Parent?

We took the girls to a new bouncy house play place on Thursday, and it was great!  There were probably 10 or 12 inflatables, spread out nicely with plenty of room to run.

The girls’ eyes just lit up when we walked in, and frankly, so did mine.  I love to jump and bounce, and there was a two-story slide that looked like all kinds of fun.  One of the first questions I asked was if parents were allowed to play.

I let the girls explore most everything on their own while I snapped some pictures.  After a few minutes, I sent Daddy to the car to put away the camera, and I got in on the action.

We had such a fantastic time together!  I chased them through the inflatable obstacle course.  I held them up so they could shoot basketball goals.  I raced them up the ladders and down the slides.  And…probably their favorite…I had them sit in the middle of the bouncy while I jumped around, playing popcorn. 

There weren’t many people there when we arrived, but over the course of the next hour, it really began to fill up.

And I began to notice I was the only parent playing with her children.  Actually, most of the moms didn’t even seem to be paying attention to their children playing.  Most of the parents were sitting at tables in the middle of the big room, some chatting, others playing on their phones.

Did I have to run and jump and play with the girls? 

No, not for the most part. 

The only activity I wouldn’t let them do alone was scale the two-story slide.  (It involved a steep [albeit inflatable] ladder, and it was very easy for them to slip down.)

And, once things got a little more crowded, I felt much better being close by when there were older children playing.  There were several boys, in particular, who were rough-housing (whose mamas I can assume weren’t paying attention?), and it would have been easy for the girls to get knocked down or stepped on.

Looking back, I’d say that the girls played by themselves (with Daddy and me watching closely) about 25% of the time.  So about 75% of the time, I was squealing right along with them.

I know the girls had a fantastic time.  At 3 ½-years old, I feel like I augmented their play, not hindered it.  And when they needed me – on the big slide or to guard against some rough-housing – I was there to allow them to still have fun.

But…given that I was the only parent of the twenty or so there who had her shoes off…I had to wonder…was I hovering???


Johanna Baker said...

No. You were being a good parent. The people in the middle not paying attention to their children were being inattentive. I hate that. I don't generally get in the jumpy houses with the girls (although, sometimes I do, just for fun!). But I ALWAYS follow them around those places. They can be dangerous, and other people's (unattended) children don't always follow the rules. I like to make sure my girls are safe. And that bigger kids aren't shoving them around. And that they are careful around other people's babies.

Did you know that Gray broke her front tooth falling out of a bounce house? And, I was standing right there!

Hover away, my friend. If more parents were like you, the world would be a better place.

Amanda said...

Nope you were doing great. I like to get in those things and play with my kids too. Not to judge the other parents though. Sometimes, I keep one eye on my kids and let them play independently and they are in a safe area and I get to have some grown-up social time. Other times, I take them without a playgroup and I follow & or play with them. At 3.5 I followed a lot closer. Now that they are a year older, I sit back and watch more. They are starting to interact with other kids at this age and I want them to have that. But I still always have at least one eye on them!

cat said...

Nope, but as they get older one need to give them their space, some of the time. Yes, you can still play along, but somewhere, say after 20 min or so, tou need to give them the space to find their own space and connect socially on their own.

Olusola said...

NO! You were creating memories and building them to becoming a good mom like you. DOn't ever doubt following your heart and being a kid again around your kids.

Carrie said...

No! Your kids are at an age where they enjoy playing with you so you should play with them while you can. I probably wouldn't get in a bounce house because I am so klutzy I would probably hurt myself or another kid, but for sure my husband would get in!

Aaron said...

We have a bounce house place too, and while I don't play along with my guys, Aaron does. Even if they have their older siblings there with them. I don't consider him a helicopter parent, just someone who is hands on and enjoys stuff like that.

Marcia (123 blog) said...

Well, I must be in the minority but I am very hands-off at those kinds of places. I watch with my eyes but I don't get into it unless physical danger is iminent.

Also, is it an american thing because I've never seen SA'n parents on the equipment with kids before.

But D is much more of a helicopter parent than I am.

ACTUALLY, I should blog :) We had a big laugh the other day with friends of ours - he and I are the same, and she and D both hover :)

I love that you had a ball too!

Mandy said...

Not at all, as everyone else has said you're just involved. I nearly kill myself trying to keep up with them. After about 45 minutes I need a nap!

We have a two-story pirate ship that nearly kills me climbing to the top with two or the three girls. Going down is fast and unwieldy, and that is the only ride I insist I go down with them. I've gotten friction burns from that slide and I can't image how they would fair!

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Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

I think it says a lot about you just because you asked that question!

I find these situations challenging myself. Kids need to have space to connect socially and develop body awareness but nobody wants an injury. I tend to be very risk-averse but I've found that my anxiety can really limit my children. For example, we have a very high climbing wall at our neighborhood park. When I first saw it, I thought I would NEVER let my twins up that thing. Turns out, my husband takes them to this particular park when they are together and they long ago mastered the wall. (They are so proud!) My fear of injury would have prevented them from learning just how physically capable they are!

So, in these kinds of situations, I try to ask myself if the off chance of them getting hurt outweighs the benefits of letting them play on their own? Usually, it doesn't.

My girls have never been to a place like that but I am relatively hands off.

Barbara Manatee said...

Sometimes I hover, sometimes I sit kinda depends on what they're doing, who else is involved and my energy level - ha!

That being said, I WISH I could get into the bounce houses with my kids...they are SO much fun...but the place by us doesn't allow adults in unless your child is under age 2 and needs help. :-(