I'm Not Hovering, I'm Playing

by Julia Pelly April 10, 2016

Saturdays are for me and my boy.

Monday through Friday we get the early mornings and the late afternoons and the dusky evenings, but we’re always apart in the middle of the day. Mid-day during the week is for his preschool teacher or his nanny or the woman who drives him from one to the other. During that time I’m tucked away at my office, thinking about him, but not with him. I love my job but it is a shame that my work means that our mid-day lives don’t overlap more frequently. Saturdays though are our day. We wake up early and let daddy sleep in. We cook scrambled eggy and silly pancakes and, after we eat, and clear the table and finally wake up daddy, we head to the park. Our first stop is the pond. We throw bread to the ducks and pebbles into the water. My boy sits in my lap as we watch the fish swim by and we name them one by one. After the pond we take a stroll on the path that ends at the playground, he’s been able to walk for a long time but he still often asks to be carried and I always oblige. As we race up the hill toward the play equipment, I follow my son’s lead. Some days we spend the majority of our time on the slides, others we spend our time in the sandbox or on the swings. As we climb dusty ladders or scoot through the tunnels together, I drink in my son, savoring every squeal and delighting in every laugh. Throughout our trip, and our day really, I’m rarely more than five feet from my son, often I’m much closer, hovering some would say. He sits on my lap as we build a sandcastle and rides on my shoulders as we run towards the swings. As I hold him, I think about how my interactions might be interpreted by others. Helicopter parents have the worst reputation, they don’t allow exploration or risk; they insulate their kids from disappointment and make sure that they live their lives in comfortably. When their kids grow up and head off into the world they’re unprepared, entitled and easily shaken. I don’t consider myself a helicopter parent in the least but I’m aware that many who just see my Saturdays might think I am and might begin to harshly judge the way interact with my son. I’ve seen so, so many social media posts and parenting articles that implore parents to stop helicopering and just let their kids experience and do and be. But those who believe that the holy grail of parenting is the ability to step away and let your child fall, are missing something mighty; that some of those parents they think are hovering aren’t actually helicoptering at all, they’re playing. During the week my boy has plenty of opportunities to test his boundaries and get out of his comfort zone. While I’m at work he plays with the other children at his preschool, he climbs and runs and tests out making friends. On Monday evening he plays soccer, and though it’s a new activity and he’s still a little shy, I encourage him to leave my lap and run onto the field. As the other kids gather into a circle he looks over his shoulder, pulling on his ear the way he does when he’s nervous, and I give him a thumbs up, letting him know it’s time to be brave. When we head to the indoor play center on rainy afternoons, I sit at a small table on the sidelines, working and watching as he explores and plays on his own. But Saturdays are our days - the days we run and laugh and play with abandon. I won’t give up my Saturday, up-close fun just so my son can scrape his knee or work out a squabble with another kid independently. For now, when he’s little and mine, when he wants to be as close to me as I want to be to him, I’ll savor every moment of our play no matter if others see it as hovering.

Julia Pelly


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