The helicopter roars

11 Jul

Life would be easier if I just parented like my mom.

No rules. Very little supervision. A general free-for-all.

Instead, I choose to parent as a low-roaring, ever-present helicopter. Although “choice” may not be the best verb.

I am not sure who would choose this anxiety-ridden, overbearing path, but it’s mine. So I will own it and push forward.

And push is exactly what I had to do for the last 24 hours.

Four days ago, our neighbor invited JoJo to go to his lake house for the night. It was an innocent request. A thoughtful one. A mini-vacation for my youngest.

For most moms, this would be a no-brainer. Let the kid go and enjoy himself. We know our neighbors well. They are great people and fine parents.

For me, the decision was exhausting. I had a thousand reasons to say no. Let’s list the issues (and please try not to snicker until you get to the end):

  1. The one and a half hour car ride there. Dangerous.
  2. Snakes. Lakes have snakes. Dangerous.
  3. JoJo’s food allergies. Dangerous.
  4. Drowning. Two kids died in a local lake two days ago. Dangerous.
  5. Brain-eating bacteria lives in lakes. Dangerous.

I could list five more, but for the sake of brevity, we will stick with the five big ones.

Crazy. I know. I admit it.

But remember, I am in therapy. Lots of therapy. Years of therapy.

It’s making a bit of dent, though. After voicing my fears to my poor husband who has grown used to my helicopter roar and much begging from my super excited little dude, I did concede and allow JoJo to go.

Of course, the warnings list and rule list for JoJo was long. I barked the rules at JoJo: “You must ride in your booster seat. You have to take your own cereal and epipen. You need to wear your mask in the water at all times …” and on I went.

JoJo looked at me in total exacerbation. “Mom, I got this. It’s just one night.”

One long night.

He was right, though. He could do it. It was me I was worried about.

To help ease my anxiety, I called my sister minutes after JoJo hopped into the car for his one-night adventure.

Deb assured me that it was okay to let JoJo go.

“The dad has taken other kids to the lake before and brought them home alive, right?” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Then, there’s proof he can do it,” she assured me. “He’s got a good track record.”

That helped a little. The family did have three kids, and they were all still alive. Yes, I know, this is some crazy-ass reasoning, but it did make me feel better.

Shortly after they arrived at the lake house, the dad texted me a photo of JoJo and the other two boys getting ready to jump into the lake.

Anxiety heightened.

I started my chant: “Everything is okay in this moment.” I took deep breaths and said a few prayers.

At this point in my story, I am certain “normal” moms think I am totally bonkers. They may be right, but bonkers or not, I had to talk myself through this anxiety.

Later that night when the dad sent me a text asking if JoJo could have popcorn for the movie, I was elated. I called my sister, “They are out of the lake. I can sleep for the night.”

Popcorn and my anxiety dropped.

Deb asked if I was going to be okay now.

“Until the morning,” I responded. “Still have to get through one more swim in the lake and then the drive home.” And a few more other worries that I was too embarrassed to mention to my sister.

The good news is, I survived and so did JoJo.

He had an incredible time playing king of raft in the lake, snuggling up in his sleeping bag and watching Bolt and giggling with the other boys on the drive home. One more step to independence and growing up.

I know these are important moments for him. He needs experiences outside of me. I can’t protect him and hover over him for his entire life.

I do want a boy who is independent, who knows how to problem-solve and who can think for himself. I want that. But it’s hard. My helicopter engines don’t turn off so quickly or easily.

I have mastered hovering. I am good at it.

It’s not such a great thing.

I need to master letting go and letting him grow. But God, that’s hard.

I am hard-wired to worry. Those are not easy wires to cut, but I am working at it. And JoJo is helping. He understands a little.

After our first big squishy hug when he returned, he started telling me about his trip.

“I saw a snake, mom, — in the water,” he said.

My heart dropped. “Oh my God, what did you do? Were you in the water? What kind was it?” I peppered him with questions.

A little smile crept across his face as he said, “Relax, mom. I was kidding.”

Yeah, I have to try that.


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