Sunday, December 7, 2008

To Hover or Not to Hover

that is the question. I am not talking about every moment of the day, helicopter parenting. I am simply wondering about my role and responsibility at birthday parties.

Driving home from the birthday party of a good friend of S & C's (I am good friends with his mom, too), I realized that I spent much of the festivities hovering around my guys, trying to head off any potential crying fits, meltdowns, screaming, and the ilk. I actually didn't hover the entire time. When the science lady was doing her fun schtick, playing with dry ice, making alien goop, etc., I huddled tables away from the kids, chatting with another mama. I suspected that the fellows would be excited by her program and would pay attention-- so much so that I did remind them to be good listeners when they first sat down. Is that too much? I know as audience members they often like to ask lots of questions, comment frequently, and generally narrate what is going on as they did with yesterday's magic show. I didn't want to stifle their engagement in the science show or dissuade them from asking questions, I just wanted them to make sure they didn't dominate the scene and let the lady do her gig. Too controlling?

It was during the physical part of the party that I stepped up my surveillance on the boys. At first, jumping in the two large bouncy houses was exhilarating and kicking around the numerous balloons strewn around the floor exciting, but at some point, the kids turned this combination into a competition-- collecting balloons to capture in 'their' bouncy houses, striving for a larger number than the other bouncy house crew's. Suddenly, pushing, clawing, and blocking got thrown in the mix, and I stepped up and stood behind one of the bouncy structures, peering through the black mesh, and prompting my sons to remain in control.

There had already been a few tears shed by S at the start of the jumping, accusations of elbows thrown, an ankle stepped on. I started to have flashbacks of two past birthday parties: one at a kids' gym where C fell apart so completely that I became so out-of-sorts, completely unsure how to parent in the moment (still so traumatizing--for me-- that I have yet to write about it) and the second in a karate place, where some of the party goers became so frenzied by the action, the instructor lost all control of the scene and two boys ended up in fisticuffs--so much for karate teaching discipline.

C and S behaved mostly well at today's event, but as some of the action ramped up, I began imagining the past party scenarios. I asked them to leave the bouncy house, sit for a bit to the side, and got them juice. They didn't protest, happy--I think-- for a drink and a rest. When one of their friends came over and asked if they were allowed to play more, I nodded my consent and off they went, back into the fray. I again positioned myself on the periphery of their chosen bouncy house, suddenly aware that most of the parents were hanging out at the tables. I was one of the few standing, totally following the action at close range.

And I can't help but wonder-- Am I too controlling? Do I not let my guys cut loose and just have fun? I know that I have stricter standards of behavior that I expect from the boys than it seems that some others do, but this doesn't bother me. My folks were stricter than many other parents and I think my siblings and I all turned out well. So while I don't want to spoil my sons' fun, I do want them to be polite, well behaved, and considerate of others. I am just not sure of the line of appropriately vigilant and over-the-top, crazily involved and controlling....


Anonymous said...

Wow, your timing is amazing. In two minutes, Z will be at a birthday party. I cannot be there (you'll need to read my blog all this week to see why), and J is supervising. We got a sitter for B because Z needs a lot of support negotiating birthday parties. He falls apart at them if they aren't handled just right (by us, I mean). It is just too overwhelming. I don't see other kids having these issues, and although I worry I am seeming too hover-y, I also know that he is hyper-aware of these social situations and needs a lot of help learning how to handle them.

Lone Star Ma said...

Personally, I find the whole "helicopter parent" labeling frenzy just as offensive as labeling parents neglectful for dumb stuff. I think parents usually know their own kids and the level of involvement they need. We all wonder all the time, but I expect you are being the mom your kids need.