I was out with a few coworkers the other night and one of my friends, who is a school administrator, admitted to me that a first year teacher’s mother had called her to complain. Let that sink in, a 22 or so year old had her mother call her place of employment on her behalf. I was horrified. Remembering my own first year teacher days I would have been mortified if my parents had called my boss! As a parent myself, I realized that I never, ever want to be that parent. Ever.
This type of overreaching parenting style is commonly called “helicopter parenting”. I truly believe helicopter parenting is a very detrimental practice for both parent and child. For the child it makes growing up scary. If mom and dad take care of everything what happens when they aren’t there anymore? You will feel lost and unsure. For the parent it is exhausting and time consuming. Parenting should be rewarding and fun, not one great painful slog for 25 years. It is odd, but I don’t think any parents set out to be helicopter parents. No one says to a friend at the playground when the kids are five, “hey when Johnny is applying to college, I will write his essay for him” but somehow it still happens. The intention I believe was and is pure. Parents in the early and mid-nineties (and some even today) wanted to provide the nicest life possible for their children. They wanted to avoid any negative or stressful experience for their children, but as these children transition into adulthood it is a less than ideal outcome. We have the example above, as well as many more young adults that lack resiliency or the preparation needed to navigate the complex adult world.
I have the luxury of being relatively at the beginning of my parenting days. I have only been at it for about five years and continue to learn something new every day. My parenting philosophy has evolved throughout the years just as I and my children have. As I began my Montessori journey, I discovered Maria Montessori’s stages of development that really resonated with me as a parent.
Her stages are as follows:
Age 0-6: The beginning of childhood
Age 6-12: The completion of childhood
12-18: The beginning of adulthood
18-24: The completion of becoming an adult
At 12 it is our job to start training our children in earnest to get along with out us. Training them to be functional, productive members of the adult world. It is a long process that takes many years, but if we hold on too strongly to the idea that our children will be, in fact children forever, we are doing them a disservice. I have a hope that my children will live well into their nineties or beyond. If that is the case, 18 years is a fraction of a long life to be lived.
I absolutely adored the stage between 9-18 months. Babies are transitioning to toddlerhood and they are learning and changing daily. It is a remarkable, but brief time. I have fond memories of both of my children at that age, but I cannot dwell. I don’t wish for them to move backward and revert to that stage. I couldn’t and wouldn’t hold back my kids as they exploded into the land of the toddler with all the good and bad that comes with it. Children grow and change and each new age and stage brings more things to be excited about, more ways to see how capable and wonderful they are. I love watching my three year old learn to write and develop conversation skills. I swoon over being read to by my five year old. At the same time, I am excited to find out what 4 and 6 will bring us. What kind of new skills and abilities will come along and what new challenges will be there too?
From birth to adulthood, we are going through a slow progressive release of our children. It can be painful if you have held on too tight, but joyful if you understood it was happening the whole time.
Photo Courtesy of Kensie Kate