Summer Suburbs Playdate: To Helicopter or to NOT Helicopter?



We're about one week into said summer vacation.

My older child has already expressed her boredom and disgust at my attempts to entertain.

She's 4 years old, and asked me 3 days into summer vacation, "when are we going back to school mom???"

Me: "ughh."  "Fuuuuccckkkk."

So clearly, I'm brainstorming.  I didn't schedule enough summer activities.  I didn't enroll in enough camps.  I didn't plan enough vacations.

I'm experiencing post-summer stress disorder.

And now, it's just turned into panic.

This week, I was asked on a playdate by the moms who's kids go to school with my kids.  Thank gaawwwdd.

Day of FIRST SUMMER PLAYDATE.  It's hot as balls outside.  Humid as hell.  The last thing I want to do is sit on some park bench, shriveling like a prune, burning like a hot dog in 100 degrees.

Before I step out of the car and into the park area - I'm always trying to guage the moms' behaviors.  Are they chatting on the actual playground- holding their kids' hands?  Are they starting a conversation, and then stopping it because their little ones have split up on the playground?  Or are they all chatting on the park benches and letting the kids run free and wild?

And it's the last one for these ladies.

They're chatting it up on the park benches - letting the kids roam free.

So I shall follow suit for this playdate.  I don't want to be the mom with the stick up my ass.  I don't want to be the mom that misses out on playdate gossip because I'm being a helicopter parent. Oh wait, what? You don't know what that is?  Read it here.

My mom is still a helicopter parent -and I live like 3,000 miles away from her.

That was not a jab.  She can't help the helicopter in her.  And because of that, I may, or may not be part helicopter.

Back to playdate.

We were all having fun, until my older child decided to go potty by herself, without telling anyone - namely me.  And basically, I've never been more scared in my entire life.  I thought I lost my kid.

I saw her playing, and in a split second - I didn't see her.  Famous last lines of every mother, father, caretaker that's ever lost their kid.

It played out like this...
I looked up from mommy convo on the park benches to do a playground scan and check for my kids.
Little one - check.
Big one.
Big one....?
Big one??!!
Holy fuck where the fuck is my kid?!!!!!!!!!!

I looked on the big kids playground - didn't see her.
My eyes darted to the little kids playground. Scan. Nothing

She wasn't playing ball with the other kids.

Now I'm freaking out. 

I'm calling her name, walking through the playground. I can feel the panic in my steps and hear it in my voice.

I'm calling up slides, in favorite hiding places...........Nothing.

Now, my breath is fast, panic- has turned to terror.  Sheer terror.  I'm starting to do everything fast, fast, fast.  My heart is pumping, and I'm thinking holy fuck I just lost my kid.  I just lost my kid.  Is she ran over in the parking lot? Did some sick fuck just take my kid away?  How couldn't I see it?  Why was I talking to everyone and not paying attention?

I tell the ladies, "I'm going to check the bathroom."

I'm calling her name in the bathroom -the mother currently in the bathroom gives me a look like - how do you not know where your kid is?

I look under the last stall - and there are my daughter's white, pink and blue Puma light up sneakers.

I bust in that stall like the PO-LEEESE.  I'm like, "Mommy was so scared - I thought you were lost! Why didn't you tell me you needed to go potty?! I love you - you scared me so much.." 

She tells me, flatly and plainly, "I had to go potty mom."

I tell my daughter how terrified I was that I  lost her forever.  I think I said that same line like 20 times.
Again, she tells me she's sorry, it's okay, she just had to go to the bathroom.

We walk out of the bathroom together, and one of the other moms looks at me, and grabs her chest, and mouths, "Thank God."

Relief.

Why did my 4-year old think it was okay to go to the bathroom by herself?  Did she tell me, and maybe I just didn't hear her?

I am always feeling the push-pull of being or not being a helicopter mom.  My personality - truly lends most people to think I'd let my kids babysit themselves by age 5, walk around with flower crowns and cook their own dinners.  It's no secret I'm a little laid back - pretty hippi-ish in the whole child-rearing department.  Like, the kids will be just fine.  Everybody should be free as a bird.  Open and free to discover fun and disappointments without much parental influence.

But then - there is another side of my personality that can be slightly controlling.  Like I sometimes want to hover, hand hold and helicopter to really unhealthy levels.

I sometimes see a fall coming - and reach out to save.  Sometimes, I see a fall coming - and let my kids fall - because I know in falling, they will rise smarter and better for it.  And sometimes, I don't see a fall coming, because my attention is elsewhere, on purpose, so my kids know what it feels like to be un-watched.  To be a little responsible for themselves.

And sometimes, I catch them at the wrong times, and let them fall at the wrong times.  And really, I haven't figured out what's better - to helicopter parent or not.  Like everything in life, I imagine, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.  But whether it's fly by the seat of my pants parenting I choose, or helicopter hovering I will never be that close again, to losing my kid.

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