Helicopter vs. Free Range: Dear Society, I’m on to you

Helicopter vs Free Range Parents: Why we're all screwed. Photo by nadezhda1906 on fotolia

It seems like a war has been waging for awhile, and for the longest time, I thought it was a war between helicopter parents and free range parents.

It’s not.

There’s another group involved that is pulling the punches and placing blame on each of our shoulders. And we fall for it every time. And we turn on each other again and again. And the war wages on.

And the third group sits back, almost gleefully watching us tear each other apart, completely void of blame and hiding in anonymity. And just when the flames begin to dissipate, they stoke them up to a raging inferno once again.

That other group is Society. It is anyone who does not know each of our individual situations and sits back pointing fingers in all directions, more than happy to tell us what we’re doing wrong from way up there on their high horses named High and Mighty.

Here’s an example. In early April of this year, a mother in Winnipeg allowed her kids to play in their fenced yard while she was in the house. Someone called Child and Family Services on the mother. They did not pop their head over the fence to ask the kids if they were okay or find out where the parent was. They did not check in on the mother to make sure she was okay, or alive. They did not care to learn anything on their own about the situation or the family as fellow human beings, but they were concerned enough to anonymously call Child and Family Services and open a case against the parent.

Because that’s what happens when you call something in to Child Protective Services. Everything gets reported and a case is opened.

I’m sure many just think that someone comes out, and does what you should have done (check to make sure everything is okay), then leaves, scaring the parent just enough to ‘smarten up’. Nope, when you call, a case is opened. That parent that you just want to ‘stick it to’ is now on record, and one wrong answer could mean a temporary or permanent loss of their child.

Do you love any kids enough to understand the severity of having them taken away and placed with strangers with absolutely no say in their well being? If you don’t, then imagine being taken away from your own parents when you were eight just because something was out of place.

Note: Child Protective Services plays an important role in removing children from harmful situations. I appreciate the work they do in protecting our kids when they are in abusive and destructive homes. In many cases, a home that allows their child(ren) to play in their fenced-in yard is NOT an abusive home. The good people at Child Protective Services who work tirelessly for our children’s well being are being called out for free range parenting issues when the limited time of those workers can be better spent following up on the ‘at risk’ cases and other issues that are piling up on their desks.

Before you make that call, know that some kids are removed from homes on the smallest thing. Ask yourself if you truly believe that this child is better off without their parent, or if you are just put out by something. NEVER call out of selfish, spiteful reasons, you are abusing the system.

Helicopter parents and free range parents have more in common then they don’t. We all love our children. We all want to see them be the best they can be and succeed. We are all trying our best. We all worry about our kid’s safety. We all don’t want our actions to land our kids in therapy. We all believe we are doing what is right for our kids.

And we are.

Every situation is different. Isn’t that what we are all told in the beginning? That everyone grows at their own pace? Yet what Society says to our faces contradicts what they are whispering behind our backs. They say that it is important to celebrate our child’s individuality, yet if we hover for one year too long, we are shamed. If we let them grow out of their shell a little early and back out of arm’s reach, we are neglectful.

Please, Society, tell me where to find this rule book that you follow. The one that you refer to when you tell us how to parent. The one that lists exactly what we need to do to keep the nosy, passive-aggressive types at bay. Don’t tell me it doesn’t exist because you feverishly cling to this mystical guide every time you pass judgement on all of us parents.

On one hand, we get the glares when we hover. We get told our kids will grow into adult babies with serious emotional and developmental problems. On the other, we back away from their play time and let them play on their own and figure out their own social space, then someone calls Child Protective Service on us. In the end, no matter what we do, we get the eye rolls.

Well played Society, well played.

Side note: Can someone please create an app that will monitor me and tell me when I stray out of the ‘acceptable parenting ratio’? Maybe it can monitor all of the know-it-alls in my vicinity and tell me when I am offending someone, then I can bend over backwards to satisfy them so they can have a happy day.

I will be honest, having Child Protective Services look my way would scare me. Not because I’m a bad mother. But what if I am doing one thing that isn’t considered acceptable? One thing wrong that is just enough to have them remove MY kids (MY life) from me. OR, what if a neighbour just decided that they didn’t like me and embellished the reality enough to make it sound worse then it is so it would ensure that someone would come out and talk to me. No one looks good under a microscope and I am not willing to gamble my kid’s well being on that. Just the thought of having CFS having the power to take my kids away from me and place them in a system that, in and of itself, is sometimes flawed and is not always the best choice for our kids, scares me.

So while we are over here being beaten into submission by Society for attempting to teach our children some independence, and the confidence they gain by doing some things for themselves, we get to read story upon story about how our children are doomed no matter what we do.

And the stories label us ALL as the worst type of parents.

We read about record-high suicide rates from kids who just can’t deal because of helicopter parenting. We read about kids who, left on their own, get lured and killed through online sites and apps. We read about mothers who now have a record with child protective services because they let their 10 year old walk to their friend’s house, six doors down.

And you, Society, still haven’t told us where this super secretive, awesome parenting manual that you are judging us by is.

So, helicopter parents, and you too free range parents. And even you, middle of the road parents. I’ve got news for you.

We’re all screwed.

Stop fighting each other, and push back against the societal standards (and the mysterious parenting rule book that no one will share) that are crushing all of us.

Good luck with all of that!

Sheri Landry
Sheri publishes, and writes at This Bird’s Day where she shares all of the thoughts in her head without the voices. Sticking mainly with content for Canadians, Sheri shares family stories, product information and anything that fits into her (and her family’s) daily activities.
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