The Accident That Proved To Me Helicopter Parenting Is Not The Right Move

Why I no longer hover (quite as close) at the playground.
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Images by Vanessa Tierney for Mini Magazine

Images by Vanessa Tierney for Mini Magazine

I'll admit it: I'm a bit of a helicopter parent. Of course, I have my limits. If Sloan talks about a kid not sharing with her at school, I'm not about to have a confrontation with the parents in the pick-up line, but I've always been overly cautious when it comes to her safety.

A few weeks back, my mom accompanied me to the playground with Sloan and watched as I carefully guided her (aka hovered obsessively) through every benign, kid-friendly obstacle. At one point, I was helping her climb a ladder I considered to involve a pretty tricky maneuver when a child that was no older than one year, flew past Sloan and me. My mom was ready with a smirk on her face that said, "I hope you're proud of yourself." 

It was that same evening that my parents, G, and I were standing around the kitchen island having cocktails while Taylor Swift blared. Sloan twirled around, did some sort of jump move and lost her footing. Before I knew it, she'd face-planted on the wood floor. The thud I heard was sickening and made my stomach drop immediately. Any parent knows it's going to be really bad when there's a lull before the crying starts. When she did begin crying, she was screaming in pain and, horrifyingly, blood was pouring out of her mouth. 

I immediately scooped her up and grabbed an ice pack and towel. I had no idea if her lip was punctured or if she'd knocked her teeth out. I rocked her while she sobbed for what felt like an eternity and eventually, she calmed down. We realized the blood was coming from a big cut in her lip, but that her teeth were still intact (though she wouldn't let me check if they were loose). When I put her down that night, I was still shaking from all of the adrenaline pumping through my body. In four-and-a-half years, it was hands-down the worst injury she'd sustained and I felt miserable. But rather than dive straight into helicopter-mode after the fact, the fall served as a reminder that I can't always been there to catch her. Being an overly worried parent was denying Sloan the freedom and opportunity to hurt herself, learn from her mistakes, and build character. I'm unable to protect her from every pain; I can't stop her from face-planting, getting cut from a sports team, or having her heart broken.

She's such a strong girl, resilient and capable in ways I didn't fully give her credit for. It's unclear if her teeth will fall-out as a result from her fall (they've turned a grayish color and we have a dentist appointment lined up), but it's safe to say we're both stronger from it. And I no longer hover (quite as close) at the playground.

Images by Vanessa Tierney for Mini Magazine

Images by Vanessa Tierney for Mini Magazine