I would like to introduce you to Emi and Neumann. Neumann is the first mother-raised infant Japanese Macaque at the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines Iowa in over 20 years.
My family first encountered these two on family vacation in early July. You couldn’t help but notice that Emi was extremely protective of Neumann, she basically controlled his every move.
We watched them for a good thirty minutes and we did not see her let go of him once. Hard to tell, but he doesn’t look very happy to me, what do you think?
Then I overheard a high school – aged girl say, “I bet she is exhausted at the end of the day, and I thought “yes, yes I am.” You see, I have three kiddos myself and have realized that it is extremely easy to fall into the overprotective or even the dreaded overbearing parent just like Emi.
As we watched them in their habitat, we could see other monkeys that wanted to interact with Neumann but couldn’t because of Emi’s protectiveness. It is so eye-opening when you start to think of this from the human perspective. How many times am I hesitant to let my kids go to someone else’s house because I don’t know everything about their parents? How many times do I not let my son do certain things because I don’t think that it is “safe” for him? Am I holding them by the arm, not letting them experience life? Where is the line between keeping our children safe and letting them problem solve on their own?
The term “helicopter parent” is thrown around a lot now. This parenting style is basically hovering over your children so that they have a hard time making their own decisions or making it in the world outside of your house. When I was thinking about this blog, I came across this article from the Huffington Post that talks about what this parenting style does to your children. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5-ways-to-tell-you-were-raised-by-helicopter-parents_us_5609de6ee4b0dd850308e260
Sometimes I know I do things for my children because it is easier and faster for me just to do it myself. My sister-in-law has a saying, “I will not do anything for my child that they can do themselves.” This means picking out their clothes for church, filling their glass of water at the dinner table, tying their shoes for the hundredth time, even though you are already five minutes late. These are just small things, right? Plus, I am only going to do this while they are still young. This is what I tell myself. How about you? What are you telling yourself? Soon, the little things become BIG things that they really should be deciding for themselves. As parents we need to have our eyes wide open and notice the longer term impact of our choices and how we parent.
So, this is what I have started to do. First of all, I am trying to be more aware of the things I do for them that they could be doing on their own. They can sort, fold, and put away their own laundry. They clean up after supper, and load the dishwasher. I know that in the past I do these things on my own because I don’t want to hear them complain or fight another battle before bed. But the time to start the battle is now, not when they are 17 and soon getting ready to leave the house. Second, I let them make their own choice and walk away. Yes, you read that right, walk away. When your son wants to take the training wheels off his sister’s bike to teach her how to ride without them, smile, give encouragement and walk away. Lots of life lessons are going to be learned. Be there for them to patch up the skinned knee, wipe away the tears, and give hugs. You are still their parent after all. Lastly, children can understand reasoning pretty early in life. When my daughter asks me a question such as “what happens when…” I will answer her back, “what do you think will happen?” I am trying to start the problem- solving process now, because I want my children to be successful, productive adults that can play happily with the other Neumann’s in this world.
Mindy Hadley, on behalf of the Quakerdale Team.