Charlie Bonks His Head without Bubble wrap

[twitter]If I had been outside it wouldn’t have happened. If I had been supervising my kids play like I usually do, Charlie wouldn’t have gone down the hill on a scooter without a helmet. But I wasn’t there. And he did.

We went and visited some friends for the Thanksgiving weekend. Their kids run and play at will, so when their son lead our boys outside to play while we waited the turkey’s arrival – I let them go. It was a quiet cul de sac, there were places to explore, balls to toss, but I wasn’t worried about wicked traffic (like at our home.)

So I let them go outside. And Charlie face planted. Hard. Had I been there, it wouldn’t have happened.

The garage door was opened for the playtime, someone saw a scooter and bikes and who knows who suggested it, but soon after Charlie found himself on a scooter heading down a steep street without a helmet or wrist guards. In the unfamiliar territory and speed, Charlie bailed, and his head was the first to hit the pavement.

I had just come out of the shower and had thought to myself that I should go check on the kids. They had been outside for a long time and I just needed to poke out and see what was what. That was when I heard Charlie screaming.  My rage instantly rose.

‘I knew it. I knew it. I knew it. Had I been there supervising, it wouldn’t have happened,’ I thought.

When kids go off on their own, it never ends with them coming home smiling after an adventure well had. No, it always ends with someone swinging a stick, tripping someone, or a face plant. Free play always ends in tears. So my helicopter parenting reflex engages and I hover to referee and make sure simple, thoughtful, common sense rules are followed.

“Slow down!”

“Stop standing on top of the monkey bars!”

“Get down!”

“Wait your turn!”

“Pay attention!”


These are the things that frustrate me about life with kids; when I see them running down steep rocky paths on hikes, all I see is a tripped toe and a face plant. I fully understand kids are resilient and serious injury is not likely to occur, I just don’t want to deal with the stress of what happens when a kid hurts themselves. So I tug back on the leash. I put on helmets, wrist guards. I remind them to be safe. I helicopter.

Last week Charlie took a friend’s foot to the face at school when he blindly started walking too close to bars where kids were swinging. He wasn’t paying attention and … tears.

As I walked down the stairs to survey the injuries, I took deep breaths. While my sons tried to blame their friend (it was his toy, they pleaded), I reminded them they need to be responsible for their choices.

They know the rules are to wear helmets. If someone asked them to do something without a helmet, or if they wanted to do something without a helmet, they should have known to a) ask for a helmet b) say no thank you c) come inside and ask for a parent’s advice.

While I try to give my kids the tools to make proper decisions, they don’t always do it. So I hover. I practice helicopter parenting – in a common sense way. I sit on the driveway while they ride bikes in the cul de sac because they still need to be reminded to wear a helmet, watch for cars, and play safely.

We got lucky this time. A big bruise and scrape was all the damage Charlie suffered, but the “what if” still lingers over me. It happened because I wasn’t there.

I don’t want to bubble wrap to protect them from hurting themselves, I really don’t. But until my kids prove themselves worthy of making smart decisions, and avoiding instances where they could rub their face into pavement, I’ll lurk. I’ll linger. I’ll be a small helicopter.

Your mileage may vary.

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1 Comment

  1. Doug D October 14, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    I believe the corollary of this may be:
    If they never get to make decisions, how are they to learn which are good ones?
    I am not arguing, I genuinely believe that all sides of this have merit. I like for people to have rules, but I also believe that small mistakes can help kids to avoid big ones.

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