I’m a helicopter mom. I hover over my 5-year-old daughter, Sofia, watching and listening to everything she does and imposing my ideas and interests on her in hopes she’ll choose what I think is best. My friends call me “controlling,” but I thought being a helicopter mom meant you were being protective, loving, motivating and educating. I was dead wrong, and my helicopter made a hard landing.
I became conscious of my controlling ways when Sofia was preparing for a recent ballet recital. She’s been taking ballet since she was 2. At first, it was cute and fun seeing her bounce around in her tutu. As she got older, I felt she needed to take it more seriously.
One month before her recital, I watched practice from a little window in the dance studio. The dancers gracefully swayed their arms up and down like beautiful swans, but Sofia’s movements were mediocre and rather lazy. She looked as though she was just going through the motions. When we got in the car, I said to her, “If you don’t want to do ballet, tell me because I’m not going to waste time or money for you not to try your best.” She responded that she loved ballet. Maybe she was just tired from school and had a bad day.
The following week, the same thing happened. This time, I recorded the class so I could practice with Sofia at home. The next day, I cancelled my workout, skipped lunch and got a sitter to watch my youngest, Olivia, so I could learn this dance. When she got home from school, I enthusiastically said to her, “Guess what? I learned your dance for the recital! Let’s practice it after your snack.”
Sofia said, “No thanks, Mom. I just want to play.”
I tried again. “Come on, we can do it together. It’ll be fun!”
Sofia replied, “I don’t want to right now.”
I took a deep breath and, in a calm, stern voice, answered, “Sofia, if you want to be good at something, you have to practice and practice hard.”
In a whiny voice, she said, “I don’t want to practice.”
My patience was out the window. In a scowling tone, I said, “Sofia, get up. We are going to practice for 15 to 20 minutes and then you can play!” She started practicing with me, but she did not look happy.
Afterward, when she ran off to play, I felt guilty. I realized I had to let it go and resign myself to the fact that she would not be the best one on stage. For the next two weeks, I backed off and did not say anything to her about her dance. It was killing me, but at practice she looked so happy just enjoying the class and her friends.
Recital day arrived, and my helicopter crash landed. Sofia was amazing, proving that if I leave her alone and let her discover her own interests and gifts, she will be much happier and the best she can be.
It was difficult to accept, and it is still hard for me to watch her “try” and do things “just for fun.” I wasn’t raised that way, but I must remind myself that she is 5 years old!
Every now and then I’ll have a weak moment and hover a little more than I should, but I get to start over the next day and, hopefully, it will be “clear for takeoff.”
Daniella Guzman is the anchor on “Today in LA” weekday morning newscast, 4:30–7 a.m. A mother of two, Daniella’s column, On the Record, brings her views on parenting, fun family activities and her take on work-life balance. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @daniellanbcla.