Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Helicopters and Scraped Faces

Helicopters are cool.

In “Apocalypse Now, in one of the most awesome scenes in cinema history, a group of Army helicopters roars over the Vietnamese countryside in a raid on a beach village. The lead copter blares “The Ride of the Valkryies” as the squadron rushes into battle. In the midst of the chaos, Robert Duval as Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore growls, “I love smell of napalm in the morning.” With the explosions and the rousing score, this was manly stuff way beyond all the horrifying Old Spice commercials that haunt every bloomin’ channel on the television now. Don’t even get me started on the Russian gunships in Rambo and Red Dawn.

When I was a little kid, my friend Clint and I would ride our bicycles around the old Plano neighborhood. Clint, on his Huffy, assumed the role of uber-car KIT from Knight Rider. My Schwinn became the derivative helicopter version, Air Wolf. My handlebars bristled with gatling guns and ferocious missile launchers. It sounds silly now, but I had a great time pedaling around pretending to be a goofy sentient attack helicopter.

Fast forward about 25 years. There’s a new helicopter in town, and this one doesn’t have machine guns, napalm, or a rousing score. This helicopter prowls the edges of playscapes vigilantly watching for signs of danger. This helicopter doesn’t strafe enemy positions or drop commando teams. It prevents wood-chip face plants, the ingesting of disgusting things, and attacks from rowdy children. I have become Helicopter Parent, the least cool helicopter in the world.

I hover over Michael to help him play without getting hurt. His ambition outweighs his balance and judgment at 16 months old. Yet I always swore that I would not become one of those overprotective hovering parents. In the cozy world of theoretical parenting, my child would be free to play rough, take risks, trick or treat, walk to school by himself, and *gasp* maybe even ride a bicycle without wearing a full suit of Kevlar body armor! Now that the actual baby is here, it's really tough.

How do I not become the hovering helicopter after witnessing face-first falls into a piles of woodchips? The tears and the little bruised and scraped face can throw the best-laid plans of the theoretical parent right out the window. Maybe my new philosophy can be the unobtrusive just-in-case copter. Sort of like a news channel chopper.

If you see us on the playground, I’ll be the dad who is hovering nearby, but not too close. Little Mikey will climb his ladders, slide down slides, explore gravity, test limits, and, yes, occasionally fall. I’ll try to be near enough to mitigate the worst faceplants without suppressing the best of his experiences. This is why I’m getting some gray hair. This is why going to the Central Market playground, where I can get a glass of soothing red wine while he plays seems so essential. Now I understand so much. Mom and Dad, I am really sorry for all the emergency room visits when I was growing up.

This semi-cheesy coming of age parenting posting was brought to you by our sponsors Neosporin, Aetna Insurance, and Band-Aids.


Sarah said...

Well said. :) We're still in the race to see who gets the first ER visit.

shannon said...

This is one my favorites.

spider said...

i always wondered about that movie. let the enemy know we're coming ...