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Helicopter mom? No way, I prefer DIY parenting

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iol lif may 17 sunrise

INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

It's the crack of dawn and Baby Mabel is still asleep, so Lorraine Candy decides to have a lie-in. Picture : Sizwe Ndingane

London - The noise from the kitchen downstairs has reached a worrying level. From under my duvet I hear children’s voices arguing, the microwave pinging and a towel being flapped repeatedly under the smoke alarm (a familiar sound in our house). The dog barks occasionally, but I refuse to move from my bed. My eyes are resolutely shut.

It’s 7.25 on Saturday morning. Mr Candy and I are having what we refer to as a “lesser-spotted lie-in”. It’s rarer than a leopard sighting or a TV schedule without Simon Cowell on it. Frankly, it never happens. But today Baby Mabel, nearly one, is still asleep. Instead of rising with the sun as normal, she’s thrown an infant curve ball.

This is what babies do. Just as you’ve let your dreams of proper sleep flutter out of the window like a rare butterfly, the little menaces allow hope to slip back into the bedroom.

Just as you’ve forgotten what it is to wake up less tired than when you went to bed, they let you feel the warm glow of an extra hour of sleep — 60 minutes that make you feel human again.

And then, dammit, you’re hooked — back to holding out hope for more shut-eye.

So you’ll understand why, despite the noise below from the energetic trio of trouble who get up at dawn, I decide I’m not going anywhere until the baby wakes up. For the love of God let me have just one lie-in this year.

My older children are five, eight and nine. Surely they can be left to their own devices for an hour or so? Just because they’re up, does it mean we have to be up, too? Hell, I name today Independence Day for all parents with over-fives.

I lie there under a pillow thinking this as the headline of the latest controversial parenting report flashes through my mind: “Are you mom enough?”, Time magazine’s piece on a mum pictured breastfeeding her strapping three-year-old asks.

“Attachment parenting” they call this. It sits alongside “helicopter parenting” on the naughty step in my mind, and is probably one of the reasons we’re raising what has been called “the tea-cup generation” — children so emotionally fragile they can’t cope with real life because they’ve been the centre of a family rather than simply part of it.

It seems therapists in the US are seeing more people in their early 20s suffering from anxiety, paralysed by any form of independent decision-making because mummy and daddy have made every decision for them.

Their childhoods have been so happy the real world is too frightening and they have failed to make it as independent adults. Who wants that I ask you? Shouldn’t we be breeding a stronger, not weaker generation, with survival instincts they can be proud of?

Anyway, I lie there having this ultimately pointless debate in my head as I try to excuse my ignoring our children by doing what I’m calling “DIY parenting” — this is where the children parent themselves and you remain relaxed and guilt-free.

Mine are all still downstairs, boisterously DIY parenting each other in a way that I find so very unrelaxing it calls time on my lie-in, even though Mabel is still tucked in her cot unapologetically releasing all kinds of comical wind as she snoozes.

“OK, what’s going on here then?” I ask patiently after wandering into the kitchen in the manner of Midsomer Murders’ Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby.

On the table is a note on Christmas paper covered in Santa stickers.

“Dear Mum, we are sorry we woke you up and started fighting. But it’s all OK now. We have cleared up the mess and made you breakfast.”

They’ve put flowers hastily cut from the back garden in a cup on the table and name places for me and their father. Technically speaking, they haven’t cleared up the mess. They’ve made toast by hacking at a loaf with a knife designed to cut butter (hence the smoke alarm) and tried to make a frothy coffee which sits cold next to the six-inch-wide slice of half burnt and oddly buttered piece of bread.

They stand next to the breakfast display with huge grins, their PJs covered in jam. “I am really proud of you all,” I tell them. And I am. And at this moment, I am more attached to them than ever before, and now I know they’ve got the survival skills to prepare the most important meal of the day. That’s what DIY parenting is all about if you ask me. - Daily Mail

* Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle magazine.

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