Yesterday, Per Christian and I were invited to join a friend of ours on a lovely pirate-esque sailing trip along the southern coastline. Pappa P unfortunately had to work, so we sadly left him at the harbor with a quick kiss and a small (but brief) twinge of guilt.

(For those of you visiting Gran Canaria, it was a lovely day on the water that I would recommend to any family with young children. Check out the photos and link below.)

At one point of the day, I was talking with another mother of a two-year-old who had become fast friends with Per Christian. The kids were happily running from side to side of the ship’s deck, enjoying the sway of the waves and the homemade sprinkler system on board.

I was keeping eagle eyes on Per Christian, fearing that he’d get caught by the tipping of the boat and end up over the edge. I was on one side of the ship and my friend was on the other, guarding each railing in case of any imminent toddler disasters.

The other mother, however, was much more relaxed and suggested I let the kids alone and not be “one of those helicopter moms.” She said it quite nicely without malice, and I really didn’t take offense. But it did get me thinking…

Where exactly is the line between smothering and protecting my son? Surely, making sure he didn’t end up overboard was a far cry from hovering over him like a helicopter. I didn’t interfere with his playing, but I did make sure it was as safe as possible.

I have the same dilemma whenever I’m at the playground with Per Christian. I always stand off on the side and let him raise havoc and make friends on his own (even though half the time I’m holding my breath, hoping the big bully he fearlessly befriended doesn’t wallop him). But does that mean I shouldn’t help when he wants to walk across the tightrope and can’t manage on his own? If I help him the first few times and teach him how to place his feet and how to balance, then maybe the next time he’ll manage on his own. Right?

This article about a mother not helping her kids up the playground slide set off a huge chain-reaction in the blogosphere world. I largely ignored the drama because I hate when people think they have all the answers and all the time in the world to preach to others. But the underlying point of the article may be valid – that “saving” our kids every time they’re challenged doesn’t actually help them in the long-run.

So it seems like my choices are to be criticized for being a helicopter mom, hovering and suffocating my kid, or criticized for being distant and forcing him to learn on his own, even if it means getting hurt in the process.

There’s got to be a balance in there somewhere, right?


I can literally see my mother at home in South Carolina, reading this post online and muttering to herself, “Well, Marguerite, you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

Moms are always right. And that, dear readers, is the moral of this story.


As promised, here are just a few photos (too busy helicopter-ing to play photographer) from the Cruceros Timanfaya. I give you fair warning about the poor quality of their website, but the great service and kid-friendly activities of the pirates on board definitely make up for it.

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