Confessions of a Helicopter Mom: Learn from Mistakes

by SwimSwam Contributors 3

October 09th, 2018 Lifestyle, Swim Mom

Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham

Parenting has taught me I am far from perfect. There are so many new emotional situations thrown at us with no instruction manual. Hopefully, we learn from our mistakes and won’t keep repeating the same ones over and over. I also believe it’s never too late to learn and strive to be a better parent.

When my kids were young, I felt that I had to talk to my son and daughter right before they swam. I honestly thought whatever I was going to say would make the difference in their race. Eventually, I learned that the coach was the person who was supposed to talk to them and mom didn’t need to add her two cents. What a relief when I figured this out and relaxed and enjoyed watching them swim.

Another thing I used to do, and thankfully gave up on — although way too late in the game — was standing with my kids after a race when the coach was giving feedback. I wanted to hear praise and I wanted to know what my children needed to work on. I didn’t understand that there was no reason why I had to hear these things. Instead, I was interfering in the bond with their coach. I wasn’t allowing my kids to take ownership with me hovering constantly.

Here are five things I learned from my swim parenting mistakes:

Let go. It’s their sport not mine. The more I got involved and questioned my kids about details of their swimming, the less they wanted to talk about it with me.

Enjoy the role of parent. The coach gets to coach. We as parents get to cheer, feed them, listen, encourage, pay the bills and give hugs. It’s a great job when you figure out the boundaries.

Ask your kids for input. Do your kids like it when you cheer? Can they hear you in the stands? Are you helping or hurting them when you offer advice? Let them talk and listen.

They need to learn from their mistakes, too. We want our kids to experience failure at age 13, not in college or later. If they miss an event, they’ll probably rarely do it again. But, if I’m telling my kids when to warm up and when to get out of the pool to head to the blocks, they won’t experience that failure and learn from it. I think I protect my kids from failure because I don’t want to see them hurting.

Help the team. It’s easy to criticize how officials, coaches or volunteer parents are running a meet. But, if we see something that needs improvement, whether it’s a slowly moving check-in line, or a disorganized snack bar, jump in and help out. The more parents help out and get involved, the less likely we’ll criticize. We may realize how difficult a job is and we’ll be too busy to complain.

What lessons have you learned as a swim parent?

Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog:

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4 years ago

So, so right!!

Paul DeCaprio
4 years ago

I find many helicopter parents were never athletes and lack an understanding of sports and participation. They don’t seem to understand that the coach may actually know what he or she is doing. It’s not something you can Google.

4 years ago

Beautiful! I had to learn many of these things too. And if it seems that they are heading to college swimming, let go even more. Don’t make an effort to know the times, don’t wake them up for morning practice, encourage teammates. I can’t stress the last enough – what happens when all the kids are doing better? Everyone is happier, the team relays are faster, their lifetime bonds are stronger, the entire team sees successes that weren’t possible without the encouragement, the coach feels accomplished and wants more….. endless benefits.