I am the mom who hovers.
I am definitely not the hovering type. Here I am at the park, hoping there will be a moment when I can sit on a bench while she goes through her rituals; carefully watching her face for signs of distractions that will require action on my part.
We play in ways where I have figured out a secret passageway into her world. She can block me out in an instant, especially in unfamiliar places. She has her own method to explore and accept her surroundings. I can only watch that part, and I don’t really mind anymore.
“Can she play with me?”
Damn it. Now I have to explain to this hopeful little girl why my daughter is not going to pay any attention to her. It’s never a simple conversation.
After a brief explanation I turn to Teghan. “Teghan, can you say hi?” Nope. She’s in a loop. She’s found her point A and point B and she is too busy running between those two points to notice we exist right now. I get it, but that’s not a reason that makes sense to most children.
“Doesn’t she listen to you?”
Sometimes. But why are my parenting skills being judged by a six year old who has just informed me that her mom and baby sister are asleep in the car? After another five minutes of grueling interview questions on Teghan’s social behavior and lack of discipline, the girl is finally satisfied that my daughter is not going to be her playground buddy and she runs off.
If only it could be as easy as sitting and watching my daughter play with another child.
Alone on the playground at last. A rare and precious gift, spoiled only by that family at a distant picnic table. Not because I expect everyone to disperse the moment we arrive, but because Teghan has spotted them, too. I can see the way she is looking at their table. There is food on that table, which means I now know where to stand for successful interference. And, as predicted, after every third loop between point A and point B and a trip down the slide- she is running full speed toward that table.
That table never leaves either of our minds.
To make matters worse, the kids from the table are coming this way with bags of chips. I’ve already had to pick up six empty Capri Suns (that I suspect were theirs) off the ground so Teghan wouldn’t try drinking out of them. The kids eye us suspiciously and head for the swings. I know what Teghan is thinking.
The kids think she wants to play, but she is so fixated on a particular chip bag that she thinks nothing of walking in the path of their swinging feet. I’ve seen her walk through active swing sets without flinching a dozen times, but this is their first sign that something is amiss.
The fact that it happened in the first place is evidence of my true non-hovering nature. I’m always willing to test the waters and adopt a “let’s see what happens” attitude. Frequently she surprises me with an OCD move. Just when I think she’s grabbing for something she can’t have, it turns out she just needed to move it slightly to the left.
“Teghan come over here!” I find myself needing to repeat this every time she so much as pauses to look in their direction. The good news is that she listening; the bad news is that I can feel the adults at the table judging me. “What is wrong with this woman? She’s following her daughter around like she’s a baby. She’s telling her to come back every time she gets five feet away, and she obviously doesn’t want her child associating with our children.”
I briefly consider getting in my car and taking a nap. It seems to be working for the other mom. Sure Teghan wanders, but I bet I could get in a power nap while she is distracted at that family’s picnic table. If there is enough junk food, Teghan will stay in one spot eating for a decent length of time. How long do you think it would be before they came over to wake me up? Then I remember that we walked here.
Teghan is back on the slide, content with eating a chip she found on the ground. Gross. I feel only slightly embarrassed about taking photos and videos of her trips down the slide. How many videos does this mom need of her daughter going down a toddler slide? The answer turns out to be five. Hovering moms do that kind of thing, too. As if every little moment in their child’s day is too amazing not to document.
What the other parents don’t know is that all this footage will give me a break from hovering at home later. The more time she sits next to me on the couch laughing at home movies on my phone, the less time I have to spend keeping her away from unapproved bathroom activities. Even that requires some hovering, but I have come to accept that some things will get accidentally deleted and tweeted.
It doesn’t matter. I don’t know these people. I don’t want to explain, I just want to have a nice afternoon in the park. And we do. These are just fleeting observations and bouts of self-consciousness that come and go. Teghan runs her loops and taps on the exact same spots every time she does her happy gallop between slides. She takes off her shoes in the sand and licks everything you would never want your child to lick. I’m pleased that she manages to keep her clothes on, and she doesn’t make a single attempt to lift up anyone else’s shirt. Maybe she’s finally taking a leap of faith on that whole “everyone has a belly button” theory.
And I hover around her, recording each event.