"Why do we need to label everything?" the comment sections on these articles always seem to ask.
It's a valid question. And yet, when I started a personal blog with a family focus back in 2012, I wanted to find a snappy name that said something about me and my role as a parent. I chose the name Co-Pilot Mom. Yep, totally chose to label myself. But I really feel this is a good analogy for the way I look at parenthood.
I spent several years as a preschool teacher before becoming a mom. I held on to my belief that children, even at a young age, are capable and deserve our respect. I feel that, ultimately, our children are the captains of their own lives. (That's why I chose to give my sons captain code names on my blog.) As parents, we are their co-pilots.
I know it doesn't seem like it in the early years. Babies rely on us for everything; parents are flying those planes full-time. Yet all the while, during all those repetitious, mundane tasks of feeding and changing and helping them settle to sleep, our children are learning from us.
Before long, we hear the confident toddler say "I do it myself!" and woe betide anyone who argues with that kind of determination.
Of course, in the event of an emergency, the co-pilot parent can assume control of the aircraft.
That mom you saw carrying a kicking and screaming 3-year-old to the car after she chased him down in the busy shopping mall? That might have been me, assuming command of a flight that had gone way off course.
As my young captains have grown, I gave them side-by-side flying lessons. I schedule activities and plot course changes when the washer breaks or we get hit with the flu. I can navigate their interactions with their friends. I guide their public adventures by reminding them to say excuse me and thank you and to not eat all the M&M's from the shared bowl at the party.
They are their own people. I cannot solve all their challenges or win their battles or make sure nothing terrible ever happens. I cannot live their lives for them; the best I can do is show them how I do it.
When they crash... and they do, they will... I will be there to help them chart a new course.
My oldest is a now a tween. I see that my years of co-piloting are not infinite. In the coming years, I will be out of his plane. I foresee a move to the role of air traffic controller, where I will try to keep an eye on his airspace, while letting him take the controls of his present, his future.
One day, this co-pilot will retire. I will use all my accumulated miles and sip a fruity drink with an umbrella on a remote beach somewhere. Or, more likely, I will kick back on my kid-stained couch and not have to watch the latest Pokemon episode for the umpteenth time. Either way, I will always treasure the time I got to be their co-pilot mom.
If you had to give yourself a label, what would it be? And remember, if Platypus Mom does happen to take off, you heard it here first.