Why Free-Range And Helicopter Parenting Labels Suck

Forget About Labels, Just Keep Being a Great Parent!

Why Free-Range And Helicopter Parenting Labels Suck

Recently, I read parenting articles by two of my YummyMummyClub.ca colleaguesHailey Eisen wrote about how she is a little nervous to become more of a free-range parent, while Julie Green defended her own helicopter-ish style of parenting, with good reason.

My question is this: why do we think we need these ridiculous parenting style labels at all?

Who decided on these craptacular label names, anyway? "Free-range"? Seriously? Are our children a clutch of chickens, clucking around pecking the ground? That's certainly what comes to my mind when I hear that term. "Helicopter parents" is no better. I don't like my good intentions as a parent being compared to a giant, noisy flying machine that is propelled by dangerous rotating blades causing forceful gusts of wind in their wake. Neither of these labels are flattering, but what's worse is that inevitably what they accomplish is to leave parents feeling inadequate and insecure. As parents, don't we already worry constantly that we're screwing it all up? Do we need labels to help us with that? Do we need parents that belong to the other label comparing us to them with smug superiority? It all just feels a bit clique-ish and exclusionary to me.

It also seems odd to me that labelling has become so frowned upon in today's anti-bullying world, yet somehow our parenting styles are still actively subjected to these useless labels and we as parents are complacently buying into them. Parenting is busy enough without trying to figure out which label we belong to, which label we should belong to, while also trying to defend our own unique parenting style, because none of us really belong fully to one style or the other, anyway.

When did it become so uncool to just simply be parents? Why aren't we satisfied with "just" doing what we think is best for our children, whether it's swooping in to help them when WE think they need it or letting them run wild when it's appropriate and good for them to do so? We know our kids better than anyonesometimes they need some free-range backing off, and other times they need a helicopter rescue. As Julie pointed out in her post, what about the families that have a child with an invisible special needautism, diabetes, ADHD, epilepsy, even children who have been adopteddo we need to visibly see their emotional or developmental special need to condone one form of parenting as an acceptable exception for that certain child, but not others who have no special needs?

I personally don't give a shit if I'm a helicopter or a free-ranger. I'm both and I'm neither and I'm perfectly happy with that. I parent in a way that I feel is best for my child, within the confines of what I feel are risks I can tolerate as a mother and my child can tolerate, given her history, maturity and intelligence. I don't worry about screwing it upI've already accepted that I will, in one way or another, but I don't need some silly label defining for me or the world exactly how I'm screwing it up. I don't believe in perfect parents and those who do are setting themselves up for disappointment.

As far as my parenting goes, I have no problem taking my child to the park and parking my butt on the bench to let her free-range to her heart's content, but some free-rangers would say that I should let her go to the park alone or with a friend. So where do we draw the line? The labels themselves are entirely subjective to the person assigning them. What is free-range for me might be helicopter to another. I would also waste exactly zero seconds jumping off my park bench and helping my daughter if she was getting pushed around by another kid on the playscape, yet some free-range parents would hang back and let their child try to work it out for themselves. Try Google-ing definitions for both of these styles of parenting and you'll find a buffet of explanations to choose fromnot all of them even the same in meaning. See where the problems lie here?

The bottom line is that we need to get past this ridiculous labelling game we're currently courting and just get on with the actual parenting part. We don't need to subscribe to a quasi-defined label, we just need to follow our hearts, minds, and our children's best interests.

Hi! Thanks for reading my post. If you'd like to read some more of my thoughts on parenting, try this post about a conversation we should all have with our sons, or this post on what I think about "parenting problems."

For more on parenting styles and labels, check out "Are You A Free Range...Chicken?"


Our Family's Top 8 Adoption Books For Kids

And The Reasons Why We Love These Great Stories

Our Family's Top 8 Adoption Books For Kids

I love books, and I know I'm not alone in that regard. From time to time, I am asked to recommend good adoption books, as they are obviously important educational tools.

So, I've decided to go public with my list!

I've provided a detailed review of our top four picks, and then a brief description of the remaining four below.

1. A Mother for Choco, by Keiko Kasza  

Things We Like About This Book:

  • Talking animal characters, of course!
  • Choco, a colourful bird with no family but a desire for a mommy, encounters various animals and asks them if they are his mommy, to which they all respond "no" based on their lack of matching Choco's appearance. This is a wonderful way to exemplify society's erroneous belief that families must look the same!
  • Choco meets a bear, who not only doesn't look like him, but already has three other animal children—a pig, an alligato,r and a hippo—who obviously don't look like her, either. This is a young child-friendly example of trans-racial adoption.
  • The bear asks Choco what a mommy would DO, rather than what she would look like, and when Choco describes what mommies do, the bear offers to do those things and "adopts" Choco into her family. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the focus on parenting ACTIONS rather than physical appearance—again, another fantastic illustration of what trans-racial adoption is all about.
  • At one point, when the bear offers to be Choco's mommy, Choco is surprised and declines, stating that the bear doesn't look like him at all. The bear's response—"My goodness! That would make me look very funny!"—and the illustration of the bear with Choco's yellow feathers, blue-tipped wings, striped legs, and puffy cheeks makes my daughter laugh every time. It also teaches her (and us) to love, respect, and appreciate our differences as unique, and to not yearn to look like one another.

Potential Concerns for Some Readers:

  • There may be a concern with Choco and the animals (other than the bear) believing that a mother and child must look the same. Sadly, this is a reality in much of society and I think it is a realistic example that draws the reader in, only to discover that this belief is actually incorrect, and that it is really what a parent doesnot what a parent looks likethat makes them a qualified parent.
  • Some people may not like adoptees being represented as animals, or an adoptive mother represented as a bear. I have no issue with it because the book is intended for very young children who may not easily identify with, or be amused by, human characters.
  • There is no mention of Choco's birth family, either before the bear adopts him, or after. Good adoption parenting means lots of discussion and focus on a child's family or families (if the child had foster care or multiple caregivers) prior to adoption. These families are a vital part of a child's emotional and physical make-up and should not be obliterated from a child's life.

2. How I Was Adopted, by Joanna Cole

Things We Like About This Book:

  • My daughter asks to read this book over and over again!
  • The story is narrated in the first person by Samantha, a young girl who was adopted, which helps children relate to her.
  • Samantha asks questions about the reader that promote conversation, like "Were you adopted?" and "Do you know how old you were when you were adopted?"
  • The text uses positive adoption language, like "I was adopted" instead of "I am adopted."
  • Samantha relates some of her genetic traits to her birth family of origin. "Some special traits about me were there when I was born - my blue eyes, my curly hair..."
  • Samantha explains adoption in a unique way: "Some children stay with the woman who gave birth to them. Some children do not. Some need to be adopted." I like this because it avoids pointing any blame or decision-making towards the birth mother/family.

Potential Concerns for Some Readers:

  • There is an explanation of where babies grow and how they are born, with illustrations. I prefer the term "uterus" over "tummy" or "belly," but not all people do. The explanation of birth"The uterus squeezes and squeezes and the baby comes out into the world!"may prompt more questions than some people are comfortable answering, depending on a child's age. There is also an illustration of the baby inside the uterus and another of the baby being born, but there is no text mention or illustration of vaginas. Nonetheless, if your child is like my daughter, be prepared for them to ask lots of questions or study this part of the book with intensity!
  • There is no discussion of birth family after Samantha is adopted, aside from the mention of genetic physical traits.
  • There is no discussion of negative feelings about any part of the adoption journey, except a brief statement that it was hard for the adoptive parents to wait for their adoption. While I do think it's a good thing to have positive adoption books available, especially for young children who may not be able to verbalize that their "big feelings" of sad or mad stem from anything adoption-related, I also feel there should be at least some mention of the myriad of feelings a child of Samantha's age would be feeling about her adoption, such as sadness about not being able to know her birth mother. I know my daughter would personally relate to a book that shared both negative and positive feelings, because that's the reality of adoption.

3. We Belong Together, by Todd Parr

4. The Family Bookby Todd Parr

Things We Like About These Books:

  • All of Todd Parr's children's books are written with such simple words, yet they are packed with powerful messages.
  • The big colourful pictures that resemble a child's drawings appeal to kids, and his quirky humour injected in the least expected parts of his books still make my daughter laugh at parts she's read a hundred times!
  • The illustrations in We Belong Together depict many different kinds of familiesgay, biracial, single-parent.
  • The text focuses on some things that adoptable children need or want, and represents the adoptive families as being able to provide some of those things, repeating the message "We belong together because...," which helps children who were adopted feel that they belong in their family.
  • The text also provides that the child is giving something to the families, which is the reality of adoption. It is not simply the adoptive family giving everything to the child in a charitable waychildren who were adopted give so much unknowingly to their families, as well!
  • The Family Book is a great accompaniment, because it discusses all the different types of families in our society and makes every single one of them acceptable and normal and nothing to get jazzed up about. Which is exactly the kind of message I want my daughter hearinglove and acceptance!

Potential Concerns for Some Readers:

  • Again, this is a "positive aspects only" adoption book. It is very hard to find books that deal with the negative aspects of adoption, and while we often have discussions with our daughter about her negative feelings about adoption, books that focus on the positive parts only are not a bad thing to help support a positive outlook.
  • Again, there is no mention of birth or pre-adoption foster families.

To avoid making this post a book unto itself, here are a few more adoption-related books with just a quick description of each, that kids may also enjoy:

5. What is Adoption?, by Sofie Stergianis and Rita McDowall 

Provides a great explanation of the process of adoption. This is a book that I have bought for my daughter's classrooms and school library.

6. I Wished for You: An Adoption Storyby Marianne Richmond

A cuddle-time story for little ones that addresses trans-racial adoptees not looking like their parents. There are numerous mentions of God's involvement in the character's adoption.

7. A Sister for Matthewby Pamela Kennedy

A good book for bio kids who will be gaining or have a sibling via adoption.

8. Over The Moon: An Adoption Taleby Karen Katz

Adoptive parents' description of their wait, excitement, and travel to adopt their child internationally.

Please note that this list is only a fraction of the many adoption books in publication! I have included these because they are our family's favourites.

Do you have a favourite adoption book? Tell me about it below!

Thanks for reading my post! If you enjoyed it, you may also want to check out how I came to be a mom, or you might want to know some other places to find adoption information.  



10 Easy Ways To Inspire Curiosity This Summer

Plus, a yummy recipe to help embrace your child's curiosity

10 Easy Ways To Inspire Curiosity This Summer

How To Encourage Your Child's Curiousity

No more pencils, no more school books.

Are you worried your kids will lose their natural sense of curiosity once they leave the daily academic environment of school?

You're not alone!

My daughter is curious about everything — her questions never stop! Many parents worry that the summer months will create a lack of interest in learning, but learning doesn't always have to be about sitting in a classroom with textbooks!

Here are ten great ideas to help you keep your kids at peak curiosity levels while having fun over the summer vacation and beyond:

1. Create treasure hunts

Tailor your hunts specifically to encourage your children to practice what they've learned at school over the past year, or what they will be learning in their next grade. Have them read clues, look for specific items that can be measured like 1/3 of a cup of rice, or a book that is between 20-30 centimeters in width. Both of my kids love a challenge and we have often made a competition out of this activity to see who collects all their treasures first to win a prize!

2. Find camps that offer activities to promote curiosity

If you can't be at home with your children, find camps or caregivers that provide robust programs to keep your kids learning every day. My Baby Girl is going to camp at the Toronto Zoo this year, because she loves learning about animals. Art, science, music — there are so many camps available to nurture your children's existing interests or create new ones.

3. Try new foods

Nothing makes kids more curious than tastes or textures that they aren't used to. Sure, some picky eaters will not be open to this idea, but if you can convince your children to even sample new recipes you've never made before, it can open up a great conversation about how our senses work, what causes spicy or sweet flavours, where these foods are eaten regularly, how the ingredients are made and all kinds of other educational topics. Food is not just for nourishment, it's also a great conduit to conversation and we have some of our best chats — and funniest moments — around the family dinner table at our house.

4. Go on adventures

Traveling by planes, trains, or automobiles fuels a child's question mill. If that kind of travel isn't feasible, visit tourist attractions, local parks or conservation areas. Decide ahead of time on a theme — colours, things that start with all the letters of the alphabet, numbers — use your imagination or your children's report cards to give you ideas about what to look for and talk about on your adventure.

5. Books, books, and more books

Make reading a daily activity and visit your local library weekly for new books to include with your children's own personal favorites. My daughter can read, but needs exciting motivation to do it, so a weekly trip to the library to pick five books that she must read is my way of stimulating her interest and her curiosity with the incredible world of reading.

6. Try new sports or fun physical activity

An active body inspires an active mind. Sure, your children may love swimming, but have they ever tried basketball? Encouraging and even demonstrating an effort to try new sports helps your children see that new things can be fun, while also learning about the way their bodies have to work or stretch to do activities they has never done before. Baby Girl loves swimming and dancing, so while she also will get her regular summer swimming lessons, she is also heading off to sports camp this summer where she will learn basketball, volleyball, field hockey, and do some ice skating! I'm sure there will be tonnes of questions each day as she tries new things!

7. TV, movies, and video games

Yes, really! Put a moratorium on electronic entertainment that is mindless or violent and focus on entertainment that provides some sort of educational component. There are so many options available — not all electronics are bad — so work with your children's love of electronics and find some educational entertainment to help them keep learning while they're having fun.

8. Assign chores

Sounds like a bummer, right? Well it's not. Even as young as two, children learn so much from having household responsibilities, so work with your kids to make a list of age-appropriate chores that will help them learn about and understand their world.

9. Let your children drive the bus!

Every so often, I ASK my daughter what she's curious about, and sometimes the answers surprise me! Once I know what she's curious about, it's easier to come up with fun activities to incorporate her interests and help her find answers to her questions. Or, I simply sit back and let her fire up her own curiosity. Most children have an innate curiosity for the world around them, so leaving lots of free time for them to explore their own imagination is one of the best ways to keep them learning — be sure to answer all of their questions without judgment, or gently redirect them to answer their own questions!

10. Make something in the kitchen

Thankfully, my daughter adores helping out in the kitchen. With so many educational benefits — counting, measuring, reading, understanding cause and effect — she is earning academic bonuses without realizing it. Plus, Huzbo and I get to hang out with her and have fun while making something delicious!

Minute Maid joined forces with the Canadian Living test kitchen to create some fantastic kid-friendly recipes, and what better way is there to foster curiosity than in the kitchen?

Math, science and literacy all factored into the experience when Baby Girl and I recently made these cool Minute Maid Fruit Salad Ice Pops. She measured, she poured, she read, she counted, and she even learned about displacement while we spent quality time together and created some delicious treats that the entire family enjoyed eating while discussing what other ingredients and Minute Maid juices we will try the next time we make them.

The hardest part about this recipe for both of us was waiting the five hours for the ice pops to freeze! Baby Girl had a blast scooping the slushy concentrate out of the container and into the measuring cup and was thrilled that these ice pops would have a lemon flavour — one of her favorites! She snuck a few samples of the concentrate before she realized it was just a bit too strong without the water — another lesson learned while exploring her own curiosity!

  Fruit Salad Ice Pops


1/4 cup chilled Minute Maid Frozen Lemonade Concentrate
1-1/4 cups water
30 blueberries
20 raspberries
10 slices kiwi
5 strawberries, quartered

  In a glass measuring cup, whisk together Minute Maid Frozen Lemonade Concentrate and water until smooth; set aside.

  Place 3 blueberries, 2 raspberries, 1 slice kiwi and 2 pieces of strawberry into each of 10 3-oz ice pop moulds. Pour in lemonade mixture to fill. Freeze until firm, about 5 hours.


  • Depending on the size of your ice pops, you may need to vary the amount of fruit and liquid needed. We used ten 3-oz ice pop moulds for the measurements below.
  • To achieve the prettiest presentation, get as much fruit as possible into each mould.

Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total time: 5 hours 15 minutes
Makes: 10 servings

PER 1 SERVING, RECIPE MAKES 10 SERVINGS: about 26 calories, trace protein, trace total fat (0 grams saturated fat), 7 grams carbohydrates (1 gram dietary fibre, 5 grams sugar), 0 milligrams cholesterol, 2 milligrams sodium, 59 milligrams potassium. %RDI: 1% calcium, 1% iron, 28% vitamin C, 3% folate.

Obviously, Baby Girl has already been asking to make more, and why would I say no? Nutritious ingredients and a fun learning experience disguised as "helping Mommy" is a natural fit for my daughter's inquisitive and energetic character. We can't wait to discover what lessons Baby Girl's curiosity teaches us next when we try out some of the other recipes from Minute Maid!

Thankfully, it's not a hard task to nourish a child's curiosity. With a little time and effort, you can keep your child's mind open to learning all summer long!