Hovering is a very tricky craft. Every parent hovers to some extent. We have to. It’s in the job description.

It’s our job to know when the science projects are due and to set the timer when piano practice begins. It’s our job to point to the chore chart and remind them of their duties and ask to see the homework. Would there be any neurosurgeons, rocket scientists or concert pianists in this world without parents asking questions, being involved, and double checking on their kid’s progress, wherever their interests take them?

But it’s a fine line, this hovering business. Hover too much, and children either don’t learn to do things themselves or they lash out. Or both! Hover too little and they let too much slide off their plates of responsibility.

I’d like to say my children practice the piano without being reminded, but they don’t. I’d like to say my children dive into their Saturday chores without being prodded along, but it doesn’t happen. I’d like to say everyone buckles their own seatbelt before my little “seatbelt check role call” ritual, but I’m not ready to let their little bodies fly through the windshield in the name of tough love.

I believe there is an optimal “hover craft zone.” Like the sweet spot on a tennis racket, just the right amount of hovering can help launch kids and help them soar. Only trouble is, that sweet spot is hard to gauge and it is different for each kid. Not to mention hovering is quite a workout for the parent, trying to tread air with nothing more than hope, prayer and a parenting book for support. I know I spend most days flying either too high or too low.

Don’t believe me? Here’s an example from yesterday:

“You need to practice the piano today.” It didn’t happen. (Too high.)

“I’m now your piano warden! I will not leave this room until each piece is practiced five times!” It happened, but we had a fight. (Too low.)

Yes, I’m still trying to find that balance. Some days I think I got it, and others I know I don’t. As long as I keep trying, right?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to pile the kids in the car for an outing and I’ve got to make sure their hair is brushed, their teeth are clean and there are shoes on their feet. Is that hovering too low? I’ve taken children to the store still in their pajamas, shoeless, with bedheads and all, and I don’t think they “learned a lesson.”  So as long as I use my “in the zone voice” I think it’ll be okay.

(And if they don’t get ready, I can always become the shoe/toothbrush/hairbrush warden.)

Margaret Anderson is a BYU graduate, returned missionary, free-lance writer and mother of five small children. Read more at  www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com