The other day a friend was talking about how her son was doing something on the playground that scared her, and how she really had to reign in her helicopter tendencies not to stop him from doing it.
I said that we all had those fears, but what separated us from the actual helicopter parents is that we have impulse control and the helicopter parents don't. The helicopter parents give in to their impulses for immediate gratification to control the situation, while the rest of us know that kids need to experience things like failure and gravity so they can develop into competent people, so we control the impulse to control the situation.
It just came to me in the moment, but the more I think about it the more sense it makes to me. It's hard not to control everything all the time. And it's hard not to want our kids to be happy all the time. But those of us who see the long game know it's not about being happy as much as it is about perseverance and knowing your limits.