When in doubt, throw it out!

IMG_8753

My daughter’s first-grade class. I cannot throw this out.

While my daughter was home for a few days after our summer vacation—before she returned to college out of state—she helped me organize our lives.

She got me started, which according to her is the “worst part.” I’m now ripping through stacks of papers and throwing things out without fear.

After she cleaned out our “junk drawer” and purchased a drawer organizer at Target, she focused on me. She’d pick up a piece of paper and ask, “Shred or recycle?” We did that for a couple hours and I sort of got the hang of it. Before, I was overwhelmed with making decisions on every little thing. It seemed like way too much work. I’ve broken through some barrier and can toss out old papers with the best of them.

 

IMG_8749-1

From the mouth of babes 🙂

I’m tackling the four-drawer metal file cabinet in my office which has tax returns and bank statements going back into the early 90s. It finally dawned on me that I don’t have to keep my returns pre-2010. Or bank statements, nor all the paperwork to close escrow on our first home—which was several decades ago—and no we don’t own the house anymore.

Why do we hold on to every important piece of paper—or the question is why do I? I have to say that on two instances, my large file cabinet has saved the day with much-needed slips of paper.

 

I’ll confess I’m having trouble throwing out my kids stories they wrote from Pre-K through middle school. Their paintings, Iowa tests and report cards will retain a place in the file cabinet. I don’t know why, but I’m not ready to let those things go—yet.

IMG_8750

A first-grade story by my son.  I think it’s a keeper.

 

When the project is done, I’ll feel 20 pounds lighter in spirit.

How do you keep yourself organized with the volume of paper in our lives? Do you keep all your kids art projects, papers and report cards, too?

Advertisements

How to say good-bye to your college student…

University of Utah in Salt Lake City

University of Utah in Salt Lake City

I cannot believe my daughter will begin her senior year of college. I will take her to the airport soon and once again say goodbye after spending almost two weeks together. She began her college journey three years ago. Here’s what I wrote about our final goodbye:

Last week I wrote about 7 tips for parents on Move-In Day. At the end I wrote: “I made it through the day without tears–mostly. It was a long, busy and tiring day. When my husband and I stopped for lunch — alone — and I realized that we were truly alone — the tears ran down my cheeks. I wiped them off and prepared myself for battle for the next stop at Target. When, it’s time to say good-bye — well, I’ll tell you how that goes another time.”

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

So, how did it go when we said good-bye?

We had planned to stay until Sunday. Move-In day had been Thursday. We wanted to be around for a few days in case she needed us. She wanted us there on Thursday, but by Friday — not so much. It began to make sense for us to leave a day early. We didn’t want to hang out and wait to see if she wanted us around. It didn’t make us feel good and we weren’t enjoying ourselves exploring the city that much. We had a long drive ahead of us, too. So we went out for an early morning walk Saturday and talked about how we’d let her know that we felt it was time to leave.

She texted us at 7 a.m. Saturday. 

text from Kat

text from Kat

Okie dokie.

It was time to say good-bye. We walked on over to her dorm. I took a deep breath. I said a prayer to be strong.

“Do not cry. I can do this,” I repeated in my head.

She opened the door, I wanted to say something profound and loving. Something she’d remember — but I said nothing. My husband said a few things and I nodded my head.

I opened my mouth, my voice cracked and wavered. At this point, I cannot remember what I was trying to say.

“Mom! Mom! Stop it!” she said. “Don’t!”

She held my face in her hands, like I was the child. “It’s going to be okay.”

A view  during our walk on campus

A view during our walk on campus

Tip 1:  Make it short and quick.

Bill and I walked out of her room into the bright cool air that is Utah. We walked all over campus for two hours and I felt much better — amazed at what a strong beautiful woman we had raised.

Sage Point dorms at U of U

Sage Point dorms at U of U, the athlete housing for Winter Olympics 2002.

Here’s an update:

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 6.39.38 PM

Remember It’s Their Sport–Not Yours

 

34614_1556248309940_4797539_n

My son and teammates in the pool.

We all know helicopter parents are out there. Some of us may have been former ones ourselves or we may know friends who are overly involved with their kids. We see them at practice, meets or games—whether it’s soccer, baseball, football or swimming. They hover in the classrooms, waiting to talk to the teacher every day before and after school to make sure their child is adequately challenged and grades reflect that.

Here are two excerpts from articles I found helpful, the first written by a youth football coach and the second from a sports coaching and parenting expert.

From GridIron Now, A youth football coach’s advice for ‘helicopter parents’ By Dan Hancock:

It’s not the first time in my many years as a coach that I’ve dealt with a “my kid only” parent. On this occasion, though, I was amazed at how truly focused this parent was on his child only and not the team. I’ll skip the gory details and say that I removed the family, and consequently, the player from my team.

My job is to do what’s best for the team. This may mean putting a player into a position that he may not like if it helps the team. It also may mean removing a player from the team if effort is not given or respect not shown to the coaching staff.

I’d like to offer parents with kids playing youth sports advice from a coach’s perspective: Be supportive. Period.

Of course you want to see little Johnny score every touchdown, but it takes a team to get in the end zone. If your son or daughter is not playing in the position they want, or receiving the amount of reps that either of you find sufficient, be supportive. Work harder.

Talent and ability never goes unnoticed. Talking about ability does little come game day. Playing time is earned in practice.

katswim2

My daughter racing.

Here is an excerpt from David Benzel’s article that explains the only thing parents need to ask of their child. He’s an author and founder of Growing Champions for Life. Go check out his website and blog. He has so much valuable information and books and workbooks to order for you and your kids. USA Swimming has partnered with him to help swim parents, and he works with many other sports, too.

There’s No Strings Attached Parenting in Youth Sports

To see it we’ll have to go back to the early days when our child was in T-Ball, Guppy swim class, Tiny Mites football, or half-court basketball. In those days, we gave our parental support with no strings attached. It was an unconditional gift given for the sake of an experience we wanted our child to have. They were not expected nor required to do anything but have an enjoyable time playing the sport they loved.

Then things changed…

As we invested more time and money we expected them to learn and improve. And when the dollar figure got high enough or the miles reached triple digits, we expected maximum effort and peak performance every time!

Unfortunately for our children, what starts out as a gift suddenly appears to have strings attached and comes with the message, “You must perform well for me to feel good about the money and time I’m spending.”

kat medals

My daughter with her first medals.

Finally, here’s an excerpt from a helicopter sports article I wrote for SwimSwam this week:

 

What could possibly go wrong with ensuring our children’s lives are smooth and saving them from costly mistakes? Studies show that kids of helicopter parents often suffer at school and in the workplace. By hovering over our children and never letting them learn from their mistakes or face consequences, we can stunt our kids’ growth. Here are traits children of helicopter parents may share: acting out in the classroom, anxiety, difficulty making decisions, lack of “adulting” skills, and struggling in college and at work.

I’ve never heard of a parent who wants their kids to fail in life. That’s obviously not our objective when we help finish homework and drive forgotten lunches and papers to school. We’re just trying to help with the best intentions.

We should take advantage of the pool and swim team as a unique world within itself where our kids can practice skills for “adulting.” There are many life lessons inherent through years of swimming—we just need to let our kids experience them.

Kids gain so much from sports—from time management, good sportsmanship to being physically fit. They also have fun with their friends. It’s wonderful to encourage sports, but we need to always remember it’s their sport, not ours.

Do you know any helicopter sports parents? What have they done that bothers you the most?

16265230_10212368415589292_2041607070826671774_n

8 and under girls holding the team’s trophy after breaking a team record.

10 Things I Noticed About Summer Vacation

 

IMG_8570

Waffles on our morning beach walk.

 

ONE
I was stressed the day we left for vacation. Had I packed everything we needed?

TWO
VRBO disappointed me. The condo was way smaller than it looked online. I didn’t realize there was only one window that looked out into a parking lot and no ocean breeze because it was on the wrong side of the building.

THREE
After three days, I relaxed. We aren’t moving into the condo for good. It’s only a week and we can make the best of it. With my glass half full, I can say it’s clean, comfortable and we love the location a block from the beach.

 

IMG_8649

The marina in Santa Barbara.

FOUR
We are outside every day enjoying the fresh air. It’s such a big deal to be out of the AC of home where it’s 115 degrees and more.

FIVE
Sailing was exhilarating, breathtaking and yes—filled with fresh air.

 

 

20690345_10214444990502367_2920839137554863189_o

Sailing.

SIX
We love Carpinteria because of friends. Dinners al fresco, walks along the beach at sunset, and swimming are all better with friends. We’re fortunate to have best friends who love to entertain and cook for us. We’re even more fortunate they didn’t get tired of us after a week.

SEVEN
Morning beach walks are the best. They’re better than my walk around the neighborhood and park at home. Waffles the pug loved his beach time and playing with new friends.

EIGHT
I loved having my daughter join us for vacation. I hope it’s a tradition she continues for years to come.

NINE
Swimming helped me relax. After swimming masters with my friend and her daughter as a coach, I felt good for the rest of the day.

TEN
Why don’t we live in Carpinteria? Why was our vacation so short?

IMG_8584

My daughter lap swimming.

The End Result of Helicopter Parenting–Ruining Your Kids’ Lives

 

Angus and Kids

I tried not to helicopter my kids or Angus.

Millennials are having trouble “adulting” because of us—their helicopter parents. My daughter scolded me this morning, “You are totally a helicopter parent, you do realize that?”

I corrected her and explained that in some ways I was—and I meant that in the past tense. I’ve worked hard to NOT helicopter. I’m well aware of the mistakes I’ve made and I’ve tried to let go of my bad helicopter tendencies. The stakes are too high if you want to raise independent adults.

There are several articles today about what happens when parents helicopter over their children’s every move—from unruly kids in the classroom to anxious, young adults who lack “adulting” skills, have messy apartments and have trouble at work.

In 11 Signs You Had Helicopter Parents & It’s Still Affecting You Today you’ll read about 11 problems helicopter parents have inflicted on their kids.

“While it’s totally possible to escape from a less-than-ideal parenting situation unscathed, the way you were raised almost always affects, to some degree, how you feel and act as an adult. This is especially true if you grew up with helicopter parents. You know, the kind who were way too hands on. If yours “hovered” and coddled you 24/7, it may be showing up in the form of self-esteem issues and stunted “adulting” skills, among other things.

“Now, I’m not saying your parents didn’t have the best of intentions. Or that they should have let you do whatever you wanted. But that doesn’t mean their approach didn’t hold you back from becoming a bonafide adult. “A helicopter parent is a parent who is overly involved in the basic day-to-day aspects of their children’s lives,” Dr. Sanam Hafeed, PsyD, a NYC-based licensed clinical neuropsychologist, tells Bustle. “This may hurt kids as they grow up because they may not trust their intuition when meeting others … They [also] often have arrested development and lower emotional consciousness.”

In a separate article that’s being published widely about “JUST SAY NO,” an expert warns that “parents who pander to their kids are damaging them for real life.”

The “wild and unruly” children that primary school teachers have to deal with are often the progeny of their parents, according to Dr. Amanda Gummer.

The “wild and unruly” children that primary school teachers have to deal with are often the progeny of their parents, according to Dr. Amanda Gummer, a research psychologist specialising in child development.

Writing for the Daily Mail she said: “Wild, unruly children are increasingly likely to be the progeny of so-called ‘helicopter’ parents.

“They are ruthlessly ambitious for their child’s future — failing to realise how badly their mollycoddling is preparing them for the compromises of real life.”

It seems that overbearing parents who try to save their kids from any unhappiness or failure are instead guaranteeing the opposite–their kids are destined to feel like failures throughout their adulthood. With our best intentions to keep our kids happy and have them succeed we are hindering their self-reliance and ability to deal with the ups and downs in this thing called life.

Do you know any helicopter parents? What specific examples can you describe of their helicoptering behavior?

 

Angus5

We can learn from dogs on how to raise our kids.

 

10 Things Your Kids Need to Know Before They Leave the Nest

IMG_2339

My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

Here’s story I wrote three years ago, before my youngest child went off to college. If you have school age kids, please read this and give yourself years to get them ready to leave the nest. Doing less for our kids is more.

“He tried college a couple times. It just didn’t take,” a dad of one of my son’s friends told me last night at the grocery store.

Next, I got a call from a close friend, whose happy-go-lucky daughter checked herself into a campus hospital, because she felt so overwhelmed and out of control.

Another friend told me their son quit after one semester after too much partying and not enough studying. Yet another mom left on a rescue mission to help a child in need.

What the heck is going on with our kids and college? My own son struggled to find his way his freshman year.  

All of these parents, myself included, believed college was the best and only choice for their kids.imgres-1

Maybe college isn’t for everyone? Maybe we did too much for them? Maybe we didn’t let them fail often or enough?

I’ll talk more about why kids are struggling in college on another day. And if we have an epidemic on our hands.

But, first, I want to share basic things kids need to know before they leave for college. I was often surprised at questions my son would ask me during his first year at college. I’m going to make sure my second child checks off every item on my “top 10 things kids need to know before going to college” list.

  1. Banking skills. Know how to write a check, make a deposit face-to-face with a teller, fill out a deposit slip, and use an ATM card for deposits and withdrawals. Balancing a check-book falls under the banking list.
  2. Laundry. Have your kids do their own laundry so they know how to sort white and colors, hand-wash, hang dry, and fold–and what it feels like to be out of clean clothes. The clean underwear does not appear by magic! imgres-5
  3. Cooking. Teach your child some basic cooking skills like scrambling eggs, making spaghetti, baking a chicken, steaming vegetables, and cooking rice. 
  4. Grocery shopping. Just like clean underwear, the food in the fridge doesn’t appear out of thin air. Teach how to make a list, look for coupons, find sale items, and learn how to read unit pricing on shelves.imgres-6
  5. How to get to and from the grocery store. This may seem obvious, but I’ll never forget the phone call I got from Robert: “Mom. I’m at Costco and how do I get home with cases of water, yogurt, and Top Ramen on my bike?”  Hmmm. Good question.
  6. Budgeting. If your child hasn’t worked at a job and you provide their basic necessities, they lack budgeting skills. My son got his first paycheck working a summer retail job. The check was for $175. He bought his girlfriend a dress for $110 and spent the rest on dinner for the two of them. Very romantic, but not practical when he needed to eat the next week and month.
  7. Theft. At college, thieves are everywhere. My first week of college, I hand-washed some sweaters and hung them out to dry in the bathroom. Within minutes — gone. I had a bike stolen from my sorority storage room — and a locked bike stolen when I used a restroom during a ride around Green Lake. My son’s laptop was stolen when he left it in a study area in his dorm. Make sure they have “find my laptop” activated and never leave anything unattended! Don’t use a chain or cable lock for your bike — use a solid bar type. 
  8. Professors. They set aside office hours and only one or two students bother to stop by per semester. They are thrilled to help and meet students face-to-face. This can help for future referrals, references, internships — and grades. Have your kid meet with each professor at least once, every semester. It can’t hurt!images-2
  9. Cars. Basic things like checking tire pressure, oil and water levels, changing tires and pumping gas. Maybe they won’t have a car right away, but at some point they will and car maintenance is not an instinct. It’s a learned skill.
  10. Learn to say no! College means hanging out with friends, listening to music, parties, dances, rallies, job opportunities, football games, intramural sports, going out to eat, etc. Studying is priority number one. Learning to say no will help your kid stay focused.

What other essential life skills would you add to the list?

Parenting Tips from the Doggos

 

Angus7

Our guide dog flunkie Angus.

Have you read about a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania about how doggos parent their puppers? The ones who are most paws off raise the best guide dog grads. The mom dogs who coddle their young have pups who fail guide dog school. We can learn about parenting styles and the success our kids may have in school from man’s best friend. As the former owner of a guide dog flunkie, who was a wonderful companion dog for 15 years, I was interested in finding out exactly how the research was done.

From ABC News: “Parenting techniques even apply to guide dogs, study says:”

“Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania studied the early development, parenting and subsequent performance of 98 puppies who underwent guide dog training. Dogs who received more independence and less support from their mothers were more likely to be successful in becoming a guide dog, and they also demonstrated improved problem-solving skills.

“In other words, successful guide dogs were more likely to have been brought up by ‘tough love’ moms. The study was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

NPR had their story called “Coddled Puppies Make Poor Guide Dogs, Study Suggests:”

“Basically the puppies are kept in a kiddie pool lined with towels. So the hands-off mothers are the ones that are spending less time [in the pool] with their puppies and not interacting with them as much,” explains Bray. “Whereas a hands-on mother is going to be constantly in the pool, licking them, grooming them, interacting with them.”

They found that among the 98 puppies they studied, the actively-mothered ones were more likely to fail a guide dog training program later.

How mothers nurse their puppies also affected how puppies performed. The mothers will either lie down to nurse, or sit or stand up. If the mother dog is sitting or standing, “she’s further from the puppy. The puppy has to work for it,” explains Bray. “Those puppies are more successful [later] as guide dogs.”

 

IMG_7214

My kids with Angus.

Here’s a link to the actual study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America:

 

Significance

A successful guide dog must navigate a complex world, avoid distractions, and respond adaptively to unpredictable events. What leads to success? We followed 98 puppies from birth to adulthood. Puppies were enrolled in a training program where only ∼70% achieved success as guide dogs. More intense mothering early in life was associated with program failure. In addition, mothers whose nursing style required greater effort by puppies produced more successful offspring. Among young adult dogs, poor problem-solving abilities, perseveration, and apparently greater anxiety when confronted with a novel object were also associated with program failure. Results mirror the results from rodents and humans, reaffirming the enduring effects on adult behavior of maternal style and individual differences in temperament and cognition.

Abstract

A continuing debate in studies of social development in both humans and other animals is the extent to which early life experiences affect adult behavior. Also unclear are the relative contributions of cognitive skills (“intelligence”) and temperament for successful outcomes. Guide dogs are particularly suited to research on these questions. To succeed as a guide dog, individuals must accomplish complex navigation and decision making without succumbing to distractions and unforeseen obstacles. Faced with these rigorous demands, only ∼70% of dogs that enter training ultimately achieve success. What predicts success as a guide dog? To address these questions, we followed 98 puppies from birth to adulthood. We found that high levels of overall maternal behavior were linked with a higher likelihood of program failure. Furthermore, mothers whose nursing style required greater effort by puppies were more likely to produce successful offspring, whereas mothers whose nursing style required less effort were more likely to produce offspring that failed. In young adults, an inability to solve a multistep task quickly, compounded with high levels of perseveration during the task, was associated with failure. Young adults that were released from the program also appeared more anxious, as indicated by a short latency to vocalize when faced with a novel object task. Our results suggest that both maternal nursing behavior and individual traits of cognition and temperament are associated with guide dog success.

We can learn from dogs to let our kids fall down once in awhile. We can let them forage through our fridges to make their own snacks. H*ck, we could let them prepare dinner for the family, on occasion, too. If they forget their homework or swim bag, let them face the consequences. They’ll be better prepared for life if we don’t save them from it on a daily basis.

What do you think we can learn about parenting from our animal friends?

P.S. Cutesy dog language (like h*ck or puppers) I discovered on the “WeRateDogs” Twitter account. If you’re a dog person, the tweets will make you smile and brighten your day (see photo of my daughter’s pug Waffles below.)

 

20046645_10214163264099383_9182173196580427459_n

A screenshot of my daughter’s dog on WeRateDogs. 

 

IMG_8237

Waffles the pug without his doggles.