Do Boomers spend too much time with adult kids?

Two years ago I made this trip to the Bay Area to be with my son and his girlfriend. It was a great trip. I miss not traveling to see them this past year. My daughter lived in Arizona then and we were thinking of relocating there. Now that we are here, she moved and lives a mile from her brother in Nor Cal!

Sutro Baths San Francisco

Sutro baths on the Pacific. photo by Robert Wickham

As a baby boomer who loves hanging out with my adult kids, I found this article in the Wall Street Journal called “Baby Boomers and the Art of Parenting Adult Kids” by Clare Ansberry to be right up my alley. “More involved with grown children than previous generations, many boomers struggle with letting them go” was the tag line to the story. Hmm. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Am I struggling to let my kids go? Or, do I simply like hanging out with them?

I had a trip to Nor Cal to hang out for a few days with my son and his girlfriend, and I treasured the trip. I don’t go up to San Francisco very often, mostly because it’s too far and it costs a lot. My son treated me to some great sightseeing including hiking up to Indian Rock to see the sunset, a trip to SF MOMA and the Sutro baths. We had some incredible meals including Belotti and a Chinese restaurant where I watched them roll out fresh noodles in the window called Shan Dong.

Sunset from Indian Rock Park

The view from Indian Rock Park. photo by Robert Wickham

On my trip, I visited a swim team in Roseville, California Capital Aquatics, and talked about things swim parents need to know so they don’t make the same mistakes I did. That was a blast, and having my son take time off work and drive me there, gave me a boost of confidence. He seemed to enjoy what I had to say and was encouraging.

The following weekend, we were off to Arizona to spend the weekend with our daughter. We are exploring where we want to “downsize” to, which I wrote about yesterday. Presently, Arizona is at the top of our list. Plus, my daughter is there. Enough about me and my time hanging out with my kids. Here are some excerpts from the article about baby boomers and their adult kids:

Linda Hoskins would like to believe her adult son considers her a friend.

She’s a baby boomer and boomers tend to think they’re cooler than their own parents were, she says.

“Therefore why wouldn’t our kids want to hang out with us all the time. We’re their friends, right?” the 69-year-old executive director of the American Pie Council asks half-jokingly.

Her son sees it a little differently. “She’s my mom,” says Rick, 44. While very close—seeing each other several times a week until she recently moved and texting in between—his mom isn’t on the same level as his friends, nor would he want her to be.

Baby boomers are far more immersed with their own grown children than their parents were with them, says Karen Fingerman, a professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas, Austin. She found that parents in the early 2000s offered about twice as much counsel and practical support (which could be anything from babysitting grandkids, running their grown kids’ errands or reviewing their résumés) as parents did in the 1980s. Such deep ties can make it hard to let kids go or accept that they will likely love their children more deeply than their kids can love them.

FAMILY MATTERS

Tips for boomer parents dealing with their adult kids

  • Don’t give unsolicited advice. If they want your opinion or need your help, they will ask.
  • Let your kids make mistakes. You did and learned from them.
  • Make a life of your own, so your children don’t feel guilty as they move on with their own life.
  • Manage your own expectations. The fewer expectations, the less likely you are going to be disappointed when they don’t call or visit as often as you would like.
  • Keep in touch in ways that are meaningful to them, whether that’s texting, FaceTime, or phone calls.
  • Set limits. If you can’t or don’t want to babysit all the time, let them know.

Boomers are also the first group of parents in the psychological era, when therapy became more commonplace and relationships were closely examined, says William Doherty, a professor of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. Their own parents were concerned about a child being safe, getting a job, and getting married. “They didn’t obsess about how they were feeling about you,” he says, adding that there are far more elements of friendship in boomers’ relationships with kids. “In many ways, that’s good. But then you have to deal with disappointment if kids are not as close as you would hope for.”

That’s what Linda Stroh found when she and a fellow author surveyed nearly 1,000 baby boomers for their book, “Getting Real about Getting Older.”

“My kids use language like ‘my family’ and ‘our family’ and they don’t mean us,” one man commented. “I’m at the mercy of their whims. We see them when they want, not when we want,” said another. “I miss my kids. I want to be around them more,” one woman said.

It’s not that grown kids don’t want to be part of a parent’s life, but that they are really busy, says Dr. Stroh, herself a boomer and mother of two children, who are very involved with their careers. “If I get a call, I’m thrilled and flattered,” says Dr. Stroh, who teaches human development at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Pittsburgh resident Art DeConciliis, 58, remembers when he and his wife, Mary Pat, got married. “It was sink or swim,” he says, their parents offering little help or support. Today, his three adult children, all married and living near their Pittsburgh home, frequently call for advice about work, buying a house and starting a family. He’s happy to offer it.

“My self-identity is very closely tied to my relationship with my children. I don’t think that was the case with my dad. His was wrapped up in his business,” he says. While he sometimes wonders if too much advice-seeking and advice-giving is a good thing, he also felt a little disappointed that his youngest daughter didn’t involve him when she and her husband bought a house.

That daughter, Samantha DeConciliis-Davin, 26, says that while close to her parents, she has always been independent. Buying a house without their input wasn’t a slight as much as it was an affirmation of their lifelong guidance. “I still depend on them for advice,” she says. They are the first ones she calls if something happens at work.

Kathy McCoy, a psychotherapist specializing in family dynamics, says some distance can be a good thing. Kids should refrain from telling their parents everything and parents should refrain from trying to direct their adult child or grandchild’s life. “That distance can lead to a new kind of closeness,” says Dr. McCoy, who wrote “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” about estrangement between parents and their adult children.

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My adult son at SF MOMA.

If you’re the parent of adult kids, do you think you’re struggling to let your kids go, or like me, do you like to spend time with them? 

Reflections on a Happy New Year’s Eve Adventure

December 31, 2017. This was a day when memories were made with my son. We made a promise that day to ski together once a year, until we could no longer do it. Unfortunately, that was the last day we ever skied together.

sunrise in Salt Lake City

This was our view leaving the day for our New Year’s Eve ski adventure.

View from Brighton ski slopes

The view from the top of the mountain.

After not skiing for about a decade, guess what? I can still do it and it’s not that bad! Yesterday we hauled our equipment into our friends’ Sequoia under a gorgeous pink sky. Driving to Brighton from Salt Lake City was filled with the most breathtaking views. Once we reached the top of the mountain, I was stunned. I listened to the “oohs and ahhs” of other skiers getting off the chairlift, who experienced the view for the first time like me. I didn’t stop to take a bunch of pictures, and the one I did had my thumb across the bottom, but the iPhone wouldn’t do it justice anyway. I have those spectacular views embedded in my mind’s eye.

mother and son ski selfie

My son and me taking a ski selfie.

I felt a bit wobbly at first, as did my son, but soon we got up to speed and our skis were like old friends we’ve lost touch with but when you get together again, it’s like no time has lapsed. We skied most of the day with our friend from Santa Barbara and raced down the slopes maybe not like pros, but better than I anticipated. After not skiing for so many years, it felt amazing. For some silly reason, I had decided I was too old and that my ski days were behind me. When I was younger–before I was a wife, mother or a writer–I was a skier, sort of like how my daughter identifies as a swimmer. Giving it up, was like letting go of a small piece of my personality. It turns out I’m still a decent skier and my son and I have made a pact to ski together every year—as long as we can.

Rather than teaching my son’s girlfriend how to ski for her first time, we decided that she should enroll in a learner’s class. I think that was the best idea because I know how hard the first day of skiing can be for adults. We may have saved their relationship!

Today, I’m especially sore. Yikes, I do not remember this feeling from decades ago!

Two days ago, I really stepped out of my comfort zone and impulsively rented Nordic skis with my girlfriend. With all my downhill skiing days, I didn’t know there were Nordic centers where you can rent equipment, buy a pass and have trails to follow. It was awkward until I settled in and let go of my nerves. Then it became rhythmic and restful, all the time breathing the fresh outdoor air. It reminded me of swimming freestyle with the breathing patterns, alternating limbs and physicality. They’re very similar.

I think cross country skiing is something I’d like to do more of. It’s less exhilarating than downhill skiing, but it’s more peaceful and quiet. I love downhill skiing too and am so glad to have more days of skiing ahead.

Nordic ski center in Utah

Tracks at the Nordic Center.

How are you starting off your New Year? Have you ever returned to an activity you gave up years ago? 

That was a question for New Year’s Eve 2017. Not 2020. Now for the bad ending to the adventure, which was so 2020. Read it here.

 

When will 2020 be a distant memory?

Palm trees in Palm Springs

View from my neighborhood in Palm Springs

I ran across a poem in an email from a club I belong to. It hit a nerve with how I’m feeling lately. I’m not able to sleep through the night. I’m worried for my children’s health and lives. It’s been a strange year to say the least for everyone around the world. I can’t wait for 2020 to be a distant memory.

It may seem odd to belong to a “woman’s club.” It sounds downright archaic. But it’s an interesting group of about 150 women. We are mostly empty nesters and range in age from mid 40s to early 100’s. We have a clubhouse that we maintain and rent out to various people and organizations for things like weddings to theater. The main purpose of our club is to raise funds for scholarships from graduating high school seniors. We give them four-year scholarships for college.

The club website states our purpose:

Intellectual Improvement – Social Enjoyment – Helpfulness in the Community
​​​Serving the Community since 1938

It’s a great club because you aren’t expected to do anything. Or, you can be as involved as you wish and head a committee or project. I know many of the women from my years as a mom of school-aged children. When I joined the club, I saw many familiar faces of women who were always the ones active and involved in their children’s activities and schools. They are the ones to count on to get things done.

Then there are the older women, generations older than me. I value their perspectives and interesting histories. I don’t think I’d have built friendships with these women unless they lived next door. But thanks to our club, we all sit together for lunch or tea, and learn from guest speakers about our town’s history or other topics. I’m sorry we won’t be meeting this year in person, but I look forward to the day when 2020 and the global pandemic is behind us.

Here’s the poem I received today from the Palm Springs Woman’s Club:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

And I wake in the night at the least sound

In fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

Rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

Who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.

 I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

Waiting with their light.  For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

                                   Wendell Berry

picture of woman's club meeting place

Exterior of the clubhouse.

Don’t wait to say I love you…

IMG_5838People around the world are losing loved ones. Now more than ever, take time to tell them that you love them. Don’t wait. I currently have three close friends who have been diagnosed with breast cancer during the COVID-19 closures. How scary is that for them, their families, and friends like me. While on my walk this morning, I thought about how important people are in our lives and how empty it can be without our usual social encounters. I remembered when my husband wanted to talk with a close friend who had cancer. Here’s what I wrote about that five years ago when it happened:

Twice this year… It’s happened. We knew a friend was sick. One was 92 years old. The other was 57.

We wanted to tell them how much their friendship meant to us. But when they got sick, they didn’t want to see anyone. You have to respect that.

“I’ll call and talk to him on the phone,” my husband said about our 57-year-old friend. He never reached him by phone. 

Yesterday, we heard from his family that he was in hospice. My husband said, “I’ll write him a letter. I’ll tell him how much his friendship meant.” He immediately sat down and wrote the letter. The last time we wrote a letter like this was to our 92-year-old friend. Family members told us it arrived in the mail the day she died. She never had the opportunity to read it.

My husband ran this letter over to the family’s house. Literally ran because the house is around the corner from us. The brother said thank you. The brother thought it would make him feel good to read it. But, he said, he’s not seeing anyone outside of family.

My husband and I went for a walk. We walked and talked about our friend. This life thing is so fragile. We take it for granted sometimes. When I was 21 years old, I walked across a street and got hit by a truck. It made me realize how uncertain life is. A car almost hit us when we crossed the street last night. I screamed out loud. I can’t help it. It’s residue from my encounter with the pick up truck.

Life goes on. You get married, raise kids, drive kids to swim practice, sit on PTA boards, help with homework and have your own work to do. Pretty soon you can forget how fragile life is.

We finished our walk and returned to our house. The letter my husband wrote to his friend was stuck in our gate, unopened. It could only mean one thing.

Make sure you tell the ones you love — I love you while you have the chance.

Morning Motivation: Get out and walk!

Two years ago, I wrote this about my morning walks post knee surgery. It was a long struggle to get back to normal. Now, I’m hobbling around the park and neighborhood — again. This time the injury isn’t as dramatic as a ski accident, but instead is me stubbing my toes against the tub and furniture, repeatedly! A little clumsiness has made my normal activities a challenge. Is that pathetic or what? I desperately need my walks during this “shelter in place” so I haven’t stopped. I’m slower and gritting my teeth the entire way, but I’m doing it. It’s fun to look back on when I was really struggling and the milestones I accomplished.

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The view of Mt. San Jacinto from the park this morning.

MAY 2018

Today I reached a milestone. I walked around the park. I appreciate my morning walks more than ever. After my surgery, for weeks I couldn’t walk to the bathroom, around the block, let alone to the park. Waking up early to the brilliant blue sky and the beauty of the desert makes me feel hopeful. Each day I’m trying to get a little further and build on what I’ve done the day before. This weekend, I walked 1.2 miles, then 1.3 miles. Today, the complete walk around the park made it 1.6 miles.

What’s even more fun is having my daughter and Waffles walk with me. I look forward to spending that slice of time with her. Waffles meets other doggos along our walks each day and we stop and let him play. I only have a few weeks left of my daughter at home and we’ll make the most of it.

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A morning walk this weekend in Las Palmas.

I used to walk much more, and twice a day. But, I am just so happy to get outside and enjoy the gorgeous views and feel the slightest bit physical. I wish I had more energy, but if I compare myself to where I was a month or two ago, I’m absolutely dripping with energy today. When I go to the pool, it is so exhausting to swim. That probably means it’s really good for me. I will try to add more days of swimming to my week, along with daily walks and physical therapy.

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Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway

What is your favorite way to start your day?

Looking Back on My First PAC-12 Meet

 

Olympic swimmers competing at the PAC 12s.

Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin competing at the PAC 12s.

Five years ago in February, my daughter swam in her first of four PAC-12 Championship meets. It’s fun to look at my thoughts and remember the excitement of the experience.

1.  I couldn’t believe the conference meet was here already. What happened to my daughter’s first year of college swimming?

2.  I was surprised by how easy it was to find a seat. Coming from age group meets that are crawling with kids and parents and you have to squeeze to get a seat, it was a pleasant change. However, it did get more packed as the days passed and always at finals.

The crowd at the PAC 12s.

The stands at the PAC 12s.

3.  I still get nervous before Kat swims. Maybe it’s even worse than before. Especially at prelims. I thought I’d get over that queasy feeling, hand-shaking, palm-sweating attack. But, no I did not.

4.  I wanted to spend a little time with Kat. But, she’s on the deck with her team, and we’re up in the stands with the parents.

That's me up in the stands looking down on my daughter.

That’s me up in the stands looking down on my daughter.

5.  I have met some great swim parents on our new team. Don’t get me wrong, there are great families on our club team that I’m life long friends with. I’m thrilled to meet parents on the college team that are friendly and fun, too. I guess that’s what swimming parents are like.

6.  It’s fun to cheer at the PAC-12 conference, hold up signs, and wave pom poms. Kat would have killed me if I behaved that way at an age group meet!

7.  Now that it’s the last day of PAC-12s, I’m shocked at how fast the days went by. Do I really have to wait an entire year to experience this again?

8.  Looking down from the bleachers at my daughter, I’m amazed at how much she’s matured this year. She’s happy and comfortable with her new family, her college team. She has grown independent from us and she’s doing really, really well. I’m happy and proud, but I’m wiping a few tears from eyes, too.photo 2 (1)

How life changed with a fitbit

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The fitbit tracks my steps around the park.

I wanted a fitbit for Christmas mainly because I’m competitive and my husband started using one last year. We’d compare our steps during walks and his fitbit gave him way more steps than me carrying my iphone.

Now that I’ve used my fitbit for two weeks, what do I have to say about it?

I really like it. It’s helping stay on track. Every hour it gives me a little buzz to push me away from my computer and on my feet. I found that I am consistently getting more than 10,000 steps a day — not because I wasn’t before — but my phone wasn’t always with me to capture the steps.

The other thing I really like about it is that I can swim with it. It keeps track of my laps and minutes of my swim — except for kicking. For some reason — I guess because my arms aren’t moving — I don’t get the yards in for a kick set. Oh well. I know in my head I did the kicking. I did ask our coach yesterday, “Why kick, if the fitbit doesn’t record it?” His answer was, “Why wear it if it doesn’t record everything?” Well, it’s worth it for everything else.

The final thing that I’m liking about it is the sleep part. Every morning I wake up, let it sync to my phone and then I check how well I slept. It will give me the time I fell asleep and woke up. Also, how much light, deep, REM sleep I got and how much and often I woke up during the night. It’s really interesting stuff. One thing I’ve learned is that on a swim day, my REM and deep sleep is twice that of a day I didn’t swim.

What I think the fitbit does for me is encourages me to be consistent with my exercise and sleep. It makes these things easier, because after all there’s an App for that.

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The fitbit tracks my laps in the pool.

Have you tried a fitbit or an Apple watch? What do you like about them the most?