Are You a Good Parent Or a Bad Parent?

 

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A happy moment at the beach.

 

The Huffington Post published an article where the author Jane Dimyan Ehrenfeld makes a point that parenting doesn’t necessarily divide up into good parents and bad parents. Her article called The Secret to Good Parenting: “Divine Dissatisfaction” makes a comparison between parents and teachers—that good ones continue to learn and grow to get better at it.

While she quotes a lot of parenting experts and books, which I’m sure are very helpful, I’ve found that learning from other parents and from my own mistakes that I’ve evolved into a better parent. At my baby shower for my first born, every other present was a book on how to be a parent, like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” etc. It was as if my co-workers and friends, who were mostly moms themselves, thought I had absolutely no clue about parenting and they were worried about my skill level or interest in motherhood. So, they all thought I needed instruction manuals.

 

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The gang hanging out at the beach with one of my mom friends I’ve learned from.

I do think there are good parents and bad parents. I have observed many of them. I remember a mom who was driving for a field trip for our middle school kids and she knocked back a couple tumblers of vodka at lunch! And she was supposed to drive the kids back to school. Yikes. That’s what I called a bad mom. A good mom who impressed me, let the kids draw with chalk on the backyard patio, build forts from boxes, sheets and tables in the living room, and encouraged creativity. A good mom, in my opinion—even if her house wasn’t perfect.

 

I love being a mom and I think that is the driving force. Yes, there have been rough patches between me and both my kids. Yes, I wish I could do some things over, but I wouldn’t trade a single day. The years and phases go by quickly. What I used to worry about no longer is important and there are bigger more pressing issues to stress over and help with as they become adults. “It never gets easier,” a friend told me when my kids were toddlers, “It just gets different.”

Here’s a quote from The Secret to Good Parenting: “Divine Dissatisfaction”

As a mom, I am highly attuned to the narrative of good parent/bad parent that pervades our popular discourse (more frequently it’s good mom/bad mom, but I’ll stick with parent for the sake of encouraging the important message that dads are –and should be – equals in the work of parenting). A non-exhaustive list of the ways in which this can pop up includes: You are a good parent if your kids breastfeed/you are a bad parent if they drink formula. You are a good parent if your kids are sleep trained/you are a bad parent if they don’t sleep through the night in their beds. Or, conversely, you are a good parent if your child co-sleeps/you’re a bad parent if you sleep train. You are a good parent if your kids eat organic foods/you are a bad parents if your kids eat refined sugar. You are a good parent (mom!) if you stay home with your kids/ You are a bad parent (mom!) if you work outside the home. You are a good parent/bad parent at many different levels of screen time. You are a good parent/bad parent if your kids go to public school, private school, charter school, or are homeschooled. And on and on.

But here’s the thing: it’s all ridiculous. Unless your unvaccinated kid is living in her own apartment, mainlining Mountain Dew and shrugging off school in favor of spending 24 hours a day playing Minecraft, you’re probably fine.

What do you think makes a good parent versus a bad parent?

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The best mom ever and me in the 1990s.

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How Much Social Media Is Too Much For Our Teens?

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My daughter seeking a social media pic.

I’ve wondered for years how social media is affecting our teens, and I’m thankful we never had Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat when I was a kid. I’m also glad it wasn’t a “thing” when my kids were young. I remember MySpace was introduced when my kids were around middle school aged and a few kids in their Catholic school posted provocative pictures. It didn’t go over well, needless to say.

An article today in The Baltimore Sun by Andrea K. Mcdaniels called, “Parents’ concern: Is social media bad for teenagers?” has quite a few experts and studies weighing in. They’ve found good and bad outcomes, but it seems to me the bad ones outweigh the good.

So the list of problems with social media includes sleeping problems, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and suicide. Does anyone see a problem with this trend? I’ve written about my concerns about social media and how it affects on kids here.

Have you ever had a relaxing day at the beach and watched young teens posing for that perfect Instagram pic? It’s quite funny to watch from a distance. I mean who goes to the beach with perfect hair and makeup? Not me! I prefer a big hat, a ponytail and a good book, thank you very much.

 

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Mirage

Where I live, we have a phenomenon called Desert X, a series of outdoor art installations that appeared this Spring. One I call “The Selfie House” in reality is called “Mirage.” It’s a house installed with mirrors inside and out. It attracts young women dressed in bizarre outfits with friends with the sole purpose of getting a huge volume of social media clicks. The Los Angeles Times wrote about Mirage here.

 

Here’s a snippet from the article “Parents’ concern: Is social media bad for teenagers?”

“A study published earlier this year by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine with support from the National Institutes of Health found that the more time young adults spent on social media, the more likely they were to have problems sleeping and to experience symptoms of depression.

“Another study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the incidence of major depressive incidents has increased dramatically among teens, particularly among girls, and that cyber-bullying may be playing a role.

“At American University, researchers found a link between social media use and negative body image, which can lead to eating disorders.”

 

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Mirage, the selfie house. designed for Desert X.

As parents, what can we do to keep tabs on how social media is affecting our kids?

 

ONE
Delay when your kids get smartphones.

TWO
Keep an eye on what they’re posting.

THREE
Talk to your kids about how social media is creating issues for many kids.

FOUR
Be involved in your kids’ lives and pick up on cues if things seem off. Maybe social media is behind it.

What suggestions do you have to keep our kids safe from the bad effects of too much social media?

Farewell Old Car, Your Time Has Come

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Memories of days filled with laughter.

The final straw was a couple weeks ago when I woke up in the morning to a flat tire. I called Triple A and had them put on the spare. I was driving the puppy to a vet appointment and then to the gas station to get my flat tire fixed, when the tire fell off the car and flew across the road, dodging two oncoming cars and landing in an unsuspecting yard.

I freaked out to a grinding and dramatic crashing noise. I was stranded on the side of the road with a three-month-old pug. I shook as I assessed my predicament and wondered what to do first. Waffles the pug snored in his carrier, oblivious to the freak accident and my stress.

That was the final straw. There have been a few others, like my husband being stuck on the 91 freeway, right before the 241 toll road, when the car broke down. Triple A had a tough time sending out a tow truck, because drivers refused due to the recent death of a tow truck driver in the same spot.

In the later years of owning a car, sometimes it’s tough to make the call when enough is enough. Car buying is almost as painful as anything and expensive, so it’s easy to put it off for a few years.

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Laguna Beach with kids and dog.

Especially with this car. There were so many memories with the beastly Sequoia. Hauling pop-up tents and kids to meets stand out the most. We could put six kids comfortably in our car and often did.  Summer vacation with the car packed to the hilt, complete with 108-pound Angus, our faithful yellow lab (RIP), camping trips, driving a carful to the Getty for a Latin field trip—the list goes on and on.

We have no need for an eight seater. We aren’t hauling pop up tents or children to meets. We’re now in the phase of life where a two-door would be fine. But it’s like closing the door on one part of our lives. When we finally say goodbye to this old car, it’s like we’re saying goodbye to days filled with so much fun and laughter.

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Carpinteria camping trip with Angus.

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This old car is filled with memories.

Kids Say the Funniest Things

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Do you remember the TV shows, “Kids Say the Darndest Things” or Art Linkletter in “House Party?” I forgot about these shows for decades until this past Thanksgiving weekend.

I had a great four days. Both kids were home for Thanksgiving. They haven’t had a chance to hang out together for several years because their Christmas holidays and spring breaks were at different times. Thankfully, this Thanksgiving we were all together—which is a rarity.

Whether it was sitting together as a family in our backyard talking or watching my children sit together in the sun playing with the new puppy, I was in Mom heaven.

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Spending time together and with the pup.

Besides Thanksgiving dinner with my dad, college roommate, her mom and brother, and a close friend, one moment that I’ll remember was dinner Friday night. The four of us–me, hubby and two kids–sat together in a booth at a local restaurant and reminisced about the funny things they said as little kids. We laughed so hard we were literally crying and in convulsions.

Here are three funny things my kids said (at least I think they’re funny and hope you do too!)

ONE

When my daughter was born, my son, who was age three talked with Grandpa on the phone. “What do you think of your little sister?” Grandpa asked.

After a few moments, deep in thought, my son answered, “Well she’s got no hair, no teeth and no penis!”

TWO

When my daughter was four or five, she wanted to go over to her best friend’s house to play during the holidays. Her best friend was Orthodox Jewish, so she asked if it was okay to come over or “were they still celebrating the Holocaust?”

Yikes. I think she meant Hanukkah.

THREE

When my daughter was an infant and my son three years old, we had a 16-year-old babysitter join us for a week at the beach. I remember getting the baby out of the car at the park and watching my son with two hands on the babysitter’s bikini-clad boobs. I said something like “What are you doing?” or “That’s not acceptable.” He turned to me and said, “I just want to watch them bounce. Yours don’t do that.”

Out of the mouth of babes. Yes, he was right.…

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At the beach.

Sitting in the restaurant wiping tears from my eyes over the funny things our kids said, my son buried his head in his scarf, unbelievably embarrassed. To me, however, it was a night to remember.

What funny things did your kids say when they were toddlers?

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Wow. I’m missing these guys.

Thoughts on Hair, Swimming and Momentous Days Ahead

My son is leaving the nest, really moving away.

This is different from leaving home to attend college. It’s a whole new world of parenting to have a college graduate—finally ready to be out on his own—and move away from us. Yes, it feels weird.

He came home over the weekend for a visit and a hair cut. He decided to stop getting hair cuts more than a year ago. He said he had this one time in his life, while in college, to grow his hair long. I didn’t like it one bit, but I did not argue with him.

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Days of short hair for both my kids.

I remember hair being a big deal in the 70s when I was a kid. My brother got suspended for having his hair reach his collar. My parents fought it and finally the school relented and hair restrictions were eliminated.  A few years before that, girls couldn’t wear pants to school and jeans were against the rules for boys and girls, too! Isn’t that wild to think about?

Two weeks before my son’s commencement ceremony, he drove home to get his locks chopped off. The length of his hair after the cut is still longer than it was during his 18 years at home. However, it’s a huge improvement over the “Robert Plant” do.

After graduation, he’s packing his car and renting a U-Haul trailer if necessary. Then he’s driving north to the Bay Area to pursue his dreams. Wow. I am working hard to get my head around that. He looks healthy and happy and it’s now officially his life.

 

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My daughter and teammates at the Fran Crippen Swim Meet of Champions.

My daughter has a big weekend coming up, too. This is after a week of getting perfect grades and an acceptance into Business School at her university. Her next momentous occasion is the meet at the Irvine pool. She’s trying for her lifelong dream of making Olympic Trial cuts. She’s been close for a couple years, but close doesn’t count in swimming–it’s not horseshoes.

I’ll be a nervous wreck at the meet. I hope and pray she’ll reach her goals. But if she doesn’t, I know she’s resilient, hard working and will have more goals to swim towards.

Most of all, I’m proud of the strong self-reliant adults my children have become! It’s been an amazing privilege to be their mom.

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With our girl after SMOC. One more meet to go!

Sometimes They Fall to the Ground Before They Fly Away

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“Sometimes when they leave the nest, they have to fall to the ground before they learn to fly.”

I was at a swim meet this past weekend, talking to a longtime coach friend of mine. The “leaving the nest bird analogy” was his answer to my question about if you should let your children fail. Or, continue to support them at all costs and bail them out of trouble?

When is it time to say no? In my opinion and according some of my best friends, at some point you have to put your foot down and no longer give in. The sooner you do that, the better off they will be.

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My son at Laguna Beach.

 

Is this “tough love” or is it merely letting our kids face reality and consequences?

My son, who is a bright, loving person, has struggled through some of his college years. His first year, he was in an accident and looking back, he should have taken a hardship withdrawal. Now, in his final quarter of school, he’s been sick for at least six straight weeks. He wants to take a hardship withdrawal now—with only four weeks left before he graduates.

Literally, it kills me. In the very least, it sickens my heart. I want him to finish, but we’ve drawn a line in the sand. We will not give him a dime more for college. He’ll have to figure this out for himself. In fact, I told him that if he withdraws from college now, he’ll have to come home. We aren’t paying for him to live in Santa Barbara without going to school. No, we’re not paying for next quarter, either.

Are we being too hard? I don’t think so. It would be easy to give in.

robertUnfortunately, I didn’t allow him to fail when the consequences weren’t so high. I was one of those helicopter parents rushing to school with forgotten papers, etc. I did him no favors by saving him from small failures. 

He’s thought through his options and I’m happy to say, he’s sticking with school. However, I came to the realization, that whatever path he takes, it’s his decision and his life. There isn’t a right or wrong way to go. It would not be the end of the world if he didn’t get his college degree in June. It isn’t my first choice for him, don’t get me wrong. But, if he had to work for a couple years and save the money to finish college, he’d learn a lot. He may even appreciate the opportunities we’ve provided for him.

Nobody told me parenting would be so hard.

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Fly Away
by Lenny Kravitz
“I wish that I could fly
Into the sky
So very high
Just like a dragonfly
I’d fly above the trees
Over the seas in all degrees
To anywhere I please”
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Bring Tissues to My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2


MV5BNTA1MjMzNDM2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTg3NzQ1NzE@._V1_SX214_AL_Last weekend, my husband and I went to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. It’s the second movie about the Portokalos family, written by and starring Nia Vardalos.

It was the first time we were alone after enjoying two separate spring breaks. First, our daughter had driven from Salt Lake City to So Cal to spend a few days with us. I delighted and luxuriated in the little moments I spent with her. Whether it was getting pedicures, or lounging in the back yard, I just wanted to drink her in, sit next to her, be near her.

I was pleasantly surprised that she allowed me! She seemed to enjoy our company and wasn’t embarrassed to have us hang out with her and teammate Maryssa. Evenings, we went to the pool, sat with the current crop of swim parents and watched Piranha practice. Just like the good old days.

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My daughter and her teammate during Spring break. Honestly, I’m not that short!

The following week, my son spent most of his break with his girlfriend. Oh well. We did spend his birthday weekend with him in one of the most beautiful cities ever, Santa Barbara. He’ll be graduating from UCSB soon, and we may not have the pleasure of visiting him there more than once or twice more. Our friends live there, so we’ll be back. I’m sure I’ll feel a hollowness in my heart my first visit to Santa Barbara knowing he’s moved on.

Back to the movie. This past weekend, once again kidless, we went to see the second installment of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

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My son’s birthday celebration with our good friends in Santa Barbara. Homemade Black Forest cake by Debbie.

We’d seen the first one as a family, bought the DVD, and it was a favorite with all of us. Michael Constantine, who plays Toula’s father Gus Portokalos reminds us of my husband’s Uncle Luciano, from Sicily. When we mentioned it to him he said, “I’m nothing like him!” I don’t think he took it as a compliment.

We laughed so hard at the first movie. The second one, not as much. It was a good movie, don’t get me wrong. It had the same quirky, awkward moments for Nia Vardalos, the writer and star. There were laugh out loud moments with all the characters in Toula’s family. I felt reunited with close friends that I’d missed for far too many years. 

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Santa Barbara Mission with my son and husband sharing a laugh.

It hit too close to home. The aging father, the teenage daughter ready to leave home. Toula, having to rediscover and find herself after years of taking care of others. Going out to dinner with her husband, swearing she wouldn’t talk about their child.

The hardest part for me, sitting through the movie, was the tears. How much I miss my kids smacked into the center of my brain. I kept dabbing at my eyes. My husband would look over at me. I wiped my eyes some more. Finally I gave into the tears. That’s all I’ll say. Go see it for yourself and let me know how you like it compared to the first movie.

Warning. If you’re new to an empty nest, bring tissue!

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Sunset at Carpinteria State Beach during a picnic dinner.