When did “playing” turn into “performing?”

My daughter diving in a competition with her club team at the East LA City College pool.

My daughter in the yellow cap.

Back in the ancient days when I was growing up, all our neighborhood kids gathered in the evenings on our dead-end street playing work-up softball. I was one of the younger kids at five or six years old while the kids controlling the game were in junior high and high school. I stood for countless hours in the outfield and never once made it up to bat. The big kids were at the pitcher’s mound, catcher, short stop, first base and swinging the bat, of course. It did bother me that I never left the outfield before our moms would stick their heads out their kitchen doors and call us in for supper. But, I was happy to be included with the big kids. We were playing a game. And guess what? There were no coaches, no officials, no parent volunteers and not a single parent watching!

Fast forward to today and you don’t see kids playing pick up games around the neighborhoods. They aren’t playing football, softball, basketball or any games at all. Instead, moms and dads drive their kids to ball fields, swimming pools, gyms, etc. to practice with other kids on organized teams. These teams have coaches, referees, uniforms, fees and parents. Yes, parents are all over the place — watching, volunteering, providing snacks — and in some sports, coaching.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing in itself. I just miss the days when kids played outside. Of course, kids in my day and age were on teams, too — but they also had time to play without adult supervision just for the fun of it with their friends.

What happens when kids aren’t out playing with their friends, but instead are playing in front of an audience of overly involved adults? Playing becomes performing. Parents are sitting watching their kids’ practices and more than ready to give them the full low down critique on the drive home. At meets and games, parents fill the stands and are yelling, cheering, pacing and showing their displeasure at officials’ calls, other kids that are competing and even their own kids. They are also ecstatic when their kids do well. I should know since I went through the gamut of emotions myself with my two kids.

I didn’t realize that kids aren’t out playing on their own these until I read a book called “Why LESS is MORE for WOSPs* — *Well-Intentioned, Overinvolved Sports Parents” by John M. Tauer, Ph.D. Because my kids were swimmers and we have to take them to the pool for their sport, I didn’t notice the lack of kids playing in the park. Dr. Tauer, a psychologist and college basketball coach, talks about how kids he coached in a summer basketball camp would rather sit on the bench than play in a game without adult officials. He had five groups of kids rotating in four games with officials. He gave the kids a choice to sit out the fifth game or else play the fifth game on their own. All of the kids chose to sit it out, mainly because they had no experience just “playing” without adults supervising.

From the book:

“One of the consequences of parental involvement is that parents watch many of the games their kids play. That means many parents know if Billy has been in a hitting slump, if Jenny has been struggling with her shooting, or if Tommy made a mistake that allowed the winning goal. Thus, children may feel their performance is being evaluated and monitored not just by teachers and their parents, as with school, but also by their peers and other parents. Instead of playing, children are performing, which can undermine one of the major goals of sports. This shift from playing to performing affects both children and parents negatively. Most children don’t take math exams with dozens of parents watching, cheering, hollering, encouraging, yelling, or even criticizing the performance. Imagine how odd it would be to see parents show up for exams at school and then spend hours dissecting their child’s performance at home. Why then, do we accept those same behaviors as normal for WOSP’s at sporting events?”

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My son in front wearing the yellow cap.

Some interesting things to think about: Why do you think we’ve shifted in our society to no longer letting kids play to having them perform? Have children changed so drastically through the years, or is it our parenting? I’d like to hear your opinions, so please share your thoughts.

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What happens to our kids raised with social media and selfies?

It’s so different today from when we grew up. Our kids have every moment of their lives documented in photos online. A swim coach talked to me about social media. He said his team has to deal with a whole set of issues that never arose before. Mainly, online bullying and kids suffering from depression. Think about it. These kids never get a moment to escape. They don’t come home from school or practice and unplug. They are constantly faced with the online presence.

I wrote this article with questions of my own about social media, selfies and our kids four years ago. I have a lot more to say about the subject but first, I’m doing some reading and research and will write more later. Stay tuned.

The first Halloween for my kids together.

The first Halloween for my kids together.

I have a question for you. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. What do you think the long term effects will be to our kids for us posting everything they do on Facebook?

I’m not pointing fingers, because yes, I’m guilty of this myself. Do you remember when once a year your relatives and close family friends would come over and the slide projector and screen would come out? Or, when you sat with a bowl of popcorn on the carpet with the cousins at your grandparents house, bored watching old slides of your parents?

I took a lot of photos of my kids when they were babies and toddlers. I took less and less as they got older until our phones got mixed up with cameras. Now, I’m guilty of taking photos whenever I get the chance. And posting them on FB.

First Christmas photo shoot with a real photographer for my baby girl.

First Christmas photo shoot with a real photographer for my baby girl. ‘Kat in the Hat.”

But, I didn’t have FB when my kids were young. We barely had internet. We had a modem that I used to send files of work to a printer. There was no way to share every minute detail and selfie of our day. Instead, I took my film downtown to the photo shop and got double prints made. Then I wrote a card or letter by hand to my mom or dad and inserted the photos and mailed them the old fashioned way. Here’s the result of that! A closet with shelves filled with photo albums.

A few of my photo albums, filled with real live pictures.

A few of my photo albums, filled with real live pictures.

My fear is that we are raising kids who think they are more self-important than they really are. Their every move is recorded and shared with the world. Maybe they’ll be confused and want to share as much about their lives as a Kardashian. As they grow older and have their own Instagram, Snapchat etc. will they try harder and harder to get noticed? Will the photos get more outrageous and provocative? Look at me????

Christmas photo shoot 1996.

Christmas photo shoot 1996.

I’ve been reading articles about this phenomenon. Here’s a related article I wrote on whether or not our kids get too much glory. Following are some excerpts and links from CNN and US News. Some report skyrocketing anxiety and depression as a result of too much social media.

“The 2014 National College Health Assessment, a survey of nearly 80,000 college students throughout the United States, found that 54% of students reported experiencing overwhelming anxiety in the past 12 months and that 32.6% “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” during the same period. The study also found that 6.4% had “intentionally, cut, burned, bruised or otherwise injured” themselves, that 8.1% had seriously considered suicide and that 1.3% had attempted suicide.

Ease up on the pressure. Do we really have to be noticed all the time? Does every second have to be a beauty contest? Our kids need to stop feeling that they have to outperform their peers every minute of every day. They need to know that they don’t have to market themselves constantly, and that social media can be a mechanism for fostering collaborative relationships — not a medium for fueling competition, aggression and irresponsible behavior that contributes to anxiety and depression.” More from CNN here.

Here’s another article with an interesting point of view on selfies and a teen’s self worth. Read more from US News here.

“Social media use can turn into a problem when a teen’s sense of self worth relies on peer approval, Proost says. Whether they’re posting from the football game bleachers or on a family vacation, teens can access social media anywhere and at all times. And because of the constant connection, it can be dangerous for young people overly concerned with others’ opinions. They may feel like they can never escape the social environment and are constantly faced with peer pressure.

“The mental health outcomes that we’re starting to look at now are things like body dysmorphic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety,” Proost says. “We are starting to see those things creep up and be related conditions to excessive [social media] use.”

If we know an overuse of social media can be fun, but also have consequences that negatively impact our children—why are we leading and feeding them down this road? 

Grandma on the swings with Robert.

Grandma on the swings with Robert.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Facebook and Instagram. I LOVE that I’ve reconnected with friends and family and get to share in their lives. But I do think we need to keep an eye out for when it gets out of hand.

A new toothy smile.

A new toothy smile.

What are your thoughts on a generation of kids whose every move has been recorded and shared? Do you think there might be negative consequences, too?

8 Ways the Beach Is Different With Adult Children Than With Young Kids

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Beach vacation a few years ago.

We’ve rarely had our two kids together during vacations times since both left the familial nest for college. One’s university had a quarter system while the other had semesters and neither Christmas or Spring breaks aligned. Then as far as summers, forget about it! One worked through summers and the other swam with her college team. We did get an occasional visit during our week-long beach vacation. But the times were few and far between.

When they were young (and I was younger, too) the summers stretched from Memorial Weekend past Labor Day. We were together the entire time at home or the beach. My favorite day of the year was packing the SUV full with kids, pillows, boogie boards, sand toys and groceries and heading for our beach vacation.

As blissful and peaceful as those days seemed, they weren’t always perfect. This past week we went to the beach and rented an Air BNB with our two adult kids. Here’s a list of what I found different when vacationing at the beach with adult kids versus toddlers and youngsters.

ONE

Having a child who eats wet sand is no longer an issue. Nor do I have to take my baby to the doctor for the worst bottom rash ever.

TWO

I don’t have to be a hawk-eye, standing in the waves watching my children’s every move.

THREE

My kids put on their own sunscreen and you don’t have to remind them. Once in a while, I’ll get a request to spray their backs.

FOUR

They can be the designated driver after a dinner out with friends. Wait, did I say going out with friends? Yes, when we’re at the beach we get to hang out with our friends, not just the kids.

FIVE

Never once did I have to drive anyone to swim practice at the crack of dawn. Or, remind them in the afternoon that it’s time to leave their friends at the beach for practice.

SIX

They don’t fight over sand. I haven’t stopped a single fight where one child threw sand in the eyes of their sibling. Nor did anyone stomp on another’s drip castle.

SEVEN

No longer do I heat up chicken nuggets and tater tots in the oven for dinner. Now they have the same tastes in restaurants as I do. It gets a lot more expensive.

EIGHT

I’m not worried about putting my kids down for a nap. These days nap time is reserved for me and my husband.

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Breakfast at this year’s beach vacation.

In what ways do you find vacationing with adult children different from when they were young?

Should Your Kids Be Selfie Stars?

Last year, I spent this week with my daughter in Salt Lake City. What a wonderful time we had together shopping, hiking, and visiting Park City and Deer Valley–and just hanging out together. This is one of the stories I wrote while staying with her.

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Experiencing the beach.

My daughter and I walked into an elevator yesterday at Nordstrom’s with a mom pushing a Thule baby stroller, snapping pics of her infant and tapping away on her phone to post the pics. My daughter whispered to me, “Thank God they didn’t have iPhones when I was a kid!”

I told her I was thankful that their early childhood was before the era of smartphones, too.

Later, I asked her why she was glad we didn’t have iPhones. Her answer surprised me. “Because you would have been taking photos constantly and posting every moment of my life on FaceBook,” she said.

Psychologists warn about kids spending too much time in front of screens and not enough of their time outdoors in an article in the DailyMail.com called “Why children should not be selfie stars:”

In advice to parents, Dr. Godsi said: ‘Leave technology at home. When you go out as a family leave mobile devices switched off and have a rule that says no mobile phones during family meal times.’

The author added: ‘In my opinion selfies should not be encouraged.

‘I think there is a place for taking a few photos, as a way to help families remember or look back and to share memories but the constant pressure to post on social media means there’s a risk that they (children) don’t experience anything except through a lens.’

My daughter said that once I got my first iPhone and was learning how to use it, “You relentlessly posted ugly, fat pictures of me on FaceBook.”

I view those photos not as ugly, but on a scale of cute to adorable to gorgeous.

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Learning about the ocean in Junior Lifeguards.

I explained that I was so glad she and her brother weren’t posing for pictures constantly, weren’t worried about what other kids were doing at the moment, but went outside to play. That’s why I’m glad the iPhone wasn’t a thing in their early years.

When we had kids over, they weren’t sitting side by side texting each other. No, they were running around the backyard and house playing a reverse hide-and-seek game called sardines—for hours on end.

When we were at the beach, they were jumping in the waves, body surfing, building drip castles, digging holes and yes—occasionally fighting and throwing sand. As annoying and painful as throwing sand was–especially dealing with sand in the eyes–it sure beats constantly posing for pictures.

My daughter says there is room for both. When she goes to the beach with friends, they now get a few pics, then toss the phones in a beach bag and dive under the waves.

Here are a few frightening stats from the article in the UK Mail:

Dr. Godsi spoke out after a survey of 2,000 parents by outdoor education provider, Kingswood, found that the biggest source of quality time among families is spent watching TV together. Sixty-eight percent cited this as their main activity shared with children, followed by going to the cinema (35 per cent) and playing computer games (24 per cent).

The average age of the parents’ children was ten, while 445 were seven.

Asked to look back to when all their youngsters were seven, 85 percent of families said their sons or daughters had never gone camping.

Sixty-five percent said they had never played pooh sticks or climbed a tree (51 percent).

Forty-one per cent admitted their children had never been on a bike ride, paddled in the sea (43 percent) or played in a park (31 percent).

It’s very easy to get sedentary. It’s also easy not to talk to each other when we’re buried and focused on our screens. I’m lucky to spend this week with my daughter just hanging out and being with each other.

What are your thoughts about selfies, kids and family time? Do your kids spend enough time without their phones experiencing outdoors?

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On the lookout for dolphins and whales.

 

For healthier children, spend more time outdoors!

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Creative free play time at the beach, outside.

My best childhood memories all took place outdoors. Whether it was rowing around Squirrel Cove in Desolation Sound in our dingy, or riding bikes around Lord’s Hill, most of my childhood was spent outside. We wielded machetes and hacked a trail down our hill to a beautiful forested valley where we made forts with logs, sticks and ferns. We fished at the Stillaguamish River and rode our air mattresses down the rapids. Everything we did was outdoors. One of the main reasons for this was my strict mom. She allowed us one hour of TV per day, and she circled two 30-minute shows for us to watch in the TV Guide. They were always on PBS.

In an article in the Washington Post called, “Kids do not spend nearly enough time outside. Here’s how (and why) to change that” by Collin O’Mara he lists a number of benefits your children–and yourself can enjoy–by spending more hours outdoors. Collin O’Mara is the president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation and a father of two.

Here is a sobering statistic: The average American child spends five to eight hours a day in front of a digital screen, often at the expense of unstructured play in nature. The good news is departing from this trend is easier than you think, and quality outside time can fit into even the busiest of schedules. It is worth the effort; the benefits go beyond a little time spent in the fresh air.

Over the past few decades, children’s relationship with the great outdoors and nature has changed dramatically. Since the 1990s researchers have noticed a shift in how children spend their free time. The days of the free-range childhood, where kids spend hours outside playing in local parks, building forts, fording streams and climbing trees, have been mostly replaced by video games, television watching and organized activities such as sports and clubs.

Here are a few of the benefits:

Better school performance. Time spent in nature and increased fitness improve cognitive function.

More creativity. Outdoor play uses and nurtures the imagination.

Much higher levels of fitness. Kids are more active when they are outdoors.

More friends. Children who organize their own games and participate in unstructured group activities are less solitary and learn to interact with their peers.

Less depression and hyperactivity. Time in nature is soothing, improves mood and reduces stress. It can also increase kids’ attention span, because things move at a slower pace than they do on the screen.

Stronger bones. Exposure to natural light helps prevent vitamin D deficiency, making outdoorsy children less vulnerable to bone problems, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other health issues.

Improved eyesight. Time spent outdoors can help combat increasing diagnoses of nearsightedness.

Better sleep. Exposure to natural light, and lots of physical activity, help reset a child’s natural sleep rhythms.

A longer life span and healthier adult life. Active kids are more likely to grow into active adults.

And the best part, all of these benefits — especially those related to health and well-being — also apply to the adults spending more time with their children outdoors.

I believe my kids love being outdoors. From the time my son was two years old until the kids went off to college, we rented a house in Laguna Beach. This was because close friends took on a three-month rental and asked us to take half of the summer. Because we live where most summer days are over 110 degrees and as hot as 126, we jumped at the chance. I took the kids to the beach every day, and while I sat reading, they played in the sand and waves. They had to use their imaginations and I loved watching their elaborate playtime. The rest of the year, when we were home, we spent long hours in the park where they played with friends. We moms would set out blankets and sit and chat while our kids climbed on a stagecoach or the turtle-shaped fountains.

As the kids got older, we literally moved our lives on deck and spent hours with the swim team. But, although that time was structured, it was still outside.

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What are your favorite childhood memories? Are they mostly outside, too?

RIP My Dear Friend

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Rebecca with my baby girl.

I have a sadness in my heart ever since I looked at Facebook this morning and saw that my friend since childhood, Rebecca, passed away Saturday.

She had a huge personality, was fearless, beautiful and brilliant. I received private messages from her on Facebook constantly, and I noticed I didn’t reply to the last one which I received Saturday afternoon—the day she died.

I wonder if she knew she was leaving us? I had no idea that she was ill, but I’ve since learned that she had diabetes and died from DKA (Diabetic ketoacidosis).

The first time I met Rebecca was at my own house. Her older brother Paul had been hanging out with our family for a few weeks that summer before seventh grade. One day, Rebecca decided to come over to our house with him because she wanted to meet me. We went to different elementary schools but for junior high the town’s elementary school students would all attend the same school. I was shy and wouldn’t leave my bedroom to meet her. Finally, my mom coaxed me out to meet Rebecca Coombs and our friendship of a lifetime began.

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The last photo she sent me of herself. “When my baby grand wants a kiss, I oblige. Sir-Mix-Alot this as good as I can get! lol.”

She was the opposite of me in so many ways. She was bold, outgoing and not afraid of anyone or anything. Her long straight black hair hung past her waist and she had a huge smile. Some of my fondest memories were her introducing me to Taco Bell—which I still love today. I got a burrito supreme today in her honor.  Also, because of Rebecca, our entire high school won the local radio station KJR’s competition for a free concert—which was the first rock concert I ever attended, “WAR.” I went with her to see Natalie Cole at the Paramount in downtown Seattle, too. She introduced me to so much music and laughter. I remember always laughing with Rebecca and her sister Mary. Mary became as close of a friend to me as Rebecca.

Rebecca was one of a few students from our high school that went to the University of Washington with me. I remember spending the first night in the dorm, with Rebecca in a sleeping bag on my floor.rebecca 1

My sophomore year Thanksgiving weekend, I was home and I went with Rebecca and Mary to a concert at a local Grange. I was going to ask a family friend who was there to a Tolo (a dance where the girls ask the boys for the date). We were crossing the street on the Bothell Highway when I panicked at the oncoming lights of cars. I froze in the middle of the street. I grabbed onto Rebecca’s parka hood and she wasn’t able to escape the oncoming pick-up truck either. I shattered my pelvis and Rebecca lost a kidney. We became connected by that one experience forever.

Later on, she married the family friend who I was going to ask to the dance. The marriage didn’t last that long and she did find someone she said was the love of her life, who sadly died a few years ago. Also, her brother Paul died years ago as well as Mary’s husband. Her life had so much tragedy, yet she stayed positive and filled with joy. Near the end, she moved to Hawaii to be close to her son Jake, who she was so proud of. She posted pictures of her new life and her grandchildren whom she called “the grands.”

I will admit she was much better at reaching out and staying connected. Throughout our lives, she’d call me and during the last few months send me private messages on an almost daily basis. One funny story I remember about Rebecca was she called me up and asked who Bill Gates was. She had attended the Microsoft Christmas Party with a friend who worked there and met Bill Gates. She had no clue who he was. It was well known in Seattle that Bill was looking for a wife. He had asked her to Sunday Brunch and she said no. She told me that he was kind of a geek and she was felt awkward and made up an excuse why she couldn’t go.

I miss my dear friend and how full of life she was. God bless you and RIP, Rebecca.

 

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Meet the 90-year-old Helicopter Parents

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I’m still working on not being a helicopter mom.

In a Boston Globe article called “Meet the Helicopter Parents: These helicopter parents are 90. Their kids? 65,” by Beth Teitell gives a number of hilarious examples of middle-aged grown-ups being helicoptered by their 90-year-old parents:

 

“My mom asked for the phone number of our school board to tell them they keep me out too late at meetings,” @bonitadee tweeted. “I am 57 and a school principal.”

The writer Roxane Gay captured the new reality. “My mom just texted me to curse less on twitter,” she tweeted on April 8. “I said stop stalking me. She said ‘I will not.’ I am 43.”

I too get unsolicited advice from my dad. I probably enjoy it as much as my kids like unsolicited advice from me. It’s not very often, though. And another thing I learned in this article is this: when the advice ends–you’ll be very sad. 

Another point, we are just as much at fault for allowing our parents to helicopter. Most adults don’t stand up to their parents or say anything at all. For example, my daughter has no problem telling me when to stop over-parenting or helicoptering. My son is more polite about it, but he tells me not to worry. “That he’s got it handled.” Me, I say nothing, or try to explain my point of view. Mostly, I view both my mom and dad as leaning to the “free-range” spectrum of parenting, rather than helicoptering.

Here’s more from the article:

Welcome to 2018, when people are living so long that baby boomers, the original helicopter parents, have helicopters of their own.

A growing number of middle-aged folks — accustomed to directing their teenagers and young adults’ lives — are also on the receiving side of the equation. In today’s world, you’re never too old to be somebody’s baby.

In 2012, 53.7 percent of people aged 55-59 had at least one parent living, compared with 43.6 percent in that same age group in 1992, according to Ashton Verdery, an assistant professor of sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University.

Relationships between adult children who are 65+ and parents who are 90 and up are new enough that the National Institute on Aging is funding a study.

Kathrin Boerner, the principal investigator of the “Aging Together Study,” and an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, said she was surprised at the amount of advice and support that flows “downstream,” from very old parents to senior adult children.

1915364_1296704101497_7996135_nAre you an adult with helicopter parents? What do you say when they give you unsolicited advice?