There is a college for everyone

I wrote this article a few years ago and I think it still resonates today. If you’re a swim parent, your kids can swim in college and it will add to their experience most definitely.

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine a few years ago.

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine a few years ago.

I read an interesting article today on my favorite website, SwimSwam.  It was written by a college swimmer encouraging high school swimmers to swim in college. It’s very inspirational you can read it here. His story reminded me of my own kids. I wish he was a few years older and could have talked to my son, who also thought he wasn’t fast enough to swim in college.

My son, who is now in is fourth year at college, refused to talk to any swim coaches while we were looking at schools with him. We tried to encourage him, but he didn’t think he was good enough. Or, that he liked swimming enough.

In our opinion, as parents (what do we know anyway, right?) he had a beautiful stroke and he had always loved swimming. It seemed natural to us that he’d want to continue with his favorite sport. We also knew swimming could open doors for him. It couldn’t hurt for him to communicate with swim coaches at some of his dream colleges, right? We had looked at swim times and he would have fit in nicely at a lot of them. No, I’m not talking about Cal or Stanford, which he applied to, but are in the higher echelons of D1 swim teams. His other top schools that are very selective academically had men’s D2 or D3 teams.

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But, no. He did not listen to us. His senior year, he received rejection letters from all of his top schools. It’s really a numbers game and there are millions of talented, smart kids competing for those college spots from not only the USA, but from all over the world. 

He is enjoying the school he landed at. But, it was an adjustment at first. He wasn’t happy being there. He was all alone. Now, in his fourth year, he loves it. He’s swimming again, on his own at the student rec center. He missed swimming.

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In contrast, my daughter who’s a freshman, was recruited for swimming. What a difference her entire college decision process was. She loves her college team. The entire team knocked on her door with goodies for her, while we were moving her in. They had team activities during the first few weeks, like barbecues, and volunteering to hand out balloons at a football scrimmage. The team made sure that the freshman felt the love.

My son told me recently that he sat alone in his room watching Netflix, too shy to join in the freshman welcome activities.

Last July, he came with us to watch his little sister swim at a big meet. His eyes opened when he saw coaches from all across the country there recruiting. He saw some of his top school choices. It was like a light bulb went off.

He did what he wanted to do at the time, though. One thing about swimming or any sport — it has to come from your child. We may think we know best, but in reality it has to come from them.

Robert and Kat a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

My kids a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

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Why are parents hiring coaches — for themselves?

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With my grown-up kids at the PAC 12s Swim Meet last year.

I was interviewed for an article in the Deseret News about parenting coaches, written by Jennifer Graham.

 

This was an interesting turn about for me, because I’m usually the one asking the questions. I wrote a piece recently about the parents hiring coaches and expressed the view that I didn’t think much about paying hundreds of dollars for hour-long Skype talks with a stranger. You can read that story here.

Here’s an excerpt from the article “Why some parents — including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle — are hiring parenting coaches:”

SALT LAKE CITY — Cheryl Cardall has a degree in early childhood education and has read “a ton” of parenting books, but she still wasn’t sure what to do when one of her children morphed into a full-blown teenager with anxiety and anger issues.

Instead of calling her mom, who had raised seven children of her own, Cardall sought help from a parenting coach near her home in Sandy, Utah.

Likewise, when Rachel Anderson, who lives in Minneapolis, grew tired of fighting with her 3-year-old every morning, she consulted a Florida parenting coach via videoconferencing.

“I talked with family and friends, and they all provided some little tips and advice, but the general consensus was that this was just a stage he’s at and you’re going to have to endure and work through it. And I wasn’t OK with that answer,” Anderson said.

Cardall and Anderson are now enthusiastic proponents of parent coaching, which is one of the fastest growing segments of the $1.2 billion personal-coaching industry. Once a service offered mainly for divorcing or blended families, parent coaching is now available for any sort of parenting challenge, from getting a child to sleep to communicating with a taciturn teen.

Even Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, whose baby isn’t due until spring, have reportedly hired an American parenting coach, “super nanny” Connie Simpson.

The growth of parent coaching has occurred amid a trifecta of change in family life: a desire for perfection driven by social media, a blitz of contradictory advice on the internet, and the emergence of technology as the No. 1 challenge facing parents.

“Our mothers were not raising us with the same challenges that parents raising their kids now have,” said Vicki Hoefle, a parent coach in Petaluma, California.

But skeptics see parent coaching as a dubious use of resources, and evidence that Americans are obsessing about parenting to unhealthy extremes.

“Through the years, you learn that overparenting doesn’t work,” said Elizabeth Wickham, a mother of two who writes about parenting for the website SwimSwam, but says she can’t imagine anyone paying her hundreds of dollars for her advice.

I understand why someone may choose a stranger over their parents or in-laws for advice. Our own family members can be very judgmental — or we may view them as such when they are trying to give us advice. They may give us unsolicited advice when we aren’t asking for it as well. The common thread according to the article was that parents were fearful. One of the many challenges they are facing today, which are parents never had was the powerful tech world and social media.

Here’s more from the article:

Of course, not all parenting challenges can be resolved with a coach, DeGaetano said. Issues that arise from trauma or a psychological condition may require a mental-health professional, and a good coach will refer parents elsewhere in cases like that.

“Counseling is about healing. We don’t do that; we’re not licensed counselors, and I make that clear,” she said.

Wickham, who lives in Palm Springs, California, and whose children are 22 and 25, said she’s never used a parent coach and doesn’t know anyone who has.

But she said she understands the desire for input from an impartial, nonjudgmental expert, and said maybe she could have benefited from one.

“I wish I had done less for my kids — for example, when kids forget their homework, don’t drive to school with it, let them suffer the consequences. That’s one thing I really wish I’d learned, from a coach or anybody, but I never got that advice,” she said.

One of the things I explained to Graham was that no two children are alike, and they all have different personalities and will react differently to parenting techniques. Once you find something that works, by the next week it probably won’t. Parenting is thinking on your feet, being flexible and learning when to pick your battles. Our goal should be to raise children who become independent, happy, self-sufficient and kind human beings.

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One of the pics from a Christmas card–a few years ago.

What are your thoughts about hiring a parenting coach? 

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.

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?