Watch out college students, helicopter parents are coming, too!

 

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I was a helicopter parent when they were young.

I enjoy reading and posting stories about helicopter parents because the outrageous, over-the-top behavior of the few mentioned makes me feel like I’ve done a decent job parenting my two young adults.

In “Crazy Parents Are Calling Up Colleges Pretending to Be Their Kids” by Kristen Fleming in the New York Post, I wonder exactly who are these parents and what are they thinking?

A friend told me about someone they knew whose only child was going to start at the University of Redlands which is about 40 miles away. My friend was surprised to hear that the mom got a hotel room and stayed the first week so she could be close to her son. The parents didn’t want him to be alone. When he got a poor grade on a paper, the dad called the University president to complain! Yes, this is a true story. I can only imagine how the student’s four years went—or if he made it that long.

 

Here are two examples from the article:

“I think the wackiest example was when a mother called and asked for permission to do her daughter’s internship for her because [the girl] had too much anxiety. I said, ‘It sounds to me that this would be a fun and interesting experience for you but I don’t think your daughter is going to get any credit for it,’ ” recalled Jonathan Gibralter, president of Wells College in upstate New York.

An administrator at a liberal arts college in the Northeast, who asked to remain anonymous for professional reasons, has trouble keeping up with the parental texts and e-mails that flood her phone.

“Over the last two or three years it’s become unbearable,” she said. “I’ve had parents calling up and impersonating their children, asking questions that could have been easily asked by their kids. One lady didn’t even bother to disguise her Long Island soccer-mom voice.”

I learned that technology is partially to blame and that the cell phone is the world’s longest umbilical cord at my daughter’s orientation for students and parents at the University of Utah. We were told to not jump every time the cell phone rang or we received a text. Let our kids learn to problem solve was the advice. Usually, they’re just venting and the problem will solve itself or be no big deal after a day.

In the New York Post article, technology is pointed out to be an issue and one main cause of helicopter parenting:

Harlan Cohen, who wrote the book “The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College” is in demand at schools as an instructional speaker.

“I’ve heard all of the horror stories,” said Cohen, who recently led a seminar for parents at Purdue University in Indiana. “I’ve heard stories of parents wanting to come along for job interviews, coming unannounced to resident halls and reaching out to the president for every little situation.”

Still, he said, “I’m sympathetic to both sides.”

He blames technology for the seismic shift in academic life. Previous generations had to rely on landlines and phone cards to call home, limiting contact and allowing kids to feel their way through challenges. Now, armed with smartphones, students are apt to sound off with a text or social-media post after a frustrating encounter with a professor or roommate — raising the alarm back at home.

I have a relative who stayed up several nights to finish projects for her son and she also would rewrite his papers. She was very upset when he (she?) got a bad grade and made an appointment to speak to the teacher about it. She had the good sense to laugh about it and said it was hard not to say “Why did you give me this bad grade?” — rather than her son. It dawned on her that she might be doing too much for him.

Why do you think parents are so overly involved in their high school and college-aged kids lives?

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I think they’ve had enough of my posing them for pictures!

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The Travails of Travel

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Visiting Salt Lake City means I get to see Waffles, my daughter’s pug.

This past weekend, it dawned on me why I hate to travel. It all began with a too early flight from Palm Springs to Salt Lake City. When I have to get up earlier than normal, I tend to wake up every hour to check the clock. So, by the time I got to the airport, I was already tired and wondered how I’d make it through the day.

Online when I checked in 24 hours before our flight, Delta told us we’d get our seat assignments at the gate. Well, my husband got a seat, but they wouldn’t give me one. I’d been “bumped.” They said I could “volunteer” to give my seat up but I refused. My only hope was that someone wouldn’t show up or would volunteer to give up their seat on the overbooked fight. I was asked to sign a waiver that said I had refused to volunteer and I was giving up any compensation if I didn’t get on the flight.

At the last minute, someone took a $600 voucher to travel to Ontario and take a later flight, so I did get on the plane. It was a stressful way to start a long day, however! Since I had purchased our tickets more than seven weeks earlier, I wondered why I was the one to get bumped? A woman working at the gate said I must be “non-rev.” I found out non-rev is someone who didn’t pay for their ticket and they’re flying on a friends or family free ticket. That was NOT me. I paid full price.

The weekend was so much fun and I wrote all the wonderful details about it here.

 

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Utah with my girl.

But then the problems began on the trip home when we returned the car to an offsite car rental place, Fox, which we have raved about for the past three years. We’ve never experienced anything but the best service from them. But, on Sunday night they had one employee to check in returns and check out cars to lines of waiting people. We all seemed to pull into the Fox lot at once and we all needed to get to the airport, pronto!

We had to wait and were about 10th in line returning our car and missed a shuttle driving back and forth to the airport. They had two shuttles parked in the lot, but apparently only one driver on duty. So, I was stressed again and anxious if we’d make our flight while waiting for the shuttle to return from the airport.

 

At the airport, finally, I was pleased that we were pre-check. I sailed through the short line and noticed Bill wasn’t behind me. They wouldn’t let him through, and unbeknownst to him, his driver’s license had expired. After a full body search—and I mean FULL—the TSA agents went through his suitcase and laptop. Then they ran strip tests to determine that there weren’t any bomb-making ingredients on him or his stuff.

Bill kept telling me to get to the plane and that he’d be fine. I refused to leave him in Salt Lake City without knowing what was going to happen to him.

Together, we made it to our gate where our flight’s boarding thankfully was delayed by 30 minutes. We made it on the plane and the plane pulled away from the gate. Then we sat and sat and sat. The pilot made an announcement that an outside sensor wasn’t working and we’d be waiting until a further decision was made. Bill and I burst out laughing. What else could we do? The plane made it’s way back to the gate and we sat some more.

Thirty minutes later we were escorted off the plane to another gate. This time the plane was working and we made it home.

I love visiting family and friends, but I do not like to travel. What experiences have you had with travel that you’d like to share?

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I love these two. It was worth the headache of travel.

 

 

Enjoy it while it lasts!

 

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Afternoon walk with Waffles in Salt Lake City.

Today while packing up after a fun weekend in Salt Lake City, where we went to two meets to watch my daughter swim and hang out with friends, I realized this part of my life is almost over. I checked the swim schedule to see what meets she has left and we’re down to only a few.

This weekend, I reconnected with a swim mom dear friend who has a son starting his freshman year. It was like no time has passed since we last sat together at a meet — rather than six or seven years. We also visited my husband’s best childhood friend, Pastor Scott McKinney and his wife Sara, who have made this area their home and founded a church, Centerpoint Church in Orem. After his powerful service, we sat together at lunch laughing so hard we cried as well as solemnly discussing the world’s problems. It’s been a highlight to reconnect with these friends, visit our daughter — and enjoy this part of the country.

I felt more than a little sentimental this morning. I like it here. I like the hotel we stay in, the Little America, like it’s a second home. I like their coffee shop because it brings back memories of my childhood with their comfort food of open-faced turkey and roast beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy and their weekend prime rib specials. I like the cool crisp weather, the spectacular views and changing fall colors of the leaves. I like the tall buildings downtown, where you’ll find the City Creek Center with its glass ceilings. I like the friendliness of the people and the clean bright city, which has a small town feel.

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Beautiful views from City Creek Center.

 

It seems like we just moved our daughter in for her freshman year. She got a notice Friday that she’s been accepted to study abroad for her last bit of school, so we’re already thinking about moving her stuff out and driving her car home. How weird is that? Especially when I say we just moved her up here! At least it feels like that.

When my kids were toddlers, older women would stop me at the mall or on the street and say, “Enjoy it while you can, because the time flies by.” Knee deep in the daily grind of bottles, baby food, diapers, laundry, endless picking up toys and chasing little ones, I couldn’t relate. Now I believe it and understand. Enjoy the swim team or whatever activities your child is in like it’s their last meet. Enjoy the visits to their college town. It’s over in a blink of an eye. And will you really go back without them there?

It’s not like I thought it would last forever, I just thought four years would take a bigger chunk of time.

How have you noticed time flying by?

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My daughter at the blocks at the HPER Natatorium.

 

How to catch your dreams

download-2I’ve discovered a few secrets on how to take control of my life and pursue my dreams.

First, have you defined your dreams? If not, write them out. Make it specific and concrete. Write out a few steps you can take right away. They can be baby steps, not huge leaps.

Second, after you’ve written down your dreams and goals do you find that everyday life gets in the way? I’ll sit down and write or make that phone call — after I unload the dishwasher, sort the laundry, and weed the garden. Plus, the car needs an oil, lube and filter. Then, I’ll get started on my dreams.

Third, is it fear that is holding you back, not life in general? Why aren’t you following up on your baby steps? Take a close look at what you’re doing, or what you’re not doing and ask why.

Here are my tips on how to overcome my fears and reach for my dreams.

ROUTINE:

I revel in my routine. I was talking about routines with my husband this morning. He said he believes all mammals crave routines. For example, Olive, our cat, leads a structured life. She stays out all night. She wanders in announcing her arrival with three short little mews at the same time every morning and then jumps onto my tummy. She meows a little louder and wants me to walk her to her food bowl. Minutes later, after I’ve snuck back into bed, she’s back on my tummy for a kitty dance before she settles in for the day.

Baby Olive

Baby Olive.

At this point, I have to slip out from under the covers without disturbing Olive, to start my morning routine.

My routine involves writing three pages longhand every morning of every day. This clears my mind so I’m open to new creativity. It serves as a brain dump to get those niggling uncomfortable thoughts out into the daylight. Some days my morning pages are a long to-do list.

The few times that I’ve missed my morning pages I’m anxious and jittery.

EXERCISE AND FRESH AIR:

The second phase of my morning routine, besides the basics of toothpaste, floss and face cream, is to walk. I walk two miles around my neighborhood and park, marveling at the beauty and how I get another chance to start fresh. I throw in a short stretching routine, sit-ups and pulldowns. Energized and refreshed, I’m ready to start my work.

DO THE BAD STUFF FIRST:

Another tip is to tackle those things that you don’t want to do–first. Get them crossed off your list and your day will open up.

Fear and anxiety can be big blocks. When I take my fear head on I’m motivated rather than blocked. Anxiety is energy. I tell myself to harness and ride it toward my dreams.

I have a sign in my living room that says, “Live now. Procrastinate later.” Such good advice that I try to follow it.

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3 Things I Noticed About An Empty Nest

I wrote this after my youngest left the nest in 2014. It’s 2017 and the nest is still empty, but we get visits now and then. We’ve planned trips to see both kids this fall and I’m looking forward to the moments we get to spend together. All in all, the empty nest is not that bad! Here’s what I noticed the first few months with no kids to take care of:
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Towels

Let’s start with towels. First off, we own too many of them. I gathered our towels into one room and separated the wheat from the chaff. I asked my son Robert if he needed any. I recall sending him off to college four years ago with a small set of matched towels. He’s survived with those two towels all this time? Plus, a beach towel of course — since he goes to UC Santa Barbara.

One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UCSB

One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UCSB

Eighteen towels and two dozen or so hand towels and washcloths sit on his bed, awaiting his return Thanksgiving weekend. These 18 towels didn’t make the cut to remain members of our family — unless they commit to being shredded into rags.

images-3The next thing I noticed about my towels is that I’m no longer washing them every time I turn around. Raising two swimmers as well as overly hygienically-conscious kids, I believe they went through four or five towels daily — each — which never got a second use. I no longer have to hear the thump, thump, thump of my washing machine doing a jig with the over-packed, heavy towel load.

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Have I mentioned that I raised two swimmers? We joined the Piranha Swim Team around 1999. I honestly believe that having my kids involved in swimming was the single best thing we ever did as parents. Sure, the kids worked hard. Yes, it was a time commitment. But, I will repeat, it was the single best thing we ever did. You can find a lot of my articles about the benefits here and here and here. Read what my friend has to say about swimming here.

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

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

So, what does this fact have to do with groceries? Well, it means I bought a lot of them. All the time. Robert drank a half gallon of milk a day and a box of Cinnamon Life every two days. Kat could eat whatever she wanted and she liked my sole, chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, and brown medley rice. At least I think she did because I was always cooking and buying more groceries.

Life-Cinnamon-Detail.sflbToday, my refrigerator is bare and I rarely cook. There’s no reason to buy more than three items at a time at the grocery store. When I enter the store, I don’t need a cart. I use the little hand-held basket.

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 I cannot seem to get a load of dishes to wash for the life of me. My sink is empty. My dishwasher sits bare and lonely.

I guess that’s what they make Thanksgiving weekend for.

This is a photo of Kat. She didn't want to be a ballerina. She wanted to swim!

Why Kat joined the swim team. “I don’t want to be a ballerina!”

Why kids want instant gratifcation and how helicopter parents make it worse

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

Here’s a story I wrote two years ago about why kids today have more trouble facing challenges their first year away from home than previous generations. As parents, is it our fault?

The numbers don’t lie. ACT states that 50% of kids do not return to college for their second year, and then only 25% of those graduate in five years. US News and World Report, which ranks colleges annually, changed one of its measurements from a graduation rate of five years to six years! I don’t know about you, but I’d like to know the percentage of kids that get out in four!

Letting my kids play and be kids.

Letting my kids be kids.

I’ve given my two cents worth in Four Reasons Why Kids Fail Their Freshman Year. This time around, I asked Nicolle Walters, RN, PhD, Clinical Psychologist for her expertise. In addition to being a practicing therapist, she’s the mother of two kids about the same ages as mine.

Why do our kids have such a hard time once they’re away from us? They’ve worked so hard to fill their resumes with high grades, SAT scores, leadership, community service, sports, or music. Yet, these kids who look perfect on paper can’t handle the daily demands of life on their own. How much of the failure is our fault? 

According to Dr. Walters, our kids aren’t prepared for college. She said, “Part of the reason is our instant gratification society. They want everything right now—and get it with technology like streaming, etc. They don’t learn self-discipline. They don’t have to wait for things like we did.”

She said, “I know it sounds contrary or strange, but kids who come from dysfunctional families and had to take care of themselves are more equipped to deal with everyday problems, compared to kids who had parents who did everything for them.”

“Also, A lot of kids don’t learn how to work hard. If you’re smart, you don’t need to work hard in high school, and they aren’t prepared for college. Our kids need skills like planning ahead and self-discipline.”

Here’s another thought she had, “College is totally different. Class time is switched and it’s the opposite of what they are used to. They are used to spending eight hours in class and studying a smaller amount of hours at night. In college, it’s two or three hours a day of class, but they need to study for six to eight,” Dr. Walters said.

Today on TV, I heard a Stanford expert, Julie Lythcott-Haims, talk about her book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” She says we are literally ruining a generation of kids. She said it’s not just at Stanford, but in colleges throughout the country. You can read more here.

This week on SwimSwam I list the things we do for our kids that we need to stop doing. Like today.

We are smothering our kids and crippling their self-development. I know this because I’m guilty of a ton of it. I’m looking back at how concerned I was with performance, how busy my kids’ lives were, and because of those two factors I jumped in and did too much for them.

My kids being kids. They're okay despite my hovering.

The kids are okay despite my hovering.

Here’re are links to a couple other stories I’ve written about getting our kids ready and self-sufficient for college:

My Confessions as a Helicopter Mom 

10 Things Our Kids Need to Know Before College

If we as parents are over parenting like the experts claim, then what should we do to help our kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts, too.

What Do Kids Put On Their Resumes When They’ve Never Held a Job?

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Honestly, I’m not a helicopter parent anymore, but I am more than happy to jump in and offer my opinion and guidance to my two 20-something-year-old kids.

Our son went to his first career fair a year ago and it led to opportunities and eventually a full-time “real job” where he pays his rent and his bills. Our daughter is nearing the end of her college career and I suggested she attend a career fair—sooner rather than later. She wasn’t thrilled but after pushing a little, she agreed and picked a date from her school’s career fair calendar.

I suggested several times to go to a group hour-long prep meeting for the career fair that was scheduled last week. I think she finally agreed to get me to stop with the “suggesting” but she didn’t go. Instead, she set a one-on-one appointment with a career counselor. Unfortunately, the counselor double-booked her appointment and my daughter received zero prep from her school.

This is the part I’m really proud of. My son took over. He helped her write a resume, coached her on an elevator pitch and even went so far as to help her select professional clothes. Since he’s been through the process, we were all relieved. Also, reading resumes on a daily basis is part of his job working for a high-tech placement company that specializes in software engineers in Dev Ops for the Cloud.

Today is the career fair. I’m excited for my daughter and proud of my son. I want her to be relaxed and enjoy the experience. I reminded her that this is her first career fair and she has more opportunities ahead. She can look at this one as a learning experience to better prepare for the future.

Her main concern was the resume and what should she put down for experience when she’s been swimming her entire life and has only worked a few months as a lifeguard and swim instructor.

I googled what student-athletes can put on their resumes and found a lot of helpful information. Student-athletes cultivate many traits that employers love—like self-motivation, teamwork, coachability, time management, perseverance, a strong work ethic, etc. After my son worked on the resume with my daughter I learned a few things I never knew:

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Her part-time job as a lifeguard was pretty impressive. She saved a toddler’s life.

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Her favorite memory of college was not the year she dropped 20 seconds on the mile, but rather last year when she was throwing up in her hotel room, sick as a dog with the flu, and rallied to swim the mile—because her team needed her to score points. She didn’t include this fact on her resume, but it will be a good story to tell in an interview.

To read in more detail about what student-athletes can put on their resumes, here’s a story I wrote for SwimSwam called “6 Traits Swimmers Have That Employers Want.”

What do you think kids should include on resumes, if they’ve never held a “real job?”

 

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My kids a few years ago with Angus.