Tips to Make the Senior Year Count

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My daughter’s graduation with her pup Waffles.

School is starting and for a large group of parents, this may be their children’s senior year — whether it’s high school or college. Warning: you’re going to be emotional. There’s going to be a host of final moments. Lasts. And never agains.

Here’s some advice I wrote for SwimSwam about how your kids can make their final year count. I heard this from a former swim coach of my kids. I think it applies outside the pool and to more than our children. We can take the same approach ourselves to enjoy and make the most out of our kids’ senior year, too.

“I tell my swimmers to try for best times and leave on a high note their senior year,” said Tim Hill, a coach with more than 30 years experience at the club and collegiate level. “You have to plant the seed and let them know they can do it,” he advised. Hill currently coaches at Sharks Swim Team in Texas.

Often, I see kids quit swimming before their senior year because they aren’t improving and it’s plain hard to keep working at such an intense level. They may get “senioritis” and feel they’re “over it.” If our kids believe they can still improve, maybe they’ll stick with it for one more year and put in the hard work and effort.

Trying for a best time is one bit of motivation that can propel our swimmers through their final year. What a great time to look forward to—their final meet where seniors are recognized. It’s an amazing experience for them to compete for four years and have a satisfying closure to this chapter of their lives. When they know they’ve given it their best, they’ll look back on their swimming careers without any doubts or regrets.

What can we do as parents to encourage our young adults to keep swimming throughout their high school and college years?

ONE

Be proud.

According to a poll from the National Alliance for Youth Sports, around 70 percent of kids in the United States stop playing organized sports by the age of 13. If our kids are swimming through their high school and college years, we have reason to be proud and celebrate. We need to tell our kids how proud we are that they are sticking with their sport.

TWO

It looks good on their resumes.

We’ve heard that employers value athletes and especially swimmers. Employers know how hard our kids work, how organized and disciplined they are. They are competitive, goal orientated and can thrive in a challenging environment. Completing four years as a student-athlete is an accomplishment within itself.

THREE

Savor each moment.

According to many coaches and sports parenting experts, it’s important to tell our children, “I love to watch you swim.” When it’s the final year, treasure their swims, the other parents, the officials and coaches. It’s a part of our lives that seems to go on forever when they’re young, but at some point, it comes to an end. Don’t end your swim parenting years with any regrets. Have fun at your final meets and reach out to other parents to share the joy of being a part of the swim community.

What have you done—or will you do—to make the last year count?

Do you have plans to make your senior year count? Will you volunteer for senior banquets, graduation and other senior events? What friends will have you made that you want to see once the kids are gone? One thing I discovered was people I took for granted disappeared once we didn’t have kids on the team or school together. It’s worth the effort to stay connected. It can be as simple as a phone call or text. I’ve reconnected and stayed in contact with several school and swim moms and it’s a joy to get together.

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My son giving his high school graduation speech.

What are your plans to make the final year count?

 

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How to Say Good-bye to Your College Student

Here’s a blast from the past — the year my daughter moved from home to start her college days. It seems like yesterday.

 

Last week I wrote about 7 tips for parents on Move-In Day. At the end I wrote: “I made it through the day without tears–mostly. It was a long, busy and tiring day. When my husband and I stopped for lunch — alone — and I realized that we were truly alone — the tears ran down my cheeks. I wiped them off and prepared myself for battle for the next stop at Target. When, it’s time to say good-bye — well, I’ll tell you how that goes another time.”

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

So, how did it go when we said good-bye?

We had planned to stay until Sunday. Move-In day had been Thursday. We wanted to be around for a few days in case she needed us. She wanted us there on Thursday, but by Friday — not so much. It began to make sense for us to leave a day early. We didn’t want to hang out and wait to see if she wanted us around. It didn’t make us feel good and we weren’t enjoying ourselves exploring the city that much. We had a long 11-hour drive ahead of us, too. So we went out for an early morning walk Saturday and talked about how we’d let her know that we felt it was time to leave.

She texted us at 7 a.m. Saturday. 

text from Kat

text from Kat

Okie dokie.

It was time to say good-bye. We walked on over to her dorm. I took a deep breath. I said a prayer to be strong.

“Do not cry. I can do this,” I repeated in my head.

She opened the door, I wanted to say something profound and loving. Something she’d remember — but I said nothing. My husband said a few things and I nodded my head.

I opened my mouth, my voice cracked and wavered. At this point I cannot remember what I was trying to say.

“Mom! Mom! Stop it!” she said. “Don’t!”

She held my face in her hands, like I was the child. “It’s going to be okay.”

A view  during our walk on campus

A view during our walk on campus

Tip 1:  Make it short and quick.

Bill and I walked out of her room into the bright cool air that is Utah. We walked all over campus for two hours, tears running down my cheeks. During the walk, I began to feel better — amazed at what a strong beautiful woman we had raised.

Sage Point dorms at U of U

Sage Point dorms at U of U, the athlete housing for Winter Olympics 2002.

Here’s an update:

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What do you think about unsolicited advice?

My kids

My kids

I wrote this post about unsolicited advice several years ago. Yesterday, I failed once again in the area of butting into my children’s lives where I wasn’t invited. My daughter is at working and I chimed in on “how I would do it.” She didn’t take kindly to my unsolicited advice. She wasn’t snarky or mean–she’s a grown up now.

A few hours later, I realized what I had done. I was giving my daughter unsolicited advice on how to do her job! And she’s doing great at it. I thought about what the outcomes could be for me butting in. One, she could feel insecure about what she’s doing. She could second-guess herself. Two, she could be annoyed as heck at me! I could be harming our relationship. I apologized and said I was sincerely sorry. Here’s the story I wrote a few years ago about unsolicited advice. Obviously, I’m still working on it.

A few weeks ago, my daughter was telling me how she’d missed practice because she had a midterm and the time conflicted. Her coach wasn’t happy, she said.

“Well,” I said, “maybe you should call her and explain. Or, better yet, next time you’re going to miss practice, let her know in advance.”

“Mom, I’m telling you something. I don’t need your unsolicited advice. A simple ‘that sucks’ would suffice.”

I was offended. My feelings were tweaked, not exactly hurt. I thought, what is going on with her?

This week she called and asked for my advice about a sticky situation with a friend. I get it now. She had a problem she couldn’t solve on her own. She wanted my advice and then she would handle it from there.

In her dorm room getting settled.

In her dorm room getting settled.

My mistake has been offering advice when my perfectly capable, adult child is making her own decisions and finding her own way. She does not need her mom telling her what to do all the time.

This was reinforced again when she called with an issue with her university and paperwork for the fall quarter. I gave her a few suggestions of who to call, what to do.

“I’ve done all that, Mom. I’m just telling you about it.”

Yes, I understand now. She’s sharing the trials and tribulations in her life. She’s not asking me what to do. If she needs my help she will ask me.

With teammates after breaking the 8 and under 4 x 50 relay record.

With teammates after breaking the 8 and under 4 x 50 relay record.

I should be thankful that my daughter likes to share. That she can figure things out on her own. That she’s got a strong head and can handle the daily tasks of living in a house, paying utility bills, handling school bureaucracy, and getting a speeding ticket.

Welcome to adulthood! I guess a simple “that sucks” from time to time is all she needs.

How do you handle unsolicited advice when someone offers some to you?

True Confessions of a Helicopter Mom

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

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

There’s a study from BYU that says that helicopter parents are hurting their kids. You can read more about it here.  The study says that even loving parents don’t make up for the damage inflicted by excessive hovering.

I don’t know if I’d call myself a helicopter parent or not. My kids would probably say yes, but as one swim coach told my daughter, we are far from the worst parents he’s met.

To try and determine my status I took this quiz from the Christian Science Monitor.

I earned Terra Firma.

13e7cdf4346de40aade6db55399ea91eMy two kids are so different, I question if I parented them differently? I feel like I helicoptered my first born, and was more laid back with the second. The result is one more dependent and one independent.

I used to boil my son’s binky’s after they hit the ground for a good five minutes. I’ll never forget that smell of burning rubber when the water boiled away. The joke my husband used to tell was that with our second child, I asked the dog to “fetch” the binky.

Binky's

Binky’s

When my son was born, I worked on my writing and PR business from home. I thought I could full-time parent and work simultaneously. I didn’t take into consideration that clients would want to me run over for meetings without notice.

Then, Robert went mobile. He was crawling around. Spitting-up on my keyboard.

Nope, full-time work and stay-at-home parenting didn’t work out well for me. I hired a full-time babysitter and then became jealous every day they left for the park.

Three years later, when my daughter was born, the full-time help was gone, and I switched to part-time work. I was able to spend time with the kids, and do a little work, too. It was a nice balance.

Early on, I volunteered in my son’s classroom. I corrected papers, taught computers, writing. Anything they’d let me do. I’ll never forget arguing with his second-grade teacher over the word “artic.” After all, I had drilled him the night before on the continents. “It’s arctic,” the teacher told me. Oops.

My son constantly asked me to bring things to school. Papers he forgot. Projects left behind. I always dropped what I was doing and drove to school—including during his senior year! I can’t believe I did that! I did not do that for my daughter. Mostly, because she never asked.

I helped out with her schooling, too. But, in her elementary school years, it was limited to driving for field trips and special events.

I have one child that now calls whenever there is a problem. His face pops up on my phone and I automatically ask, “What’s wrong?” A broken computer, a fender bender, a parking ticket. It’s always something. Of course, there are exceptions—he aced a test, or got asked to be a guest speaker by the Dean at a fundraiser.

My daughter calls once a week or so to talk to tell me how she’s decorating her room, about a backpacking trip to hot springs, or that she had a good workout.

Maybe the difference between my kids is this: they are entirely two different people, with different goals, personalities, and interests. 

As far as my being a helicopter parent? I think I improved over the years.

How do you define if you’re a helicopter parent? What things have you done that are over the top?

My two kids.

My two kids.

5 Tips for Parents of Graduating Seniors

Here’s a story I wrote a few months before I officially became an “empty nester.” Many of my friends are going through the transition from full-time parents with their kids graduating high school and starting the next phase of their lives. This story is for anyone facing the empty nest or having their oldest child graduating high school. Trust me, it gets better and you’ll learn to love some “me” time.

I’ve written about the top 10 things kids need to know before leaving for college. But, what about us? When our kids leave, it’s a drastic change in our lives.

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When we took our son, our oldest child, to University of California Santa Barbara, I was strong. I was emotional about moving him into the dorms, but I was excited for him, too. I loved college. They were some of the best years. I was excited for him to love it, too.

But, then we said our good-byes. It hit. Like a punch in the stomach. Then, the tears. Oh, my! I wasn’t expecting that. The drive home, my younger child, age 15, looked at me in horror. I was falling apart. Thank goodness for her riding in the car with me. I probably would have wailed like a complete idiot without her staring at me.

 

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My son on our friend’s sailboat during orientation weekend.

Now, I have a few months left before I face a totally empty nest. What did I learn the first time around to prepare me for this time?  I wish I knew some secret to make it easier.

During orientation, UCSB gave parents a few tips on how to parent your college kid. This is what I remember:

1. Give them space. Don’t hover, don’t call too often, never call before 10 a.m.

2. Set up a time to make calls on a weekly basis — and not more often than that.

3. Expect them to get homesick. It’s natural they will miss home-cooked meals, their own room, their friends, pets, and you!  Reassure them that this is normal. They tend to get homesick around six to eight weeks. It will get better. They’ll adjust. But, will you?

4. Be sure to send a few care packages. Their favorite cookies, toiletries, something to make them smile. Mid-terms and finals weeks are ideal times to mail care packages.

5. Take time for yourself! Write, paint, sew, take a yoga class. Do something every week for just you. Make a list of things you used to love doing, but through the child-raising and working years, haven’t found time to do. Make another list of things you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t. You’ll find your way.

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The quilt I made my son out of his swim tee shirts.

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My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

 

 

 

How Is Coaching Like Parenting?

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My daughter with a former coach.

I found an interesting article on a website The Ozone called “Morning Conversational: How Is Coaching Like Parenting?” by Tony Gerdeman.

I’ve always wanted to know, do coaches recruit the athlete? Or do coaches look at the entire family? Should that determine how we act or behave at meets? Is there something we parents should be aware of during the recruiting process? What I’ve discovered does come into play is that when we are away, back home–and our kids are at school on a team–often the coaches take our places as semi-parental units. Coaches are the adult figures in a position of authority. They make take our place as a sounding board, confidant, and guide.

From the article about how coaching is like parenting:

When recruiting players, coaches from all sports have to also recruit players’ families.

They want to know what kind of son or daughter, or brother or sister they are recruiting. A son that doesn’t respect his family is generally going to be a player that doesn’t respect his coaches.

A couple of years ago, Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alfordtold a story about recruiting Ezekiel Elliott when he was at Notre Dame, and how he still remembered the interactions he saw between Elliott and his sister and how he could tell just through those moments that Elliott was the type of person he would like to coach.

When parents and guardians then sign off on their sons and daughters going to a particular school, they don’t do it thinking their child is going to be running amuck and without any supervision.

It is at this point when coaches stop being recruiters and become extended parents. Most players are too far from home to visit when they’d like, so coaches have to fill those needs where they can. Including providing the occasionally needed tough love.

Coaches — like parents — have to be consistent, however.

“Coaching is no different than parenting. Everyone is treated fairly,” Alford said this spring. “People say, ‘I’m going to treat you all the same.’ You’re not. You’re not going to treat them all the same. I don’t treat my children all the same. I’ll treat them fairly. And the expectation levels are all the same.

“The way I talk to Master [Teague] is vastly different than the way I talk to Demario [McCall]. Or how I talk to JK [Dobbins]. The way I talk to Mike Weber is very, very different than how I talk to Marcus Crowley. But you have to know your players, you have to know your clientele, you have to know your kids, and what’s going to push them.

“And if they need something mentally, then how do I make that happen for them? How can I help facilitate that? And make them understand, ‘Here’s where you’re at, here’s where we have to go, and here’s how we’re going to do it.’ And every kid is a little bit different.”

When I interviewed several coaches for an article for SwimSwam magazine, I found that coaches weren’t that interested in how parents behave during the recruiting process. Instead, coaches were far more interested in how the kids treated their parents. Jeanne Fleck, head coach of the Fresno State Bulldogs, said she watched in horror as one recruit screamed at her mom over the phone. Fleck thought that she’d pass on that swimmer because of her actions. She said she becomes a mother figure as much as a coach and she definitely wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of being treated by that athlete the same way she treated her mom.

When going through the recruiting process with our kids, we want coaches our kids will look up to. We want them to develop a mutual relationship of respect. If we’ve done our jobs well, our kids won’t be horrifying prospective coaches with their nasty treatment of others. Instead, they’ll impress with their kindness and warmth.

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My daughter with her college coach.

What are your thoughts about coaches and parents and their roles?

Crossing the line from helping to hurting your kids: from helicopter to snowplow

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My kids making good use of their super powers.

Everyone I talked to was shocked about the parents who paid bribes to get their kids into college. It made me unbelievably angry–and a lot of my friends, too. What kind of person would do that?

A lot of us are helicopter parents, yet we’d never dream of going that far. The ‘paying to get your kids into a good school’ is a matter of degree of helicoptering or snowplowing. If you’re a mom who wouldn’t let your kids fail before college and were running to school with forgotten homework then it’s a matter of crossing a line — albeit one that is unethical and illegal — to bribing a college coach to let your kid get admission to the school. (Yes, I was the parent driving homework to school, including my son’s senior year of high school!)

In a New York Times article called “How parents are robbing their children of adulthood” by Claire Cain Miller and Jonah Engel Bromwich, they talk a lot about “Today’s ‘snowplow parents’ who keep their children’s futures obstacle-free — even when it means crossing ethical and legal boundaries.”

Here’s an except:

Helicopter parenting, the practice of hovering anxiously near one’s children, monitoring their every activity, is so 20th century. Some affluent mothers and fathers now are more like snowplows: machines chugging ahead, clearing any obstacles in their child’s path to success, so they don’t have to encounter failure, frustration or lost opportunities.

Taken to its criminal extreme, that means bribing SAT proctors and paying off college coaches to get children in to elite colleges — and then going to great lengths to make sure they never face the humiliation of knowing how they got there.

Those are among the allegations in the recent college bribery scandal, in which 50 people were charged in a wide-ranging fraud to secure students admissions to colleges. According to the investigation, one parent lied about his son playing water polo, but then worried that the child would be perceived by his peers as “a bench warmer side door person.” (He was assured that his son wouldn’t have to actually be on the team.) Another, the charges said, paid someone to take the ACT for her son — and then pretended to proctor it for him herself, at home, so he would think he was the test-taker.

The parents charged in this investigation, code-named Operation Varsity Blues, are far outside the norm. But they were acting as the ultimate snowplows: clearing the way for their children to get in to college, while shielding them from any of the difficulty, risk and potential disappointment of the process.

In its less outrageous — and wholly legal — form, snowplowing (also known as lawn-mowing and bulldozing) has become the most brazen mode of parenting of the privileged children in the everyone-gets-a-trophy generation.

It starts early, when parents get on wait lists for elite preschools before their babies are born and try to make sure their toddlers are never compelled to do anything that may frustrate them. It gets more intense when school starts: running a forgotten assignment to school or calling a coach to request that their child make the team.

Later, it’s writing them an excuse if they procrastinate on schoolwork, paying a college counselor thousands of dollars to perfect their applications or calling their professors to argue about a grade.

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The pre-school, elementary school years.

The article goes on to discuss how the recent college cheating scandal shows how current parenting practices have gone off the deep end:

The bribery scandal has “just highlighted an incredibly dark side of what has become normative, which is making sure that your kid has the best, is exposed to the best, has every advantage — without understanding how disabling that can be,” said Madeline Levine, a psychologist and the author of “Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More Than Grades, Trophies or ‘Fat Envelopes.’”

“They’ve cleared everything out of their kids’ way,” she said.

In her practice, Dr. Levine said, she regularly sees college freshmen who “have had to come home from Emory or Brown because they don’t have the minimal kinds of adult skills that one needs to be in college.”

One came home because there was a rat in the dorm room. Some didn’t like their roommates. Others said it was too much work, and they had never learned independent study skills. One didn’t like to eat food with sauce. Her whole life, her parents had helped her avoid sauce, calling friends before going to their houses for dinner. At college, she didn’t know how to cope with the cafeteria options — covered in sauce.

Speaking of having adult skills, I’ve written about the “Things Kids Need to Know Before College” here and for SwimSwam here. I’ve lived through the consequences of doing too much for my kids and not letting them fail. That’s why I write about it. I hope to save other parents from the same mistakes I made!

Here’s how the NY Times articles puts it:

If children have never faced an obstacle, what happens when they get into the real world?

They flounder, said Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshmen at Stanford and the author of “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.”

At Stanford, she said, she saw students rely on their parents to set up play dates with people in their dorm or complain to their child’s employers when an internship didn’t lead to a job. The root cause, she said, was parents who had never let their children make mistakes or face challenges.

Snowplow parents have it backward, Ms. Lythcott-Haims said: “The point is to prepare the kid for the road, instead of preparing the road for the kid.”

Learning to solve problems, take risks and overcome frustration are crucial life skills, many child development experts say, and if parents don’t let their children encounter failure, the children don’t acquire them. When a 3-year-old drops a dish and breaks it, she’s probably going to try not to drop it the next time. When a 20-year-old sleeps through a test, he’s probably not going to forget to set his alarm again.

Snowplowing has gone so far, they say, that many young people are in crisis, lacking these problem-solving skills and experiencing record rates of anxiety. There are now classes to teach children to practice failing, at college campuses around the country and even for preschoolers.

katrob 1What are your thoughts about the new level of snowplow parenting? If you’re a  millennial, did you experience helicopter or snowplow parents? How did it help you on your journey into college and adulthood?