What to tell your daughter on graduation night

Graduation has been difficult this year with COVID-19. Instead of the normal ceremonies and all-night Disneyland celebrations in Southern California, we’ve had drive-through ceremonies and grad signs posted in yards. I wrote the following story during my daughter’s celebration of graduating from high school. I believe this message resonates for parents and graduates today. 
katwide
Today my little girl graduates high school. What a joy she has been to raise, teach and hang out with. I remember her kindergarten interview where she had to be tested for one of the coveted spots at St. Theresa’s. She had fun buns on her head and ankle high “Britney Boots,” marketed for little girls dreaming of becoming Britney Spears. She boldly entered the kindergarten class and announced to the world that she was “Robert’s little sister.”

IMG_4888Today, I have a tall, wise-cracking young lady with a big smile and sparkle in her eye. If I could tell my daughter three things she needs to know for her next adventure called college, what would it be? 

katpromharryFirst…

“To thine own self be true.” Don’t worry about what other people think. Do what you know is right. This famous quote is from Polonius to his son Laertes, before Laertes boards a boat to Paris in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Even though it’s pretty old, it still resonates today.

katsurfSecond…

Happiness is not having a boyfriend or being thin. My mom would tell me the worst things when I was my daughter’s age — mainly focused on the need to “have a man” — or that “a man would make me happy.” This must be a throwback to my mother’s generation, where a woman’s identity and self-worth were wrapped up in a spouse. Instead, I will tell my daughter that happiness is found within yourself — by doing something that you love. Once you find happiness in yourself, only then can you share it with others.

swimmer4Last…

Don’t worry about what your career or major will be. You will figure it out. Don’t feel pressure about it. Most people going into college that have a major, change their minds anyway. Get your basic requirements out of the way and then after taking different classes you will discover what you don’t like and what you do like.katandrobert

 

And most importantly, not even on the list — I love you.

 

Utah Swimming and Dive  Kat WickhamWhat three things would you tell your daughter on graduation night?

10 Life Skills Our Children Can Learn Now

While we are staying home and hanging out with our kids, it’s a great time to make sure they are prepared when they do get to leave the nest. There are so many simple things that I didn’t teach my son when he left for college. Yes, he had good grades. Yes, he had the right “stuff.” But he was seriously lacking on a few life skills because I did way too much for him. I learned from my mistakes with my first child and spent time teaching my daughter the basics before she left home. She was better prepared for the daily tasks–although that doesn’t necessarily mean life won’t throw you some bumps in the road.

Here’s a story I wrote while my son was in college about 10 life skills kids need to know before they leave home.

13417585_10210063407525531_6987965472607988093_n

My son giving his high school graduation speech.

“He tried college a couple times. It just didn’t take,” a dad of one of my son’s friends told me last night at the grocery store.

Next, I got a call from a close friend, whose happy-go-lucky daughter checked herself into a campus hospital, because she felt so overwhelmed and out of control.

Another friend told me their son quit after one semester after too much partying and not enough studying. Yet another mom left on a rescue mission to help a child in need.

What the heck is going on with our kids and college? My own son struggled to find his way his freshman year.  

All of these parents, myself included, believed college was the best and only choice for their kids.imgres-1

Maybe college isn’t for everyone? Maybe we did too much for them? Maybe we didn’t let them fail often or enough?

I’ll talk more about why kids are struggling in college on another day. And if we have an epidemic on our hands.

But, first, I want to share basic things kids need to know before they leave for college. I was often surprised at questions my son would ask me during his first year at college. I’m going to make sure my second child checks off every item on my “top 10 things kids need to know before going to college” list.

  1. Banking skills. Know how to write a check, make a deposit face-to-face with a teller, fill out a deposit slip, and use an ATM card for deposits and withdrawals. Balancing a check-book falls under the banking list.
  2. Laundry. Have your kids do their own laundry so they know how to sort white and colors, hand-wash, hang dry, and fold–and what it feels like to be out of clean clothes. The clean underwear does not appear by magic! imgres-5
  3. Cooking. Teach your child some basic cooking skills like scrambling eggs, making spaghetti, baking a chicken, steaming vegetables, and cooking rice. 
  4. Grocery shopping. Just like clean underwear, the food in the fridge doesn’t appear out of thin air. Teach how to make a list, look for coupons, find sale items, and learn how to read unit pricing on shelves.imgres-6
  5. How to get to and from the grocery store. This may seem obvious, but I’ll never forget the phone call I got from Robert: “Mom. I’m at Costco and how do I get home with cases of water, yogurt, and Top Ramen on my bike?”  Hmmm. Good question.
  6. Budgeting. If your child hasn’t worked at a job and you provide their basic necessities, they lack budgeting skills. My son got his first paycheck working a summer retail job. The check was for $175. He bought his girlfriend a dress for $110 and spent the rest on dinner for the two of them. Very romantic, but not practical when he needed to eat the next week and month.
  7. Theft. At college, thieves are everywhere. My first week of college, I hand-washed some sweaters and hung them out to dry in the bathroom. Within minutes — gone. I had a bike stolen from my sorority storage room — and a locked bike stolen when I used a restroom during a ride around Green Lake. My son’s laptop was stolen when he left it in a study area in his dorm. Make sure they have “find my laptop” activated and never leave anything unattended! Don’t use a chain or cable lock for your bike — use a solid bar type. 
  8. Professors. They set aside office hours and only one or two students bother to stop by per semester. They are thrilled to help and meet students face-to-face. This can help for future referrals, references, internships — and grades. Have your kid meet with each professor at least once, every semester. It can’t hurt!images-2
  9. Cars. Basic things like checking tire pressure, oil and water levels, changing tires and pumping gas. Maybe they won’t have a car right away, but at some point they will and car maintenance is not an instinct. It’s a learned skill.
  10. Learn to say no! College means hanging out with friends, listening to music, parties, dances, rallies, job opportunities, football games, intramural sports, going out to eat, etc. Studying is priority number one. Learning to say no will help your kid stay focused.
IMG_0609

My daughter with Waffles.

What other essential life skills would you add to the list?

Who believes Operation Varsity Blues parents are innocent?

76014_10150089816544612_743743_n

Proof my daughter swam her way into  college.

Seriously? The attorney for the famous couple of the Instagram influencer is saying that they are innocent to charges of bribing USC to get their kids in. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times today called New evidence backs Loughlin’s and Giannulli’s innocence, lawyer says explains why they think they are innocent.

Rick Singer was the college consultant who set up a fake charity and took large sums of money from parents to guarantee admission to universities. In Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli’s case, they paid $500,000 to have their daughters admitted to University of Southern California on the crew team — and neither daughter had ever been rowers. I guess we’re supposed to forget that the parents had pictures of their daughter taken on an erg or that they had someone photoshop their daughter’s head on a rower in a boat. That’s not suspicious at all, right?

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

BOSTON —  Lawyers for “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, said Wednesday that new evidence shows the couple is innocent of charges that they bribed their daughters’ way into USC.

An attorney for the couple said in a legal filing that prosecutors provided the defense with notes written by the admitted ringleader of the college admissions cheating scheme that support the couple’s claim that they believed their payments were legitimate donations, not bribes.

“This belated discovery is devastating to the government’s case and demonstrates that the government has been improperly withholding core exculpatory information, employing a ‘win at all costs’ effort rather than following their obligation to do justice,” attorney Sean Berkowtiz wrote.

The filing came on the eve of a status hearing in the case scheduled for Thursday at Boston’s federal court in the sweeping college admissions bribery case. It was expected that the judge would set a trial date for the parents still fighting the charges at that hearing.

Now, the couple’s attorneys are asking the judge to postpone the setting of the trial date in light of the new evidence, saying “it is the only fair way to protect the defendants’ rights.”

Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 to get their daughters into USC as crew recruits even though neither was a rower. Authorities say the money was funneled through a sham charity operated by college admissions consultant Rick Singer, who has pleaded guilty to orchestrating the scheme.

Lawyers for Loughlin and Giannulli have argued that the couple believed the payments were “legitimate donations” that would go directly to USC as a fundraising gift or to support Singer’s charity. They have accused prosecutors of hiding crucial evidence that could prove the couple’s innocence because it would undermine their case.

It comes down to some notes by the less than honest Singer that supposedly hold exculpatory evidence for Loughlin and Giannulli. Do you think that it will be enough to prove their innocence? I guess we’ll find out in the fall when the parents go to trial.

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

I am particularly annoyed with these parents in the college admissions scandal because I watched my son get rejected by eight of the nine universities he applied to. He worked so hard in high school to get into the schools of his dreams. He was valedictorian, had great SATs, participated in extracurriculars like swimming, Junior Statesmen of America, and wrote and performed music with his band. My heart ached for him and now I learn that many of the spots were taken by parents cheating the system for their kids. Also, my daughter earned her scholarship through years and years of hard work as a student- athlete. How many of those spots were taken across the nation by kids not even in a sport — and taken away from someone else who worked for ten or more years to get there?

Swim Parents: Facing the Final Meet

I wrote this two years ago, a few days before what would be my daughter’s final swim meet. I have friends who are experiencing this bittersweet feeling today. I feel for them. It was such an emotional rollercoaster ride sitting at our daughter’s last college meet. The good news is I’m transitioning from swim mom to Masters swimmer and I’m now officially a “rowing mom” with our son now competing in regattas.

10989205_427382057417968_1053048555776130980_n

PAC 12 2015

There I’ve said it. My daughter’s last meet is days away. It’s her senior year and her final meet will be the PAC 12 conference meet in Federal Way, WA. I’m kind of jumbled up on how I feel about it. I love being a swim mom and I find myself looking back on little moments with nostalgia and sadness. I will miss going to her meets.

My husband and I were browsing through the App called Meet Mobile this morning looking at different conference results from local schools where our children’s friends are swimming like UCSB and UCSD. I realized that I know a couple of the seniors’ names, but other than that there aren’t a whole lot of swimmers I recognize.

The past few years haven’t been all rosy. After a great freshman year, she got a high ankle sprain chasing after Trax, the public transportation train in Salt Lake City. That meant she couldn’t push off the walls for weeks during long course season and didn’t get her Olympic Trial cut. I think that was a devastating blow to her at the time, although it doesn’t seem like such a big deal now.

Then at last year’s PAC 12s, she got the flu. A really bad flu where the coaches didn’t let her swim or even out of her room until the final day of the meet. It was decidedly weird sitting in the stands for PAC 12s and not having a participant in the meet. Her last and only event she gave it everything she had. I was so nervous I thought I’d faint. I wasn’t sure if she was going to survive that mile-long race, but she did. Her coach said it was a “heroic swim” and he was so proud of her. It was close to a best time.

This year she’s been fighting through a bad shoulder injury. I worry if it was because she started swimming so young, so intensely or for so many years? What should I have done differently as a swim parent? Make her stop? Let her take time off?

She will take time off this year. But what I’m hoping for is next year, after my surgery and I’ve healed, that she will swim with me at a Masters meet–so I can be a swimmer and a swim mom all in one day.

 

img_6591

My daughter’s coaches and teammates cheering for her during the 1650 at last year’s PAC 12s.

Any bets on if I’ll cry at my daughter’s final college meet?

 

 

Who Is to Blame for Performance Pressure at the Big Meet?

IMG_5009

The view of Mt. San Jacinto during my morning walk.

Every morning, I walk around the neighborhood and park. On a good morning I talk to my kids as they are driving through the Bay Area traffic to work. Today, I chatted with my daughter about the PAC 12 Swimming Championships. She told me a few eye-opening things about her experiences in the years’ past.

First, she told me during her freshman year she was absolutely terrified before she swam. She felt the PAC 12s was the biggest meet of her life. I remember watching her from the balcony, having fun with her teammates. I had no clue she was terrified.

That made me ask an all important question. “Was it because your dad and I put too much pressure on you?”

“No, I put the pressure on myself,” she said.

IMG_0283

Me and my kids at PAC 12 Swimming Champs, 2018.

Whew. Big sigh of relief from me. I wrote about championship meets for SwimSwam and here on my blog last week. I thought I’d blown it with too much performance pressure on both my kids. What a nice bit of knowledge to know my daughter didn’t view it that way at all. Also, my son told me he also put pressure on himself. Of course, some of our actions may not have helped, but we weren’t the sole cause of their pressure.

10989205_427382057417968_1053048555776130980_n

PAC 12 2015, goofing off with teammates.

She told me, “I remember during my first PAC  12s my coach was talking to me about Open Water Camp coming up. I thought to myself. Wow. There’s more swimming after this. This isn’t the end of the world after all.”  (USA Swimming Open Water Select Camp is an annual instructive camp where 12 men and 12 women, ages 13 to 18, are selected based on their 1500 times or Open Water Nationals results. Here’s a link to the year my daughter went.)

Another thing my daughter told me was about the mid-season meet. This is where the team goes to a big meet in the middle of the season with a bunch of other college teams. We never went to one because she didn’t want us there and we respected her wishes. She said “I hope you and dad know that I didn’t want you there because I put so much pressure on myself. It wasn’t you guys.” She asked, “Do you think Dad knows that?” She explained that she wasn’t tapered for that meet and she only swims fast with a taper. She didn’t expect to swim well and always felt she could have done more to prepare for that mid-season meet.

It’s so rewarding to have conversations with my adult children and know that they appreciate what we’ve done for them — and not be blamed for their own insecurities or pressures. They are separate human beings with their own goals and dreams. I’m glad to be of help along the way and I enjoyed it all beyond measure.

12993483_10206137709550389_5869950003926223033_n

US Open Water Nationals in Florida.

Have you had enlightening conversations with your kids about when and why they feel pressure?

 

 

How to Raise Fragile and Entitled Kids

robert

If only I knew then what I know today.

There’s always a new article about how helicopter parents are failing their kids. I read one today that not only pointed out how badly our kids will do when we do too much for them — including higher occurrences of anxiety and depression — but it turns out parents suffer from our own helicopter parenting, too. Yes, I’m guilty and I’m suffering, too.

When we are helicopter parents, we tend to worry more and also experience higher levels of stress and anxiety. The key is to let our kids fail and learn how to handle disappointment and difficult situations. When we solve everything for them, we rob them of the ability to learn from mistakes and practice problem solving.

Here’s an article I read today by Ana Aznar, who is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Winchester, called How Over-Parenting Harms Your Kids by Making Them Fragile and Entitled. Click here to read the entire article.

I liked this paragraph and felt is really summed it up:

Life inevitably brings problems and disappointment. It is better to teach children how to face these issues rather than to solve all their problems for them. By doing so, parents will help children to develop resilience and the ability to deal with frustration – tools that will allow them to thrive once they leave the parental home.

When I watch one of my kids struggle with problems at work, friends or roommates, I want to kick myself. Did I rob them of the ability to handle these issues that inevitably are going to happen? By trying to make life perfect for them, I didn’t help them in the long run.

Here are a few more excerpts from the article:

During the last couple of decades, new types of parents have emerged. From the anxiously involved helicopter parents to the pushy tiger mums, these differing styles all have one thing in common: they tend to involve over-parenting. This is where parents micromanage their children’s lives – giving them little autonomy, putting too much pressure on them to achieve academic and personal success, while allowing few chances for their children to experience failure and frustration.

These are the parents who run back to school when their children forget their sports kit, do their homework, and ask others in the parent WhatsApp chat for the homework when their child does not bring it home. These parents believe their children are always right. They will confront teachers if the child feels they have been unfairly treated, or will confront other parents if, say, their child is not invited to a party.

Most of the research on over-parenting has focused on how it has affected university students. But the link between over-involved parents and negative consequences is found when examining children of all ages. Indeed, pre-school and primary school children of over-involved parents tend to experience high levels of shyness, anxiety and poor peer relations.When examining adolescents and university students, these negative consequences continue.

For example, 16 to 28 year-old students who reported having helicopter parents were more likely to have low levels of self-efficacy – the trust that people have in their own abilities and skills – and poor relationships with their peers.In similar research, young people who reported having over-involved parents experienced higher levels of depression and stress, less satisfaction with life, as well as less ability to regulate their emotions. They also reported a higher sense of entitlement, and increased drug use than young people with less involved parents.

Here are a few of the problems over-parenting can cause us:

Bad for parents too

Over-parenting does not only have negative consequences for the children, though. Parents who over-parent are more likely to experience high levels of anxiety, stress and regret. This in turn has negative consequences for their children, who may pick up on their parents’ anxiety and make it their own.

This may be one of the reasons why the number of university students struggling with anxiety and depression is at an all-time high. Indeed, a recent poll concluded that one in five university students in the UK suffers from high anxiety levels.

So, should all parents back off and not get involved in their children’s lives? Not quite. Because to make matters more complicated, research clearly shows that children who have involved parents tend to do better at school, have higher levels of self-esteem, and better peer relations than children whose parents are not as involved.

kat chair

If you were guilty of being a helicopter parent, have your kids experienced problems because of over-parenting?

Parenting Kids Over 18:The Stakes Are Higher

randk

When parenting was more tiring, but easier.

I really enjoyed reading an article about parenting kids from age 18 to their mid-20s from the NBC News Think website. I’m sure it’s because it hit home to me. It’s a whole different type of parenting from when they were toddlers. I’m treading water trying to figure out how to be there for my kids, offer support, but not take over. From the time they left for college, I felt like the stakes were so much higher and I had less control than ever. I’m trying to relax and let them live their lives and just listen without jumping in to solve problems or tell them what to do.

In Parenting kids over 18 is still parenting. You just get less control and the stakes are higher, by Meagan Francis, she echoed my worries and concerns.

I once looked forward to my kids’ legal adulthood as a kind of finish line, but I now I know how delusional that vision was.

When my five kids were small, I naively saw the age of 18 as the light at the end of the tunnel. During that sleepless stretch in which my life felt like an endless blur of night feedings, diapers, bandaging boo-boos and navigating piles of sippy-cups and sippy-cup lids that never seemed to match, I looked forward to my kids’ legal adulthood as a kind of finish line. Once they’d crossed it, I figured, I could relax and celebrate having gotten past the hardest parts of parenting.

Now, with two of my children well past voting age and their three other siblings hurtling ever-faster toward that benchmark, I can look back at my former self and say with the benefit of hindsight: Hahahaha!

Instead, I often feel like I’m learning “how it works” all over again. Parenting older kids is still very much parenting — only you get even less say, the results are more public, and the stakes are higher. The lines between appropriate helping, spoiling and enabling are often difficult to define and the concept of parenting “to the child” rather than following a one-size-fits-all plan starts to feel less conceptual and more necessary.

It’s true that my two eldest sons, ages 20 and 22, are less dependent on me now. When they were young, my entire existence seemed to revolve around stopping them from doing certain things while compelling them to do others. Today I no longer need to teach them basic life skills, like how to cross the street without being annihilated by a garbage truck or why showering every day is a good idea — though, let’s be clear, there are days I ponder reviewing that particular lesson — and I have neither the responsibility nor opportunity to monitor their schedule minute-by-minute.

But that doesn’t mean it’s any easier. Nor that my duties are behind me. Despite all the bold statements I made when they were 8 about tossing them unceremoniously out of the nest the moment they turned 18, I have since realized my smug error in thinking they would be fully formed adults ready to be thrown out into the world without repercussions.

That’s largely because, while the government may tell us that once you’re 18, you’re an adult, neuroscientists now know better. Emerging research on brain development shows that a young adult’s brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25.

Developmental psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett calls this period — the seven years between the day a kid legally becomes an adult, and the day they have the reasoning power and impulse control of an actual adult — “emerging adulthood.” And navigating it can be tricky for both children and their caregivers.

“Parents are often glad their kids are more mature and can do more things for themselves,” he notes, “but at the same time you often realize they’re making decisions that aren’t wise, or that they aren’t ready to make.”

This can be particularly difficult because those decisions often carry larger weight. Arnett compares it to the damage done if a toddler takes a spill while learning to walk versus when an adult falls. “Questions like whether to move in with a girlfriend or boyfriend, drop out of college, choose a major — those choices have big, long-term implications,” he says. “Naturally, you have ideas about this — and not unreasonably, they also feel like it’s their life to live.”

That’s why it’s important to listen as much as instruct, according to Lisa Heffernan, co-author of “Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults.”

“Since our ability as parents to mandate and control our kids’ decisions is lessened, it’s time to switch to listening and modeling adult behavior,” she says, suggesting acting like a “sounding board” for them. “Getting kids through this stage is all about showing them what adulthood feels like and sounds like and looks like — literally walking them through your decisions and explaining, ‘This is why I did it this way; here’s what happens now.’”

Taking cues from my kids, I am trying to be a better listener. When they call and complain about a co-worker or roommate, they are not necessarily asking for my advice. They want to vent and explain to someone who loves them what is on their minds. When they want advice or my opinion, they always ask for it.

I tend to be a worrier. When I don’t hear from them, they are most likely okay, but I worry. When they tell me their problems, I worry more. With an attitude like this, it’s amazing they tell me what’s going on in their lives at all!

What do you find easier, raising young children or young adults?