It’s a Privilege: Hanging out With Grown Kids

 

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On top of the world at Deer Valley, Utah.

 

I spent five, count them, five glorious days with my 21-year-old daughter in Salt Lake City, where she’s a student. I shared a bit of her life, her territory. We had a few plans like driving up to the resort town of Park City to be tourists. But mostly, my objective was to be with her.

During the past three years when I’ve visited my daughter, there’s been zero one-on-one time for mother and daughter. We visit, my husband and I when there’s a college swim meet. We take her out for dinner Friday night, which is nice. She meets us at our favorite hotel usually with a teammate or two in tow.

I don’t mind this at all, and we love any moment we get to spend with her. But, it’s quick, clean and disinfected time together. The next morning my husband and I go for a big walk around town. We make our way to the pool 30 minutes before the meet begins and catch up with other swim parents. Then we watch the meet, which is always exciting. Afterward, we wait for warm-down, team meetings and showers.

Sundays we get all day with her, unless we have an early morning flight. We’ve been taking the 9 p.m. flight home lately, so we get extra time together.

This trip was entirely different. I traveled on my own. I had the option of my favorite hotel, my daughter’s living room hide-a-bed or sleeping in her room on a plush, thick mattress, kept for relatives and recruits. I opted to be in her room. I didn’t want to inconvenience her roommates with “Mom” taking over their living room.

 

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Waffles the pug puppy.

I wrote while she swam and went to school. I took the pup “Waffles” on walks, the first one each day to get coffee. Seriously, I don’t know how four girls survive without any coffee or coffee maker in the house? The rest of the day and evening was whatever we decided to do. We walked, played tourists in Park City, rode the ski lifts in Deer Valley, walked some more, shopped at Target for supplies, ate sushi and lobster rolls. We also spent a lot of time in her room watching Gilmore Girls, reading, and just being together.

 

I feel so honored that my daughter wanted to spend these days with me. She didn’t feel like I was intruding or that she had to cater to me. We like each other’s company. I’m very proud of how “together” her life is. She’s on top of her homework, swim practice, and does extra cardio and fitness, plus takes care of all the little stuff like grocery shopping, cooking and having a social life.

I must have done something right. Or, in spite of me, she’s figured out this thing called life.

 

About those lobster rolls! We went to Freshies Lobster Co. in Park City. I discovered this amazing place from a blog called femalefoodie. Seriously, it was the best meal I’ve had in three years of visits to the state of Utah.

What is your favorite thing to do with your grown kids?

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The Roller Coaster Ride of Parenting

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My son and swim team friends years ago.

We were leaving tomorrow for my son’s college graduation. I’m packed and I was on my way to swim practice when he texted me. He said he has a bunch of papers that are due on Monday and he doesn’t have time for graduation activities.

It’s been a tough quarter for him with prolonged illness—weeks and weeks of getting sick and staying sick.

The announcements are out. The celebratory dinner was set, grandpa’s hotel room booked. We have friends and family coming in for the graduation ceremony. But, one thing will be missing. My son.

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The day we moved my son into his dorm room at UCSB.

He’s planning on graduating, mind you. But, he doesn’t have time to celebrate and attend the activities. Seriously, why did his college schedule the ceremony the weekend before finals and when papers are due? I don’t know the answer to this. 

On my daughter’s side, we spent the weekend at her target meet to qualify for Olympic Trials. She swam well, made it to finals, but didn’t achieve the cuts she was looking for. She’s been so close, but in all honesty, it’s too bad she tripped and sprained her ankle last summer, chasing a bus. My point is that it’s hard to make a cut at a last ditch meet. There’s too much pressure and it might have been easier to make it during last year’s long course season.

Do I love my children any less? No, I do not. In fact, I’d say they are truly growing up and experiencing the difficulties of adulthood. Disappointments do occur. Things do not always go as planned. It’s how we react and handle ourselves that will determine success or failure. I don’t want them to give up on their dreams.

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Open Water Nats at Lake Castaic, July 2014. Photo by Anne Lepesant.

Sometimes They Fall to the Ground Before They Fly Away

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“Sometimes when they leave the nest, they have to fall to the ground before they learn to fly.”

I was at a swim meet this past weekend, talking to a longtime coach friend of mine. The “leaving the nest bird analogy” was his answer to my question about if you should let your children fail. Or, continue to support them at all costs and bail them out of trouble?

When is it time to say no? In my opinion and according some of my best friends, at some point you have to put your foot down and no longer give in. The sooner you do that, the better off they will be.

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My son at Laguna Beach.

 

Is this “tough love” or is it merely letting our kids face reality and consequences?

My son, who is a bright, loving person, has struggled through some of his college years. His first year, he was in an accident and looking back, he should have taken a hardship withdrawal. Now, in his final quarter of school, he’s been sick for at least six straight weeks. He wants to take a hardship withdrawal now—with only four weeks left before he graduates.

Literally, it kills me. In the very least, it sickens my heart. I want him to finish, but we’ve drawn a line in the sand. We will not give him a dime more for college. He’ll have to figure this out for himself. In fact, I told him that if he withdraws from college now, he’ll have to come home. We aren’t paying for him to live in Santa Barbara without going to school. No, we’re not paying for next quarter, either.

Are we being too hard? I don’t think so. It would be easy to give in.

robertUnfortunately, I didn’t allow him to fail when the consequences weren’t so high. I was one of those helicopter parents rushing to school with forgotten papers, etc. I did him no favors by saving him from small failures. 

He’s thought through his options and I’m happy to say, he’s sticking with school. However, I came to the realization, that whatever path he takes, it’s his decision and his life. There isn’t a right or wrong way to go. It would not be the end of the world if he didn’t get his college degree in June. It isn’t my first choice for him, don’t get me wrong. But, if he had to work for a couple years and save the money to finish college, he’d learn a lot. He may even appreciate the opportunities we’ve provided for him.

Nobody told me parenting would be so hard.

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Fly Away
by Lenny Kravitz
“I wish that I could fly
Into the sky
So very high
Just like a dragonfly
I’d fly above the trees
Over the seas in all degrees
To anywhere I please”
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What is Your Favorite Comfort Food?

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Lincoln’s birthday was my daughter’s birthday and we flew up to Salt Lake City to celebrate her 20th with her, watch her swim, and enjoy Valentine’s Day together. I left perfect 80 degree weather to be in the snow–but loved the change in scenery and cold weather.

One of the more interesting conversations we had was about comfort food. In one of my daughter’s classes they talked about food from childhood, and how certain smells spark memories. I agree that sensory memory is powerful. It’s a valuable tool for a writer’s palette.

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My daughter and friend diving in the 500 free.

She told her class that her comfort food was Mexican food. I felt sad that none of my dishes made her list. I consider myself a pretty good cook, and I made dinner and lunches for my family daily!

I remember when she was little she called all my dinners “chicken.” When I made pan-fried sole she proclaimed, “This is the best chicken ever! This is the chicken I like!”

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Chips and Salsa at El Gallito.

I get it about Mexican food. When my husband and I were newlyweds, we frequented El Gallito in Cathedral City for huevos rancheros every weekend. We’d sit together, without a care in the world, reading the Sunday Los Angeles Times from cover to cover. Bill’s former roommate saw us there and asked, “Is this what married life is like? You sit there reading the paper and don’t talk?”

We’re back to reading the paper without interruptions. It’s kind of nice not to be busy with daily chores of kids, as much as I miss them.

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Inside our favorite Mexican restaurant.

El Gallito is closing soon after more than 40 years of being open. It’s a family owned business, and in my opinion, it’s the best Mexican restaurant in the Coachella Valley. The flavor of their salsa will be locked in my sensory memory forever. I wish someone would take it over and continue on with their recipes.

So sad that all things must come to an end–whether it’s our days of a houseful of kids or our favorite Mexican restaurant.

What are your favorite comfort foods?

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A dog’s life in SLC on Valentine’s Day.

“I Don’t Have to, I Get To!”

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My hometown pool, for which I’m forever grateful.

That’s an interesting way to view the world. Instead of taking things for granted, take a moment to appreciate what we have. Flip the things you don’t want to do on their heads and be thankful you are able to do them.

Last Sunday, my daughter who is out of state at college, drove an hour from campus to my husband’s childhood friend’s church, CenterPoint Church in Orem, UT. My hubby’s friend from elementary through high school grew up to be a pastor. As a mom, I was thrilled that she took the time to go to church, visit family friends, and decided to do this all on her own!

Anyway, she texted, “This was just what I needed. The sermon’s message was ‘I don’t have to, I get to!”

I suppose that’s a pretty good message during finals week for any college student, right?

I wish I could have been with her and heard the message, too. I’m guessing it was a talk about our outlook. What an interesting thing to try out.

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Olive has an interesting viewpoint.

When I vacuumed today, I reminded myself that I don’t have to vacuum. I get to! I’m lucky to be in my home, pursuing my writing dreams—and I’m able to vacuum, too, whenever I want!

My best friend from college is here. Her dad is a snowbird (which means he lives in our valley for the winter months to enjoy our sunshine). She’s here to visit him because he suffered a stroke and is in the hospital. I bet he understands what I’m talking about — “I don’t have to. I get to.”

When I was my daughter’s age, I was hit by a truck at college. I was hurt pretty badly and laying in bed in the hospital, I didn’t care about the things I had been obsessed about the week before. I no longer cared about losing five pounds, or what my grade was on a paper. I really worried about being able to get out of bed and walk. I was instantly reminded of all that I took for granted. I was thankful to be alive.

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My daughter happy to be swimming for years.

Last week I wrote about how to encourage your kids to be more positive. You can read more about it here on SwimSwam.  I think the secret to having  positive kids is being grateful, thankful and positive in your own life. Most of what our kids learn from us is through our actions—not our words.

If your child is excited about going to practice–whether or not it’s swimming, ballet or a piano lesson–then they will love what they are doing. Or, we can tell them that “they have to go,” and the outcome will be less than pleasant for everyone as you beg, plead and threaten.

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My kids at a piano recital. They didn’t have to. They got to!

Rather than complain about what you have to do, think about how grateful you are for the opportunity.

“I don’t HAVE to. I GET to!”

Here’s What Happens When You Disagree With a College Student

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I’m thankful for my beautiful neighborhood.

I’m surprised when people aren’t grateful for all our country has to offer. There is opportunity here for everyone. We have a standard of living that many people from other countries would be thrilled to enjoy. It seems not appreciating our country is especially true for college students. I recently posted a comment on a college student’s FB page — big mistake — when they were bemoaning the problems in our nation. I mentioned something about looking at all we have and being thankful.

Guess what happened next? I got a piling on from outraged kids saying that because we have an affluent society doesn’t mean we should be racist.

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I’m thankful for my kids and friends. Especially the ones who sail!

Excuse me? Did I mention anything about racism? Did I say it was okay to be a racist? Let’s be clear. Racism is bad. It’s evil. It’s wrong. But, what I was thinking about is the fact we can choose which path to take. We aren’t forced into a job, career or marriage. We have choices. We also have clean water and air.

These kids sitting in their exclusive ivory towers on ivy league campuses with the latest iPhones and laptops seem to enjoy ripping about how awful our country is. I read about it in the paper on a daily basis. How would they enjoy living in a part of the world without a toilet or running water? Where they wouldn’t have a grocery store, a Starbucks or cell service? How would they survive?

My hope is that they take their idealism and go to a country where life isn’t as easy. I’m sure a lot of places in the world would welcome them and could use their help. Maybe then, they would appreciate what we have. Maybe they will understand and show empathy for the people who came before them, and the changes we have made. No, we aren’t perfect. No person is perfect. But, we are truly blessed.

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Beautiful UCSB, where my son attends college.

I’m very thankful for my family, friends and country. I’m thankful to live in this part of the world, where we aren’t concerned with basic survival. I’m thankful that we have freedom of speech and wish we could have more civil discussions and agree to disagree.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I think it’s a perfect time to reflect on all that we have.

I have a beautiful home, two wonderful kids, a loving, kind husband. I’m grateful for my friends, my community and for those who serve our country and have kept us safe.

What are you thankful for?

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I’m thankful for the times I get to watch my daughter swim.

The Instant Gratification Generation and Helicopter Parents

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

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 in college 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.”

When parenting took all my time, but I was not interfering.

When parenting took all my time, but I was not interfering.

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 then 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.