Thoughts on cancelling student debt

UC Santa Barbara lagoon
One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UC Santa Barbara where my son went to school.

I want to know what your thoughts are about cancelling student debt. The current administration is considering cancelling $10,000 per debt holder. Some are pushing for $50,000.

Personally, I believe a contract is a contract. If you cancel a loan for college, why stop there? Why not cancel mortgages, car loans and credit card debt? Of course, for those loans there is the option to file for bankruptcy. But not with student loans. Maybe that law should be overturned?

What does this say to those who chose to enlist in the military to help pay for their education? Or those who chose community college not to mention those who paid their loans? What about people who entered into trades like electricians, contractors, plumbers and hair dressers? Should they be paying for a doctor or teacher who has a ton of debt?

The point is the debt doesn’t magically go away. It gets passed on to the rest of us. Many universities have huge foundations. I’m not against the institutions forgiving debt. They could do it.

What do you think? If you disagree with me, please let me know what I’m missing. I truly want to know other points of view. What solutions do you suggest for overwhelming student loan debt?

In tatters

swim t-shirt quilt
The t-shirt quilt I made for my son one month before he went to college.

I don’t sew. But I saw a youtube video on how to make a t-shirt quilt. I thought it would be a fun thing to do with the dozens of t-shirts my kids got during their lifetime of swimming. The team had shirts. They’d get t-shirts at big meets. Swim t-shirts were breeding in our closets.

I mentioned it to my son and he thought it was an excellent idea! I promptly forgot about it. A month before he left home he reminded me I had better get started on the quilt.

The last time I visited the kids was in February. My son’s girlfriend had asked if I could fix the quilt. I said sure — without looking at it. I brought it home with me in a duffle bag.

Quilt in tatters.
The quilt is now in tatters.

Yikes. What can I do to save this?

I made a quilt for my daughter when she went off to college, too. Then there were still an abundance of Piranha Swim Team of Palm Springs t-shirts hanging out in drawers and closets that I made a third quilt. I made it for my daughter but she doesn’t have room for it, and didn’t particularly like it. She gave it back to me.

I’ve decided to give this one to my son — after I cover up a few of my daughter’s squares, with ones I salvaged from his tattered and torn quilt.

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The third t-shirt quilt I made.

Do you have a supply of t-shirts that you don’t know what to do with? If so, click on this LINK to make a t-shirt quilt. If I can do it, you can too. Like I said, I didn’t know how to sew when I started the first one.

What sewing have you done in your life?

10 Things Kids Need to Know Before College

After my son left for college, I realized that I had failed big time in teaching life skills. Yes, he had good grades. Yes, he had the right “stuff.” But he was seriously lacking in the basics. I spent time teaching my daughter these skills before it was her turn to leave. She was better prepared for the daily tasks–although that doesn’t necessarily mean life won’t throw you some bumps in the road.

Sheltering in place with our children offers a unique opportunity to look at all the little stuff we can teach them while they’re home. Giving them more responsibility around the home will pay off when they’re away. Here’s a story I wrote several years ago about the consequences of NOT preparing your kids for life:

 

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My son giving his high school Valedictorian 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.

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My daughter with Waffles preparing for college graduation.

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

 

Pandemic Phenom: Adult Kids Flocking to the Nest

IMG_6112One thing that’s happening now during the pandemic is adult kids returning to home. Many universities offer classes remotely so kids aren’t going off to school. Other kids are working remotely and no longer have to pay for expensive apartments but can work anywhere, including at home with mom and dad. Unfortunately, some young adults new to the work force have lost their jobs because of COVID-19 shut downs. The end result is adult kids who normally would be out on their own have returned to live with mom and dad.

I’ve read several articles about his phenomenon and have included excerpts from two articles below.

From Lemore Navy News, The Meat and Potatoes of Life: The impossible task of parenting young adults by Lisa Smith Molinari, she talks about how parenting adult kids is different from having toddlers and babies, but just as hard.

I used to have a good grasp on parenting. From the time our three children were infants, all the way through toddlerhood, the primary school years, and even the dreaded teenage years, I used a fairly successful combination of expert-recommended techniques, mother’s intuition, and common sense to raise our children.

But now that they are adults, I am dumbfounded.

No one ever told me that my job as a mother would become immensely more difficult once my offspring turned into adults. In the last few years, my husband and I have discovered that, although parenting individuals over the age of majority is absolutely essential to their safety and well-being, it seems frustratingly fruitless.

To complicate matters, the global pandemic brought young adults back to their parents’ homes for the foreseeable future. College students have been forced to take classes remotely, summer jobs have been cancelled, and hiring has been suspended. With two of our three adult children back at home, we can no longer take comfort in “out of site out of mind.” We face the daunting task of trying to enforce rules and standards of conduct for two financially dependent legal adults.

Put a screaming infant having a diaper blow-out on my lap while strapped into coach seating between two grumpy business men on a turbulent nine-hour flight. Challenge me to negotiate the check out line at the commissary with a premenstrual migraine, a cartload of groceries, and a toddler having an epic tantrum over Goldfish crackers. Force me to give a lecture on why one should not wear booty shorts and a crop top to school to a smirking, gum-chewing teenager who won’t stop watching TikTok videos long enough to acknowledge me.

Pardon the pun, but that’s child’s play.

But present me with a resident 22-year-old — who wakes up at one in the afternoon, eats all the deli meat, takes a 30-minute shower, packs a duffel full of bikinis and spiked seltzers, announces that she is taking Dad’s car to visit sorority friends in Vermont for a few days, and can someone please do the laundry while she’s gone because she’s completely out of bras? — and I’m paralyzed with fear. After two and a half decades of tackling the full spectrum of child-rearing challenges, I find the task of parenting our three grown children about as easy as winning a chess match against Bobby Fischer.

Molinari talks about the issue of having different goals than our kids. This is how she lists it. It’s quite a funny list such as our kids wanting unlimited full tank of gas and the latest iphone. Parents want prohibition reinstated and a worry-free night of sleep. You can read it on her article here.

IMG_7880In How To Cope With Having Your Adult Kids Back Home from Katie Couric’s Wake-Up Call newsletter, experts give advice on how to handle families being back together due to the pandemic.

The coronavirus crisis has upended all of our lives in unthinkable ways, and for many of us, that means a rearrangement of our living situation. To help our Wake-Up Call newsletter (subscribe here!) adjust to this unique situation, our good friends Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa Heffernan of Grown and Flown spoke with us about the surprising number of adult children they’ve seen moving back in with their parents.

Together, they offered some advice on how to make the most of this transition — plus psychologist Lisa Damour jumped in to explain why some adult children may tend to act a bit less like adults and more like children when they first move home…

Wake Up Call: You both have adult children. Have any of them moved back in?

Mary Dell: I have two young adults who have moved back home with us, and my nephew, who’s in college and who we are guardians for, is also with us. It’s five people… so that means it’s 15 meals a day. It’s shocking! I don’t actually have to cook 15 meals a day but I am cooking a big huge dinner every night, and it’s something I am so out of practice with. It’s a really full house.

Lisa Heffernan: We’ve actually done the reverse. I had my mother move in, because I was so worried about where she was living, and the chance of infection. Since older people are much more susceptible to this, our kids have had to stay away. But they will come over and sit at the end of the garden, about 20 feet from us, to say hello.

What advice do you have for parents hoping to set boundaries and establish rules with their adult children?

Lisa Heffernan: Our natural inclination as parents may be to go back to “our house our rules,” because last time your child lived with you they were a child, both in maturity and in the eyes of the law. It’s really important in this moment that we come to agreements with our kids about what the rules are going to be and how we’re going to do things, as opposed to flipping back in time to the moment when we made the rules.

So instead of laying down the rules like you may have done with a 15 year old, try to present it as: How can we solve this problem together? For example: “I need quiet in the house between 2 and 4 p.m. because I am doing Zoom calls, and no matter where you are, when you’re blaring YouTube, I can hear it. So how are we going to make this work so I can do my work and you can do what you want to do?”

It’s almost like your kids are now your roommates, but more importantly, they’re other adults. It’s hard for a lot of parents to come to grips with this, but it’s also incredibly important to remind kids of how they’re going to fulfill responsibilities as adults in the household. Those can be things like, cleaning, shopping, and cooking. Or with my kids, I’ve said, “Here’s something you need to do for us: Grandpa is quarantined alone, so you each need to call him once a day.”

It’s about figuring out what the most important tasks are, putting those in front of your kids, and talking to them like the adults you want them to be.

Your friend and Grown and Flown contributor, psychologist Lisa Damour, also had some interesting thoughts to share with us on why our adult children might not always act their age when they move back into the house. Let’s check in with her on this…

Lisa Damour: It’s not at all unusual for young adults (and even middle-aged adults!) to regress a bit when they are around their parents. We all have well-worn patterns for how we interact with our parents, and those patterns took the form of a parent-child relationship for a long time. Put simply, it’s pretty easy for high-functioning, self-sufficient young adults to slip into acting like teenagers when they’re with their folks.

The challenge here is for the parent to not regress back to old patterns along with the young adult — especially if doing so takes the form of slipping into unhelpful interactions, such as coming down on an adult child for not helping out around the house. To do this, we should remember that all young people have two sides: a mature, thoughtful, and altruistic side… and an immature, impulsive, and self-preoccupied side.

In my experience, the side the parent addresses will be the side that shows up for the conversation. If the parent launches in with a lecture, they’re likely to get a snarky adolescent response. If the parent says, “I know you were doing a great job of splitting dorm/apartment responsibilities with your roommate before you had to come home. Now I need you to do the same thing here with us,” they’re likely to get a mature and helpful response.

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What experiences have you had with adult children returning home because of the pandemic?

 

Does Everyone Need College?

The traditional college experience is on hold. I know kids who may not be going to campus until next year — as in 2021. Many college students can take courses online and but aren’t getting a break with the cost. Also, I especially feel for student-athletes who don’t get to compete in their sports. After years of hard work and dedication, they must feel disappointed or even robbed. Hopefully the world will get back to normal and this will be a blip in the rearview mirror. I wrote the following story a few years ago questioning if everyone really needs college?

 

IMG_0728Why spend $120,000 for a state university or $400,000 for a private school out of your
life-savings or saddle your kids with debt? What are the kids getting in return? A bill that will take them 30 years to pay off?

I have several friends whose children are going off to college next year. They have opted for a year of work to save, two years of community college out of town, or staying at home and going to the local community college. Then they will transfer to a UC school.      I was always a fan of the four-year experience because that’s how I was raised. But, this makes practical sense. Why take out a loan as big as a mortgage for an education that you can at least cut the costs in half?

Several years ago I wrote some thoughts about the college experience and why so many kids fail or drop out. With the high costs of college it doesn’t make sense to waste that money if your kids aren’t ready. Here’s my thoughts:

I wonder why so many kids fail college? I was shocked to read a statistic from the ACT that 50% of freshman students do not return for their second year. Then, 30% of those remaining, do not graduate within five years!

Why? What can we do to better prepare our kids for college? There is so much pressure on our kids to get into great schools. You’d think with the great expense, and all their work to get in, it would be a breeze once they are there. But, it’s not.

My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

Here’s my list of why I think kids fail their freshman year:

ONE

Too many kids go to college. I do not think everyone should go. When I was in high school the majority of students did not continue their education past high school. They were able to get jobs, support themselves and their families without a college education. There are many trades and careers that can support families like plumbers, contractors, electricians, hair dressers, masseuses, etc. Today, a college degree has become the norm and standard. There are many kids who would be better served to work for a few years, and then decide if they want to go to college. By having everyone go, and not everyone is equipped to go, some kids are set up for failure.


TWO

High school doesn’t prepare kids for college. The work is often spoon-fed by teachers in little lumps of daily assignments and reading. Having a syllabus with a couple dates on it and no day-to-day requirements is more what college is like. It takes discipline, motivation and self-determination to not procrastinate but to work and study in advance of deadlines.

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A gorgeous location. UCSB.

THREE

We do too much. As helicopter, hovering parents, we are afraid to let our kids fail. We don’t let our kids learn from their mistakes. They need to have more chores, part-time jobs or something to do besides homework. Some of the crazy, heavy AP schedules don’t allow for real-life experiences. Plus, we cater to our kids’ every need—even to the point of helping them complete projects or assignments. My conversation with four-time Olympian and former University of Texas head coach Jill Sterkel included some great advice that you can read on SwimSwam here. She believes in letting kids work out their problems in a less high-stakes environment. We need to give them room to do this.

FOUR

Millennials mature later, according to Kari Ellingson, Vice President at the University of Utah. I attended a talk by her at orientation with my daughter. I wrote more about her talk here. According to Ellingson, “It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28.” It’s no wonder they can’t handle the many demands of laundry, getting their own food, studying, etc. Maybe our kids are not mature enough to handle the responsibilities of college at age 18?

What do you think are the reasons why so many kids fail in college? What alternatives have you seen to high college costs? 

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

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

5 Things Parents Need to Know Before Kids Leave for College

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Looking back on college orientation with my daughter, I remember some of the highlights. The beauty of the Wasatch Mountains. An impressive campus. Friendly people and making new friends that I have kept today. Here’s a look back to that moment in time:

I spent two days in the pristine mountainside beauty of Salt Lake City with clear blue skies and intense sunshine. Parents attended most meetings without their kids, who were similarly engaged with topics angled for teenage consumption.summerFun_FrisbeeGolf_LBoye_067

Having been to college orientation three years prior with my firstborn, I didn’t think I’d learn anything new. However, in “Supporting your College Student” presented by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Development, I wished I’d heard her advice before I sent my first child to college.

“I think she’s met my son — the one who’s going to be a senior in college,” I whispered to a mom next to me. (He’s also the son who tried to give away the cat on FB.)

She answered, “No, I’m sure she’s talking about my oldest daughter!”

What did Dr. Ellingson have to say that we wished we heard the first time around?imgres-10First…

Children go through changes. But, if it’s your first child going to college, or your last, you will be going through changes, too. We are in the process of changing our relationship from parent to child to adult to adult. We go through transitions, pushing them away and holding them close.

Second…images-2
A student who works 10 to 15 hours on campus will do better in school than someone who works off campus, or doesn’t work at all. Students working on campus are making connections with the campus, student, and staff. They are completing their identity as a student first.

Students born from 1980 to 2000 are known as millennials. They don’t like to suffer —  they love nice things — and they don’t mind working for them. Unfortunately, this can interfere with their education. So, if they want spending money, suggest a job on campus.

Third…images-3
Cell phones according to Dr. Ellingson, are “the world’s longest umbilical cords.” Some students call home 5, 6, 7 times a day. In our day, we waited in line for the phone down the hall on Sundays — when long distance was cheaper — and horror of all horrors — there wasn’t such a thing as a cell phone!

Don’t let your child’s crisis become your crisis. Let them problem solve. Ellingson’s example was a daughter who called her mom and said, “I flunked my midterm. The professor hates me…” After consoling her crying daughter, the mother called back later with more advice. The daughter was like, “Huh? What are you talking about? Everything’s fine.”

images-5Fourth …
They are learning to become themselves. Making new friends. They will be grieving and letting go of high school friendships, but will build new and deeper ones. A main developmental issue is finding their identity. Their core stays the same, which has been developing over the past 18 years. But, how they express themselves changes.

They may try on new identities by copying new friends to see how it fits or feels. You may say to yourself, and hopefully not to your child, “Who the hell is this?” Then you meet their new friend, and say to yourself, “Oh, now I see who this is!”

Intellectually they are still developing. They see things differently than before. They love to debate. They will try out their debating skills, or how to express themselves by choosing opinions contrary to yours, even if it isn’t what they truly believe.

And Fifth…imgres-2
Dr. Ellingson talked about independence: “Their first steps as a toddler are towards you. Every step after that is running away from you.”

They need to discover how to be on their own — and this is one of their fears. Delayed maturation is common. It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28. They will say to you “Leave me alone!” Then, “bail me out!” This is normal. The pendulum will swing back and forth.

Just remember to love them, guide them, but let them figure it out. The more we solve their problems, the more we delay their growth into independent, responsible adults.

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And one more thing…”GO, UTES!!!”


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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.

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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.

 

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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?