Helicopters, snowplows, submarines and “dog moms”

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My son

Have you heard all the new names for parents? We used to have helicopters, but now there are snowplows and submarines. My daughter told me that I’m more of a “dog mom.”

“What’s a dog mom?” I asked.

“You keeping me on a leash or locked in a crate.”

Ouch! Although it’s kind of funny–I mean sort of–if its not true. I guess I should be joyful that she coined a new term, right? Remember, you heard it here, first. “Dog mom.”

In “How Parenting Styles Affect Kids: Snowplow vs. Submarine,” by Maria Schwartz on Teenlife, she explains in more detail about different styles of parenting and how we should strive to become submarines.

Labels for different parenting styles have come and gone for just about as long as there have been parents. Since the college admissions scandal made headlines last month, there has been a lot of talk about the perils of “snowplow parenting” — clearing a path for children by shoving obstacles to the side.

Like the tiger mothers and helicopter parents who came before, snowplowers are highly involved parents who take a proactive and often authoritative role in their children’s lives. Any parent can understand the desire to do everything in their power to make their kids’ lives better. And, with the advantage of age and experience, it can be easy for parents to believe they can — and should — make all the right choices for their children.

The downside of snowplow parenting

There is, however, reason to believe that the kind of top-down micromanagement involved in some parenting styles is doing more harm than good. When children aren’t given a chance to fail, they get little practice grappling with the frustrations and challenges of failure.

On the other hand, kids who lose the student council election, get cut from the basketball team, or get the C they deserved instead of the A they wanted learn valuable lessons about hard work, resiliency, and handling disappointment.

“We learn to adapt and recognize new opportunities when something doesn’t work out,” wrote Rebecca Pacheco in The Boston Globe earlier this month.

So instead of emulating a snowplow or a helicopter, parents should consider drawing inspiration from another source: the submarine. Submarines are powerful machines that gather intelligence and are ready to pop up when needed. But they spend most of their time “guiding & protecting” below the surface.

In the same way, parents who step back (or below) — while their teens take charge of navigating the seas of school, relationships, and personal growth — give their kids a chance to make mistakes, find solutions, spot opportunities, and — most importantly — gain confidence. But, like a submarine, they are ready to surface when needed to provide information, guidance, or protection.

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My daughter

Schwartz includes three tips to be an effective submarine parents: letting kids fail, being a sounding board and getting them out of the house into an independent activity.

Those three tips are good ideas. Without allowing our kids to fail, they won’t know how to pick themselves up and continue on. We’re taking away a valuable life skill of resilience. Listening is so important, too. How often do parents try to give advice and tell our kids what to do when all they want is someone they trust to listen to the?

As for independent activities outside the house, My kids learned so much from their weeks at swim camp when they were younger. They got to stay in dorms with other kids, have college-age counselors, be coached by Olympians. What great memories and independence they had. There are so many activities available for our kids these days. Let them go to experience something new without us hovering and yanking on their leash.

Don’t be a dog mom. Undo that leash, open the crate and let them run!

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Waffles at the beach

What are your thoughts about all the new parenting labels?

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Sometimes they fall before they fly

I wrote this story several years ago about my son and his struggles leaving the nest. I’m proud to say, yes he made it and he’s flown away successfully. This year, we’re watching our daughter as she makes her way out of the nest and into the world of “adulting.”

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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, 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 are your thoughts about letting kids fail?

Is it time to say good-bye to our beloved home?

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Our kids in the back yard.

It’s been an exhausting few weeks. I’ve been going through 27 years of stuff we’ve collected, had three rooms painted and interviewed several realtors. We aren’t planning on moving right away, but we realize it is time to get started on fixing up the house in case we sell. If we decide to stay, we’ll enjoy our house with a fresh coat of paint and years worth of stuff sorted through and hauled off.

Despite the physical work involved, I think what’s most tiring is inviting realtors into my home. Hearing from them that our home isn’t quite worth what Zillow says — followed by the emotions of being told our house will probably be a total gut and remodel by a prospective buyer.

 

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My bathroom sink.

We were looking for suggestions on what to improve and upgrade to get optimum money for our house. We interviewed more than one realtor this weekend and the consensus was “Unless you’re willing to spend more than two hundred thousand dollars in improvements, let this be someone else’s project.”

A few hundred thousand dollars? What about a coat of paint? And a few repairs? Huh?

We heard we have a “beautiful view” and our house has “good bones.” The new people will see our house as a “blank canvas and want to create their own painting.”

IMG_9404Being told your home of 27 years is filled with charm and character, but someone is going to rip everything apart to make it livable, is like someone telling you your child is horrendously ugly. We moved in when I was pregnant with our first child and the home is filled with memories of birthday parties, Christmas, swim friends, nights of homework and family dinners. All of our years together as family were in this home. We love our house and letting go is going to be hard. I think the emotional break up with my home makes me more tired than the physical labor involved in the process — or a hike up the tram road.

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In my master bedroom with my daughter.

 

 

How have you felt after moving from the house you were emotionally attached to? Any suggestions on how to handle the transition?

 

 

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My son peeking out his bedroom door.

 

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.

 

 

 

Changes on the home front

59756764_10219573479551388_7700711190170697728_nI am excited with the changes to our home–and feeling nostalgic. This past week, we had painters in to update the kids rooms from the way they’ve been for the past 15 or so years. Our son’s room was a bright white to begin with. I had my daughter’s room painted pale pink before she was born. Then as they neared the teen years, the colors got bright.

My son’s room turned into what’s known as a Delaware blue complete with a world map on one wall. My daughter went hot pink. That didn’t last long. She eventually went with two shades of teal, her favorite color.

59418919_10219566377893851_6780426138180124672_nWhat stayed constant was the deep blue tiki bathroom. When we moved into our house 25 plus years ago, I loved the tiki bathroom. I still do actually, but it was looking more than a little ragged. For example, some of our recent horrific rains came through the ceiling vent and stained the ceiling. We had quite a discussion of what to do with the bathroom.

My son said I could throw out whatever I wanted in his room. I saved a few things, but the majority of books, DVDs, CDs, school work, trophies, etc. went to Angel View, our local charity where you can dump–I mean donate–all your unwanted junk. My daughter wants to go through her things before we toss. She hasn’t been out of the home technically for a year yet, so I guess I owe her that. But I’m on a roll. It feels really good to lighten our load of knick knacks, stacks of books, DVDs, electronics and extra furniture. I like the new look of off-white bedrooms and a pale blue bathroom.

It also feels sad. I miss all those years when I had bedrooms with wild colors and my children.

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Another Eggless Easter

Here are my thoughts on our first Easter without children at home. It was a trend that has continued. Happy GOOD FRIDAY and EASTER everyone! Enjoy the time to celebrate together with friends and family.

My friend's Easter Cupcakes

My friend Linda’s Easter Cupcakes

There won’t be an egg hunt at my house this year. That’s because my husband doesn’t want to dye eggs with me. Add that to my dislike of eating egg salad all week, I’ll have to get over the no Easter egg sadness.

It’s the first year that we haven’t had a child home for Easter. Last year, I forced my 18-year-old to hunt for eggs. She grudgingly dyed the eggs I boiled after I nagged her a few times. Easter morning, I hid them outside around our patio.  I think she really did enjoy looking for them. At least, she went through the paces.

Kat at the Fireman's Annual Egg Hunt.

Kat at the Fireman’s Annual Egg Hunt.

This year, I’ll skip it. Somehow I can’t imagine my husband hunting for them. Or me. After I’ve hidden them. Yes, that would be sad.

Instead, we’ll walk over to O’Donnell golf course for sunrise service. It should be a gorgeous morning up against the mountain with spectacular views.  I’m thinking the last time we did that was before we had kids. We went with our good friends and sat on the dewy grass on a plaid wool blanket.

Funny thing. I see a pattern where we are returning to activities that we haven’t had time to enjoy in years.

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My kids and friends at the annual egg hunt.

My husband just said, “Let’s go to the beach.” We used to pick up our stuff and jump in the car on a few minutes notice and have a beach day. That was before swimming and school activities took over our lives. I think I can get used to this.

Happy Good Friday, everyone!

My son hunting for Easter Eggs. One said "God Has Risen!" His answer? "Did you hear that? Wow!"

My son hunting for Easter Eggs. One said “Jesus Has Risen!” He said, “Did you hear that? Wow!”

Are Baby Boomers More Involved With Their Adult Kids?

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Sutro baths on the Pacific. photo by Robert Wickham

As a baby boomer who loves hanging out with my adult kids, I found this article in the Wall Street Journal called “Baby Boomers and the Art of Parenting Adult Kids” by Clare Ansberry to be right up my alley. “More involved with grown children than previous generations, many boomers struggle with letting them go” was the tag line to the story. Hmm. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Am I struggling to let my kids go? Or, do I simply like hanging out with them?

I had a trip to Nor Cal to hang out for a few days with my son and his girlfriend, and I treasured the trip. I don’t go up to San Francisco very often, mostly because it’s too far and it costs a lot. My son treated me to some great sightseeing including hiking up to Indian Rock to see the sunset, a trip to SF MOMA and the Sutro baths. We had some incredible meals including Belotti and a Chinese restaurant where I watched them roll out fresh noodles in the window called Shan Dong.

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The view from Indian Rock Park. photo by Robert Wickham

On my trip, I visited a swim team in Roseville, California Capital Aquatics, and talked about things swim parents need to know so they don’t make the same mistakes I did. That was a blast, and having my son take time off work and drive me there, gave me a boost of confidence. He seemed to enjoy what I had to say and was encouraging.

The following weekend, we were off to Arizona to spend the weekend with our daughter. We are exploring where we want to “downsize” to, which I wrote about yesterday. Presently, Arizona is at the top of our list. Plus, my daughter is there. Enough about me and my time hanging out with my kids. Here are some excerpts from the article about baby boomers and their adult kids:

Linda Hoskins would like to believe her adult son considers her a friend.

She’s a baby boomer and boomers tend to think they’re cooler than their own parents were, she says.

“Therefore why wouldn’t our kids want to hang out with us all the time. We’re their friends, right?” the 69-year-old executive director of the American Pie Council asks half-jokingly.

Her son sees it a little differently. “She’s my mom,” says Rick, 44. While very close—seeing each other several times a week until she recently moved and texting in between—his mom isn’t on the same level as his friends, nor would he want her to be.

Baby boomers are far more immersed with their own grown children than their parents were with them, says Karen Fingerman, a professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas, Austin. She found that parents in the early 2000s offered about twice as much counsel and practical support (which could be anything from babysitting grandkids, running their grown kids’ errands or reviewing their résumés) as parents did in the 1980s. Such deep ties can make it hard to let kids go or accept that they will likely love their children more deeply than their kids can love them.

FAMILY MATTERS

Tips for boomer parents dealing with their adult kids

  • Don’t give unsolicited advice. If they want your opinion or need your help, they will ask.
  • Let your kids make mistakes. You did and learned from them.
  • Make a life of your own, so your children don’t feel guilty as they move on with their own life.
  • Manage your own expectations. The fewer expectations, the less likely you are going to be disappointed when they don’t call or visit as often as you would like.
  • Keep in touch in ways that are meaningful to them, whether that’s texting, FaceTime, or phone calls.
  • Set limits. If you can’t or don’t want to babysit all the time, let them know.

Boomers are also the first group of parents in the psychological era, when therapy became more commonplace and relationships were closely examined, says William Doherty, a professor of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. Their own parents were concerned about a child being safe, getting a job, and getting married. “They didn’t obsess about how they were feeling about you,” he says, adding that there are far more elements of friendship in boomers’ relationships with kids. “In many ways, that’s good. But then you have to deal with disappointment if kids are not as close as you would hope for.”

That’s what Linda Stroh found when she and a fellow author surveyed nearly 1,000 baby boomers for their book, “Getting Real about Getting Older.”

“My kids use language like ‘my family’ and ‘our family’ and they don’t mean us,” one man commented. “I’m at the mercy of their whims. We see them when they want, not when we want,” said another. “I miss my kids. I want to be around them more,” one woman said.

It’s not that grown kids don’t want to be part of a parent’s life, but that they are really busy, says Dr. Stroh, herself a boomer and mother of two children, who are very involved with their careers. “If I get a call, I’m thrilled and flattered,” says Dr. Stroh, who teaches human development at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Pittsburgh resident Art DeConciliis, 58, remembers when he and his wife, Mary Pat, got married. “It was sink or swim,” he says, their parents offering little help or support. Today, his three adult children, all married and living near their Pittsburgh home, frequently call for advice about work, buying a house and starting a family. He’s happy to offer it.

“My self-identity is very closely tied to my relationship with my children. I don’t think that was the case with my dad. His was wrapped up in his business,” he says. While he sometimes wonders if too much advice-seeking and advice-giving is a good thing, he also felt a little disappointed that his youngest daughter didn’t involve him when she and her husband bought a house.

That daughter, Samantha DeConciliis-Davin, 26, says that while close to her parents, she has always been independent. Buying a house without their input wasn’t a slight as much as it was an affirmation of their lifelong guidance. “I still depend on them for advice,” she says. They are the first ones she calls if something happens at work.

Kathy McCoy, a psychotherapist specializing in family dynamics, says some distance can be a good thing. Kids should refrain from telling their parents everything and parents should refrain from trying to direct their adult child or grandchild’s life. “That distance can lead to a new kind of closeness,” says Dr. McCoy, who wrote “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” about estrangement between parents and their adult children.

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My adult son at SF MOMA.

If you’re the parent of adult kids, do you think you’re struggling to let your kids go, or like me, do you like to spend time with them?