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?

3 Things I learned from graduates — back in the day when we had graduations

I wrote this post six years ago, back when kids got to graduate. I feel so sorry for the class of seniors this year. They don’t get to experience all the milestones that mark the end of school and the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. I wonder if they will feel cheated? I know the parents will. Perhaps a lot of the graduation festivities and traditions are as much for the parents as for the kids. Here’s a look back to three high school graduates I learned from in 2014.
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Yesterday I interviewed three graduating seniors in Desert Hot Springs for a small scholarship fund I’m involved with. 

Each girl was a joy and their spirit of kindness was refreshing. Our scholarship fund requires recipients to have high academic achievement, leadership, and a commitment to their community.

The high school we visited yesterday is poor compared to the one my daughter attends, although it’s only 10 miles away.

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All three girls had one thing in common — they are the first in their family to be attending college.

One girl was the fifth child in her family. The parents never went beyond 8th grade in their education. She loves her parents, but she has seen how hard life can be without an education. This is what spurred her to take AP and Honors classes to get on track for college. She volunteers while following a path that no one else in her family has attempted.

The second was the salutatorian. Not only did her parents not attend college, but she has an older brother in his 20s that is mentally disabled. I could tell that she was equally as proud of his accomplishments as her own. On weekends, this bright, confident girl, travels 30 minutes to volunteer with animals at the zoo.  Her goal is to be a veterinarian. I have no doubt she will achieve her dreams.

The third girl was very soft spoken and shy, but she had a warmth and grace about her. She has volunteered for four years at a local hospital and said she loves working in the surgery center. “The patients are cranky and I like to do everything I can to make them more comfortable.” Her mother is a single mom that makes $22,000 per year. 

imgres-6I’m proud and honored to meet these three girls. They have given me hope, especially after being around kids in my daughter’s world who are given everything they ask for, want everything and need nothing, have supportive parents, yet still act as though the world owes them something. 

What are the parents of these so called “underprivileged” kids doing that we are not? Perhaps they’ve let their kids fail and learn from their mistakes. Or, they don’t believe their kids are perfect and never make mistakes. They didn’t spend their parenting years fighting every battle for them. These three beautiful girls had to make it all on their own. 

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My scholarship committee after interviewing the three girls.

What are your thoughts about the class of 2020 and graduation ceremonies that won’t happen?

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Waffles in his graduation garb.

Tips to Make the Senior Year Count

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My daughter’s graduation with her pup Waffles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

ONE

Be proud.

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

TWO

It looks good on their resumes.

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

THREE

Savor each moment.

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

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

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

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My son giving his high school graduation speech.

What are your plans to make the final year count?

 

Why Palm Springs High and All Kids Need Latin

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My son wearing his Latin laurel wreath on graduation night.

The reason I’m reminiscing about how much my kids loved Latin and Mrs. Lazarova is that the administrators are threatening to shut down the Latin program. There is a meeting tomorrow night (Tuesday, June 12) at the Palm Springs Unified School District meeting at 6 p.m. with many people attending in support of the PSHS Latin program. I’ve heard that Mrs. Lazarova was not given a single Latin class to teach next school year. Here’s a link to the Facebook Page that was started by former students of Mrs. Lazarova (Save Latin at Palm Springs Highschool). 

One of the best things about Palm Springs High School, if not the best thing, is the Latin program. Both of my children took four years of Latin from Svetlana Lazarova, who is an outstanding teacher because of her passion. She cares about each student and teaches them not only Latin, but history, grammar, Western Civilization and the importance of being good people throughout their lives.

I was amazed when my son asked us to attend Latin Night at the end of his freshman year. I had no idea what to expect, but after the first year, I looked forward to the evening as a highlight and culmination of all their hard work. Not only were the National Latin Exam awards handed out, but each class made presentations from short plays to reciting Cicero. The senior class always put together a tribute to Mrs. Lazarova and it would be side-splitting funny or so emotional I would wipe tears from my eyes. At the end, before cake, Mrs. Lazarova gave each senior a laurel wreath and a hug. The Latin seniors would proudly wear their laurel wreaths at graduation night.

I don’t understand why anyone would want to cut such a valuable program. Latin is sometimes called a dead language, but the study of Latin offers so much more than language. Latin is critical to the root words of our English. If your kids want to be doctors, attorneys or earn a degree in any science, they’ll need Latin.  If you Google “why should my child take Latin” you’ll find countless articles like this one posted by Thought Co:

The Benefits of Learning Latin

I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50 percent.
— From the National Review.

Latin Helps With English Grammar
While neither the language nor grammar of English derives from Latin, many of our grammatical rules do. For instance, since you CAN’T have a dangling preposition in Latin, certain purists consider it bad form in English (see Latin Grammar: Comparisons Between English and Latin).

Latin Makes You More Careful in English
In Latin, you have more to worry about than whether a plural pronoun refers to a singular noun (as in the politically correct – grammatically incorrect: each student has their own workbook).

In Latin, there are 7 cases with which not only pronouns but adjectives — not to mention verbs — must agree. Learning such rules makes the student careful in English.

But more important is the fact that traditional study of Latin starts out with a grammatical framework… As American students begin Latin, they become acquainted with the “Latin grammar” system, which they can indirectly transfer to their work in English. What it gives them is a standardized set of terms in which to describe words in relations to other words in sentences, and it is this grammatical awareness which makes their English writing good.
–William Harris

Latin Helps You Maximize SAT scores
This sells Latin programs. Through Latin, test takers can guess at the meanings of new words because they already know the roots and prefixes. But it’s not just enhanced vocabulary. Math scores also increase.

Latin Increases Accuracy
This may be due to the increased accuracy Professor Emeritus William Harris notes:​

“From another point of view, the study of Latin does foster precision in the use of words. Since one reads Latin closely and carefully, often word by word, this focuses the student’s mind on individual words and their usage. It has been noticed that people who have studied Latin in school usually write quite good English prose. There may be a certain amount of stylistic imitation involved, but more important is the habit of reading closely and following important texts with accuracy.”

I asked my children what they learned while taking Latin and they both said it helped them with their SATs, vocabulary, understanding literature, grammar, mythology and learning about the beginning of Western Civilization. Mrs. Lazarova taught them about the culture and included art and food in her program. My kids are smarter and more intelligent because of their years with Mrs. Lazarova. They are also better people, because of Mrs. Lazarova’s emphasis on character and being a caring member of society. It’s so competitive to get into colleges these days, why wouldn’t you want your kids to study Latin, increase their SAT scores and show on their transcripts that they studied Latin for four years?

One study I read states that only 18 percent of public schools offer Latin while more than 80 percent of private schools do. So, is it the point of our Palm Springs school district to restrict the ability of our public school children to compete with those in private schools? What is the purpose of canceling the Latin program? If our children continue with Latin, why wouldn’t want the best teacher there?

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My son and friend at high school graduation.

What do you see as the major benefit of studying Latin?

What to tell your daughter on graduation night

Graduation is looming. Again. My daughter, the baby of the family, will be graduating college. It sounds so cliche, but I honestly don’t know how four years could go by so quickly. I wrote this during her celebration of graduating from high school. I still believe in the message from four years ago. 
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?

Top 10 Life Skills Kids Need Before College

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My son on his “Snow White pony” at Thursday night Village Fest.

Talk about failing “Parenting 101.” My son called me throughout his freshman year of college with the most trivial questions—like how to address an envelope to how to pay for gas with cash. What happened during his 18 years that he made it through in one piece without basic life skills?

I’ll tell you what happened. I was rushing to school with forgotten homework, packing his lunch and swim bag. I picked up after him and did his laundry. He was, after all, way too busy pursuing the title of Valedictorian to be bothered with mere mortal pursuits of day-to-day life. I was the enabler. But, I learned from his questions and made sure my second-born was ready and prepared to leave home.

One of my best friends lives 30 minutes from his university. She called him his first weekend at school and said if he ever needed anything, please call. Was she surprised when he said, “Could you bring me some laundry detergent? The thread count is so low on the sheets Mom bought me and they’re itchy.”

She said, “No, I’m not your mother and when I said if you needed anything I meant in case of an emergency. You can find your own laundry detergent somewhere on campus.”

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My son during his graduation night speech.

 

Here are 10 basic life skills kids need to know before they leave home:

ONE

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.

TWO

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! 

THREE

Cooking. Teach your child some basic cooking skills like scrambling eggs, making spaghetti, baking a chicken, steaming vegetables and cooking rice. 

FOUR

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.

FIVE

How to get to and from the grocery store. This may seem obvious, but I’ll never forget the phone call I got from my son: “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.

SIX

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.

SEVEN

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 in Seattle. 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. 

EIGHT

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!

NINE

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.

TEN

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.

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

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My beautiful son when he was three.

“You’re Only as Happy as Your Least Happiest Child”

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My kids not wanting me to take their pic.

“You’re only as happy as your least happy child.” I heard a friend say this recently. I do believe it’s true. When you see your kids happy, you’re happy, too. When they are smiling and proud of their accomplishments or in love, we feel thrilled for them.

On the flip side, when they’re struggling, we have an ache in our hearts.

My son had a horrific last week of college, but managed to get through it alive. I got several phone calls where he wasn’t sure if he’d make it. He had five papers, plus finals, and I doubt he slept much.

I kept telling him, “You’re under the flags. Keep going. You can do it.”

I also received relieved phone calls as each hurdle was overcome. Today, he’s coming home for a brief stop before he starts his new life. I’m a worrier and I’m wondering how is he sleeping? How is he going to drive a U-Haul trailer with his worldly possessions up to his new life? How will he survive on his own?

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The city pool where my kids swam club and I swim masters.

My daughter was home for a week and it was a pure joy for me. She got me out of bed at 4:50 a.m. and drove me to swim practice. I loved the beauty of the early morning and the shifting lights in the water as the sun rose. By the time we were done, I felt elated. It wasn’t even 7 a.m. and I felt like I had accomplished so much. I hope to continue on with the early morning practices, although I must admit I’m back to my noon routine today. At least I’m going. Right?

Besides swimming, we hiked at the Tram, went shopping, got pedicures, went out to lunch and hung out together. The constant activity was different than my normal quiet writing days.

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Hiking on Mt.San Jacinto, PS Tramway.

I love having my kids home. But, I’m proud they have their own lives and are ready to take on the world without me.

P.S. On the last morning, my daughter, husband and I took a walk. We noticed we had company. Olive the cat followed quietly a few feet behind us. We’d stop to look at her and she’d look the other way. Finally, we stopped several blocks away to admire an apricot standard poodle. Olive decided that was enough. She stopped for good. When we returned home, several miles later, Olive was nowhere to be found. I retraced our steps and called “Here kitty, kitty.” She leaped out of the bushes across the street from where we saw the poodle. She was terrified and confused. She wouldn’t let me touch her but after one pitiful “meow” she followed me. When she finally recognized our neighborhood, her tail went up and she jetted all the way to our house leaving me behind.

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Olive the cat.