She’s leaving me again


IMG_8520Four years ago to the day, we drove our youngest to college. I was teary-eyed when we said our final goodbyes. I wrote about the experience complete with our text messages here. Roll the calendar four full years later—years filled with joy, heart, excitement and anxiety—and she’s getting ready to leave me again.

I remember when we dropped our son, the firstborn, off at college. It was heartbreaking to me. I cried like I was losing a limb. With our youngest, the tears poured down my cheeks, but I was able to get myself somewhat under control.

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My son all grown up.

I’ve got mixed emotions this week. She came home after taking her last two college classes in Paris and Rome. I’m used to having her here even though it’s only been two short weeks. I’m used to having her dog Waffles with me, too.  He’s spent every day since the middle of May with me. Olive the cat is the only member of the household who will be celebrating when Waffles walks out the door. I say I have mixed emotions because I’m excited for her. Also, she reminded me that even I can drive to her house to visit! She says “even I” because I’m notoriously a bad driver and have anxiety on freeways. But, it’s not that far away.

At the moment, my daughter is packing her car. Tomorrow morning she’ll leave for good, moving to her new home in Arizona and ready to take on adulthood. Am I ready for this? Is she ready for it? Oh my. I’ll let you know how it all goes.

I will for the first time in my life, seriously have an empty nest.

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I’m seriously going to miss this boy.

How did you feel when you said goodbye to your kids?

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What is the purpose of parenting?

robert 1Isn’t that an interesting question? I heard this asked and answered during the recent David Benzel seminar that I listened to last week on whether parents should push their kids. Benzel is a sports parenting coach and he’s written several books including From Chump to Champ and works with many youth sports organizations.

Benzel said this question has been answered by Madeline Levine PhD, who is the author of two books I ordered today from AmazonSmile. (FYI, AmazonSmile gives a small percentage of purchases to whatever nonprofit organization you choose. Mine goes to the Piranha Swim Team, which we’ve been affiliated with for more than 18 years.)

Here are the books by Levine:

Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success

The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids

After I read them I’ll report back to you on what I learned.

Back to the question, “What is the purpose of parenting?” Another way to phrase this is what do we want for our children? How does parenting serve our highest purpose? Here are the three objectives Levine expresses in her book The Price of Privilege that we should help our children achieve:

ONE
Lead independent lives.

TWO
Maintain loving relationships.

THREE
Enjoy a sense of competence.

Isn’t that impressive? In order to become functioning adults, we want our kids to be independent of us. We desire them to have loving relationships because that is the essence of happiness in our lives. Also, we want them to be good at something they enjoy. That’s another area where people lead productive happy lives. How do we go about helping our kids become independent, loving and competent people?

According to Benzel, our style of parenting makes a difference. There are four parenting types. The two worst are Tiger and Helicopter parents. Next is the Supplier and the best, which we need to aspire to be, is the Hero.

Here’s a breakdown of the four parenting types and the consequences:

The helicopter parent hovers and protects. We—yes I’m using the word “we”—aren’t allowing our kids to experience life without us making sure they never fail. They become too dependent upon the opinions of others and risk hurt feelings if people don’t think they’re the best. They also may develop a sense of superiority.

If you’re a tiger parent, you’re in command and have total control. Your children will grow up believing that they are how they perform and therefore a project. They will believe that if they aren’t performing, they are worthless in your eyes and aren’t loved.

Supplier parents are more concerned with their own lives than their kids. They pay the bills, sign kids up for sports and make sure they go to school, but they aren’t spending much time with them. They’re waiting for those 18 years to be over. The child may feel like an inconvenience, but actually, they’ll learn to be independent and self-reliant. However, how awful would it be to feel like a circumstance and a problem?

The best option is to be the hero parent. According to Benzel, the hero gives their child the message “you are a beautiful creation and therefore valuable and full of potential.” They give their children unconditional love with no strings attached. The children grow up accepting themselves and able to rise to challenges. These parents encourage their child’s interests. They don’t worry about performance and they let their kids learn from their mistakes.

It sounds simple, right? Knowing how we should parent is the first step in becoming the best parent we can be. Now, if only I had learned this years ago. I can still apply the hero parent approach today. Better late than never.

What is your goal as a parent?

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FYI: I discovered Benzel from USA Swimming, which is our national federation for swimming from first-time beginners to Olympians. His sports parenting website where you can join and get his newsletters, webinars and books is called “Growing Champions for Life.” Yes, I’m a big fan. I wish I discovered him about 15 years ago instead of after my kids were done age group swimming.

From their website “Growing Champions for Life Inc.® was created as a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the youth sports experience. We nurture the bond between sports parents and their children by providing parents with positive and practical strategies for playing their role as a sports parent effectively through the gift of unconditional love and the pursuit of personal excellence.”

 

 

Is there hope for helicopter parents?

rkcowboys 2There is hope for helicopter parents, according to an article in a UK news source, The Sunday Times. In “Family: how to reverse the effects of helicopter parenting” by Lorraine Candy, there are several novel ideas of how to stop hovering. One of them involved blindfolding your kids, throwing them in the car along with their bikes, and driving 10 miles from home to a place they didn’t recognize.

Would I have ever done that? No, I doubt it. I would let my kids ride their bikes with friends from DeMuth Park in Palm Springs along the bike trail all the way to Rancho Mirage. Of course, my husband was riding with them. I’d ride part of the way, too. But, I’d stop at Tahquitz Creek Golf Course, because I was too scared to cross the street to where the bike path continued. Seriously. It’s amazing my kids are as normal and self-assured as they are. My fear of riding bikes across a busy road with cars speeding is not without reason. I’ve been “scarred for life” after getting hit by a pickup truck while running across a busy highway.

From the article:

How do you reverse the effects of helicopter parenting? This question has been vexing me since I read the latest guilt-inducing survey, which followed 422 kids from the age of 2 to 10, and revealed that parents who “hovered” over their toddlers in an excessively protective manner produced less likeable, more incapable, academically underperforming children.

The research reported in the journal Developmental Psychology last month concluded that it’s best to let them fight their own battles. This is a little depressing if you are among my generation of parents (I’m 49) who gave birth just as the trend towards child-centric families gained traction. It was a parenting zeitgeist that didn’t help those with a tendency to interfere — mums including one I knew who secretly took the chocolate out of an advent calendar and replaced it with raisins. Recently I witnessed parents refusing to leave the house for a sibling’s wedding in order to hover over a revising teen.

We’ve all done it to some degree, so we need to learn how to reverse the effects in a smart way. I got advice on how from Simon Howarth, a clinical supervisor at the charity Crisis Text Line, which supports teens in need of urgent mental health guidance.

“Try to understand why you may feel guilty,” he says. “You were trying to protect your child, and what is deemed to be wrong now may not have seemed wrong at the time. The key to changing parenting style is to listen more to your teenager. You are moving from protector to enabler. Stop solving problems for them, defer to them to make the final decision even if you know it is perhaps a mistake. You are building resilience, which you have to do gradually if previously you have been overprotective. Tell them that from now on you will trust them to make their own choices.”

I used to love to problem solve for my kids. But then it was the light bulb moment when my daughter told me she was venting–and didn’t want my help. And that if I kept trying to tell her how to solve her problems, she’d quit confiding in me. I like it when my son calls and says, “Can I get your advice on something?” That gives me a clue that yes, he wants to hear how I’d handle a problem. We end up discussing what it is, whether it’s trouble with a roommate or a disagreement with a co-worker. He usually figures out on his own how he’ll handle the issue, but it’s always nice to have someone listen and bounce ideas off of.

Another excerpt from The Sunday Times article about how to stop helicopter parenting:

David McCullough Jr, a teacher of 26 years and a father of four, is the author of You Are Not Special. He became famous when 2.8m people watched his 2012 end-of-school speech on YouTube, which urged graduates to get a grip. He tells me we can indeed recover from earlier overparenting.

“When you make a mistake, admit it, learn and make adjustments,” he says. “If one’s innards churn a bit when a child bears the brunt of a parenting mistake, deal with it. This will show the child his mum and dad are fully dimensional, less than perfect human beings, which for some would be a revelation.

“Show confidence in your children. Believe (outwardly, at least) in their ability to handle things alone. They will sense this confidence, which will help them develop their own.”

He adds: “When two of my children were 10 and 12 and suffering some summer doldrums, I blindfolded them, threw them and their bicycles in the car and drove them 10 miles into territory they wouldn’t recognise. I left them and drove off. They had a fine time together and wanted to do it again as soon as they got back to the house.”

Isn’t it nice to know there is hope for us helicopter parents? It’s like anything else in life, there is always room to grow and improve.

“Everyday in every way I’m getting better and better.”  —Emile Coue

 

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With his favorite blanket, he named “Ahhh.”

What is one of the worst helicopter parenting things you’ve done? Or, seen another parent do?

 

How to stop hovering and helicoptering

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My son before he learned to walk.

If you’re a helicopter parent, as I once was, how do you stop it? You know it’s not healthy for you or your kids, but how do we stop doing every little thing for our kids? In an article by Nancy Buck in US News, she said to go back to the toddler days. Unless of course, you were a helicopter parent back then, too. Buck explained that when our kids were crawling and learning to walk, most of us didn’t hover. We watched, we encouraged, we let our children fall, and get up again.

The objective is to raise happy, healthy kids who are independent and self-sufficient. With two much interference by us, they will suffer. We need to let go and increase our children’s freedom a bit at a time.

Here are a few excerpts from “Tips to Avoid Helicopter Parenting:”

Are you hovering? Try this instead to teach your child how to handle more independence.

RULES, routines and set expectations increase a child’s sense of safety and provide stability and consistency that support a child’s growth and learning. But there is more to parenting than creating this kind of secure environment. To raise a responsible and respectful child who matures into an effective and capable adult, you need to help your child learn how to handle increased responsibilities and freedom.

You accomplish this goal by slowly increasing the amount of freedom you give your child while simultaneously teaching him how to manage and handle the additional freedom. Your goal is to be the coach. Avoid hovering, criticizing and nagging, as this will not help your child tackle new challenges, which involves trying, failing and trying again as many times as necessary to master new skills.

One thing to keep in mind as you prepare your child to handle greater freedom is your shared experience when your child was a toddler. Do you remember what you did during this stage? Practice those same behaviors that helped your child stand, walk, and then run on her own. In case you forget what you did, you probably supported the attempts, encouraging the practice no matter how many times your child stood and fell, then stood back up again and fell again. Finally your child succeeded in standing on her own. Then she took her first step and fell.

Throughout this process you were close at hand, encouraging, smiling and perhaps congratulating. Did you criticize her attempts and failures? I bet no. Did you nag her to get up again and try even though she indicated she was tired and wanted to take a break? I sincerely doubt that you did. Did you stand or sit right next to her and catch her, not allowing her to fall? That’s called hovering, and it does not help your child learn to successfully and responsibly manage increased freedom.

Similarly, as a child grows, you’ll want to allow him more freedom, starting in the areas where he’s requesting it. Perhaps he is simply asking to go to a friend’s house without you taking him – say, riding the bus there from school. First you need to determine if this request is legal (my children wanted to drive a car before they were old enough, by law, to do that, so the answer was no) and if this is something you believe you can help your child successfully learn to do. Now seize this opportunity to comply with the request.

Coaching for success does not mean you immediately turn over total freedom and let your child do what she’s asked for or wants to do on her own. Work with her, support and encourage her, and most importantly ask her to self-evaluate. How does she think she’s doing? Does she see any ways she needs to make adjustments or corrections? Does she want your input? If she does want your opinion, mention an adjustment or change that you think could help her that she didn’t mention.

I was with my kids every minute when they were outside the house. I walked them to the park, around the neighborhood, etc. We arranged play dates with other moms and kids and would gather at each other’s houses or the park. At one point, and I’ll have to ask my kids how old they were, they wanted to ride bikes around the neighborhood or go to the park without me. I was a nervous nelly about it because of the case of Anthony Martinez. He was abducted from his front yard and his body was found close to our hometown. This happened when my kids were four and one years old, and the case remained unsolved until my son graduated high school. I wonder if this horrific incident influenced my friends as well?

Statistics show that we have less crime today than when I was a kid, but we worry more. When something like this hits so close to home, I believe it affects us more than seeing it on the news. I finally did allow my kids the freedom to walk to the park, walk downtown, etc. but I loved to have their friends come over to our house to play.

The real problem I had with helicoptering was doing too much for them on a daily basis, such as bringing forgotten homework to school, rushing forgotten bathing suits to the pool, and doing all the household chores. I also didn’t allow them to fail. I was there to pick up the pieces and that made for a tougher transition into college.

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Playing in the back yard.

In what ways did you helicopter your kids?

 

Meet the 90-year-old Helicopter Parents

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I’m still working on not being a helicopter mom.

In a Boston Globe article called “Meet the Helicopter Parents: These helicopter parents are 90. Their kids? 65,” by Beth Teitell gives a number of hilarious examples of middle-aged grown-ups being helicoptered by their 90-year-old parents:

 

“My mom asked for the phone number of our school board to tell them they keep me out too late at meetings,” @bonitadee tweeted. “I am 57 and a school principal.”

The writer Roxane Gay captured the new reality. “My mom just texted me to curse less on twitter,” she tweeted on April 8. “I said stop stalking me. She said ‘I will not.’ I am 43.”

I too get unsolicited advice from my dad. I probably enjoy it as much as my kids like unsolicited advice from me. It’s not very often, though. And another thing I learned in this article is this: when the advice ends–you’ll be very sad. 

Another point, we are just as much at fault for allowing our parents to helicopter. Most adults don’t stand up to their parents or say anything at all. For example, my daughter has no problem telling me when to stop over-parenting or helicoptering. My son is more polite about it, but he tells me not to worry. “That he’s got it handled.” Me, I say nothing, or try to explain my point of view. Mostly, I view both my mom and dad as leaning to the “free-range” spectrum of parenting, rather than helicoptering.

Here’s more from the article:

Welcome to 2018, when people are living so long that baby boomers, the original helicopter parents, have helicopters of their own.

A growing number of middle-aged folks — accustomed to directing their teenagers and young adults’ lives — are also on the receiving side of the equation. In today’s world, you’re never too old to be somebody’s baby.

In 2012, 53.7 percent of people aged 55-59 had at least one parent living, compared with 43.6 percent in that same age group in 1992, according to Ashton Verdery, an assistant professor of sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University.

Relationships between adult children who are 65+ and parents who are 90 and up are new enough that the National Institute on Aging is funding a study.

Kathrin Boerner, the principal investigator of the “Aging Together Study,” and an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, said she was surprised at the amount of advice and support that flows “downstream,” from very old parents to senior adult children.

1915364_1296704101497_7996135_nAre you an adult with helicopter parents? What do you say when they give you unsolicited advice?

Should preschool be taught outdoors?

 

Letting my kids play and be kids.

Enjoying the great outdoors.

 

I love the idea of having kids outdoors more. In a story in The Atlantic called “The Perks of a Play-in-the-Mud Educational Philosophy” by Conor Williams, he asks “When did America decide preschool should be in a classroom?”

My own preschool years were spent outside (unless it was absolutely pouring rain.) We didn’t have school before kindergarten as a matter of fact. Of course, most moms stayed home—at least they did in Snohomish, my hometown. We played in a sandbox, rode bikes and trikes in the streets, picked dandelions in our backyard and stared at clouds.

As we got older, we moved out of town to the countryside. We built forts in the woods, picked bleeding heart flowers and fiddleheads and rode bikes to pick wild blackberries for our mom to bake us pies.

I’m glad someone has the concept that being outside is good for you.

Here’s some of the article:

Most American kids don’t spend large chunks of their day catching salamanders and poking sticks into piles of fox poop. In a nation moving toward greater standardization of its public-education system, programs centered around getting kids outside to explore aren’t normal.

But that’s precisely what students do at the Nature Preschool at Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills, Maryland. There, every day, dozens of children ages 3 to 5 come to have adventures on Irvine’s more than 200 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and meadows. These muddy explorers stand out at a moment when many American pre-K programs have become more and more similar to K–12 education: row after row of tiny kids, sitting at desks, drilling letter identification and counting.

Mention how anomalous this seems, though, and the teachers at the Nature Preschool can only express their wish that that weren’t the case: Why is it odd for 4-year-olds to spend the bulk of their time outside? When did America decide that preschool should be boring routines performed within classroom walls?

Today’s kids are growing up at a moment when American childhood—like much of American life—is increasingly indoors and technologically enhanced. Families spend more time indoors and on screens. Smartphones have warped the teenage experience. Perhaps as part of reaction to those trends, the United States is witnessing a budding movement to reintegrate childhood with the natural world. Nature preschools, outdoor pre-K, forest kindergartens—call them what you like: Early-education programs like these are starting in communities all over the country. The Natural Start Alliance, a group advocating for more outdoor experiences in early education, says that the number of “nature-based preschools” has grown at least 500 percent since 2012.

The ideas that underscore these programs trace back, in part, to a 2005 book by the journalist Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods. Louv argued that American childhood had become overly standardized, overly structured, and overly saturated with technology. He coined a term for the phenomenon: “nature-deficit disorder.” Published just a few years after the adoption of No Child Left Behind—the federal education law that ramped up the emphasis on standardized testing and incentivized schools to focus on math and reading—Last Child received dazzling reviews and was passed around public schools as samizdat. The book helped launch the Children and Nature Network, which describes itself as an “organization whose mission is to fuel the worldwide grassroots movement to reconnect children with nature.”

My own kids had lots of time outdoors in the summer months we spent at the beach. Besides playing in the waves, they spent hours building drip castles, digging holes and fighting over sand. As they got older, they boogie boarded, tried surfing, swam and collected sea glass. I can’t begin to say how wonderful those years spent outdoors were for my kids. They had to use their imaginations and were away from computers and the TV for most of the daytime.

As for preschool, they both went to one but only in the mornings. They spent a lot of time in the afternoons at the park (with me hovering closely) or at the city pool.10995700_10206245569881976_4214520029871361800_o1597031_10206245570241985_7630871641838507528_o

What do you think about preschools and learning being out of the classroom in nature?

A Free-Range Parent Talks About the Free-Range Utah Law

 

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My son having play-time at the beach.

 

If you read parenting news and blogs like I do, you’ve probably read that a new law in Utah that goes into effect in May, allows parents to stop being helicopters. A Wall Street Journal article called “Parents, You Can Stop Helicoptering” is written by Lenore Skenazy, the woman who let her 9-year-old child ride the subway alone in New York.

Here are some excerpts from her opinion piece:

“If you send your kid out to play in the park for an hour, or buy a carton of milk, or even walk to school, guess what? If you’re in Utah, you won’t get arrested for negligence. Woo hoo!

“You don’t have to worry about a trial, fines, mandatory parenting classes, jail time or even losing custody, all thanks to a new law passed unanimously by the Utah Legislature and signed this month by Gov. Gary Herbert. It goes into effect in May. It’s called the Free-Range Parents Law, named after the movement I started, Free-Range Kids.

“I’m the New York mom who let her 9-year-old ride the subway alone and wrote a column about it for the late, great New York Sun. That was 10 years ago April 1 (and no, it wasn’t a joke). Two days later I found myself on NBC’s “Today” show, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and National Public Radio. The hosts all asked the same question: “But Lenore, how would you have felt if he never came home?”

“Well, I did have a spare son at home. But seriously, that very question was the reason parents were going crazy with worry. Paranoia about abduction by strangers—among the rarest of crimes—was the whole reason kids were being supervised every second. The No. 1 cause of death for children is car accidents. Yet you don’t hear talk-show hosts saying: “Oh my God, you drove your son to the dentist? How would you have felt if you got T-boned by a truck?”

“I started the Free-Range Kids blog the weekend after the media firestorm, to explain that I am all for safety. I love helmets, car seats, seat belts. If you’re having a baby, my shower gift is a fire extinguisher. But I let my son go out into the big wide world without me because that’s what kids, certainly 9-year-olds, have been doing since the beginning of time.”

Her article goes on to describe hair-raising scenarios where 911 was called and Child Protective Services showed up at homes when a parent let their kids be alone for five minutes or less—or play outside the house 150 feet away. In one story, a mom went into a Starbucks and let her girls sit in their van. A police officer greeted her and threatened to take the kids away when she returned three minutes later. The next day, Child Protective Services showed up at their house and demanded a doctor examine the children for signs of abuse.

Here’s what Skenazy wrote about the law in Utah:

“The Utah law redefines neglect to exclude letting kids walk to school, play outside, remain briefly in a vehicle under certain conditions, stay at home as a latchkey kid, or engage in any “similar independent activity.” It adds that children should be of “sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm,” which could leave the door open for overzealous officials. But clearly the law leans in the direction of giving Free-Range parents the benefit of the doubt.

“In America, we keep talking about how we need to raise a generation of kids who are smart, resilient problem-solvers ready to take on the chaotic, robotic economy ahead. We can’t do it by standing always by their side, solving all their problems.

“It is not negligent to believe our kids are ready for the childhood independence that made us who we are. It is negligent to deprive them of it.”

Isn’t it a shame that our children aren’t allowed the same freedom we had as kids? I never let my kids walk to the park or wander around the block alone when they were young. When I was young, we were outside if the weather allowed it. We rode our bikes around and went in and out of neighbor’s houses. I remember going to the Schutt’s house (they had teenagers who babysat us–and a horse named Snoopy.) I loved hanging out in the girls’ rooms and seeing their cool clothes, make-up and hairstyles. Their mom always gave us a cookie or popsicle, too.

My kids never had that life. We did have a child kidnapped from his front yard in a nearby town when my kids were little and it scared me to death. His body eventually was found. That one incident had a profound effect on my parenting.

I let my kids play at the park or beach, but we moms would be gathered on a blanket chatting and watching while they played. They also had their space at the pool, where they went six days a week for practice with a great group of kids. The park, beach and the pool allowed a little bit of freedom for them to explore and be with other kids, without us constantly hovering—although we were there on the sidelines ready to helicopter at a moment’s notice.

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Freedom to play at the beach.

 

What are your thoughts about society today not allowing kids any freedom? Do you agree with the new law in Utah?