Day 46: Shelter in Place

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Morning views.

Where has the time gone? The days melt into each other, literally with temperatures above 100 degrees. We’re getting up earlier and earlier so we can beat the heat for our morning walks and bike rides.

It’s hard to remember what day of the week it is. I’m trying to stick to a routine as I’ve practiced for years based on Julia Cameron and her books beginning with The Artists’s Way. I think it helps to have a routine in the best of times, and with the oddness of staying home it’s more important.

A couple months ago, I received a few emails from two swim moms asking me for advice because their teen sons were burned out on swimming and wanted to quit. They were both so sad that their sons wanted to give up when they were so close to finishing their age group/ high school careers and could go on to swim in college. As a swim parent it’s easy to go all in and make the pool the center of our family lives, too. It’s thrilling to watch our kids compete, we make friends with the other parents and coaches. Volunteering at meets and supporting the team in numerous other ways takes up hours of our time.

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Our home pool at sunset.

Then poof! Out of the blue, your child decides they’re done. But funny thing is, you’re not! Then the Coronavirus hit and all the teams are out of the water. There isn’t any practice to go to. I heard from one of the moms who wrote me earlier. Now that her son can’t go to practice — he wants to. He’s been given a taste of what it’s like to not have his teammates and coach in his daily life. He also doesn’t get to substitute the swim practice hours with anything else. Plus, our school age kids aren’t in school or with their friends.

I guess the lesson is, “Hey it’s not that bad!” The complaints we all had before this shut down seem petty and small compared to loss of life, loss of jobs, income and activities. Another reason to be grateful for what we do have and realize that our lives can change with our next breath.

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Me and my swim buddies with the Masters’ T-shirts we created.

What have you found you miss the most during the Coronavirus shut down? Is there something you weren’t thrilled about that you’d like to do, now that you can’t?

 

Are Boomers More Involved Parents?

From time to time, I like to look back on what I was doing the year before. Last year I wrote this article after visiting my son in the Bay Area. Contrast that to this year, where I’m on Day 31 of Shelter in Place! What I wouldn’t give to be visiting my son like last year. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to.

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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? 

Stuck at home: Are the kids bored?

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Walking around the neighborhood.

I’m on day 29 of sheltering in place. I think about parents who used to drop their kids off to school and go to their offices. Now they’re home — with their kids — trying to teach and do their jobs. How do they do it all? I fortunately am not in that situation. I have myself to keep going and I don’t have kids at home who are bored or need to be taught.

I ran into an interesting article on this subject written by psychologist John Rosemond called LIVING WITH CHILDREN: Bored kids at home? Stop parenting. You can read the entire article in the Gazette-Virginian by clicking here.

Here are a few excerpts:

One website is titled “How to Cope with Kids During Coronavirus.”

Another, featuring a staged photo of an obviously frazzled mom with a toddler on her lap, tells the reader that “Parents are losing their minds having kids at home during coronavirus!”

There’s yet another, advising on “How to Keep Kids Entertained During the Crisis.”

On and on it goes, website after website counseling parents on how to deal with being confined at home with one’s kids.

The early 21st century may be remembered as the “Age of the Personal Soap Opera.” A person makes a soap opera out of a life situation, claims victimhood, garners sympathy, manufactures more soap opera, garners more sympathy, and so on. Soap opera begets soap opera. Forty-plus years of counseling experience has taught me that once a person becomes caught in the soap opera loop, it is harder than hard to get out.

For thousands of years, it was normal for children to be at home. It never occurred to parents that they might need “support” or advice to deal with that circumstance. Everyone was in the same sturdy boat. Furthermore, the boat had two paddles and was helmed by one or two adults who obviously knew how and in what direction to row. No one went running pell-mell down the road screaming that their kids had pushed them over the edge.

Rosemond explains in his article that the concept of “parenting” is new. Parenting is putting our children in the center of our lives. We live to make things easier for them. We want them to be happy and not struggle. It’s not that our parents didn’t care, they understood viewed their role as a parent differently. They new life was never perfect and at times hard. They understood that their number one job was to get us out of the nest and to be able to fly on our own.

Here’s a bit more of the article that I seriously can relate to, since my mom was the queen of chore lists:

Growing up, I was blessedly deprived of a mother who “parented.” My non-parenting mother, who was a single parent during most of my first seven years, did not put me at the center of her attention and hardly felt it was her job to keep me occupied. That responsibility fell squarely on my little shoulders.

“Bored, eh? If you can’t find something to do, I’ll find something for you to do.”

And just like that, I found something to do, knowing that Mom’s solution would not be at all to my liking, as in “You’re going to wash the kitchen floor and if you’re still bored, I have plenty of other things with which to un-bore you.”

Chores were a part of my daily life as a kid as well.  But I wasn’t given a choice of entertaining myself or doing chores. Chores came first, then we got to play. Also, my mom had a secret weapon. A timer. We practiced piano to the timer. We weeded to the timer. We vacuumed to the timer. And then she had the nerve to tell us that we had it so much easier than she did as a kid. I’m sure she’s right. We had all those new-fangled inventions like washing machines, dryers and refrigerators. She grew up in the day of ice boxes where an ice truck delivered chunks of ice to keep the food cold and wringer washers.

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A wringer washer

For parents who are home with their children, it’s a perfect opportunity to instill some chores into their daily routines. I do believe a routine is helpful to get through the days that seem to run together.

What type of chores are you having your kids do while you’re sheltering in place? What games, books or other activities are they doing to keep from getting bored?

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Who can be bored with this nugget around?

Learn more about family psychologist John Rosemond at johnrosemond.comparentguru.com.

 

Tips to Promote Creativity in Kids

With so many parents at home with their kids, I was thinking about how they must be looking for creative and fun things to do — besides getting the homework done. The Coronavirus may be causing uncertain times, but we do have more time. Perhaps parents can take advantage of the lack of extracurriculars — racing from the pool to ballet, etc. — and let the kids play. I think we may look back on these days as a time when we could breathe, relax and play. 

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I’d let my kids have a tub of large chalk and draw all over our patio. It drove my husband crazy to come home from work and see our kids and their friends drawing all over our back yard. It hosed off, though. Also, I’d buy a roll of butcher paper and let them paint or draw across the patio, hoping they’d keep it on the paper.

At the beach, they’d build villages with drip castles and loved to play chef at a restaurant. I’d patiently taste each creation (pile of wet sand) and tell them how delicious it was.

I remember taking my kids to a photographer for Christmas pictures. I had them all dressed up in their matching red and green Gymboree outfits. My daughter was a baby and my son three. My son moved all the chairs and benches into two rows all facing forward. We asked him what he was doing and he explained he was building an airplane (the two lines of furniture were the seats and aisle.) The photographer was extremely patient as I tried to put everything back in it’s place.

My mom was big on creativity and she allowed us to destroy our living room with forts of card tables and sheets, dig to China and build a pond for polliwogs. I remember making dozens of puppets with Woolite bottles as the heads and swatches of fabric for the outfits. Mom did get annoyed with me for chopping out a chunk of fabric from the center of all the yardage of fabric in her sewing room!

What exactly is creativity? Here’s a definition:

noun

  1. the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.
    “firms are keen to encourage creativity”

 

Here’s an excerpt from Greater Good Magazine 7 Ways to Foster Creativity in Your Kids by Christine Carter:

Many people assume that creativity is an inborn talent that their kids either do or do not have: just as all children are not equally intelligent, all children are not equally creative. But actually, creativity is more skill than inborn talent, and it is a skill parents can help their kids develop.

Because it is a key to success in nearly everything we do, creativity is a key component of health and happiness and a core skill to practice with kids. Creativity is not limited to artistic and musical expression—it is also essential for science, math, and even social and emotional intelligence. Creative people are more flexible and better problem solvers, which makes them more able to adapt to technological advances and deal with change—as well as take advantage of new opportunities.

Many researchers believe we have fundamentally changed the experience of childhood in such a way that impairs creative development. Toy and entertainment companies feed kids an endless stream of prefab characters, images, props and plot-lines that allow children to put their imaginations to rest. Children no longer need to imagine a stick is a sword in a game or story they’ve imagined: they can play Star Wars with a specific light-saber in costumes designed for the specific role they are playing.

Carter has a bunch of tips of things we can do to promote creativity that includes giving  kids space and resources for creative play. Also, she says it’s important to allow our kids to make mistakes and fail. If they’re afraid of failure their creativity will be stifled. Limiting screen and TV time will give kids a chance for art and reading. Another bit of advice is to not tell our kids what to do. For example, I made my daughter take piano lessons for years against her will. She would have been much better off following her own passions like making mosaics and painting. For years she made gifts for her friends by getting a few supplies from Michaels and using her creativity. For a complete list of her tips, read the article here

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robkatrock

 

A Stinky Day in Paradise: Literally

I’m reposting a pet story from the two months my daughter was studying abroad. I’m enjoying looking back at what I’ve written about our pets while we are in “shelter in place” for the Coronavirus. Pets make our lives better and it’s easier to cope in these strange times with a cuddling creature. A neighbor I chat with on my morning walks just adopted two Irish Setter pups and I can’t wait to meet them. I also read that the animal shelters are having record numbers of adoptions. I think that is a wonderful consequence to COVID-19.

Here’s the story when I was in charge of Waffles over the summer of 2018 and loved most of it — except the day we lost him camping — and the day that really stunk! Here’s what happened on that stinky day:

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Waffles the Pug this morning after all the action was over.

Literally. It stinks. My day began at 2:20 a.m. when my daughter texted me from Paris, France. She’s over there and wanted to ask me a question. Yes, at 2:20 a.m. because she’s nine hours ahead. I explained that I was sleeping! Then my husband woke up and we were wide awake for the next hour. She explained that she rarely has WiFi and has to text or call when she gets the chance. Lovely.

My husband got up at 4 a.m. He let Waffles the pug puppy we’re babysitting (for our daughter who is galavanting around Europe) out of his crate and they walked into the kitchen. Waffles bolted out the French doors to the backyard. Of course, I’m not back asleep yet, because they are noisy.

I heard “Waffles, Waffles! Where are you?” and then the jingle of Waffles name tag as he scampered back into the house. Next, I heard “Oh My GOD! He’s foaming at the mouth!”

I gave up trying to sleep and bolted into the kitchen, where my husband was holding Waffles and yes, he was foaming at the mouth! I grabbed paper towels and wiped out inside his mouth and tongue. Then, the odor hit me. It was like nothing I’ve smelled before. It burned my eyes and nose. I turned on the flashlight on my iPhone and ventured outside to find out what Waffles got into.

My husband locked Waffles in the guest bath and met me outside. We tried to trace where Waffles might have gone by flashlight.

“What’s that smell?” I asked.

“It smells like burning chemicals.”

“Maybe Waffles got poisoned,” I said. I ran back to the bathroom and discovered that other than foaming at the mouth and running in circles, Waffles appeared to be okay.

We returned outside and found that some parts really smelled worse than others but we couldn’t tell what it was. It permeated the air, this strong industrial, chemical burning that we tasted and smelled. Eventually, we gave up on the dark yard, and I put Waffles in his crate next to our bed. I decided to try and sleep. But, first I googled “dog foaming at the mouth bad odor” and got SKUNK! It honestly didn’t smell a thing like skunk to me, but maybe that’s because I haven’t had such a close encounter before.

I also found a recipe from the Humane Society of one-quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda and one teaspoon dishwashing liquid. I jumped out of bed and mixed up a batch, grabbed Waffles out of the crate and did my best to wash him in the dark on the patio. I used up all the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda we had and then hosed him off. Then I heard the shower running in our bathroom, so I tossed Waffles in the shower with my husband to shampoo once again.

I fell back asleep after all of this, but I missed my morning Masters swim practice because of the timing and exhaustion. And that really stinks. Also, the house doesn’t smell too great either, because the number one rule I learned on the internet when your dog gets skunked—leave them outside. Do NOT let them inside the house.

After I woke up again, I went back to the store and restocked on the de-skunking supplies and applied another batch of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap on Waffles and his crate.

Fortunately, or maybe, unfortunately, I have a dear friend in Carpinteria whose Rottie had several engagements with skunks. She said to simmer orange peel, cinnamon sticks and water on the stovetop all day, and place bowls of distilled vinegar around the house. The house is smelling citrusy-cinnamony now, and this stinky day will be a thing of the past.

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Waffles and his crate in the backyard, both soaking in hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and baking soda.

Has one of your pets been skunked before? How did you handle it?

Good News: A Birthday for the 🐕


robert

 

It’s my son’s birthday on Thursday. I wrote this story a few years ago when he was still in college and Spring Break aligned with his birthday. It was always a treat that he could be home and we’d all celebrate. 

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

robert 1In honor of his birthday, I’m posting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his second grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

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In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!

True Grit and Sports Specialization: What’s the Connection?

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It takes grit to become an elite-level athlete. Not every athlete has it. And it can’t be developed without internal motivation.

Both of my kids began swimming at a young age. My daughter began swimming with a year-round team at age five, while my son began swimming at age eight. (He’s three years older).

They did do other activities for a few years before they decided to specialize. And that is the key: they decided. My son was running between t-ball, tennis, karate and swimming and felt like he wasn’t making progress in any of them. He got the swimming bug and wanted to compete. So, we dropped the other sports.

My daughter was being shuttled between the ballet studio and the pool. She honestly thought that ballet was some weird form of punishment — especially putting on pink tights and a black leotard in the 110-degree heat — while her brother got to dive into the pool!

 

 

I listened to a podcast by Ritter Sports Performance on early sports specialization and the main thing I took away was that an athlete has to be internally motivated. They can’t be putting in the hours and training to please their parents or their coach.  If they have the passion and are hardwired to compete at their sport, then they will reach the elite level regardless when they start.

In swimming, two examples are Rowdy Gaines and Ed Moses, who both started late in high school. They did a lot of other sports before they found the pool. Once they started swimming they excelled and loved it.

So, why do we insist on sports specialization a young age? It’s because some sports like swimming take a lot of time to develop technique. Parents naturally want their kids to have a head start.

Then there’s the 10,000 rule from Outliers: The Story of Success that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be good at something.  But, an interesting theory is that it’s not the quantity, but the quality of practice. You can’t be looking at the clock waiting for practice to be over. You have to be in the moment giving it your all.

There are certain guidelines that kids should do a lot of different activities before they specialize, but that by the time they turn 12 or 13 years old they need to focus on one sport. There are always exceptions to the rule. For example, one my of daughter’s childhood teammates was an amazing swimmer. In high school, she stopped the club team and played water polo, ran cross country and swam for the high school team. Her athleticism continued to grow and she walked on as a swimmer at the D1 university and became their fastest sprinter.

I say, follow your kids’ lead. They will know what sport ignites their passion. By allowing them to follow their passion, they can develop the grit it takes to be successful.

What sports are your children in and at what age did they specialize?

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