About That Unsolicited Parenting Advice…

brother and sister playing at the beach

My kids when they like to eat chicken fingers.

When my kids were young, I’d often get unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends and family members — and even complete strangers. I read with interest this article by Meghan Moravcik Walbert called Keep Every Single Parenting Opinion to Yourself for a website called Lifehacker.com. 

We’re living in a particularly divided country right now, but we are lucky to still have one great rage-inducing unifier among parents: We do not want your unsolicited opinions about our parenting. This is especially true if you do not have children of your own. (Dogs don’t count.)

I have to believe author Jill Filipovic simply wanted to argue about something unrelated to the literal end of our democracy when she tweeted this sparkling gem of an opinion recently:

Jill Filipovic
@JillFilipovic
I know the thing parents hate most is when non-parents assert what they will do as parents which is inevitably smug and incorrect, but I am 100% sure I will never assent to a “kid’s menu” or the concept of “kid food.”

In a follow-up tweet, she rhetorically ponders, “Do you think children in most of the world order off of a ‘kids menu’ and survive primarily off of chicken fingers and plain pasta?”

It seems her argument is that kids should have more variety in their diets, ignoring that kids’ menus exist to offer smaller, significantly cheaper portions of food for children to make it affordable and less wasteful when families go out to eat. But see, this is why parenting opinions from non-parents is so universally grating: They’re blind to fundamental aspects of parenting that are obvious to those of us who have actually done it.

Yes, you’re very smart, and you’ll introduce your kids to lots of flavors, and they’ll always eat exactly what you eat because there’s no way you’ll cook one meal for you and a separate meal for them. If you become a parent, what’s more likely is that we can look forward to hearing you say, “No, honey, you have to buy the dinosaur-shaped nuggets; he doesn’t like the regular ones.”

I have one dear friend, well more than one, who constantly criticized the bland
“kid food” I served my children. We would go to a friend’s and stay for a long weekend and I’d bring food for my kids to eat — things I knew they’d like. Yes, my groceries included chicken fingers. My friend didn’t understand why my kids wouldn’t want to consume her kale with quinoa or homemade chile rellenos. She’d point out another friend of hers who had kids who loved to eat all her veggies and her adult flavored dishes. My kids liked carrots, snap peas and the like — especially dipped in ranch dressing. At a young age, their taste buds were more sensitive to spice. It wasn’t long before they grew into more adult diets and indulged in sushi and spicy Mexican food. As adults they love to eat vegetables and they cook healthy and interesting meals. No, they are not living off of chicken fingers.

The point is that I’d get criticized by friends and family members who didn’t have kids, or had children who were infants or teenagers. They weren’t dealing with kids three to seven years old and they either hadn’t been through those experiences or they forgot about those glorious days.

I used to ask my kids what they wanted to eat. My daughter always said chicken. Once I made pan-fried sole for dinner. She said, “Now this is the chicken I like!” That was eye-opening to me, because I didn’t realize that she was calling most foods “chicken!”

One of my friends had a son a couple years younger than my kids. We were at a family-fun restaurant and her toddler son kept jumping out of the high chair. She said, “I really owe you an apology. All of those things I criticized or tried to give you advice about — I had no idea!”

There’s more great examples in the article about unsolicited advice and how parents think they would NEVER raise their voice at their children (who aren’t born yet). Read the entire article for yourself here. It’s an entertaining read.

Here’s another article I’ve written about unsolicited advice. Read it here.

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Life at the beach with two young kids.

What funny experiences have you had with people giving you unsolicited parenting advice?

Does IQ Determine a Child’s Success?

kat underHow our children handle adversity is more important to their success than their intelligence. I heard this during a webinar for youth sports parents, but it also applies to every day life. David Benzel, sports parenting expert, from Growing Champions for Life, discussed this and gave other gems of advice in “Overcoming Adversity in Sports and Life.” 

Benzel said, “Opportunities for personal growth usually come disguised as setbacks, disappointments and problems.” An interesting statistic he shared was that only 25 percent of success can be predicted by IQ, while 75% is because of the level of optimism, social support and the ability to see adversity as an opportunity and not a threat. So the answer to my headline question is a resounding “NO.” Our IQ isn’t as valuable as our AQ (Adversity Quotient.)

He gave examples of adversity in sports that included an injury, time off from practice due to COVID-19, not connecting with a coach, losing to an inferior opponent or being in a slump. Think of what so many kids are going through today with schools not opening, sports being cancelled. They are facing adversity like never before in their young lives.

According to Benzel, there are three types of reactions to adversity that he described as the Prisoner, the Settler and the Pioneer. The goal is to get to a pioneer mindset. That’s because the other two aren’t great. The prisoner gives up, is controlled by circumstances and feels fear and anger. The settler settles. That mindset seeks to be comfortable and feels they are doing as well as possible considering the circumstances.

The pioneer learns continuously, challenges assumptions and adjusts their strategies to succeed. They believe that they can accomplish anything if they bring light to the situation. Bringing in light makes the darkness go away. 

Here’re four tips Benzel gave to have a pioneer outlook to adversity:

  1. Listen to your adversity response. Is it fight, flight or freeze? Do your internal thoughts help you with the situation? 
  2. How can I bring light to this?
  3. Take charge of what you can control.
  4. Create a state of wonder to create a solution. Ask the question, “I wonder how I can…” Suddenly the pity party ends and your brain goes to work to find a solution.

One of the more helpful things I learned from the webinar is that optimism can be learned. So, if we’re feeling down or defeated, or our kids are, remember to ask the “I wonder how I can” question.

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When you are faced with adversity how do you see your mindset? Do you see yourself as a pioneer in spirit?

My super busy, crazy August

Two years ago my August was crazy with stress. My husband was dealing with health insurance, doctors and trying to get tests done. A good friend practically died. My daughter was leaving college to move to a new state and career. Move forward two years and things are still stressful but mainly because of all the changes to what we consider “normal.” Looking back to my August two years ago reminds me that this year, although different, is not that bad.

Here’s what I wrote two years ago:

 

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Waffles at the beach

Thank goodness I’m almost through with a momentous August. Usually, my Augusts are quiet and peaceful with countless hours reading books by the ocean or a mountain lake. But not this year. It’s been by far the craziest couple of weeks I’ve lived through.

Here’s a replay of the past few weeks:

• My husband’s pre-op nightmare battery of tests where they kept ordering test after test so he can have his shoulder surgery tomorrow. This is an entire story in itself that includes a cancer scare that I may write (complain) about on another day.

• Our dear friend passed out at the gym, having a blood clot lodge in her carotid artery causing a stroke—the morning we were driving four hours to see her.
 She spent a few days in ICU and after a few days was released and went on beach walks with me.

• My son’s girlfriend’s car accident on the day they were coming down to see us at the beach. The next few days helping them find a car because unfortunately the car was totaled. Eventually, they made it on vacation with us—in their new car.

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The VRBO we had for one week in paradise.

• Finally, a one week’s beach vacation. Gone in a snap.

• Driving up the mountain to move the RV back to the desert with a friend to help us drive it down the twisty, windy roads. It wouldn’t start by the way. The batteries died. I asked to borrow jumper cables and then a truck because our car has a “weird-ass” battery that can’t be used to jump a car.

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Big Bear Lake at the RV Park and Marina.

• Next, we drove to AZ to my daughter’s new house. My husband flew from Phoenix to Salt Lake City so he and my daughter could drive a U-Haul for 10 hours with her worldly possessions through flash floods and monsoon winds. I spent two days cleaning the dusty, dirty house until I was exhausted. But, I did have lil’ Waffles by my side the entire time.

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They arrived in the U-Haul after a 10-hour drive.

• We hired movers to unload the U-Haul because of my husband’s upcoming shoulder surgery, plus my daughter’s distance-swimmer shoulder. We were told about a website where you can hire two guys for two hours for moving, which I did. Guess what? The movers didn’t show up!
 I’m currently trying to get a refund.

• We spent Sunday putting together Ikea furniture and unpacking boxes before making the trek back home.

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My kids body surfing during one relaxing moment at the beach.

What could we squeeze in next? Shoulder surgery tomorrow and I get to be nurse and caretaker. Then I’ll return to AZ and help my daughter get settled—and bring the things I forgot to pack on our last trip–like her work wardrobe! Whew! No wonder I’ve been stressed lately.

What is your August like? Did it seem crazier than usual, too?

Is mom-shaming ever ok?

randk 5We all have strong opinions about our kids and when our parenting style or our child is criticized we’ll have strong reactions. Mom-shaming happens. I experienced it more than once as a parent from complete strangers and from family members. I certainly hope that I didn’t shame other moms. We know that our kids aren’t perfect and we aren’t perfect either. A lot of parenting is trying to learning through experience and knowing that every single day, we’ll face new challenges. Sometimes we make it up as we go.

Sometimes a well-meaning relative or friend will offer advice. When it’s unsolicited it’s often unwelcome. It can seem to be judgmental or condemning. The normal reaction is to feel hurt or defensive, which then leads to conflict.

I found an interesting article on a website called Your Tango by Erica Wollerman, parenting expert and psychologist, called 5 Ways To Respectfully Talk About Different Parenting Views With Family & Friends. Here’s an excerpt:

Is mom-shaming ever OK?

Mom-shaming is an inherent problem in today’s world of parenting.

As a mom and someone who works with parents very closely in my work as a psychologist, I argue that it’s vital that we avoid shaming other parents as much as possible.

While we are all human and are going to have judgments and feelings about what others are doing, I believe that it’s better not to communicate judgments in a shaming way, particularly towards parents.

And the reason why is simple: We are all doing the best we can with the information we have and the situations we are in.

I’ve never worked with a parent who simply didn’t care or wasn’t trying to be the best parent — they all want to give their kids the best life they could.

Additionally, there’s already so much pressure on parents in our culture to be perfect and to do everything possible for their kids.

In America, we lack a unified parenting philosophy that we all share and rely on the parenting advice we get from thousands of sources — podcasts, books, friends, family, TV shows, and psychologists and parent coaches.

It’s just so overwhelming to have to make so many decisions and do a job that most of us feel is crucial for our kids’ development without truly knowing for sure what the “right” choice is.

randk 6The author has specific tips and some great advice. I like it when she said the most important thing is to love your child and accept them for who they are. She said to “try to match your parenting style to their personality.”

She offers five tips to respectfully talk about parenting differences with family and friends. Here are the first two:

1. What works for one family won’t necessarily work for others.

The idea of “that’s great for you and it’s just not for me” is a good approach to start with when talking about parenting differences with other parents.

If you approach other parents’ decisions from the place that they have the right to make their own choices and that you do, too, it can really help avoid shaming comments.

For example, if a mom is choosing not to breastfeed or choosing to stop, they 100 percent do not need a list of reasons why breastmilk is beneficial. But what they do need is your support as fellow moms.

2. We can all be good moms and not make the same choices.

There really is no such thing as a perfect parent. Everyone is going to make mistakes and make different choices on their parenting journeys. That does not mean that some are “right” and others are “wrong.”

You are all good moms, even when your choices don’t line up with each other.

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Do you have any advice or experiences to share about mom-shaming or discussing different parenting advice with family and friends?

Tips for Parenting and Stress During the Pandemic

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Morning walks help keep me grounded.

I found my self getting anxious a few weeks ago. It’s a weird fluttery feeling in my chest with my heart beating wildly, my breath getting short and my palms sweating. Why does it come on like that out of the blue? I think it’s all the uncertainty around us. Will my husband ever go back to his office to work? Will we ever get to go to the movies again? Will I have swim practice with my friends? When will this end? Right when we think it’s getting better, it gets worse. The number of cases are going up. We don’t know what will happen with the economy. I have three of my closest friends diagnosed with breast cancer during COVID-19. Yes, there’s lots to be anxious about.

We were fortunate to have our daughter come home to work remotely. She had just moved into a new apartment and didn’t really know her two new roommates. They had a 24-hour notice to shelter in place, so she headed home. I remember her deciding to go to the hardware store to purchase lumber for a bed frame she was making. The very first day she was with us, she was intent on getting supplies. “We could shut down here tomorrow,” she said. She was correct. The next day we were told to shelter in place.

I work in my son’s room and my husband works in our master bedroom. Our daughter took over the guest room. We were a busy bunch until she got laid off due to COVID-19. That was stressful in itself. Also, having a grown up adult in the house took time for us to get used to. We managed to get along most of the time and it’s a three-month period I’ll treasure. Without the pandemic, she wouldn’t have come home and spent time as a young adult. She’s back to building her life away from us, interviewing for jobs.

I read an interesting article called Parenting, stress and COVID-19 by Annie Keeling in The Union, a website with news for Nevada County, Calif.

Here’s an excerpt:

THE EFFECTS OF STRESS

Despite feeling close to their children during the COVID-19 pandemic, 61% of parents say they have shouted, yelled, or screamed at them at least once over the past two weeks, according to a new report from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. (https://www.psychcongress.com/article/covid-19-stress-taking-toll-parent-child-relationships)

“For a large number of parents, financial concerns, other worries, social isolation, loneliness, and sadness are getting in the way of parenting,” said lead author Shawna J. Lee, PhD, an associate professor of social work, who compiled the report with coauthor Kaitlin Ward, a doctoral student.

This uncertain experience is asking a lot of parents: full-time playmate, teacher and caregiver can take its toll. What can you do to help yourself? The first step is recognizing that this is a challenging time and that there are ways to ease the effects of uncertainty and stress.

CALMING TECHNIQUES FOR THE PARENT

Take care of yourself. Parents know that they must do this so they can be a good parent, but it’s often easier said than done. The Power of Three is essential: eat well, exercise, get sleep. Put a post-it reminder on your mirror, by the stove, by the screens in your home. Check in with yourself each evening. How did you do with your Power of Three today?

Take a breath. Or five. Research shows that it takes more than one deep breath to really affect the parasympathetic nervous system. Five deep breaths can change your state.

Reach out to others. Phone calls, Zoom, and yard dates with other adults- physically distanced on lawn chairs — are a few ways.

Take (even a tiny) break. Try splashing cold water on your face, stepping outside or planning a parenting partner hand-off. Identify what you might do to take a break before the day starts. This helps our psyche to anticipate the relief that is coming.

List healthy coping skills for yourself and your family. Avoid behaviors such as excessive alcohol drinking, online gambling or taking drugs. Negative coping mechanisms further compound your stress levels and can make your situation worse in the long run.

The article goes on to describe tips to calm the entire family with lots of fun things to do. Keeling also discusses talking about the pandemic and how that can lead to less stress as well.

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My daughter bungee swimming in our backyard. It’s hard but it does help with stress.

Have you had stress or anxiety during the pandemic and what are you doing to fight it?

 

True Confessions of a Former Helicopter Mom

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine years ago.

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine years ago.

There’s a study from BYU that says that helicopter parents are hurting their kids. You can read more about it here.  The study says that even loving parents don’t make up for the damage inflicted by excessive hovering.

I don’t know if I’d call myself a helicopter parent or not. My kids would probably say yes, but as one swim coach told my daughter, we are far from the worst parents he’s met.

To try and determine my status I took this quiz from the Christian Science Monitor.

I earned Terra Firma.

13e7cdf4346de40aade6db55399ea91eMy two kids are so different, I question if I parented them differently? I feel like I helicoptered my first born, and was more laid back with the second. The result is one more dependent and one independent.

I used to boil my son’s binky’s after they hit the ground for a good five minutes. I’ll never forget that smell of burning rubber when the water boiled away. The joke my husband used to tell was that with our second child, I asked the dog to “fetch” the binky.

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Binky’s

When my son was born, I worked on my writing and PR business from home. I thought I could full-time parent and work simultaneously. I didn’t take into consideration that clients would want to me run over for meetings without notice.

Then, Robert went mobile. He was crawling around. Spitting-up on my keyboard.

Nope, full-time work and stay-at-home parenting didn’t work out well for me. I hired a full-time babysitter and then became jealous every day they left for the park.

Three years later, when my daughter was born, the full-time help was gone, and I switched to part-time work. I was able to spend time with the kids, and do a little work, too. It was a nice balance.

Early on, I volunteered in my son’s classroom. I corrected papers, taught computers, writing. Anything they’d let me do. I’ll never forget arguing with his second-grade teacher over the word “artic.” After all, I had drilled him the night before on the continents. “It’s arctic,” the teacher told me. Oops.

My son constantly asked me to bring things to school. Papers he forgot. Projects left behind. I always dropped what I was doing and drove to school—including during his senior year! I can’t believe I did that! I did not do that for my daughter. Mostly, because she never asked.

I helped out with her schooling, too. But, in her elementary school years, it was limited to driving for field trips and special events.

I have one child that now calls whenever there is a problem. His face pops up on my phone and I automatically ask, “What’s wrong?” A broken computer, a fender bender, a parking ticket. It’s always something. Of course, there are exceptions—he aced a test, or got asked to be a guest speaker by the Dean at a fundraiser.

My daughter calls once a week or so to talk to tell me how she’s decorating her room, about a backpacking trip to hot springs, or that she had a good workout.

Maybe the difference between my kids is this: they are entirely two different people, with different goals, personalities, and interests. 

As far as my being a helicopter parent? I think I improved over the years.

My two kids.

My two kids.

How do you define if you’re a helicopter parent? What things have you done that are over the top?

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?