How to find balance in parenting—surf or swim!

 

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My swimmer daughter trying surfing.

I enjoyed reading a story about “surf parenting” as an alternative to helicopter parenting written by Amy Preiser. In her article, “Forget Helicopter Parenting — I’m ‘Surf Parenting’ From Now On,” she said:

 

“Gather ’round and listen to the tale of how I, your average working mother with a tendency to over-schedule, over-analyze, and over-stress, changed my life with a single surf lesson. Of how I, a woman constantly seeking balance, found it atop a board. How my cares melted away — but what was important become crystal clear — as I rode atop a ferocious wave, hair glimmering, smile broadening, feet angled just so. I knew all my problems were solved. I would never again procrastinate or fall victim to guilt. I would be a more present mother yet a more creative and focused worker. My friendships would improve. So would the whiteness of my teeth! I would start referring to a handful of almonds as a “great snack.”

Yeah, that was not how it went. (Did you already guess?)”

I’m big on getting out of your comfort zone to try new things. I’m impressed she took on surfing, which is a little too much out of my comfort zone—and will never try. I also liked her article because I was writing about finding balance as a swim parent today for SwimSwam.com. Swimming requires balance in the water, kids need to balance their academics, social life and sport—and parents and families need to find balance with all the demands of being a busy swim parent.

Another thing I liked about her story was the surf instructor was an ambassador for Sanuk, a flip-flop manufacturer that I adore. I have worn Sanuk sandals with soles made from yoga mats for years and years. I absolutely love them for their comfortable, sinking in feeling. They remind me of two decades of summers in Laguna with the kids–where I bought my first pair of Sanuk flip-flops.

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Me and my college roomie discovered we had good taste–Sanuk sandals.

 

My leap out of my comfort zone came through swimming, of course. Signing up for Masters with the Piranha Swim Team—my kids’ team for 15 years—was tough. I procrastinated and thought about it for four months before finally showing up on deck. Then, the following year, I signed up for a meet and just about died of fear learning to dive off the blocks let alone race in the meet! Then this past spring, I swam at my first (and only?) US Masters Nationals meet. I came in last in my age group, but seriously, it was about the experience–not winning medals. I’m thankful to have made it through the day with all the anxiety and stress I felt.

Practice at the city pool is my zen space. I practice my balance in the pool, standing on the blocks, and making time for myself in my busy day to get outside and exercise.

It’s all about finding balance.

How do you find balance in your life?

 

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That’s me diving off the blocks at my first meet.

 

 

 

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How to Raise Successful, Happy Kids

 

 

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What I neglected to teach my kids, they learned from swimming.

Yesterday, while driving to the mountains to escape the summer heat of the desert with a friend, we talked about how different our childhoods were and how our parents were much less hands-on than we have been with our kids. It was fun to reminisce about the good old days. It’s also kind of sad to think about how sheltered our kids are today and that they didn’t get the chance to ride their bikes for miles and miles and play in the street with neighborhood kids.

For example, we both recalled our first day of kindergarten when our mothers took us to school. The second day, we were walking on our own! Our kids were chauffeured everywhere, every single day by good ol’ mom.

Here’s an interesting article that gives nine somewhat scientific steps to raising successful kids. There are some good tips in it and I agree strongly with several–like kids need to play outdoors more and have chores. Here’s tip number three from “Want to Raise Successful Kids? Science Says Do These 9 Things:”

 

“3. Send them outside to play
This research applied specifically to boys, but it’s common sensical for girls as well. In short, smart parents will advocate for their kids to get a significant amount of unstructured recess time during the school day–and never to have recess withheld as punishment.

Unfortunately, researchers say we’re more likely to do the opposite in schools now: overprotecting kids, trying to keep them safe from all physical dangers, and ultimately inhibiting their academic growth, because lack of physical activity makes it harder for them to concentrate.”

I had a ton of chores growing up. I’d cringe coming home from school or on weekends to my mom’s difficult-to-read handwriting filling every line on a legal yellow pad with chores to do before “we played” or “watched TV.” We had to weed the garden, sweep the steps, vacuum the entire house, cook dinner, clean the game closet, etc.

I wasn’t as good as my mom at making my kids do chores. They were so busy with school and the pool that I felt they didn’t have the time for more work. I know that was a mistake. I had attempted having them do the dishes every night, but that turned into more trouble than if I did it myself. Also, my daughter developed a unique allergy to dishes. Her legs and arms would break out in blotches whenever it was her turn. I couldn’t let her off the hook while making my son wash dishes, right?

Another thing that’s not on the list but should be is letting my kids fail and suffer the consequences. It’s a nice reminder to let kids fail while they’re young and you’re not paying $30k for a year of college. Consequences are what make them steady, reliable adults. I should have let my kids fail when they were younger so they could learn the consequences. I took way too many trips to school with forgotten homework or lunches.

All in all, despite me, they’re happy and hard working. I think that swimming taught them about hard work since I failed in the chore department. Also, swimming taught them how to turn a missed goal or failed swim into motivation to try harder. So, despite my not being a perfect mother, letting them experience life with the swim team taught them life lessons that I neglected to teach them.

How do you parent differently than your parents?

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Ribbons and medals received for hard work from her coach.

 

Mom Regrets: When Women Want Their Old Life Back

 

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No regrets.

 

Mom regrets. That’s a term I’ve never heard before. Apparently, some women who have children miss their “before kids life” so much that they regret having them. That’s probably one of the most taboo things a mom could admit to, but they must feel it deeply or they’d stay quiet. I hope for their kids’ sake that their kids won’t read their posts about mommy regrets ten years from now.

The moms expressing regret find parenting less stimulating than working. They say it’s tiring, there’s too much housework and playing with kids can be downright boring. Who can argue with that? I’ll admit there are some tough days when you’ve got little kids who are dependent on you for their very survival. The first couple of months are beyond exhausting and although you may sleep through the night again, it doesn’t lighten up for several years.

I found an interesting article called “Parenting: it’s all about attitude,” by Narelle Henson in STUFF from the Waikato Times. (I had to look that one up! I had no clue where or what a Waikato is! It’s in New Zealand by the way.)

Here’s a quote from the story:

“OPINION: I’m not made to be a mum. I know it is a little late to come to this conclusion, but just hear me out.

Over the past few months, a vast number of “mum regret” articles seem to have swept beneath my (tired mum) eyes. There was the woman just this week with a child the same age as mine who wrote that childcare is mind-numbingly boring.

Last month, there was an article on three women who “just want to go back to being me”.

Before that, there was an article on “parent regret” and in between there were plenty of articles about how non-parent couples are happier. Underlying them all was the basic idea that having kids is hard; so hard, that it might not be worth it. These articles weren’t talking about post-natal depression or psychosis. They were talking about pure simple regret.

The symptoms, by the way, of parenting regret seemed to boil down to endless fantasies about your pre-child life, extreme irritation at childish games and conversation, revulsion at your restricted social life or resentment at the unrestricted amounts of housework. “

Here’s another article with several links to other mom regret articles called “Love and regret: mothers who wish they’d never had children,” from The Guardian There are several contrasting points of view in this article but I found Toni Morrison’s viewpoint ring a bit of truth with me:

“Motherhood is no longer an all-encompassing role for women now, it can be a secondary role, or you don’t have to choose it,” says Toni Morrison in Andrea O’Reilly’s “Motherhood: A Politics of the Heart.”

But, she adds, “It was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me.” For Morrison and countless others, “the children’s demands on me were things that nobody ever asked me to do. To be a good manager. To have a sense of humour. To deliver something that somebody could use. And they were not interested in all the things that other people were interested in, like what I was wearing or if I were sensual. If you listen to [your children], somehow you are able to free yourself from baggage and vanity and all sorts of things, and deliver a better self, one that you like.”

I believe that having kids does make you become a better person. At least, it makes you try to be better, more patient, less self-centered, and better tempered. You’re the role model of new human beings. You’re not going to display all your worst parts of your personality—hopefully—for them to copy.

I have no regrets about being a mom. Because my husband and I were married for eight years before we had our first child, I think I was so thrilled to finally have kids that there’s no way I’d have felt regret. Yes, some days were hard when the kids were little. When the kids get older, it doesn’t get necessarily get better, it just gets different. The problems come in bigger sizes. Like a smashed up car rather than a broken doll. Or, a letter that you child has been expelled college rather than a trip to the principal’s office.

But like the author Narelle Henson said in her article, life is about attitude:

“The only difference that I can see is in attitude.

I know that is almost blasphemy in this day and age. After all, my generation was forged from the heady idea that a human’s highest end is happiness. Anything that gets in our way is not worth the trouble.

Unfortunately, we missed the memo about happiness sometimes being hard work. It can sometimes involve discipline, repetition and playing the long game. It can sometimes involve grim determination.

When hard happiness is unavoidable, the only thing for it is to change our attitude. We can sit brooding over an old life like an out-of-date athlete, or we can count the very real blessings in front of us and find new delights.

Nowhere is that more obvious than when it comes to parenting regret. Once we have had a child, there is no going back – it doesn’t matter how much we regret it.

That means the only option available to us is which attitude we will choose. Will we choose to fill our minds with endless lists of reasons why life is less pleasant now? Or will we choose to fill our minds with the moments of delight, of laughter, and of happiness sprinkled however sporadically across the day?”

I agree. In all aspects of our lives, our work, relationships, family, hobbies, sports—the only thing in our control is our attitude.

Have you ever had regrets as a parent? Is there anything you wish you could do differently?

 

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I regret I didn’t listen to my kids and allow them to more freedom. My daughter regrets that I made her take piano lessons, while my son wishes he could have spent more time with his music.

 

Moms Feel the Heat From Family in “Mom Shaming” Study

18 years ago.

As a mother, I’ve been critiqued and criticized and apparently so have a majority of other moms. According to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health from the University of Michigan, 60% of moms with young kids have faced criticism and mostly from their own moms and other family members. That’s what hurts. I believe your family should have your back. But, when they criticize your kids or how you’re raising them, it really hurts. It’s not easily forgotten or forgiven. Even though comments are offered with the best intentions, we tend to take what family members say much deeper than from a busybody stranger.

According to WRDW TV in Augusta, GA:

The survey, conducted between February and June, found that six out of 10 mothers with kids ages five and younger felt they received some sort of criticism about how they parented their children. But what’s surprising is so many of those critiques come from the people they feel closest too – their own family members.

A recent survey by the C.S. Mott Children’s Poll on Children’s Health (CPCH) and the University of Michigan surveyed moms across the country with kids ages five and younger 60% felt criticized by members of their own family. Discipline was the most common topic of criticism, followed by what mothers were feeding their kids, how much sleep they were getting, how much time they spent outside and how much time was spent on electronics.

The survey found that generational differences between grandparents and newer parents were some of the biggest reasons behind critiques, followed by issues between mothers and their in-laws.

 

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My kids and friends exploring tide pools.

 

An article from Live Science called “60% of Moms Have Been Mom-Shamed” had this to say:

The survey found that 61 percent of moms of young kids said they’d been shamed for their parenting at some point. Twenty-three percent said they’d gotten criticism from three or more different sources. Family was a greater source of criticism than strangers, friends or social media commenters. Only 12 percent of respondents reported being criticized by other mothers in public, while 14 percent reported getting criticism from friends and 8 percent reported hearing criticism from a health care provider. Just 7 percent reported receiving criticism from people online.

These findings could reflect the fact that new moms likely interact more frequently with family members than with online trolls, or that moms might be more sensitive to criticism coming from family members whom they expect to be supportive, C.S. Mott researchers wrote in a report accompanying the findings.

The report, called “Mom Shaming or Constructive Criticism? Perspectives of Mothers,” has interesting findings:

The targets of criticism reported in the Mott Poll reflect differences in cultural norms of parenting. Discipline, the most commonly criticized parenting topic, is rife with opposing views, such as spanking vs time-outs, or strict adherence to rules vs allowing space for the child to explore. Further conflict can arise when those criticizing have unrealistic expectations for a toddler or preschooler, while the mother feels she has a better understanding of her own child’s abilities. Family visits can create unique challenges, as the child’s usual routine is disrupted to accommodate travel and special events; mothers who believe their child’s behavior is impacted by the family visit may be particularly irritated by family criticism of her discipline choices.

Mothers also report being criticized about breast- vs bottle-feeding and sleep. These are just two topics where national guidelines have shifted in recent years, such that parenting norms of older family members may not reflect the current best practices.

The report can be downloaded here.

 

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Me and my kids.

I believe most of us think we’re doing a pretty good job parenting. It’s easy to be critical of others, but keep in mind that every kid and family is different. What works for your child may not work at all for another. Or, what works today for your kid might not tomorrow.

 

Now that my kids are no longer young, but are young adults, we’ve talked about what they think of my parenting style. What’s funny is that we have entirely different perspectives. I view my style as laid back and I wouldn’t get ruffled. I let my kids explore without too much interference. My kids perceive me as super strict and hovering. Probably the reality is somewhere in-between.

Were you ever criticized by a family member for your parenting? How did it make you feel? Also, do you view yourself as a permissive parent or overly strict? Do you parent the way your mom did?

 

It’s a Privilege: Hanging out With Grown Kids

 

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On top of the world at Deer Valley, Utah.

 

I spent five, count them, five glorious days with my 21-year-old daughter in Salt Lake City, where she’s a student. I shared a bit of her life, her territory. We had a few plans like driving up to the resort town of Park City to be tourists. But mostly, my objective was to be with her.

During the past three years when I’ve visited my daughter, there’s been zero one-on-one time for mother and daughter. We visit, my husband and I when there’s a college swim meet. We take her out for dinner Friday night, which is nice. She meets us at our favorite hotel usually with a teammate or two in tow.

I don’t mind this at all, and we love any moment we get to spend with her. But, it’s quick, clean and disinfected time together. The next morning my husband and I go for a big walk around town. We make our way to the pool 30 minutes before the meet begins and catch up with other swim parents. Then we watch the meet, which is always exciting. Afterward, we wait for warm-down, team meetings and showers.

Sundays we get all day with her, unless we have an early morning flight. We’ve been taking the 9 p.m. flight home lately, so we get extra time together.

This trip was entirely different. I traveled on my own. I had the option of my favorite hotel, my daughter’s living room hide-a-bed or sleeping in her room on a plush, thick mattress, kept for relatives and recruits. I opted to be in her room. I didn’t want to inconvenience her roommates with “Mom” taking over their living room.

 

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Waffles the pug puppy.

I wrote while she swam and went to school. I took the pup “Waffles” on walks, the first one each day to get coffee. Seriously, I don’t know how four girls survive without any coffee or coffee maker in the house? The rest of the day and evening was whatever we decided to do. We walked, played tourists in Park City, rode the ski lifts in Deer Valley, walked some more, shopped at Target for supplies, ate sushi and lobster rolls. We also spent a lot of time in her room watching Gilmore Girls, reading, and just being together.

 

I feel so honored that my daughter wanted to spend these days with me. She didn’t feel like I was intruding or that she had to cater to me. We like each other’s company. I’m very proud of how “together” her life is. She’s on top of her homework, swim practice, and does extra cardio and fitness, plus takes care of all the little stuff like grocery shopping, cooking and having a social life.

I must have done something right. Or, in spite of me, she’s figured out this thing called life.

 

About those lobster rolls! We went to Freshies Lobster Co. in Park City. I discovered this amazing place from a blog called femalefoodie. Seriously, it was the best meal I’ve had in three years of visits to the state of Utah.

What is your favorite thing to do with your grown kids?

Are You a Good Parent Or a Bad Parent?

 

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A happy moment at the beach.

 

The Huffington Post published an article where the author Jane Dimyan Ehrenfeld makes a point that parenting doesn’t necessarily divide up into good parents and bad parents. Her article called The Secret to Good Parenting: “Divine Dissatisfaction” makes a comparison between parents and teachers—that good ones continue to learn and grow to get better at it.

While she quotes a lot of parenting experts and books, which I’m sure are very helpful, I’ve found that learning from other parents and from my own mistakes that I’ve evolved into a better parent. At my baby shower for my first born, every other present was a book on how to be a parent, like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” etc. It was as if my co-workers and friends, who were mostly moms themselves, thought I had absolutely no clue about parenting and they were worried about my skill level or interest in motherhood. So, they all thought I needed instruction manuals.

 

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The gang hanging out at the beach with one of my mom friends I’ve learned from.

I do think there are good parents and bad parents. I have observed many of them. I remember a mom who was driving for a field trip for our middle school kids and she knocked back a couple tumblers of vodka at lunch! And she was supposed to drive the kids back to school. Yikes. That’s what I called a bad mom. A good mom who impressed me, let the kids draw with chalk on the backyard patio, build forts from boxes, sheets and tables in the living room, and encouraged creativity. A good mom, in my opinion—even if her house wasn’t perfect.

 

I love being a mom and I think that is the driving force. Yes, there have been rough patches between me and both my kids. Yes, I wish I could do some things over, but I wouldn’t trade a single day. The years and phases go by quickly. What I used to worry about no longer is important and there are bigger more pressing issues to stress over and help with as they become adults. “It never gets easier,” a friend told me when my kids were toddlers, “It just gets different.”

Here’s a quote from The Secret to Good Parenting: “Divine Dissatisfaction”

As a mom, I am highly attuned to the narrative of good parent/bad parent that pervades our popular discourse (more frequently it’s good mom/bad mom, but I’ll stick with parent for the sake of encouraging the important message that dads are –and should be – equals in the work of parenting). A non-exhaustive list of the ways in which this can pop up includes: You are a good parent if your kids breastfeed/you are a bad parent if they drink formula. You are a good parent if your kids are sleep trained/you are a bad parent if they don’t sleep through the night in their beds. Or, conversely, you are a good parent if your child co-sleeps/you’re a bad parent if you sleep train. You are a good parent if your kids eat organic foods/you are a bad parents if your kids eat refined sugar. You are a good parent (mom!) if you stay home with your kids/ You are a bad parent (mom!) if you work outside the home. You are a good parent/bad parent at many different levels of screen time. You are a good parent/bad parent if your kids go to public school, private school, charter school, or are homeschooled. And on and on.

But here’s the thing: it’s all ridiculous. Unless your unvaccinated kid is living in her own apartment, mainlining Mountain Dew and shrugging off school in favor of spending 24 hours a day playing Minecraft, you’re probably fine.

What do you think makes a good parent versus a bad parent?

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The best mom ever and me in the 1990s.