About that unsolicited advice…

 

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Views from our local park. Oh and yeah. It’s December!

 

 

Walking around our park last night, a little puppy snuck up behind me and licked my leg! I was startled and watched as the puppy tore across the park with the owner, a young woman, trying to catch the pup. The puppy then raced back to where the owner’s boyfriend was and I watched the guy throw himself on the ground trying to capture the quick puppy.

I told the woman she should put her puppy on a leash and he’d be easier to catch. She was a little defensive and said that it was her boyfriend that took off the leash and she’d prefer to keep the puppy safe from running into the streets or getting away if it was up to her.

“We let our puppy run free with the leash attached, so I can stop him by stepping on the leash,” I explained. “He’s easier to catch that way.”

“Thanks, that’s a great idea,” she said with a smile.

But, then I thought, was any of that my business? What is it with the need to give unsolicited advice? Maybe I’m just a busybody and give my two cents worth where it doesn’t belong. I’ve been reading numerous articles about how everyone these days is giving unsolicited parenting advice. And most of it isn’t welcome. It’s kind of ironic considering I write weekly parenting advice articles for SwimSwam.com.

Here’s an excerpt from an “unsolicited parenting advice” article that’s interesting:

“No, I don’t want your unsolicited parenting advice” by Carla Naumburg

“Have you tried cooking with her?”

“This is the question I usually get whenever I describe my eight-year-old daughter’s selective eating.

“For years I’ve responded to such unsolicited advice by describing all of the different tricks and tactics I’ve tried, including, yes, cooking with her. Halfway through yet another conversation last week about her food habits, I suddenly realized something.

“I was being momsplained.

“We are all now familiar with the term mansplaining, in which a man tells another person (usually a woman) how to improve a situation or solve a problem, regardless of whether he has any idea what he’s talking about, or even a decent grasp of the entire situation. Well-intentioned or not, it’s rarely helpful.

“We moms do it to each other all the time, too.

Here’s how it usually goes down. You bemoan your latest parenting challenge—perhaps your child isn’t sleeping or refuses to practice piano, or maybe you’re at the end of your rope with the constant meltdowns or mouthing off. Inevitably, another mom jumps in with a story about How She Solved the Problem. She then dives into the details of the star chart, parenting guru, or Pinterest-worthy solution that had her kid on time for school, every single morning.

“Momsplaining happens on the playgrounds and soccer fields, in Mommy and Me classes, and anywhere moms congregate and chat between sips of coffee. I’ve been momsplained so frequently in response to my online parenting rants—when I’m really looking for empathy—that I now either come to expect it or I explicitly note that I’m not asking for advice. I almost always receive a litany of suggestions anyway, most of which I’ve already tried or aren’t relevant.”

In a dad’s perspective, Clint Edwards writes “6 Pieces of Unwanted Parenting Advice And How I’d Like To Respond.” It’s well worth reading and here are two of his responses:

My wife and I have three kids (6 months, 5 and 7). People regularly give me unsolicited advice on parenting, both in person and online. And you know what, I get it. You think you’ve figured something out and you want to share your great revelation. Or perhaps you don’t have kids, so that makes you an outside observer with a fresh prospective. But really… I’d rather you just shut the hell up. Below are a few examples of unsolicited advice I’ve been given and how I would like to respond… if I wasn’t such a nice guy.

1. Shouldn’t he be wearing a jacket? Yup, he probably should be wearing a jacket. And you know what, I don’t know when he last changed his underwear or socks, either. But here’s the deal. I told him to put on a jacket, but he’s seven and he listens about as good as a goldfish. Once an evening I wrestle him into the bathtub. I don’t have energy for much more, so I’m letting him figure out a few things the hard way, through goose bumps and rashes. Can you live with that? Because I can.

6. Keeping your children from throwing fits in public begins in the home. I’m going to assume that when you raised children it was socially okay to beat them. Because here is the thing, I work really hard to teach my kids how to act appropriately in public. But then we get out there, and they turn into screaming, needing, wanting, maniacs. It’s like showing a werewolf the moon. And honestly, most of the time they are fine. Most of the time they are sweet and wonderful. So please realize that the fit you witnessed is not the norm. But what I can say is taking my kids out into public, telling them no, letting them throw a fit, and then telling them no again, really is the only way they are going to figure out how to be a quiet and reserved person. You know… an understanding person. The kind of person who doesn’t give unsolicited advice in a grocery store.

This one really cracked me up: “Totally Appropriate Responses to Unsolicited Parenting Advice” By Marissa Maciel.

Actually, this is my twelfth child.

Oh, I’m not her mother; I just walk her and make sure she poops, then take her home.

She has to fly on the plane with us, sorry. It’s in her contract.

Listen, I’ve read the books, subscribed to the newsletters, and bought the recommended sippy cup. Come back when you’re president of my kid’s Montessori co-op.

Her doctor said that thumb-sucking is the e-cigarette for babies weaning off of the breast, so we’re fine with it.

You know, I tried that once and the very next day some blogger wrote a hot take about it — no thanks.

We did consider leaving her at home instead of bringing her to the restaurant, but the last time we did that she locked us out and ordered thirty pizzas on my credit card. BABIES, right??

Yes, we tried feeding her. The crying didn’t stop and we also forgot to make a sign that said “we already tried feeding her.” Thanks, though.

Actually, this is my twentieth child.

 

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The park where I was startled by a friendly pup.

What are your thoughts about unsolicited advice—whether it’s for children or puppies?

 

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Help your adult child by closing your wallet

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My son 24 years ago.

 

I read a series of articles today about how we are threatening our own retirement by “helping” our kids with their expenses. I was reminded of a conversation I had with my best friend from college. She told me that she was cutting off the money flow with her grown kids and although it was painful, she said, “the less you help them, the better off they are.”

On a website called Benefits Pro, an article called “How to keep grown kids from ruining your future retirement” by Marlene Y. Satter caught my attention.

“A BMO Wealth Institute survey, the report says, found that two-thirds of parents give money to their grown kids on a “when needed” basis, checkbook out in hand almost before they’re asked.

“But if instead you budget—and make Junior budget—for a specific amount at regular intervals, with a firm end date to such support, he’ll learn to budget better and you’ll have a light at the end of the tunnel so that you can get back to saving for retirement.

“Or, for that matter, enjoying retirement without that constant drain looming over your activities.

“Last but not least, you need to lay your cards on the table about the end of the financial support so that the kids know just how much all that parental help is costing you.

“They won’t be blindsided, you won’t feel resentful about the endless outflow of money if they’re working toward resolving their own situation—whether finding a job, finishing a degree or finding cheaper living quarters—and you’ll both be better off for knowing each others’ true financial states.

“After all, the Merrill Lynch research points out, 28 percent of parents are worried that they themselves might have to ask their kids for financial help some day.

“One way to avoid that—or at least postpone it—is to make sure that your kids learn financial independence by example.

“Set one.”

In a Market Watch article called “This is how much money parents lose supporting their adult children” by Kari Paul, she talks about how we can lose a quarter million dollars of our retirement funds by supporting our kids after they become adults.

“Leaving the nest doesn’t always mean entering financial independence for kids these days, and parents are paying a high price for it.

“Some 80% of parents are covering or have covered basic expenses for their children after they turn 18, which could cost parents $227,000 in lost savings over the course of retirement, a new study from personal finance website NerdWallet found.

“It calculated the impact on savings if costs of adult children had been put into a retirement savings account such as a 401(k) or IRA instead.

“ ‘As parents, we tend to want to do everything we can to help our children succeed. But sometimes we focus on the present at the expense of the future,” said Andrea Coombes, NerdWallet’s investing expert.

“Student debt, which has surpassed $1.4 billion, has also played a role in increasing reliance of young people on parents. Some 28% of parents have paid for part or all of their adult children’s tuition or loans. The average parent now takes out $21,000 in loans for a college education for their child.

“They are also paying for many basic, day-to-day costs for their adult children, including groceries (56%), health insurance (40%) and rent or housing outside the family home (21%). Some parents are also covering or have covered their adult child’s cellphone bill (39%) and car insurance (34%).”

Business Insider writer Elena Holodny quotes the same numbers in “Baby boomers could end up $227,000 richer if they stop bankrolling their adult children:”

“The two most expensive costs are living expenses and college tuition. And parents’ retirement savings could be $227,000 higher if they chose to save that money instead of spending it on their children’ living or schooling expenses, NerdWallet found.

“Andrea Coombes, a retirement and investing specialist at NerdWallet, said parents should run the numbers to figure out whether they can actually afford to help their children with their expenses.

“ ‘Parents who need to ramp up their savings rate should have a conversation with their children,” Coombes said. “Parents can let their children know they’re at risk of financial insecurity later in life and they don’t want to be a burden to their children.

“And parents should ask their adult children to start pitching in on some of these expenses. It’ll be good for the parents’ retirement, plus it models to the children the importance of budgeting, saving, and planning for the future.”

With my oldest child turning 25 next year, this topic is close to home. He is mostly independent financially and has been out of college for a little more than a year. We are there when he needs help—like something major. Like many of the parents in the articles above, we have him on our cell phone plan and pay his car insurance. He lives in the Bay area and it’s really expensive to live there. We keep telling him he doesn’t have to live in the most expensive city in the country and he’s come to realize that fact on his own. I think this New Year will be an ideal time to have a talk about when we’ll wean him off the cell phone plan and car insurance. I know for a fact he can’t afford more immediately, but he could plan for it. Plus, he’s in the process of making decisions about whether or not he’s going to return to school or move to a more affordable area.

My husband gets upset with me when I give our son money. It makes me feel good to be able to do so, but in my husband’s words, “You’re crippling him!”robertazpark

What are your thoughts about funding adult children after they graduate from college?

Parenting when they’re all grown up

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My boy with the big heart and eyes.

There once was a young boy with the biggest eyes and heart. He was all hugs, kisses, and could make me feel better by holding my hand. He called me “Sweetheart” because he thought that was my name. He was proud of his little sister and often made friends with this opening line: “Do you want to meet my little sister?”

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My kids with Natasha our Rottie.

We went to visit this boy, who is now a grown man in San Francisco this past weekend. We were taking BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) for the first time by ourselves from SFO to Berkeley to see him on Friday night. A nice surprise was seeing our son waiting in the terminal to ride the train with us and to show us the ropes. That’s the kind of person he is—he thinks about others.

I know I did plenty wrong raising him and maybe helicoptered a bit too much. I argued with teachers about his grades. I protected him from failing by driving forgotten homework to school. I had no issue talking to a swim coach or principal if I thought he was being mistreated. In fact, he didn’t fail enough early on when the stakes weren’t so high. But he made up for it when it was costly and he was attending a UC. We must have done something right because he’s kind, considerate and stands on his own as an independent adult. He looks happy, healthy and he there’s no mistaking that big heart and his big blue eyes.

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Three months old.

He carved out a chunk of time for us and spent the weekend showing us Golden Gate Park, walking for miles and miles, which is our favorite thing to do. He took us to the deYoung Museum where we discovered Oceanic Art, Art of the Early Americas and the Hamon Observation Tower with break taking 360’ views of San Francisco. 23131707_10215170302154705_934280434165568437_n 

He shared his favorite restaurants and we dined in the Gourmet Ghetto at Lo Coco’s Restaurant for delicious Sicilian linguine with clams, LaNote, for a French bouillabaisse, and brunch at Venus. All amazing.

What’s even more amazing is that he rode back with us on BART to make sure we got on the right trains and could make the transfer. Then, he gave us a hug and returned to his life. He texted me later that day to say he loved seeing us and missed us so much!

I’m enjoying watching the adult person my son is becoming. I realize I may not have been a perfect parent, but I must have done plenty right. Plus, each of us is an individual in our own right, and no lack of parenting — or too much helicoptering — can change who we are.23167969_10215170302114704_2557230305408935752_n

 

How much impact do you think parenting has on our children and the adults they become?

 

When you get that “alert” that your child’s college is on lockdown

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University of Utah campus view.

Last night my daughter texted me to say her college was on lockdown. Then, I began getting “alerts” from the University of Utah. It’s one of the worst feelings when you get notifications of a lockdown at your children’s college. Not only did I lose a night’s sleep with worry, but I’m so sad that our kids have to live through this. We never envisioned our kids living through terror-filled nights when we sent them off to college.

Other moms I know had an awful night, too, as we waited for news about our kids. We prayed for them to be safe. We commiserated by text and Facebook and I wish the world wasn’t such a scary place. Thankfully, my daughter is safe along with the children of my friends.

If you missed the story on the news today, a man with a long history of crime and run-ins with the law was camping with his wife in the canyon above campus. The wife left him for the University to report a domestic dispute. The husband must have followed her because next there was a shooting of Chen Wei Guo, a 23-year-old foreign exchange student from China.

In an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, you can learn more details. Can you imagine sending your child to the United States as a foreign exchange student and finding out that he’s been shot and killed?

“University of Utah officials, fellow students and friends were coming to grips Tuesday with the Monday night shooting that left a student dead at the mouth of Red Butte Canyon.

“ChenWei Guo, of Salt Lake City, would have turned 24 on Sunday. 

“Guo was parked in his vehicle near the gate at the mouth of the canyon when 24-year-old Austin Jeffrey Boutain attempted a carjacking, police said. During the encounter, Boutain allegedly shot Guo, who suffered fatal injuries.”

Last night reminded me of a horrific night while my son was at the University of California at Santa Barbara a couple years ago. Here’s how that story unfolded:ucsb

View of the UCSB campus.

Friday night, I had tucked myself into bed when the phone rang. It was my son — a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

 

“Mom! There’s a drive-by shooter. A guy in a black BMW is randomly shooting people in IV! We can’t get home. Everything’s on lockdown.”

This was not a call I was expecting. Nor, one I wanted to receive.

Saturday afternoon, he called again. “I just went to the store. We’re on lockdown again and I can’t get home.” 

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 A view from a dorm room at UCSB.

Friday night the lockdown was because of the shootings and crashing of the BMW. Saturday, the police were removing deceased male roommates who had been stabbed from the killer’s apartment building.

l followed the story closely on the news. It’s almost all I could do for most of the weekend. I don’t understand why it happened, or how it could have been prevented. I believe we all tried to find a cause for this horrific tragedy to try and make sense of what had happened when that was impossible.

My heart and prayers go to all the families at UCSB. It’s been a tough year. I think the great academic accomplishments of the school are being overshadowed by tragedy. There’s too much trauma for students to digest. I wonder how these events will affect our kids in their future lives? Read about the academic accomplishments of UCSB in the LA Times here.

Just a few weeks ago, I got a call from my son during the Deltopia riots. I wrote it about Deltopia here.

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A Deltopia party picture.

Add that to the weekly emails about a meningitis outbreak, and it hasn’t been a stellar year for UCSB parents, students, or the faculty.

The frantic fear in my son’s voice is not what I envisioned hearing. I am sure this is not isolated at UCSB, but just becoming more common at universities across our country. Is this the new normal for our kids? They aren’t experiencing the carefree college years that we did. Where did that world go?

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The view of the beach from UCSB campus.

Maybe if this is the new norm, as awful as that sounds, we need to be more aware and prepared. I don’t know the answer to any of this, but I’m thinking our kids need to know what to do in the case of an emergency. Are colleges adequately ready to support our kids in times of danger? The alerts let them know when something is going on and does tell them what to do. That’s something that wasn’t around back when I was in college.

How would you prepare your kids for emergencies when they’re away from home?

Enjoy it while it lasts!

 

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Afternoon walk with Waffles in Salt Lake City.

Today while packing up after a fun weekend in Salt Lake City, where we went to two meets to watch my daughter swim and hang out with friends, I realized this part of my life is almost over. I checked the swim schedule to see what meets she has left and we’re down to only a few.

This weekend, I reconnected with a swim mom dear friend who has a son starting his freshman year. It was like no time has passed since we last sat together at a meet — rather than six or seven years. We also visited my husband’s best childhood friend, Pastor Scott McKinney and his wife Sara, who have made this area their home and founded a church, Centerpoint Church in Orem. After his powerful service, we sat together at lunch laughing so hard we cried as well as solemnly discussing the world’s problems. It’s been a highlight to reconnect with these friends, visit our daughter — and enjoy this part of the country.

I felt more than a little sentimental this morning. I like it here. I like the hotel we stay in, the Little America, like it’s a second home. I like their coffee shop because it brings back memories of my childhood with their comfort food of open-faced turkey and roast beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy and their weekend prime rib specials. I like the cool crisp weather, the spectacular views and changing fall colors of the leaves. I like the tall buildings downtown, where you’ll find the City Creek Center with its glass ceilings. I like the friendliness of the people and the clean bright city, which has a small town feel.

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Beautiful views from City Creek Center.

 

It seems like we just moved our daughter in for her freshman year. She got a notice Friday that she’s been accepted to study abroad for her last bit of school, so we’re already thinking about moving her stuff out and driving her car home. How weird is that? Especially when I say we just moved her up here! At least it feels like that.

When my kids were toddlers, older women would stop me at the mall or on the street and say, “Enjoy it while you can, because the time flies by.” Knee deep in the daily grind of bottles, baby food, diapers, laundry, endless picking up toys and chasing little ones, I couldn’t relate. Now I believe it and understand. Enjoy the swim team or whatever activities your child is in like it’s their last meet. Enjoy the visits to their college town. It’s over in a blink of an eye. And will you really go back without them there?

It’s not like I thought it would last forever, I just thought four years would take a bigger chunk of time.

How have you noticed time flying by?

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My daughter at the blocks at the HPER Natatorium.

 

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.