5 Things I Wish I Knew–Before They Went to College

Four years ago today, I posted this story after attending college orientation with my youngest. I can’t get my mind around how fast and fun these college years have been with both my kids. There’s so much I would do over if there were things called “do-overs.” I learned so much from the experience and want to share five things I wish someone would have told me before they left home.

 

This week I made the trek to the University of Utah to attend orientation with my daughter, who is an incoming freshman. Class of 2018 — does that sound scary or what?images-1

I spent two days in the pristine mountainside beauty of Salt Lake City with clear blue skies and intense sunshine. Parents attended most meetings without their kids, who were similarly engaged with topics angled for teenage consumption.summerFun_FrisbeeGolf_LBoye_067

Having been to college orientation three years prior with my firstborn, I didn’t think I’d learn anything new. However, in “Supporting your College Student” presented by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Development, I wished I’d heard her advice before I sent my first child to college.

“I think she’s met my son — the one who’s going to be a senior in college,” I whispered to a mom next to me. (He’s also the son who tried to give away the cat on FB.)

She answered, “No, I’m sure she’s talking about my oldest daughter!”

What did Dr. Ellingson have to say that we wished we heard the first time around?imgres-10First…

Children go through changes. But, if it’s your first child going to college, or your last, you will be going through changes, too. We are in the process of changing our relationship from parent to child to adult to adult. We go through transitions, pushing them away and holding them close.

Second…images-2
A student who works 10 to 15 hours on campus will do better in school than someone who works off campus or doesn’t work at all. Students working on campus are making connections with the campus, student, and staff. They are completing their identity as a student first.

Students born from 1980 to 2000 are known as millennials. They don’t like to suffer —  they love nice things — and they don’t mind working for them. Unfortunately, this can interfere with their education. So, if they want spending money, suggest a job on campus.

Third…images-3
Cell phones according to Dr. Ellingson, are “the world’s longest umbilical cords.” Some students call home 5, 6, 7 times a day. In our day, we waited in line for the phone down the hall on Sundays — when long distance was cheaper — and horror of all horrors — there wasn’t such a thing as a cell phone!

Don’t let your child’s crisis become your crisis. Let them problem solve. Ellingson’s example was a daughter who called her mom and said, “I flunked my midterm. The professor hates me…” After consoling her crying daughter, the mother called back later with more advice. The daughter was like, “Huh? What are you talking about? Everything’s fine.”

images-5Fourth …
They are learning to become themselves. Making new friends. They will be grieving and letting go of high school friendships but will build new and deeper ones. A main developmental issue is finding their identity. Their core stays the same, which has been developing over the past 18 years. But, how they express themselves changes.

They may try on new identities by copying new friends to see how it fits or feels. You may say to yourself, and hopefully not to your child, “Who the hell is this?” Then you meet their new friend, and say to yourself, “Oh, now I see who this is!”

Intellectually they are still developing. They see things differently than before. They love to debate. They will try out their debating skills, or how to express themselves by choosing opinions contrary to yours, even if it isn’t what they truly believe.

And Fifth…imgres-2
Dr. Ellingson talked about independence: “Their first steps as a toddler are towards you. Every step after that is running away from you.”

They need to discover how to be on their own — and this is one of their fears. Delayed maturation is common. It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28. They will say to you “Leave me alone!” Then, “bail me out!” This is normal. The pendulum will swing back and forth.

Just remember to love them, guide them, but let them figure it out. The more we solve their problems, the more we delay their growth into independent, responsible adults.

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And one more thing…”GO, UTES!!!”


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Where did the year go?

I woke up thinking “it’s June first and where did my year go?” Mostly nowhere is where my year went thanks to falling on the slopes January 2nd. It’s been a long five months of being injured, having surgery and slowly recovering. I looked back at what I was going last year at this time and it was all about being together as a family. 

Here’s my story from one year ago today:

18920581_10213697294890444_4649514921325596156_nThis past weekend, I was in mom heaven. My daughter was at a swim meet an hour away from where my son now lives. We didn’t do anything that special, we got to hang out together. It was one of my favorite weekends in recent memory.

At first, I was worried about how my daughter was going to do at the meet. She had already told us that due to other things going on in her life, her last few weeks of practice were not consistent at all.

I told her, “You can still get a best time and swim well.” 

She thought I was delirious. She was very realistic about what she could do at that point in time. I have to admit that after her first race, I got it. I relaxed about the times and understood that this meet was about being together as a family. It was a small slice of time where we could hang out and enjoy each other’s company. If I had been focused on her times and upset that she wasn’t at her peak fitness, I’d have been so disappointed. Instead, I reflected on being the mom of two almost grown kids that I’m so proud of. And, the fact that they enjoy being with me and each other.

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My daughter getting instructions from her coach.

While we were driving around town, the kids were in the back seat pretending to be little kids elbowing each other. I turned around from the front passenger seat and said, “Children, there’s an imaginary line going down the middle of the car. You can’t cross that line!”

My daughter immediately yelled out, “Mom, Robert crossed the line!”

Later, after fits of laughter, we hung out together in a park, lying on the grass and staring at the green leaves and blue sky.

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The park by the Santa Clara pool.

We shared books, ideas and meals. My son’s vocabulary had us looking up new words and trying to memorize and pronounce them, like “primogeniture.” One of my kids favorite things to do was to copy our faces. My son does an imitation of me, while Kat has perfected her dad’s scowl. It always ended in a burst of laughter and fits of giggles.

The swim meet was exciting with a who’s who in the swimming world in the final heats. I witnessed amazing races and the international flavor was so hopeful and invigorating with countries in attendance including Argentina, Mexico, Japan and China.

It may be the last time we’ll be staying in a hotel with our daughter at a meet. Ever. Her final college season is ahead this fall and she’ll be with her team, not us. I was a little teary-eyed when the weekend flew by and it was time for me to return again to my empty nest.

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My super heroes at the Winchester Mystery House.

What were you doing one year ago today?

The Trials of Trying to Not Over-Mother

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The actual real-live graduation shot.

 

My daughter’s graduation ceremony began with a reception outside of the David Eccles School of Business with refreshments, balloons, and families posing for photos together. Over the loudspeaker, instructions were blared out: “All graduates need to have a yellow card.”

I looked around and saw many graduates wearing caps and gowns and clutching yellow cards. The trick was where do you get one? I immediately went on the hunt and approached someone who looked like a staff member.

“Where do you get the yellow cards?” I asked.

“Mom!” my daughter ordered. “Stop it!”

What I wondered? I was only trying to be helpful. There is the problem. My kids don’t need me to help them anymore. My daughter clearly doesn’t want it at all.

Things I thought were helpful to her are now annoying. For example, she’s looking for a spin class at home. I immediately googled and started giving her suggestions.

“Mom. I can find my own class. I know which gyms I like and don’t like.”

After years of taking these responsibilities as my own, it’s rather difficult to let it all go. It’s a tough habit to break. But in the end, you know what? She did find and fill out her own yellow card and walked in the graduation ceremony just fine, without my help.

I think the secret will be to wait until I’m asked for help. Not just jump in and do things. My son calls frequently and says, “I need your advice on something.” Those words are like magic to me. 

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My daughter and Waffles the pug.

What do you think about trying to break the over-mothering habit?

 

What’s the best advice from your mom?

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Mom and me in the early 90s.

“The Best Parenting Advice My Mom Gave Me” from the HuffPost and written by Taylor Pittman has nine quotes from staff members about what they learned from their moms, like “Never say, ‘My child will/would never do that.’”

Here are three more quotes from the article:

“The sink won’t remember if you cleaned it every night before bed. The laundry won’t mind staying unfolded for several days. The kids will remember time with Mom. Your husband will appreciate the 10 minutes you spend together.” ― Valeria Nijm

“Be willing to admit when you’ve made a mistake to your kids, and apologize.” ― Jen Hall

“This nugget came from my mom, who got it from her mother. If something bad happened, my grandmother would say, ‘Oh, well!’ She’s right, you just have to roll with the punches and move on from things.” ― Wendy Pitoniak

This article made me reflect on advice from my own mom. One of the best thing she’d stress to me was that she didn’t care about my grades, probably because she had so much pressure to be perfect and valedictorian.

The other thing she would say was that it was a parent’s job to let go and let your children fly out of the nest. She believed in a mostly hands-off approach and she said if she did a good job as my mother, her job would be over. Her goal was to be out of a job as the parent.

My parents were never overly involved but gave us plenty of real-life experience with chores and responsibilities. We suffered consequences for our own actions. I was highly motivated to do well in school and would set my alarm early before anyone would wake up, make myself coffee and study Chemistry every morning before school. Each day we would have a quiz and I would literally memorize my textbook so I would be guaranteed a seat near the top of the class. (The teacher came up with a new seating chart daily based on our cumulative scores.) My mom did nothing to make me do this. It was my own motivation.

She made sure I was prepared for adulting. I knew how to do the laundry, change a tire, check my oil, bank, grocery shop and cook. I never liked cleaning and my room was usually a disaster, but my parents didn’t care, so long as I kept the mess confined to my own room and shut the door. I had to keep the rest of the house clean and trade off vacuuming and cleaning the rest of the house with my brother.

 

 

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Me and my daughter.

 

What is the best wisdom your mom shared with you?

 

With Our Kids’ Activities, When Is Enough, Enough?

 

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My young swimmers.

 

One of the many struggles of raising kids has to do with their extracurricular activities. What should we sign them up for and how much should they do?

The first thing we signed our kids up for was swimming. In fact, we started with a “mommy and me” class at our city pool when they were six months old. From there we went on to private swim lessons. The reason for our focus on the pool was water safety. We live in an area where most homes and all apartments and condos have pools, including our home. Young children die every year where we live and I was doing all I could to make sure my kids would not be included in those numbers.

While at the pool, we noticed older kids swimming laps with the Piranha Swim Team. We were impressed with their technique and the exciting energy of the team when they were on deck. We asked our children’s instructor if she thought our kids could ever make the team. When our son was six or seven years old, our instructor said he was ready. By that time we were taking him to piano lessons once a week, Boy Scouts, Karate, Tennis and had already dropped Tee Ball. Doesn’t that sound like a ridiculous amount of activities for one wee kid?

I remember racing from school to one activity followed by another. Realizing I forgot something, I erratically made a U-turn and hit a curb. I was shaking as I called Triple A to change my flat tire. Something had to change. This was not a healthy way to live.

We let go of Boy Scouts and Karate. We stuck with piano lessons and swimming. My son continued with tennis for a few years and in middle school tried basketball at his school, plus school plays.

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My daughter in royal blue.

 

I enrolled my daughter in ballet because that was my passion. Piano too, because it is supposed to do so much for mathematics and the brain. She wanted to swim, not be a ballerina. And she hated piano with a passion. She throws it out from time to time, how I forced her to take piano years beyond what was reasonable. It took both her ballet and piano teacher to suggest that enough was enough!

I wrote a story this week for SwimSwam.com with five tips for when your child wants to miss practice. There are so many things I’ve learned through the years. I wish I could go back and let my son know that he didn’t have to go to swim meets or practice and his love of music was just as important. I’d ask him if he wanted to quit, but he’d always say, “No, I love swimming.” He did, but he had interests that he was more passionate about and he didn’t want to disappoint us, because we’d invested so much of our family time around the pool and team. He wanted to be in Junior Statesmen of America. Plus, he started a band was writing music and performing around the area. We tried to make room for everything, but it was a struggle. Also, if I could get a redo, I’d have let my daughter quit piano early on. Why go through daily battles of practice and dragging your kids to an activity they don’t enjoy?

My advice looking back is to expose them to a number of activities and let them find their passion. Then support them wholeheartedly in whatever they choose. Also, don’t overschedule them. Allow them downtime to dream, reflect, play and be kids.

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A duet at the annual piano recital.

 

What advice do you have when choosing activities for your kids?

 

Why is My Daughter So Annoyed With Me?

My kids not wanting me to take their pic.

My kids not wanting me to take their pic.

I wrote this in 2015 and it gets read more than any of my other posts. Our kids do find us annoying at times, just for being moms and dads and doing our best as parents.

I understand how she feels. After all, I was once 19 years old. I remember it very clearly.

Everything my mom did, I found unbelievably annoying.

I’ll never forget sitting with her in the car, getting ready to shop at Bellevue Square. She had parked the car. She was fumbling through her purse, making sure she had what she needed. She reapplied her lipstick. Dug through her purse for her wallet to look through credit cards. Searched several times to check where she placed the keys.

Mom and me in the early 90s.

Mom and me in the early 90s.

Would we never leave the car? Would I be stuck all day? I must have said something to her quite snippy, or flat out mean. A few tears rolled down her cheeks. Which made me more upset with her.

Isn’t it a sad feeling, transitioning from a mom who could do no wrong—from changing diapers to cooking their favorite spaghetti to taping treasured colorings on the fridge that were made just for you—to being the person of their abject disdain?

It’s a tough new role. Let me tell you.

But, having gone through these feelings myself, I understand. I’m visiting my mom this week in her assisted living center. I talked about it with her, what I’m going through now, and what I felt like when I was 19. Fortunately, she doesn’t remember me ever being a snarky 19-year-old.

For some reason, I’ve gained more patience throughout my life and that has been a blessing. I’ve also learned forgiveness.

Something else, I’ve learned through the years of parenting: this too shall pass.

It’s called independence and freedom. We want our children to grow and become separate human beings that can stand on their own. Sometimes they need to separate from us. A good time to do that is during their senior year of high school, or their freshman year of college. It’s a good thing. I keep telling myself that.

However, we also want to be treated with respect, and once again—someday—to be cherished.

A beach day with my daughter.

A beach day with my daughter.

I wrote more about separating from our kids and the experiences we go through when they leave for college here.

Advice for teens and parents–be present in the moment

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Enjoying a moment in Seattle with my son.

I discovered some profound parenting advice in an online publication called the Montgomery Advertiser in a short column called “Parenting: Teach your teen to live for today” by Tom Tozer and Bill Black, Dads2Dads.

“Slow down, the future is always ahead of you

The future isn’t a destination. It’s not like arriving at school or stopping at the gas station. Your future is composed of intangibles — hopes, dreams and possibilities. The future urges you to keep moving, dreaming, changing and growing. Simply put, the future is that part of life that once you arrive, you’re still not there. No wonder it’s hard to look at and to answer that probing question: What are you going to do with your life?

“Young man, young woman, set your goals but keep them flexible. Evaluate them. Discard those you lose interest in and make new ones. Keep your options open. Now’s the time to try new things, to make new discoveries and prepare for sudden forks in the road. Welcome those sharp curves and U-turns. These detours help you evaluate the direction you’re taking. Relax.

“While you certainly want to set your sights ahead, avoid getting so wrapped up in plotting, planning and pursuing the future that you fail to enjoy the present. The future is a great place to think about, but the present is the best place to be.”

With my kids going through transitions in their lives, from childhood to adulthood, and not knowing exactly the path to what they want to be, I will share this article with them. So much of our lives are spent planning and preparing for the future. But what is the is future? (In reality, we go from point A to point B and that B becomes point A.) We never get into the future. We have the moment we are in and should try to make the most of it.

I do spend a lot of time reflecting on the past and anticipating the future, but I also take time each day to enjoy the now. How do I do that? By enjoying a moment out in my backyard, watering my flowers. Walking around my park each morning before I “start my day.” Spending time being with my friends and family—by putting my phone down.

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I took a moment to capture the beauty outside the pool at PAC 12s.

With my mom the past few days, I sat with her and we played hand after hand of cards. We whispered together playing Bingo and Laughter Yoga. (Ha ha ha -Ho ho ho. YAY! was the chant we learned and filled the room with belly laughs.) I stopped my life to be with her and be in the moment. With our son, he stopped his busy life last week to be with us and we enjoyed our moments together—whether we were at the pool watching the meet or taking a day trip to Pike Place Market, downtown Seattle.

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A wonderful day with my kiddos.

How do you enjoy the moment and get away from the planning and preparing for the future?
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