How do you know it’s time to downsize?

img_2505

The view from my back door.

We are thinking about selling our empty nest — the home we moved into 27 years ago — before kids. We started off just the two of us, plus a dog and cat. Now we’re thinking about leaving.

When my husband first brought this concept up, I burst into tears. “But my babies! I had my babies, here!” I blubbered with tears running down my cheeks. Actually, I had my two children in the hospital, down the street, but you understand. Our family was raised in this house. It’s filled with memories of them in a basinet, crib, bunk beds, to the big beds standing empty now in their rooms. Kids coming over. Christmases, birthday parties, swim friends hanging out. Senior prom pictures and all.

kat tub

My daughter using the tub to stand.

robertbaby 1

My son in his bedroom.

We went looking and found some gorgeous new places to live. It’s kind of exciting, but overwhelming to think about leaving. Cleaning out the house is a project I’m not looking forward to, either. My dear friend Cindy left her giant home and downsized ahead of me. She said “Once you start purging, it grows on you.”

IMG_2387

My view writing on my laptop.

My son is fighting us tooth and nail. According to him, we’re never supposed to sell California real estate. The property is by all rights his and his sister’s — they’ve laid claim to it. Interesting, I never looked at it like that. I’m wondering if they can afford the AC, the pool man, the gardeners, all that stuff we’ll be hoping to get rid of in retirement. I never thought I’d want to sell, but maybe it’s time?

What are your thoughts about selling the family home and down-sizing? When is the right time?

the pool

My back yard 27 years ago.

Advertisements

No one-size-fits-all approach works in parenting

three

Me and my two kiddos.

In an article in The Boston Globe, different parenting styles are discussed, from helicopter parents to the new buzz about snowplows—plus those lawbreakers who crossed the line with cheating on college admissions. According to Rebecca Pacheco in “Forget the buzzwords about parenting styles, let’s just be present.” she makes good points about how important is to be there and be present in the moment, regardless of your “style.”

Every generation has a fresh take on parenting, its own personal stamp on how children should be raised. Lately, though, it seems we hear of a new style every few weeks. First there were attachment parents and helicopter parents, and now come the snowplow parents.

This last group is particularly infuriating because it means just what one might expect: to remove all obstacles in the path of a child. In other words, instead of preparing the child for the road ahead, the parent prepares the road itself. They plow it and pave it and block traffic. Sometimes, as in the case of the parents in the college admissions scandal, they even commit fraud.

As far as parenting styles named for heavy machinery are concerned, it seems that snowplows deserve more ire than helicopter parents — characterized as those who hover too close — because snowplows do more than hover. They do the work, sometimes even the dirty work, for the child.

Of course there’s a big difference between over-parenting and engaging in criminal activity. Either way, I’m curious if there’s anything positive to glean from the revelation of how far some parents go to shelter their children from the travails of growing up. How did we get here, by the way? And what can parents of more modest means (and probably stronger ethics) do instead to better prepare their children to succeed in the world?

She goes on to say, let kids experience failure. Failure is good for our kids and especially when the stakes aren’t too high. For example, if they fail at a test in high school, it’s not as important as in college when classes cost a ton of money. Failure needs to be looked at as an opportunity to learn. If we swoop in each time to save the day, our children won’t learn the lessons they need to move onto the next phase of their lives. Their days “adulting” will be filled with anxiety and stress, because we robbed them of necessary experiences. Just saying, from my own experiences.

Here’s what the writer from the Globe said about it:

First, let’s remember: Failure is good. Not all the time, not as a way of being or way of life. But failure teaches kids resilience, creativity, and prioritization. Through failure, we learn what matters enough that we are willing to work relentlessly toward it no matter how many times we fail; or we learn to adapt and recognize new opportunities when something doesn’t work out.

Jessica Lahey, New York Times best-selling author of the book, “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed” and a longtime educator, puts it this way: “Kids need to have a positive, adaptive response to failures in order to learn from them, so every time we swoop in and save kids from a consequence, that’s a learning opportunity lost.”

The best thing she said, in my opinion, was “Be present.”

When it comes to parenting, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each kid is different. The strengths and resources of parents vary greatly. And yet, one technique stands out for me, which can be summed up in two words: Be present.

Practically speaking, babies and toddlers do not exist anywhere other than the present moment. When they are hungry, hunger is all that exists. When they are in pain, pain is all-encompassing. Older children understand the concept of time, but their needs are only slightly less immediate. You can reason that you’ll go to the playground not today but tomorrow or request that no one wake you before 7 a.m. on Saturdays, but a child of any age still often needs a response in the moment.

When it comes to parenting, the most important question might not be which style we choose, but how we show up for our children in a given moment. One moment after the other. Every day. Year layered upon year, like tiers of birthday cake or bricks. Granted, no one is perfect, never distracted, or immune to a bad mood or short fuse, but before we can be “good” parents, we must first be present ones. We can borrow wisdom from all kinds of parenting styles: from Montessori or Tiger Mamas, attachment or anything goes, but it all seems secondary to the question of whether our faces light up when they enter a room. Do we take the time to be attentive in their presence?

We teach kids to stop and look both ways before crossing the street. It’s a crucial safety precaution, but it can also serve as mindfulness inspiration as parents. How often do we take pause, stopping to consider what is happening as it’s happening, rather than merely reacting? As parents, do we have a stop-and-look equivalent as the moment is unfolding?

Being in the present is important when you have adult kids, too. It’s also something to remember when you’re with your spouse. Are you preoccupied on your phone while they are talking to you? Are you nodding your head in agreement without listening? Most people are distracted because of our phones. When our adult children call, get off the computer or whatever else we’re doing and pay attention. If we’re distracted all the time and not really “there” we may find ourselves in a day and time when nobody is calling anymore.

Stop. Breathe. Be here, in this moment, with yourself, with your kid whom you love. That’s the job. Leave the plowing of snow and hovering at 460 rotations per minute to the heavy machinery.

What are your thoughts about being in the moment with the people you love?

meandrbeach

Why Parents Hire “Parenting Coaches” — Their Kids Won’t Listen

 

three

We used to call our moms or girlfriends for advice. What has happened in our world that we’d rather pay $125 to $350 per session to a stranger to ask how to get our kids to go to bed? Also, the sessions aren’t even in person—they’re over the phone or via Skype. Parenting coaches are a new trend and it’s become a billion dollar business. It seems a little odd to me to pay for help because people are always giving unsolicited advice. Confide to a friend about problems you’re having with your kids and you’ll get plenty of suggestions. Also, you can google it or shop on Amazon and gets books, blogs and articles galore. I found it funny that the number one problem that drove parents to hire parenting coaches is this — their kids won’t listen to them! No kidding! 

In “Parenting coaches? Frazzled families pay for advice,” by Erica Pearson for the Minnesota Star Tribune, she interviews families and parenting coaches to learn more about this new trend. 

Here’s an excerpt:

Megan and Michael Flynn used to dread bedtime. Every night, the Edina couple spent two stressful hours putting their preschooler and toddler to bed. With help, they cut that time in half.

They did it by hiring a parent coach, who listened to them describe an average night and concluded they needed structure. Instead of caving into requests for book after book, they set a routine — and stuck to it.

“Nighttime routines are such a struggle for so many people,” said Megan Flynn, “and it was just nice to have somebody give us strategies for it.”

When it comes to bedtime, homework or managing meltdowns, a growing number of families like the Flynns aren’t relying on their peers or parents: They’re turning to parenting coaches for one-on-one instruction.

The coaches — who charge from about $125 to $350 a session — meet with parents only (in person, over the phone or via Skype) to set goals and develop a plan to reach them.

Here’s another excerpt: 

Shoreview parenting coach Toni Schutta, who worked with the Flynns, is a licensed psychologist. But she would be the first to admit that she doesn’t use coaching to deal with deep-seated problems. Her role is to listen to parents, suggest tools to address a specific issue and keep them accountable for a set number of weeks. The reason most clients seek her out? Their kids don’t listen.

Moms and dads who have hired a parent coach say they felt comfortable asking a coach for help with day-to-day struggles, instead of a counselor, specialist, therapist — or even a member of their own family. Hiring a coach, they say, is more akin to using a resource than seeking a diagnosis. Plus, coaching is often easier to fit in around busy schedules, since it can be done over the phone.
The profession, virtually nonexistent 20 years ago, is one of the latest entries in the $1.08 billion personal coaching industry in the United States. It’s part of the broader American trend of hiring expert advisers to improve nearly every facet of life. You can hire a sleep coach, a financial coach, a life coach, even a coach to help you transition to eating only raw food.

I write parenting advice columns for SwimSwam.com and I hope my tips are helpful to other parents. I base them on first-hand experience, friends and family, plus I do a lot of reading and research. But, I couldn’t imagine anyone would pay me $350 per session over the phone for my suggestions, helpful or not. 

Parenting is a huge job. Probably one of the biggest and most important, and it doesn’t include a manual. Every parent and child is different and so much of it is trial and error. When you get it wrong, you try something new. When something finally works—it won’t for much longer. Parenting is changing and adapting on a daily basis. Just like our parenting changes, so do our kids, and no two kids are the same—even within the same family.

Would you hire a parenting coach and why or why not?

IMG_0283

Beautiful Boy: a Must See Movie for Parents

onesheet

The official movie poster for Beautiful Boy.

Last night, my daughter and I went to see Beautiful Boy, a film about a family dealing with their son’s meth addiction. Based on a real-life father/son story, the script is a melding of two memoirs: Beautiful Boy by writer and columnist David Sheff, played by Steve Carell, and Tweak by the addicted son, Nic (Timothée Chalamet).

Beautiful Boy is an emotionally difficult movie for any parent to see. Although I haven’t gone through anything nearly as hellacious or dramatic, I related to the parents’ anguish. I realized how strongly I want to make everything okay for my kids when they’re experiencing pain. As hard as we want to control situations and can see what the best choices are, in the end, it’s all up to them. We can’t live their lives for them.

What I found especially poignant, was Carell’s flashbacks to his young innocent son and the many memories he had of their close relationship, interspersed with gritty scenes of finding Nic soaking wet and high in a San Francisco alley or overdosed in a hospital.

Directed by Belgian director and co-writer, Oscar nominated Felix van Groeningen, I loved the acting by Carell, Chalamet, Amy Ryan as the first wife and mom, and Maura Tierney as the current wife and mother of two younger kids. The soundtrack and cinematography were integral to the experience, which will haunt me for years. I cried when I heard Sunrise Sunset, a song from Fiddler on the Roof performed by Perry Como, which I played on the piano as a young child. The soundtrack includes artists Neil Young, John Lennon, David Bowie and Nirvana.

There are uncomfortable scenes of drug use, near deaths, and the horror experienced by Nic’s parents. It’s an important movie because drug addiction is epidemic throughout our country, regardless of money, race or gender. Overdose is the number one cause of death in our country for those under age 50.

Here’s an excerpt from the Hollywood Reporter with interviews with Carell and Chalamet:

At the U.S. premiere of Beautiful Boy at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Carell said his most challenging scene was a more tender one, in which David receives a desperate call from Nic but chooses not to help him get sober again. Whether from lack of hope or lack of strength, David tells Nic that he’s on his own.

“I think that goes against every fiber of every parent’s being,” Carell told The Hollywood Reporter of the scene that has the character crying on a couch at home. Carell said having two teenagers “absolutely” shaped the way he viewed the script, saying, “I don’t think you ever stop worrying about them until the day you die.” Through his performance, he realized having no ability to keep your kids safe and healthy has to be “the scariest thing of all.”

Chalamet likes that Beautiful Boy isn’t a tragic story, nor a glorious story. The addiction tale is told from a “total perspective,” based on the best-selling memoirs of father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy and Tweak, respectively.

“That encompassed addiction in a contemporary sense, in a way that I just hadn’t ever read anything like that,” Chalamet told THR. “Movies or books that I’d been privy to prior that dealt with the subject matter felt like they lean into the tragedy of it or into the glory of it somehow.”

Here’s link to John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy” written for his son Sean. 

Lyrics to Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) by John Lennon:

Close your eyes
Have no fear
The monster’s gone
He’s on the run and your daddy’s here

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy

Before you go to sleep
Say a little prayer
Every day in every way, it’s getting better and better

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy

Out on the ocean sailing away
I can hardly wait
To see you come of age
But I guess we’ll both just have to be patient
‘Cause it’s a long way to go
A hard row to hoe
Yes, it’s a long way to go

But in the meantime
Before you cross the street
Take my hand
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy

Before you go to sleep
Say a little prayer
Every day in every way, it’s getting better and better

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Darling, darling, darling
Darling Sean

Songwriters: John Lennon

Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) lyrics © Downtown Music Publishing

A Sadness Like No Other

33953660_1540312373674118_r

I can’t stop thinking about the mom who was talking to her daughter on the phone while she was walking to her car on campus the other night. I can’t come to grips with how awful it would be to relive that moment over and over. According to the mom, she heard her daughter yell, “No! No! No!” and that was it. She was afraid her daughter was in a car accident.

Jill McCluskey, mother of Lauren McCluskey and economics professor at Washington State University, shared this statement on Twitter:

5bcf4da573628.image

My daughter was friends with Lauren. They knew each other from athletics at the University of Utah, because it’s a close-knit community. This was such a tragedy for the entire campus, community and the family. My daughter said that Lauren was so nice! Once Waffles had run away and it was Lauren who found him and brought him back to her. My heart goes out to the McCluskey family. When we send our kids off to school, its with dreams and stars in our eyes for their great futures. We don’t expect anything like this.

Here’s a Go Fund Me campaign started by a fellow student at the University of Utah.  Please think about supporting Lauren’s family.

Views from my morning walks

IMG_1937

Beauty.

I’ve been lousy about going to the pool lately. Mainly because of two reasons. First, I went to visit my daughter in Arizona for several days. Second, I got a nasty cold and I felt weak, congested and couldn’t breathe. Those are two absolutely acceptable reasons to skip Masters swimming, don’t you think?

IMG_1939

The Wellness Park in Palm Springs.

One thing that I haven’t missed, despite going out of town and feeling less than stellar, are my morning walks. In Arizona, I got to walk Waffles. Here, at home, the weather finally changed for the better. It feels perfect and the views are gorgeous. It’s the best I feel all day, being out in nature for an hour, soaking up the sun and radiant desert plants and mountain views.

I also treasured the days I had hanging out with Waffles, plus working on my laptop catching up on work. He’s a good companion, but not nearly as good as my daughter. We did the usual things we enjoy as a mother-daughter team. We went for a pedicure, she cooked me dinner, we shopped and we sat together and talked. All in all, the time together made me once again appreciate the small special things in life. Like having a daughter who wants me to come stay with her from time to time.

IMG_1910

Waffles

IMG_1924

Waffles and my daughter at Tempe Beach Park.

What are your favorite parts of the day? Do you find that they are spent outside or with family, too?

 

How to be present in the moment

I wrote this article at my daughter’s last PAC 12 swim meet. I was feeling nostalgic and overwhelmed with all the emotions. It’s so important to be in the moment when you’re spending time with family and friends. We need to remember to put the phone down and truly appreciate the time you have together.

IMG_0292

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.

IMG_0255

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.

IMG_0283

A wonderful day with my kiddos.

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