A Sadness Like No Other

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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:

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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.

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8 Ways the Beach Is Different With Adult Children Than With Young Kids

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Beach vacation a few years ago.

We’ve rarely had our two kids together during vacations times since both left the familial nest for college. One’s university had a quarter system while the other had semesters and neither Christmas or Spring breaks aligned. Then as far as summers, forget about it! One worked through summers and the other swam with her college team. We did get an occasional visit during our week-long beach vacation. But the times were few and far between.

When they were young (and I was younger, too) the summers stretched from Memorial Weekend past Labor Day. We were together the entire time at home or the beach. My favorite day of the year was packing the SUV full with kids, pillows, boogie boards, sand toys and groceries and heading for our beach vacation.

As blissful and peaceful as those days seemed, they weren’t always perfect. This past week we went to the beach and rented an Air BNB with our two adult kids. Here’s a list of what I found different when vacationing at the beach with adult kids versus toddlers and youngsters.

ONE

Having a child who eats wet sand is no longer an issue. Nor do I have to take my baby to the doctor for the worst bottom rash ever.

TWO

I don’t have to be a hawk-eye, standing in the waves watching my children’s every move.

THREE

My kids put on their own sunscreen and you don’t have to remind them. Once in a while, I’ll get a request to spray their backs.

FOUR

They can be the designated driver after a dinner out with friends. Wait, did I say going out with friends? Yes, when we’re at the beach we get to hang out with our friends, not just the kids.

FIVE

Never once did I have to drive anyone to swim practice at the crack of dawn. Or, remind them in the afternoon that it’s time to leave their friends at the beach for practice.

SIX

They don’t fight over sand. I haven’t stopped a single fight where one child threw sand in the eyes of their sibling. Nor did anyone stomp on another’s drip castle.

SEVEN

No longer do I heat up chicken nuggets and tater tots in the oven for dinner. Now they have the same tastes in restaurants as I do. It gets a lot more expensive.

EIGHT

I’m not worried about putting my kids down for a nap. These days nap time is reserved for me and my husband.

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Breakfast at this year’s beach vacation.

In what ways do you find vacationing with adult children different from when they were young?

Why does my daughter find me so annoying?

My kids not wanting me to take their pic.

My kids not wanting me to take their pic.

I wrote this after my daughter’s first year in college. Out of all my posts, this one pops up from most frequently as being read. Now that my daughter is finishing college, she may still feel I’m annoying, but she expresses those feelings with more maturity. She’ll be coming home next week after two months abroad and I can’t wait to see how she’s changed and grown.

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.

19 years ago.

A few months old.

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.

How do you respond when your kids think you’re annoying?

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 all the hubbub about internet privacy, what about internet security?

 

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Sometimes I miss the days when I wrote on this–which was considered high tech.

 

I had a weird experience yesterday with Google that gave me the creeps. It started with helping my daughter with a mailing list. She asked if I would sign onto Google docs and we could work on a list together. I said I’d email it to her and she explained how much easier Google docs is to use. Instead of emailing one document back and forth, we could work on it together—at the same time.

She was asking for addresses of family and friends to mail her graduation announcements. I was amazed at how the document open in my Google window would fill in with names and addresses, without me doing a thing. My daughter explained that this is how all group projects are done for school in this day and age. That was truly amazing to me. We finished the list easily around 9 a.m. with only one document between the two of us. FYI, this is NOT what gave me the creeps.

google-docs-icons-590d5dfe3df78c928309366bIt was the text I received from Google at 3:15 p.m. that was weird. It stated that someone had tried to log into my Google account with my password but Google had declined it. They asked me to go online and check if it was me or someone I knew.

I asked my daughter if she had tried to access my account and she said, “Nope, it wasn’t me.” I didn’t think about it again until this morning and realized that I had forgotten to check on my computer to see if someone had tried to access my Google account. This morning, I went back to Google docs, and there was a red banner across the top of the window asking if I had tried to log in yesterday at 3:15 p.m. I clicked no, and it took me to another page to show me a map of where the person was that entered my password. HO CHI MINH CITY! That’s right, someone from Vietnam has my password and tried to hack into my account. Is that creepy or what?

I watched Facebook’s Zuckerberg on TV the past two days being questioned by the Senate and House about privacy, tracking, advertising and censorship. I know all those things are important, but seriously, isn’t someone across the world using my password and log-in info worth some investigation, too? It makes me believe that we’re all much more vulnerable than what we think. I think it’s time to think about internet security and what we can do to protect ourselves. Needless to say, I spent time this morning changing passwords for online accounts.

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One of our earlier Macs. We had one in Strawberry, too.

Has someone tried to log into one of your online accounts before and what did you do about it?

Low Self Esteem: A Side Effect of Helicopter Parenting

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Practicing to be superheroes.

Helicopter parents are all around the world these days. I thought of it as a United States phenomenon, but after reading this article from the Times of Oman (which is between Yemen and Saudia Arabia—I looked it up) I realized helicopter parents are everywhere.

Written by Farzeen Ashik, author of the prize-winning novel ‘Rainbow Dorm Diaries-The Yellow Dorm’ “The Hard Truth About Helicopter Parenting” spells it out simply and effectively:

 

The hard truth about helicopter parenting

Have you heard about helicopter parenting? As parents, we want the best for our kids. It almost seems like we keep wanting to raise the bar, so we turn into Supermoms and Superdads. But in the process, do we end up becoming a bit over-protective, aggressive, pushy, or overconcerned? Don’t think so? Let’s take a quick, hard look then. Are you the one finishing your child’s homework and school projects? Is it ultimately your responsibility to ensure that your child’s deadlines are met and work is submitted on time or even that the school bag has the right books for the lessons the next day? Do you take it as a personal affront if your child gets a low grade and get an immediate itch to send an email to the teacher about it? Do you pack your teen’s lunch box and iron his/her uniform? Does your child look at you when someone asks him/her about what he/she wants to do when he/she is older? A whole lot of parents will nod reluctantly. Let’s face the fact that we are a generation of helicopter parents. So, what is helicopter parenting? The term “helicopter parent” was first used in Dr Haim Ginott’s 1969 book Between Parent and Teenager, by teens, who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter. The term became popular enough to become a dictionary entry in 2011. There might be a whole section of readers who strongly believe that they are doing nothing but their duty as good parents to be so involved in the lives of their children. The fact that there could be such a thing as over-involvement does not even occur to them. But as parents, don’t we also have a responsibility to make sure our kids grow up making their own little mistakes and facing their challenges and fears? Here are some reasons why you should stop hovering over your children.

Low self-esteem

If you are constantly around then your children will get used to turning to mommy or daddy for all the answers. Not only that, they will start losing confidence in themselves and their instincts. Every time they make a decision, they will feel the need to run to you and check whether they are right. That’s because your constant presence sends out the signal that you don’t trust their judgement.

Lower adaptability

Kids today will be adults tomorrow and before you know it, they will be out there battling it on their own. They have to graduate, get jobs, find partners, and finally raise their own children. Looking at your gawky teenagers now and imagining them doing all that will certainly seem remote to you but you have to start envisioning them doing things by themselves. Give them opportunities to adapt to different scenarios and challenges. Else, they will be misfits in the real world.

I know I did too much for my kids. I was trying my best, but I wanted to make sure they didn’t fail. I was constantly in their classrooms talking to teachers about assignments and tests. I emailed coaches or met to let them know if my child wasn’t being treated fairly. I helped with homework. I found new teaching methods when I didn’t think their teacher was up to snuff. Today, when I hear my son give himself horrible self-talk, I wonder if I am the cause of it? Was it because I pampered him? I reread the part of the article about low self-esteem, and I did trust my kids’ judgment. I wonder if they knew that? Did I make it clear? I have enough self-doubt on my own that maybe it can be spread like a cold and they caught it from me. 

In any case, my daughter made the comment that negative self-talk is very common. I listened to a webinar by David Benzel, a sports parenting expert, focus on self-talk. He said we can stop our kids when we hear negative self-talk and help them rewire what they say to themselves. I think it’s worth getting out his parenting book “From Chump to Champ” and rereading the chapter on self-talk.

robkatwaterWhat do you think the pitfalls of helicopter parenting are?

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.