If you could travel back in time, what would you change?

stuffed animal party

My kids and a party with stuffed animals.

In an article called “Parenting with the end result in mind” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman, from Pop Parenting printed in the Montgomery Advertiser, they ask the question, “What would change in our parenting if we could see the future adults in these little people we are raising?”

That makes me look at my children today and wonder what would I change if I could? I’d have given them more chores, not picked up after them and let them make more decisions and mistakes. I wouldn’t worry so much about grades, homework, or focus on performance. Would that have changed who they are today? Probably not. My kids are kind people with character. They have compassion and they care for their environment and other people. It would be a little tweak on my part to help them be more self-sufficient and a little steadier on their feet as they explore the years post college graduation.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

How would we talk to them, and what kinds of choices would we make if we were completely aware that we are raising the future parents of our grandkids and someone’s future employee or boss and a future spouse and next door neighbor and someone’s friend — maybe (hopefully) our own future friend and possibly even the person who will one day take care of us when we can’t take care of ourselves.

It’s a powerful perspective. They say hindsight is 20/20, but we don’t have to wait until the aftermath to reap the benefits of that perspective. Humans have the unique ability to project their imaginations forward and then turn around and examine the present from a potential future. We can think about what we want the end result to look like, and we can make decisions to help us get there.

Case in point, when we are fully aware of the future adult standing before us, we will probably react differently than we would if all we could see is the three-year-old who just smashed a jar of spaghetti sauce all over the kitchen while trying to get to the snacks that he’s not supposed to take without permission in the first place.

For one thing, keeping the end result in mind is a great way of remembering that most of the mistakes our kids make are just part of their learning and maturing process. The challenges of the toddler and preschool years are just a season. The emotional battles of the teen years are also just a season.

beach walk

Beach walk with my daughter and husband.

What would you do differently if you could look back in time?

What role do parents have in our kids’ anxiety?

child's birthday part at a swimming pool

My son’s second grade birthday party at the city pool.

I read that 65% of young adults are suffering from anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 crisis and 25% are contemplating suicide. Those are frightening statistics, which are worse than ever before.

Last year, in more normal times, I watched a video posted on Facebook by one of my children’s former swim coaches about millennials in the workforce and the problems they face. It really made me reflect about my own parenting and kids. There’s an increased number of kids in this age group with depression, committing suicide and overdosing. That’s terrifying, don’t you agree? What can be done about it? And this was before the shut downs. Why was it happening?

You can watch the aforementioned video here

Here are the four main points of the video:

ONE
Bad Parenting

I hate that bullet point and know I’m guilty of some bad parenting myself. The main idea is that our kids were told they are special at every turn, whether it’s deserved or not. Consequently, millennials often suffer from low self esteem. While we’re trying to make our kids strong, mentally and physically, we’re doing something very wrong. We have highly educated, competent kids who don’t believe in themselves. Maybe everyone shouldn’t get a participation trophy in tee ball. It’s one of the reasons why I like swimming. Every mili-second dropped and ribbon received is truly earned. The clock doesn’t lie.

blond mom and son at the beach

We were unplugged as a family every summer at the beach.

TWO
Technology

Checking our number of likes, texts, etc. give us a jolt of dopamine. That’s why we get addicted to our phones. Social media and cell phones are not much different than other highly addictive substances like tobacco or alcohol. When teenage brains are exposed to dopamine, they get hooked and their brains get hardwired. Hearing this part of the video makes me want to look at my own cell phone usage and make some changes—a good thing to think about for New Year’s Resolutions (I’ll write more about this later). Social media is preventing our kids from developing personal relationships and may lead to depression and being unable to handle stress.

THREE
Instant Gratification

Our kids have grown up in the world of instant gratification. If they want to watch a movie, they turn on Netflix. If they want to buy something, they click on Amazon and it’s delivered the next day. I interviewed a psychologist and wrote about instant gratification here. Job satisfaction and relationships aren’t a click away. Instead they are messy and time consuming, but our kids aren’t learning these skills of waiting and working for things.

FOUR
Environment

This year the environment takes on a whole new meaning. With shut downs, lay offs, more and more young adults out of work, of course the environment is gong to cause problems. Without COVID-19, many of our corporate environments weren’t a good fit for young people. Many companies were working on allowing more flexibility and developing new employees with training. Now worries about working from home, isolation, or no work at all is a bigger worry than ever. 

What are your thoughts about millennials and their angst? How much of their suffering from depression and anxiety can be blamed on parenting? Or, does the environment and technology play a bigger role?

elderly mother and middle aged daughter selfie

Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO. She is the best mom and my role model.

Helicopter parents butt into zoom school

brother and sister dressed up

My son when he was in second grade. I think I remember my daughter’s bangs had something to do with gum and big brother.

Can you imagine how hard it would be to be a helicopter parent in today’s world? Imagine if your child was on zoom calls for school. I’d think most helicopter parents would be sitting right there with their child.

In an article I read from Good Housekeeping by Gina Rich, there were quite a few funny examples. The article is called Parents Who Butt In During Remote School Are Just Trying to Help — But They’re Doing the Opposite.

Here’s an excerpt:

Child development experts have already firmly established why helicopter parenting and lawnmower parenting — or swooping in to rescue our kids from every problem — is harmful. Overly involved parenting jeopardizes kids’ independence and resilience, not to mention parents’ sanity. Yet months into a pandemic that’s forcing physical classrooms to remain closed, the unescapable proximity has caused many parents to struggle. It can be hard to let children muddle through the challenges of virtual school without intervening.

Earlier this fall in Berkeley, California, Allison Landa went to check on her 5-year-old son, a transitional kindergartener who is learning remotely. When Landa saw her child wasn’t following the teacher’s instructions to draw dots on a page, she decided to jump in. “I took the crayon and helped him swirl it on the page. Then I drew a dot of my own. Then I quizzed him: What color was the dot? How big was it?”

Across the country in upstate New York, Emily Popek was helping her third grader, who was suddenly the host of her class Zoom meeting after a glitch kicked the teacher out. Looking at the screen, Popek saw her daughter’s classmates — and a lone parent whose voice sounded familiar.

I realized I’d been hearing that parent’s voice,” she says. “You can never see her kid — it’s just her.” During the first Zoom meeting of the school year, the same parent had joined the conversation and started asking the teacher questions. “The student wasn’t interacting with the teacher at all,” recalls Popek, a school communications professional. “It was all being mediated by the mom.” And Popek’s story is just one of many: Playgrounds across the country are filled with whispered complaints of parents who interject during lessons, prompt their kids to give correct answers or complain that their kids aren’t being called on enough.

To be fair to parents who are trying to work at home and have their kids succeed in school, this year has thrown them a curve ball. They are trying to do what’s best. Although sometimes it’s better to do less. Let your kids take over their education. They will gain so much more, even if they mess up.

I remember when my son was in second grade, I volunteered to be a classroom helper. My role was to sit at the back of the classroom and correct papers as they were turned in. The teacher was fabulous and she stood in the front of the classroom making a list of five or six assignments on the board and keeping the kids enthralled with an occasional cartwheel. She had me call kids individually to go over their assignments with them. She said it was so much better for them to get instant feedback and learn from their mistakes right away. That’s why she used parent helpers.

Anyway, I would get antsy watching my son not do anything but fiddle at his desk while other kids were hurrying through their list of assignments. I’d walk up to him and try to encourage him to get started. The teacher would admonish me and send me back to my desk. “Mom, leave him alone! He’s got this,” she say. Then when it was almost time for recess, my son would miraculously start his work and get done in time to go play. And if not, he’d take his work outside and finish it at a lunch table.

It was tough for me to watch him dawdle. But he lived through it and so did I.

brother and sister in winter wear

My kids all grown up in their winter wear at a PAC 12 Swimming Championships.

If you’re a parent with your kids learning online at home, what are your secrets to making it work? Do you find yourself wanting to jump in and help? Or, take over?

Why moms lose sleep over adult kids

blond brother and sister with yellow lab

My kids with Angus more than 10 years ago.

When they were young and I worried about other things.

I read a fascinating story that said “Study Confirms That Parents Still Lose Sleep Worrying About Their Adult Children.” I am definitely on of those parents who loses sleep and I know my dear friend Gabby, who shared this story on Facebook is one, also.

Even before our children are born, we worry about them. We’re relieved when we count the 10 fingers and 10 toes in the hospital, but we still worry. We’re relieved when they do well on their tests in school and make the team, but we still worry. We worry about safety, about their grades, about what they’ll do for a career, about who they’ll one day marry or if they’ll get married at all. The list of things to worry about feels endless.

We hope that our worries will ease as our children get older, but it turns out that’s not the case.

Brother and sister staring at eachother

A photo from last year.

Can you relate to this as a parent, too? On my current list of worries is the bad air quality from California fires, my kids driving through the Cyclone Bomb weather, which is a rare event with high winds, rain and even snow, plus their general safety living in the Bay Area. I worry that they are secure in their careers and find their work satisfying and are able to make a living.

Here’s more from the story about parents who worry about adult kids:

A recent study conducted by Amber J. Seidel of Pennsylvania State University confirms what many parents already know – you never stop worrying about your children. Her study went on to show that parents actually lose sleep worrying about their adult children.

Parents, it looks like we’ll be worrying forever. If your children are already adults, you may already know that to be true.

In Seidel’s study, 186 heterosexual married couples with adult children were surveyed. On a scale of 1 to 8, they were asked how much assistance they offer their children. Assistance could include financial, emotional or even chatting on the phone. Choosing 1 meant daily assistance and interaction where 8 was only once a year.

The parents were also asked to choose from 1 to 5 regarding stress. In this case, choosing 1 meant no stress, and 5 meant the maximum amount of stress.

The third thing these parents tracked was how much sleep they got at night. Moms got an average of 6.66 hours and dads got slightly more with an average of 6.69 hours.

The results were not the same for moms and dads. For moms, it didn’t matter if they were the ones offering assistance or if their husbands were the ones offering assistance; moms were stressed out and sleeping less either way.

Dads showed a lack of sleep and more stress only when they were the ones offering assistance to their adult children. If their wife offered assistance, it didn’t affect them. This either means that dads are not affected in the same way as moms or that the wives weren’t telling their husbands about the assistance causing the dads to be stress free due to lack of knowledge about the situation.

I found it interesting that the dads didn’t lose sleep if their wives were the ones offering support. Or, like the article said, maybe they weren’t aware of what was going on. But the moms lost sleep regardless who was the main person offering support to their kids.

Do you worry about your children too, regardless of their age? What do you worry about most?

brother and sister back to back with pug

A recent photo in our back yard with Waffles the pug.

My kids are learning how to adult and I worry more.

What’s the main role of parents?

swim coach with young swimmer

My daughter with her coach, who also was a mentor.

In my SwimSwam parenting articles I often stress that parents and coaches have different roles. There’s a saying that I learned from USA Swimming back when I wrote a monthly newsletter for our swim team: Swimmers swim, parents parent and coaches coach.

As a long-time swim parent, my role seemed to be filled with endless loads of washing towels and feeding super hungry kids.

Yesterday I listened to a webinar that took this topic head on. It was by David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life called How to discuss performance issues with your child — and remain friends. Benzel said that the word coach was first used in the days of the stagecoach. You know, that vehicle that helped people get from point A to point B. A teacher referred to himself as a “coach” back then and today we all use the word to describe the person who helps our athletes on their journey.

Another point he made was that parents main role is to be a mentor in life lessons, while a coach helps on the field of pool with improving their skills. All mentors are coaches, Benzel said, but not all coaches are mentors.

coach with young swimmers

Coach Dwight was an amazing mentor to our young swimmers.

Here are the words Benzel used to describe coaches: instructional, inspirational, analytical, authoritarian, organized and encouraging.

The mentor or parent is supportive, exemplary, compassionate, authoritative, empathetic and loving.

If you get your roles mixed up and tell your kids how to improve or what they did wrong they can get really confused and upset. They don’t know if you’re coaching or criticizing. If you’re inspiring or disciplining. So often our kids fear they are disappointing us. Coaching them will make them defensive and feel like they’re never good enough in our eyes.

Isn’t that amazing? We are only trying to help our kids be better and want them to succeed.

In order to help our kids Benzel said we need to tell them “I love to watch you play.” And then be silent. Don’t say anything more until you’re asked. He said if we as parents ask thought provoking questions like “why do you enjoy swimming?” or “What are you doing when you feel the best?” — then we aren’t being judgmental but may open up a conversation.

Here are the life lessons Benzel listed that we can help our kids learn in our role as a parent and mentor:

self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline, self-control, empathy, generosity, sacrifice, patience, personal responsibility, grit, optimism, handling emotions, humility, gratefulness, fairness and loyalty. 

Boy, that’s quite a list. Yes, I hope my kids learned these things through their years in the pool. I hope I helped them along the way. Because as Benzel said, If not you — WHO? If not now –WHEN?

college daughter and coach at the side of the pool

My daughter with her college coach at a big meet in Santa Clara. Another coach who was also a mentor.

If your kids are in sports, what do you see as your most critical role?

90’s moms used gut instinct

blond toddler in his car seat

My son in the 90’s when he’d fall asleep in his carseat listening to classical music.

What do you think about parenthood in the 1990’s? Was it much different than today? I saw an article that piqued my interest because it talked about 90’s moms and how it was an easier time to be a mom. My kids were born in the 90s, so I am a 90’s mom (and a 00’s, 10’s and 20’s mom, too.) The writer Stephanie Sullivan explained how she got caught up on Pinterest reading posts of parenting advice and each one made her more insecure. The article is called Parenting in today’s society is exhausting, so let’s be more like ’90s moms in the Omaha World-Herald. Read the full article here.

Here’s an excerpt:

Does anyone wish they could go back to a simpler time of parenting? Like the ’90s? (I chose this era since I’m a by-product of being raised in the ’90s and I think I turned out okay. You can ask my husband for confirmation on that one.) Sure, ’90s mothers were still concerned with raising confident, kind and respectful children, but they didn’t have the option of searching for solutions on Pinterest or turning to strangers on Facebook. They just did it and probably questioned themselves much less in the process.

They used this thing called their gut, and when they were struggling with something, they turned to family and friends for opinions and advice. Above all, they trusted they were making the right decision for their child because no one made them think otherwise.

While social media can be a huge advantage to raising children these days — finding support groups, play dates, birthday party ideas, etc. — I fear it’s only increased our anxiety and made us question if we’re equipped to handle this parenting gig at all.

I often think I was lucky — and my kids too — that I didn’t have Instagram or Facebook when they were infants. I took tons of pictures of them with an old fashioned camera that used film. I had to physically walk the finished roll down to our local photo lab and get prints made. I know I would have over-posted about my kids because I did when they were in middle school and high school. I wrote about the downside of posting too many photos of our kids here.

I think it would have been hard to be inundated with my friends’ photos of their kids, see birthday parties my children weren’t invited to and getting so much unsolicited advice. Yes, it might have made parenting more difficult than in the 90’s before social media and internet. Although I know I made bad decisions as a parent, said things I wish I could take back and didn’t let my kids fail — I trusted my gut.

happy baby in the tub

My happy baby standing up at the edge of the tub.

What are your thoughts of how parenting has changed in due to social media?

Are your kids bored? It may boost creativity

boy wearing birthday crown and bug antennae

My son came up with bug headbands for a birthday party made from pipe cleaners, styrofoam balls and lots of glue and glitter. The kids looked adorable. He also got to wear a birthday crown.

Do you remember being bored as a kid? I do. But it never lasted. I could go outside when we lived in town and go ask a neighbor to play. Or, I’d jump on my bike and ride around the block. We could run over to the house down the street that had an extra lot with a brown quarter horse named Snoopy. I’d climb on the fence to pet the white strip that ran down his nose. Most of the time I’d read, or play library and create library cards for all my books and arrange them by author on my bookshelves. Boredom just wasn’t a thing. Our mom was strict about TV and it wasn’t an option. She allowed two half-hour shows daily that she circled in the TV Guide — and they were usually on PBS.

These days, many kids never experience boredom because they lose themselves in a device like an iPhone or iPad. They don’t know what it’s like to have to use their imaginations and find something creative to do. I don’t think it’s helping them to be entertained externally all the time. I wrote about promoting a creative spirit in kids here and here.

Without creativity and an imagination, our kids won’t be problem solvers or discover new ways of doing things. If your kids are bored, so what? It’s okay. Ignore the whining and let them figure it out.

 In the Sarasota Herald Tribune, parenting experts Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman wrote Allow your kids to embrace boredom

 Have you noticed that our generation of parents is terrified of letting our kids become bored? Their anxiety is what drives them to pack a boatload of amusement options when they leave the house.

A few years ago, a waiter at a restaurant in North Dakota told us about a trend in his community. One local mom had created a custom quilted bag for holding multiple tablets so that every member of the family could be distracted and amused while they waited for their meal. It was wildly popular, he said.

Not only is our society’s pervasive reliance on amusement killing conversation and opportunities to connect and build relationships, it’s also preempting opportunities for boredom. Boredom is important for building imagination, creativity and innovation in our kids. Of course we can’t force these things into our children but we can set up an environment that will support the journey.

When we allow our kids to grapple with boredom on their own, rather than providing for them structured activities or distractions and amusements, imagination and creativity may come to their rescue!

“It is possible for boredom to deliver us to our best selves,” said author Nancy Blakey. “If we sit still long enough, we may hear the call behind boredom. With practice, we may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness and answer.”

If we provide our kids with a constant stream of amusement options, which includes a plethora of extracurricular activities, we rob them of the opportunity to explore the open space in their own minds where the imagination hides.

They make a good point about having a structured schedule. With piano, swimming and homework, there wasn’t a lot of time for my kids to get bored during the school year. The summers gave us more hours for imaginative play. Also, swim meets when the kids would be sitting under a pop-up tent for hours on end resulted in some imaginative play. We’d be at a meet for five or six hours and they’d race for only a few minutes here and there. I remember observing some very creative verbal word games.

According to the article, the authors suggest having bins and jars filled with all sorts of things in easy reach for your kids like popsicle sticks, fabric, string, paints, googly eyes, papers of different colors and textures, glues, etc. Their suggestion:

Then let your kids get good and bored. Don’t offer many suggestions. Simply say, “Oh, there are lots of things you could do. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” It may take time but eventually their imaginations will awaken and lead them to new horizons.

brother and sister with birthday cake

The antennae headbands made an appearance at several birthdays.

What do you do when your kids are bored?