A swim meet where my daughter met with college coaches, including the one who would be her college coach.
I read an interesting book about how to parent without really trying. Called Bare Minimum Parenting: The Ultimate Guide to Not Quite Ruining Your Child, it was written by James Breakwell. He is a popular author and humorist who can be found on Twitter. His theory is the opposite of helicopter parenting. He believes that all children will turn about the same — mediocre — regardless of parenting techniques. So why knock yourself out with trying to be a perfect parent, raising perfectionist children? He believes in a hands off, bare minimum approach.
As a relentless, overachieving swim mom, I especially enjoyed Chapter 11 “The Path to Athletic Glory” which he crossed out and renamed “Benched.” Breakwell’s advice on sports parenting is to sign your kids up for sports and let it go at that. At some point, they’ll tire of it and you can all move onto something else.
Here are a few excerpts from his sports parenting chapter that gave me a chuckle or belly laugh:
“The real danger sports pose is to you, the parent on the sideline. Kids will damage their bodies and minds. You could lose your immortal soul.”
“The competitive pull of youth sports is hard to resist. Deep down, we all have a primal urge to see our child do better than other people’s kids. It’s the ultimate secondhand validation. If your kid wins, that means you’re better than those other parents, or at least that you passed on better genes. Whatever it was, your kid triumphed because of you. Brag about it to everyone you know. That never gets old.”
“But while sports parents know everything there is to know about succeeding as an athlete, none of them agree on how to pull it off. There’s more than one way to ruin a childhood. To sports parents, steamrolling their child’s youth will be worth it when their kid hoists whatever arbitrary medal or trophy now defines that kid’s entire existence. Ultimately, sports parents just want their kid to have fun — as long as they win or die trying.”
On Breakwell’s section about parents’ dreams of Olympic glory, he writes that the dream is out of reach.
“Parents of top gymnasts and swimmers enroll their kids in Soviet-style sports gulags the second they leave the womb….The bottom line is kids don’t just roll out of bed and pull off world-record swimming times or gymnastics scores. Instead they give up their entire childhoods to achieve greatness at those arbitrary scoring metrics.”
If you’re a bare minimum parent, you shouldn’t touch Olympic training with a ten-foot pole. Unless you use that pole to pull your kid out of the training pool. If they swim like me, they could use the help.
So what should you do if your child says they want to be an Olympic athlete? Here’s a sample conversation:
Kid: I want to be an Olympic swimmer.
Then buy them ice cream. Ice cream fixes everything. Note: This also works on adults.
My kids playing in the pool.
Our own family pursued swimming for years — literally from the time my kids were six months old in “Mommy and Me” swim lessons to my daughter’s senior year of college. It took up an enormous amount of our family life, but I believe it was worth it. All children want to be Olympians when they’re young. It’s a great dream and worth encouraging. At some point, they understand that only a few, and I mean two people in the United States, per event, every four years, actually make the Olympic team. With 400,000 swimmers registered in USA Swimming, two per event really is out of reach. But the kids do figure it out on their own.
Not being an Olympian doesn’t mean that swimming isn’t a valuable experience and worth every minute. I guess the point is we didn’t go into the deal — as parents — with any illusion of our kids being Olympians. Funny thing though, one of of their teammates from their age group club team made it to the Beijing and London Olympics, and a college teammate of our daughter has two Olympic medalists for sisters. It can happen, but it’s not the point of enrolling and being in a sport.
Later in the chapter, Breakwell talks about how college scholarships is making your kids work for their college educations. He doesn’t think it’s such a good deal after all. “The problem with college scholarships is that otherwise intelligent people forget that nothing is really free.” I’ll save my thoughts on college scholarships for another day.
My daughter and fellow swimmers cheering for a teammate at PAC 12’s.
What are your thoughts about bare minimum parenting as an approach to parenting?
After my son left for college, I realized that I had failed big time in teaching life skills. Yes, he had good grades. Yes, he had the right “stuff.” But he was seriously lacking in the basics. I spent time teaching my daughter these skills before it was her turn to leave. She was better prepared for the daily tasks–although that doesn’t necessarily mean life won’t throw you some bumps in the road.
Sheltering in place with our children offers a unique opportunity to look at all the little stuff we can teach them while they’re home. Giving them more responsibility around the home will pay off when they’re away. Here’s a story I wrote several years ago about the consequences of NOT preparing your kids for life:
My son giving his high school Valedictorian speech.
“He tried college a couple times. It just didn’t take,” a dad of one of my son’s friends told me last night at the grocery store.
Next, I got a call from a close friend, whose happy-go-lucky daughter checked herself into a campus hospital, because she felt so overwhelmed and out of control.
Another friend told me their son quit after one semester after too much partying and not enough studying. Yet another mom left on a rescue mission to help a child in need.
What the heck is going on with our kids and college? My own son struggled to find his way his freshman year.
All of these parents, myself included, believed college was the best and only choice for their kids.
Maybe college isn’t for everyone? Maybe we did too much for them? Maybe we didn’t let them fail often or enough?
I’ll talk more about why kids are struggling in college on another day. And if we have an epidemic on our hands.
But, first, I want to share basic things kids need to know before they leave for college. I was often surprised at questions my son would ask me during his first year at college. I’m going to make sure my second child checks off every item on my “top 10 things kids need to know before going to college” list.
Banking skills. Know how to write a check, make a deposit face-to-face with a teller, fill out a deposit slip, and use an ATM card for deposits and withdrawals. Balancing a check-book falls under the banking list.
Laundry. Have your kids do their own laundry so they know how to sort white and colors, hand-wash, hang dry, and fold–and what it feels like to be out of clean clothes. The clean underwear does not appear by magic!
Cooking. Teach your child some basic cooking skills like scrambling eggs, making spaghetti, baking a chicken, steaming vegetables and cooking rice.
Grocery shopping. Just like clean underwear, the food in the fridge doesn’t appear out of thin air. Teach how to make a list, look for coupons, find sale items, and learn how to read unit pricing on shelves.
How to get to and from the grocery store. This may seem obvious, but I’ll never forget the phone call I got from Robert: “Mom. I’m at Costco and how do I get home with cases of water, yogurt, and Top Ramen on my bike?” Hmmm. Good question.
Budgeting. If your child hasn’t worked at a job and you provide their basic necessities, they lack budgeting skills. My son got his first paycheck working a summer retail job. The check was for $175. He bought his girlfriend a dress for $110 and spent the rest on dinner for the two of them. Very romantic, but not practical when he needed to eat the next week and month.
Theft. At college, thieves are everywhere. My first week of college, I hand-washed some sweaters and hung them out to dry in the bathroom. Within minutes — gone. I had a bike stolen from my sorority storage room — and a locked bike stolen when I used a restroom during a ride around Green Lake. My son’s laptop was stolen when he left it in a study area in his dorm. Make sure they have “find my laptop” activated and never leave anything unattended! Don’t use a chain or cable lock for your bike — use a solid bar type.
Professors. They set aside office hours and only one or two students bother to stop by per semester. They are thrilled to help and meet students face-to-face. This can help for future referrals, references, internships — and grades. Have your kid meet with each professor at least once, every semester. It can’t hurt!
Cars. Basic things like checking tire pressure, oil and water levels, changing tires and pumping gas. Maybe they won’t have a car right away, but at some point they will and car maintenance is not an instinct. It’s a learned skill.
Learn to say no! College means hanging out with friends, listening to music, parties, dances, rallies, job opportunities, football games, intramural sports, going out to eat, etc. Studying is priority number one. Learning to say no will help your kid stay focused.
My daughter with Waffles preparing for college graduation.
What other essential life skills would you add to the list?
This year, I’ve decided to not make New Year’s Resolutions. It’s not that they haven’t worked for me in the past, so long as I kept them small and not overwhelming. I view New Year’s Resolutions as a “don’t do this list” rather than “try something new.” Although that’s not totally accurate, it’s how I’m looking at it for 2021. Here’s the difference between resolutions and goals I found online:
Essentially, a resolution is something you will constantly be working toward, while a goal is specific and finite. Resolutions are made up of goals. While there is a difference between goals and resolutions, they are relevant and intertwined.
What’s the Difference Between Goals and Resolutions …
I’ve decided that I’d rather make a list of goals, not resolutions. Mostly it’s learning new things, seeing new places. In my new home, I want to learn about the birds I’m seeing, the plants, the trails and mountains.
One of our first hikes in AZ at Cave Creek Regional Park.
So, a few of my goals — besides getting my house unpacked and in order — are:
Start birdwatching — I already put a bird feeder in the backyard.
Learn about saguaro cactus and other species of native plants.
Hike on a new trail each week.
Experience more sunrises and sunsets.
Explore areas like the Grand Canyon and Sedona.
Take a photography class online.
Sketch or paint some of my new scenery.
Begin a new manuscript, in a genre new to me.
The sunset from our street.
Do you have a list of New Year’s Resolutions or goals to share?
December 31, 2017. This was a day when memories were made with my son. We made a promise that day to ski together once a year, until we could no longer do it. Unfortunately, that was the last day we ever skied together.
This was our view leaving the day for our New Year’s Eve ski adventure.
The view from the top of the mountain.
After not skiing for about a decade, guess what? I can still do it and it’s not that bad! Yesterday we hauled our equipment into our friends’ Sequoia under a gorgeous pink sky. Driving to Brighton from Salt Lake City was filled with the most breathtaking views. Once we reached the top of the mountain, I was stunned. I listened to the “oohs and ahhs” of other skiers getting off the chairlift, who experienced the view for the first time like me. I didn’t stop to take a bunch of pictures, and the one I did had my thumb across the bottom, but the iPhone wouldn’t do it justice anyway. I have those spectacular views embedded in my mind’s eye.
My son and me taking a ski selfie.
I felt a bit wobbly at first, as did my son, but soon we got up to speed and our skis were like old friends we’ve lost touch with but when you get together again, it’s like no time has lapsed. We skied most of the day with our friend from Santa Barbara and raced down the slopes maybe not like pros, but better than I anticipated. After not skiing for so many years, it felt amazing. For some silly reason, I had decided I was too old and that my ski days were behind me. When I was younger–before I was a wife, mother or a writer–I was a skier, sort of like how my daughter identifies as a swimmer. Giving it up, was like letting go of a small piece of my personality. It turns out I’m still a decent skier and my son and I have made a pact to ski together every year—as long as we can.
Rather than teaching my son’s girlfriend how to ski for her first time, we decided that she should enroll in a learner’s class. I think that was the best idea because I know how hard the first day of skiing can be for adults. We may have saved their relationship!
Today, I’m especially sore. Yikes, I do not remember this feeling from decades ago!
Two days ago, I really stepped out of my comfort zone and impulsively rented Nordic skis with my girlfriend. With all my downhill skiing days, I didn’t know there were Nordic centers where you can rent equipment, buy a pass and have trails to follow. It was awkward until I settled in and let go of my nerves. Then it became rhythmic and restful, all the time breathing the fresh outdoor air. It reminded me of swimming freestyle with the breathing patterns, alternating limbs and physicality. They’re very similar.
I think cross country skiing is something I’d like to do more of. It’s less exhilarating than downhill skiing, but it’s more peaceful and quiet. I love downhill skiing too and am so glad to have more days of skiing ahead.
Tracks at the Nordic Center.
How are you starting off your New Year? Have you ever returned to an activity you gave up years ago?
That was a question for New Year’s Eve 2017. Not 2020. Now for the bad ending to the adventure, which was so 2020. Read it here.
Did you know there is a private Facebook group called Leaving California? I’m not sure how I ran across it, but before we made the move, I signed up. I was surprised to find out there are more than 30,000 members!
Scrolling through the posts made me feel sad in the beginning. I wasn’t convinced I wanted to leave. I loved our home downtown Palm Springs. We were two blocks from restaurants, shops and our views were breathtaking.
To add to my uncertainty, my “adult children” were beyond furious. That was the only home they’ve known prior to moving away for college and their adult lives. They both believe we made the biggest mistake in our lives by selling our home. It does have “location, location, location.” It is beautiful. But it also had its downsides. It was rustic without many modern amenities like closet space or a roomy kitchen. I was always freezing and my fingers went numb. It was big on charm, though. It was also big on expense. For some reason — partly because it’s located in California and also that it was built in the 1930s — it was terribly expensive to keep up.
The kids were so angry with us that they didn’t speak to my husband or me for a bit. This made me more sad. We invited them to come home to say good-by. We also asked the buyers if we could stay for one last Christmas. They said, sure, no problem — $8,000 and Christmas was ours. We passed and decided to bite the bullet. We left our home close to 30 days of selling.
I bring this up about my kids because I noticed this week on the Facebook Leaving California page, that a lot of people are going through the same thing with their adult children. The latest post garnered close to 400 comments. Most said “Tell them to buy it if they want it.” Others were a little more understanding to the kids’ feelings.
I understand how my kids feel. My mom had to sell our childhood home, which was gorgeous with stunning views, too. Unfortunately, she had to sell after she and my dad divorced and she could no longer afford the expenses. I can tell you, that was an extremely upsetting way to lose my childhood home — and my nuclear family. I felt like my world turned upside down and there was no gravity to keep me on the planet.
My husband felt our kids were acting spoiled. They weren’t entitled to the house. He said he’d been working since age 13 and didn’t want to work until the day he died to pay to live in our home. Although, he’s still working now in our new home, there will come a day in a couple years where he won’t have to.
My kids are coming to accept our new reality. I’m looking forward to COVID-19 vaccines and their visits to our new home. I can’t wait to show them the hiking trails we’re discovering, the quail running through our backyard and the sunsets and sunrises.
Nothing can take away all the great memories we had of 28 years living there. I truly believe that home is not a structure, but is with the people who love you.
What are your thoughts about selling a childhood home? Would your kids understand? How did you feel when your parents did the same?
The first few days after moving were filled with the basics — finding all our kitchen things and getting the heart of our home established. After that, we moved onto the bedroom. I was overwhelmed with wardrobe boxes and bins of clothes. Why did I have so many clothes and why did I move it all from California to Arizona? How many swim t-shirts does one need? I’ve already sewn several quilts out of them for my kids. What to do now? I found a home for some and took a bunch of clothes to the local Kiwanis market.
Olive Bear found a safe space inside our closet.
Now that we’ve been in our house for 18 days, I’m down to the nitty gritty. Our guest room still has unopened boxes labeled “photos,” “stuff in frames” and “photo albums.” The plan is to scan in photos I want to keep and throw the rest out.
I’ve filled the dresser in the guest room with stuff I don’t know what to do with. There’s a drawer filled with cords from HMD1 to extension cords and cords of no known use. The same dresser drawer was filled with these cords in my son’s room in California. I think today is the day to make some decisions on cords I need and can use. Or, I can just throw the whole mess out and not waste my time.
The question is why did I move a mess of stuff I have no use for, but cannot part with? And why can’t I? Maybe today is the day.
Morning walk views of saguaro.
Any suggestions on how to get rid of stuff I don’t have a place for is much appreciated.