Letting go — or losing control?

my son with swim teammates hanging on the lane line
My son in front hanging on the lane line with his teammates.

Six years ago, I debated the question if there was a difference between letting go and losing control. If you’re a parent of kids who have flown the nest — or are getting ready to — you’ll recognize these feelings.

Take a look at what I wrote about this. At that point in my parenting life, I wanted what was best for my children and felt like I had all the answers. However, looking back, my kids needed to make their own decisions and find their own paths. It was time for me to let go.

As an empty nester, there are times I wish I had more control over my kids’ lives. I don’t have much anymore. I remember the days when they’d actually do what I asked. They believed the same way I did about everything including religion, politics and entertainment.

They watched the movies I’d check out from the library, and because I picked them out, they loved them. One day my son asked, “Mom, do they make movies without singing and dancing?” Yikes. I guess I was a little too into musicals. I am happy, though, that my kids got to experience that slice of Americana. Many millennials never learned the words to “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe” from “The Harvey Girls.” My aunt was surprised when my son invited her to watch a movie. She was expecting Disney or Barney. She was thrilled to watch “Meet Me in St. Louis” with him.

brother and sister at the beach
Back when I got to pick out the movies.

Somewhere along the line of those perfect days, I lost control. Today, my kids have their own opinions about religion, politics, and life in general that are decidedly different than mine.

For example, I wanted to tell my son to pursue a career in business or law. My husband and I sent him job openings in the Bay area where he lives. (FYI, We don’t want him to live that far away. We don’t like how expensive it is. It’s all wrong to us.)

Did he listen? He’s polite. Every time I texted a job opening, he thanked me and said, “that’s a good idea.” Then he did what he wanted. He applied to teach at one of the worst school districts where the standardized test scores were 2 in Math and 7 in English. (Those numbers are not out of 10, but out of 100.) He decided to teach — instead of what I want him to do — and in one of the most difficult situations possible. He thought it would be a challenge.

My son giving the valedictorian speech.
High school graduation speech.

I couldn’t stop him. He had to live his own life and learn his own life lessons. There’s absolutely nothing I could say about it. I needed to learn to let go since I had lost control anyway. I am proud that he’s an adult with his own dreams and goals.

kids andmoms at the beach.
The gang in Laguna Beach. Me and my good friend Elaine with our kids and a few more we took along with us for a beach day.

UPDATE: The teaching job proved to be more difficult than my son could handle. Issues included students who had no support in learning from their families. A counselor entered my son’s classroom and told the students they didn’t have to listen to my son. The final straw was when he reported a student for truancy and he learned the student was deported. He felt beyond guilty.

He’s been working for a tech startup for several years. He’s able to use his Math and English skills. The company has a good work/life balance and he likes the people he works with.

So much for mom and dad telling him what to do and what path to take. On the bright side, I’ve learned to step back and let my kids be who they are.

When have you questioned if you’re losing control or letting go? What difference do you see between the two? What situations in your own life made you realize it was time to let go?

A disagreement over the cat

pretty kitty
Olive Bear is now an indoor cat.

My husband and I disagree about shaving Olive. She’s a long-haired cat and is shedding like crazy. Our kids are coming to visit us soon. Our son is super allergic. My husband thinks I should take Olive to a groomer and get her a lion cut. That it will help our son’s allergies.

I googled about shaving cats and it’s mostly negative. The sources said you CAN get a cat shaved, but it’s not a great idea.The hair protects cats from heat and cold. Their fur is their natural insulation. Getting shaved is something I know my cat will freak out about.

She’s a scaredy cat and doesn’t like anyone except for me, my husband and my daughter. When people come over, she hides. When we leave for more than a few days, she is boarded. Olive howls the entire few miles drive in the car. She demolished the cardboard carrier I bought at PetSmart with her claws and teeth. The employees in the boarding place were afraid to get her out of her “suite.” when I came to pick her up. I had to do it. Then the cardboard carrier collapsed as I walked to the car. It was a frightening experience for both me and Olive.

So, how do you think Olive will feel driving to a pet groomer, being around strangers and barking dogs to be groomed? Once she gets home I’m sure she’ll hide away for weeks. She’ll be super mad.

I think you can tell who has won the debate on whether or not Olive gets a haircut.

What are your thoughts about getting a cat groomed? Should we or shouldn’t we?

cat walking on window pane
Olive at our old home where she was an indoor outdoor cat.

Boomers: Don’t call your child’s boss!

Brother and sister
My kids who are now in the workforce. No, I don’t call their offices.

I was looking back to March 2020 on my blog, right when we were getting worried about COVID. I found this blog post I wrote back then and thought it was a strange enough topic to post again:

This is an actual memo that went out to a company this week. I am not making this up. My daughter sent this to me and said “You boomers are wildin’!” She was shown this by one of her coworkers who said it was sent to one of his family members at work.

It has come to my attention that we have had over 10 calls from parents about various subjects as it relates to their kids.

You are adults now and your job is YOUR responsibility. If you have a concern or need more information about the Coronavirus, 401k, Benefits or anything else that relates to work you need to communicate with your manager. If you can’t or don’t feel comfortable talking to your manager then please talk with HR.

I DO NOT want to hear again that someone’s parent called in HR or anyone else at our company for that matter to ask a question. You need to step up and be the responsible one as this is your job and you are an adult.

If your parent calls in that will be your final day.

Isn’t that something? Who are these parents? I would never, ever call my children’s HR or workplace. Of course we all want to know how our children’s companies are handling the coronavirus but I rely on my kids to let me know. For example, my son’s company has everyone working remotely.

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What are your thoughts about a company having to issue a memo like this? Have you or do you know anyone that would call the company their child works for?

What a week

Sunrise in Berkeley from the front steps
Sunrise from my son’s porch Thursday morning.

I arrived in Berkeley Saturday night to help my son for a week post surgery.

I called my husband repeatedly who remained at home. Normally, I talk to him lots of times each day when we’re apart. Even when he went into an office for work, we called each other several times a day. When I hadn’t heard from him in 20 hours — I was worried.

Finally, he called me back and he sounded horrible. He said his throat felt like razor blades and he was congested and had aches and pains.

He called his doctor for an appointment when he felt even worse. No appointments available for two weeks. You know where this is headed, right? He found a tele-med appointment and called me Thursday morning at 6:30 a.m. — after his appointment. The diagnosis was Omicron. (Razor blades painful sore throat is the number one symptom.)

I was sitting in my son’s house with the kids begging me not to go home to my COVID-infected husband and house. They want me to stay. I’m sure my son and his girlfriend welcome my help, but don’t want me to catch the virus, either.

I’m terribly worried about my husband all alone in the state of Arizona with COVID. He’s already sicker than I remember him ever being.

We’ve been double vaxxed and boosted.

The kids received rapid tests from Amazon and they made me take one. It was the longest ten minutes waiting for the line to appear on the test.Two lines COVID, one line Negative. I cooked my son his slow cooking oats — waiting for the results to show.

Negative.

My husband works remotely from home. I’m home all the time. We’re together whenever we go out — at least this has been our standard operating procedure since COVID hit the country and we moved to a new state. How did my husband get it and not me?

I went back and forth on whether I should stay in California for a few more days, or whether I should take a flight back immediately. I finally decided to stick to the original plan and to take my noon flight home today. I’ll take a Lyft from the airport and move into the casita. Hopefully far enough away to not catch Omicron, but close enough to be there if my husband needs medical help.

What a stressful scary day. The other weird thing is when COVID hit so close, I felt like we had done something wrong. Like we’re guilty or dirty. I never felt that way with the flu or a cold. I think it’s because there’s so much politics going on with this virus.

If anyone in your family or close friends have gotten COVID, did they have a mild case or was it severe? How long did the symptoms last? Did part of your family get it but not everyone?

Another week, another surgery

Rainbow in Santa Barbara during Christmas week.
A rainbow over the Christmas week VRBO.

This week I’m back taking care of my son in the Bay Area. He had surgery a few days ago. He heard the garbage truck coming, realized he forgot to take out the bins and raced down the stairs, breaking his foot. The last time I was here taking care of him, he had shoulder surgery from overuse injuries caused by swimming and rowing. That was several months ago, but not long enough for him to be healed and to be able to use crutches.

At Christmas week in Santa Barbara in the VRBO, he stayed on the main floor with us (mom and dad) and scooted around the kitchen and living room on his knee scooter. The main floor had the master bedroom and a small second bedroom. The rest of the “kids” — ages 21 to 34 — were on the lower level and out by the pool. I can only imagine how frustrating it was for him to be stuck with mom and dad.

He made the best of it and hopped down the spiral staircase a couple of times so he could sit with everyone by the pool.

I’m not sure what this week will bring. I’m sitting in his living room while he sleeps on the sofa with a cast on his foot. He has to return to remote work so I may be sitting quietly by getting ice for the ice machine and filling his water glass.

I brought a book I thought I’d read while I hang out in his house this week. But I finished more than half of it during during the plane ride. (Chanel Cleeton’s “When We Left Cuba.”) The good news is he and his girlfriend were Literature majors and they have a nice supply of books. I don’t need to get worried about finding another book to read.

shelves full of books and a knee scooter
Books and the knee scooter in my son’s living room.

What are you reading now? Have you taken care of your adult kids after surgery? We went out to dinner with friends the night before I left and they said they’d never do it. That their kids are on their own. What are your thoughts about that?

Mourning the good old days

Coit Tower with kids
Last year we were climbing Coit Tower together on a trip to visit our kids.

I’ve learned that our adult children no longer hold things of value that we do. It’s distressed me to learn that the years I spent raising my kids that I view as some of the best — they don’t view the same way.

The values I worked to instill in my kids — they don’t value.

I’m talking Family. Marriage. Home ownership. Religion.

How did we go wrong? Did I spoil them? Was I too strict? Was I too lenient? Did we empathize the wrong things?

Should I be thankful they have separated from us and are their own people with their own ideals? That they are adults with their own opinions? Or, should I be hurt that they find our traditional values to be worthless. Right now I’m feeling a mix of emotions.

All I want for them is to be happy and hopeful.They do believe in some of the things we tried to teach them. Honesty. Hard work. Perseverance. Those things stuck. Don’t get me wrong. We still can spend time together, talk and have good conversations. I’m just feeling sad that everything I want for them they don’t care about.

Do your kids value the same things you do? What do you want for your children’s futures? At what point did your kids break away from you politically, religiously or in other ways?

Why are kids taking longer to grow up?

My husband and I were talking about where our kids are in their lives, some of their friends, and it seems like back in our day — kids grew up faster.

Have you noticed that our adult children are taking longer to fly the nest than previous generations? When I was young, it was common for kids to leave home after high school graduation. In my hometown, many got married after high school or college and started their families by their early 20s. Today, it seems kids aren’t grown up without our support until mid to late 20s. Add the pandemic to the mix, and I’ve read that more adult children than ever have moved back in with mom and dad.

high school students prom picture
Senior prom–the kids got together in person.

Several articles published reference a study by San Diego State University professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge. She studied millions of kids to come up with the fact that millennials are taking longer to grow up than previous generations. Twenge doesn’t make a judgment on whether that’s good or bad, she just states it as a fact.

In a talk I attended a few years ago for my daughter’s college, in one of the sessions led by an Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, Psychologist Kari Ellingson said the same thing. She said when we were young, kids matured into adults at age 19, 20 and 21. Today, those numbers are delayed to 26, 27 and 28.

In an article from the New York Times, called “The curse of the helicopter parent” Twenge and her study are cited:

New York – Parents may still marvel at how fast their children grow up, but a new study finds that US teenagers are maturing more slowly than past generations.

In some ways, the trend appears positive: high school children today are less likely to be drinking or having sex compared with their counterparts in the 1980s and 1990s.

But they are also less likely to go on dates, have a part-time job or drive – traditional milestones along the path to adulthood.

So is that slower development “good” or “bad”? It may depend on how you look at it, the researchers say.

The findings, published online in the journal Child Development this week, are based on surveys done between 1976 and 2016.

Together, they involved more than 8 million US children in the 13-19 age group.

Over those years, the study found, teenagers gradually became less likely to try “adult” activities – including drinking, having sex, working, driving, dating and simply going out (with or without their parents).

By the 2010s, only 55% of high school seniors had ever worked for pay – versus roughly three-quarters of their counterparts in the late 1970s to the 1990s.

Similarly, only 63% had ever been on a date. That compared with 81% to 87% of high school seniors in the 1970s through 1990s.

In the San Diego Tribune, contact reporter Bradley J. Fikes wrote: “Teens are growing up more slowly — and they seem OK with it.”

Mid- to -late teens are delaying the classic milestones of adulthood, namely working, going out without their parents, driving, dating, having sex, and drinking alcohol, according to four decades of surveys reviewed for the study, led by San Diego State University professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge.

Today’s 18-year-olds exhibit similar milestone behaviors as did 15-year-olds in the late 1970s, Twenge said. Moreover, they’re mostly doing this voluntarily — parents aren’t imposing this delayed independence.

The spread of smartphones, which allow teens to socialize from the safety of their homes, is part of the explanation, said Twenge. The author of “Generation Me,” she has released a new book on the generation born after 1995 called “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.”

When I look back on my teenage years compared to my kids, we had a whole lot more freedom. We were out all the time and our parents didn’t seem to care where we were. In fact, my parents were enjoying weekends on our boat or at the cabin and would leave my brother and me alone when we were teens. The same was true for a lot of my friends’ parents, as well. They didn’t keep track of us on a minute by minute basis. They also didn’t track us on “find my iPhone” or other tracking apps. There weren’t any cell phones to call home and they told us to be home by a certain time.

I wonder how much influence our technology has today over our kids not growing up so fast? They aren’t getting together with friends to interact in person. They can do that from the comfort of their own bedrooms. Plus, they have all the entertainment they can consume, right on their iPhones. We helicopter parents keep a close eye on our kids and we know where they are at all times. By contrast, our parents told us to get outside and not come back until dinner. Between us and iPhones, our kids aren’t getting real-world experiences.

Everyone I knew growing up had some sort of part-time job in high school–even if it was working for their family’s business. I worked in my dad’s dental office and my brother bagged groceries at the local Safeway. Today, I know of very few kids with part-time jobs. My own son worked several jobs, but he was one of the few. He was an assistant lifeguard, then a coach for our team. He tutored in math and was paid to maintain a website. Very few of my kids’ friends had jobs after school. Teens today must not need to earn money because we are providing for all their needs and wants.

On the bright side, it’s good our kids aren’t running around at night unsupervised, drinking and having sex as teens. Also, they actually like hanging out with their parents!

mother and daughter sailing
Hanging out together in the summer.

Here’s a story I wrote that included psychologist Jean M. Twenge.

What are your thoughts about why kids are not growing up as fast as we did? What difference do you see between your life as a teen or 20 year old and your kids?