It’s All About Friends

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My daughter diving off the blocks at the Pac-12 Championships.

I spent 10 days in the Seattle area last week. I had two intentions for my trip. The first was to watch my daughter in the Pac-12 Championships. I grew up in the area, so I extended my trip to visit a few days with family and friends.

What I discovered at the meet was a bunch of new friends! As a group of parents, we really got into the team spirit. I enjoyed meeting parents for the first time, and renewing friendships with others.

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Door decorations for our girls, thanks to a creative and organized Ute parent.

We were more organized this year, my second, at conference. Parents stayed in the same hotel so we ate breakfast together and sat together in the stands. We met with pompoms and cheers to send our swimmers off for finals. Then we hung out for happy hour and got to know each other better. I was impressed that some traveled as far as New Mexico, Texas, Georgia, Finland and Norway!

A shout out to my dad, who flew up with us from So Cal to watch his grand-daughter swim. He drove from my brother’s house, an hour each day, alone to sit with us and support her. For the past 8 or so years that he moved from the Seattle area to the desert of Palm Springs, he’s been a regular fixture at all her club and high school meets. The officials had a chair saved for him in a spot no other grand parent or parent was allowed to sit. Thanks, Dad! He’s over 80 by the way. So thankful and proud to have his support.

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My dad with his swimmer Ute grandchild.

Two friends from years’ past came to cheer for our daughter. That meant so much to us that they drove an hour to support her.

Then, after the meet, I stayed with another friend from college and it was so nice to catch up and see each other. After having been roommates with my two girlfriends, we have very easy, yet deep relationships. We may let years go by without a visit, but then the moment we’re together it’s as though we haven’t been apart a day.

I was so touched by my friends on this trip. I realize how important they are to me. I pledge to be a better friend and make more of an effort to visit, stay in touch and make dates to hang out.7999f5f1e5d933c7e407214c6b04db59

I also sat back and watched my daughter as she makes life-long friendships on this team. She met up with club teammates from other Pac-12 schools, too.

Our lives are made brighter with friends.

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My daughter and teammates cheering during the 200 fly.

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The Instant Gratification Generation and Helicopter Parents

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

The numbers don’t lie. ACT states that 50% of kids do not return to college for their second year, and then only 25% of those graduate in five years. US News and World Report, which ranks colleges annually, changed one of its measurements from a graduation rate of five years to six years! I don’t know about you, but I’d like to know the percentage of kids that get out in four!

Letting my kids play and be kids.

Letting my kids be kids.

I’ve given my two cents worth in Four Reasons Why Kids Fail Their Freshman Year. This time around, I asked Nicolle Walters, RN, PhD, Clinical Psychologist for her expertise. In addition to being a practicing therapist, she’s the mother of two kids in college about the same ages as mine.

Why do our kids have such a hard time once they’re away from us? They’ve worked so hard to fill their resumes with high grades, SAT scores, leadership, community service, sports, or music. Yet, these kids who look perfect on paper can’t handle the daily demands of life on their own. How much of the failure is our fault? 

According to Dr. Walters, our kids aren’t prepared for college. She said, “Part of the reason is our instant gratification society. They want everything right now—and get it with technology like streaming, etc. They don’t learn self discipline. They don’t have to wait for things, like we did.”

When parenting took all my time, but I was not interfering.

When parenting took all my time, but I was not interfering.

She said, “I know it sounds contrary or strange, but kids who come from dysfunctional families and had to take care of themselves are more equipped to deal with everyday problems, compared to kids who had parents who did everything for them.”

“Also, A lot of kids don’t learn how to work hard. If you’re smart, you don’t need to work hard in high school, and then aren’t prepared for college. Our kids need skills like planning ahead and self discipline.”

Here’s another thought she had, “College is totally different. Class time is switched and it’s the opposite of what they are used to. They are used to spending eight hours in class and studying a smaller amount of hours at night. In college it’s two or three hours a day of class, but they need to study for six to eight,” Dr. Walters said.

Today on TV, I heard a Stanford expert, Julie Lythcott-Haims, talk about her book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” She says we are literally ruining a generation of kids. She said it’s not just at Stanford, but in colleges throughout the country. You can read more here.

This week on SwimSwam I list the things we do for our kids that we need to stop doing. Like today.

We are smothering our kids and crippling their self development. I know this because I’m guilty of a ton of it. I’m looking back at how concerned I was with performance, how busy my kids’ lives were, and because of those two factors I jumped in and did too much for them.

My kids being kids. They're okay despite my hovering.

The kids are okay despite my hovering.

Here’re are links to a couple other stories I’ve written about getting our kids ready and self-sufficient for college:

My Confessions as a Helicopter Mom 

10 Things Our Kids Need to Know Before College

If we as parents are over parenting like the experts claim, then what should we do to help our kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts, too.

A few thoughts about college recruiting

Signing day.

Signing day, 2013.

Now that July 1 has passed, the magic date where coaches can start recruiting your kids for swimming, what happens next?

It’s been two years since my daughter went through that hectic, exciting, fun summer. Looking back here’s a few things to think about during recruiting season. My experience is specific to the sport of swimming for my daughter. Although my son swam, he opted out of swimming in college. He doesn’t regret it at all. So, remember, swimming in college isn’t for every kid. But if your swimmer is interested, here are my thoughts about the process. Many of these ideas will apply to other sports, too.

Make sure your swimmer replies to each call or email.

If your swimmer isn’t interested in a team, let the coach know quickly so he or she can focus energy on other swimmers.

My daughter and teammates at JOs a while back.

My daughter and teammates at JOs a while back.

If your swimmer does not hear from their dream team or some of the teams they are interested in—what do you do? I would suggest to your swimmer to send an email and tell the coach they are interested. Ask what the walk on times are, or what they are looking for. Maybe your swimmer will figure out why they haven’t been contacted.

Sometimes an email can get lost in the spam folder, or a coach may have overlooked your child. They may be happy to find out your swimmer is interested. Your swimmer has nothing to lose by writing an email.

I remember one of my daughter’s friends wanted to go to a certain PAC-12 school and she was so disappointed to not get an email or call from the team. After she did sign with a different PAC 12 university, she went through her spam folder and found an email from the coach of her dream school that she had not replied to! The good news is that she loves where she is and couldn’t be happier.

My daughter racing.

My daughter racing.

During recruiting, my daughter made a list of teams that contacted her. In each conversation with coaches, she wrote down notes of things that were important to her. She wanted to swim outside. She wanted a team with men and women. She hadn’t decided on a major yet, so that wasn’t part of her criteria, but for many swimmers it will be.

Each swimmer will have their own idea of what they’re looking for in a school and a team.

Does your swimmer want to be a big fish in a small pond? Or do they want to be pushed by faster swimmers? Do they want to be at a major university? Or a smaller private school? Are they set on D1 or D2? Don’t overlook the many amazing schools in D3, NAIA and NJCAA.

There are a lot of schools out there and swimming may open a door for your child to a school that would be more difficult to get into without their sport. My kids have friends that were accepted to great universities–John Hopkins and NYU–as swimmers. They had the grades and SATs to get in on their own. But coaches can “flag” athletes. It may be the deciding factor between your child and thousands of other great students.

My son listening to music at a meet.

My son listening to music at a meet.

There were a few schools I wanted my daughter to look at. I was so disappointed to hear my daughter tell the coach that no, she was afraid it wouldn’t be a good fit for her. But, remember, it’s your daughter or son’s college experience—not yours.

After the summer, your swimmer will decide on where to go for recruit trips. In D1, if the rules haven’t changed, they get to select up to five schools.

I’ve heard one coach say not to waste a school’s time or money if your swimmer knows they aren’t interested in a school. On the other hand, I’ve heard another coach say that it’s good to visit schools and get a feeling for the school. Your swimmer may fall in love with a program and school that they weren’t seriously considering before.

Super JOs.

Super JOs.

It also comes down to time. How hard is it to travel five weekends in the fall and miss practice and perhaps school, too? The trips may all run together in your swimmer’s mind. You may want to limit the number of recruit trips to two or three of the top choices. That’s what my daughter did.

The hard thing was when she came back and made her decision. She had to call the coaches of the schools she chose not to attend. The coaches were unbelievably gracious, professional and she would have been happy at any one of her top choices. That was a tough thing for her to do, but it was—as everything else about swimming—a learning experience and an opportunity to grow.

It may come down to a difficult decision. I remember one of my daughter’s club teammates choosing between USC, Berkeley, and Stanford. She couldn’t make a decision. I remember thinking—must be amazing to have such a choice!  She waited until Spring to sign. So, remember that’s an option too. If your swimmer hasn’t found the right school by fall, there’s another window of opportunity in the spring. Waiting until Spring may limit choices or scholarships, because rosters might be filled. It worked for my daughter’s teammate, though.

Wherever your swimmer ends up, be supportive. It’s an exciting time in your life and your swimmer’s. Be thankful they have this opportunity.

My daughter liked her green fuzzy robe better than the team parka.

My daughter liked her green fuzzy robe better than the team parka.

I Survived My Daughter’s First Year of College

My daughter's dorm at the U.

My daughter’s dorm at the U.

I can’t believe my daughter’s first year of college is over and my son is finishing his senior year! It’s been a strange year for me, being an ’empty nester,’ but a good one, too.

I’ve enjoyed having my own time to pursue my work without interruptions. I’ve made progress on several writing projects, plus I’ve established a good routine of writing, walking and swimming.

Signing day seems like yesterday!

Signing day seems like yesterday!

We loved visiting both kids this past school year. Santa Barbara is one of our favorite cities. Our son took time to spend with us, more than he has in the past three years. He even brought his girlfriend home for spring break.

Traveling for college meets was a blast. Our first dual meet was so exciting to watch! I will never forget my daughter swimming against Stanford in the 1000- and 500-yard free. I was a nervous wreck and I wondered why she had to swim such long races? It would be much easier getting through watching a 50 free than a 1000!

Last week, we drove up to Utah to move her out of her dorm room. A tiring 11-hour drive each way. I just want to know where did she get so much stuff? Did we pay for all of that? I couldn’t believe the trips we took of boxes, hanging clothes, mini-fridge, cleaning supplies, stuff and more stuff!

We moved the stuff into a house that she’s going to share with a few teammates. The landlord was kind enough to let us store her things inside, until her lease begins.

Still ahead, I have the adventure of furniture shopping with her. Yes, she’s going to need a bed, desk and a few more things. I hauled up my old pots and pans, dishes and towels for her house. After all, I have more than enough stuff in my house, too!

First, she’s home for a few days and we’ve got an action-packed schedule. Swim meet, visiting friends, vision and dental appointments, etc. I love having my kids home, but I’m also protective of my own time, too. I discovered that I enjoy my life as a mom, and also my life as an individual person, too.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the next few years are going to fly by!

Shopping at Target for the dorm freshman year.

Shopping at Target for the dorm freshman year.

One Parent Tip: Follow Your Own Advice

images-7I’ve written several articles about not focusing on your swimmer’s times.

I have a confession to make: I have been so worried about my daughter’s times this year. She was adding 30 seconds to her 1,000 and mile. And more than 15 seconds on her 500. I believe she was swimming times she had as a 13-14 year old and she’s a freshman in college!

Open Water Nats at Lake Castaic, July 2014. Photo by Anne Lepesant.

Open Water Nats at Lake Castaic, July 2014. Photo by Anne Lepesant.

Trust the coach. I have written that more than a few times. My husband and I tried to relax and not worry. But, why was she swimming so slow? I’ll admit it. I was freaking out.

The freshman year is a big adjustment. She not only had to get used to living away from home for the first time, i.e. taking care of the daily aspects of her life and school. She also had a major change in her workouts, was training at altitude, and started weight training.

At one of her last dual meets of the season, the head coach told us that Kat was doing very well. That the coaches could see the progress she was making in practice. That was reassuring to us. After all, we never watched her in practice. We only saw her in dual meets. And saw those times…

Two weeks later we were at her conference meet. It was shaved and tapered time. She got a best time in the 500 by two seconds. This was the first drop she had in that event in almost two years. Then she swam the mile and dropped a whopping 16 seconds.

But, who’s focusing on times? It’s more important that my daughter loves her teammates, her coaches, her classes and is having fun. Right?

Like I said before. Trust the coach. Don’t focus on the times.

Practice at the home pool.

Practice at the home pool.

Eight Thoughts About My First PAC-12 Champs Swim Meet

Olympic swimmers competing at the PAC 12s.

Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin competing at the PAC 12s.

1.  I couldn’t believe the conference meet was here already. What happened to my daughter’s first year of college swimming?

2.  I was surprised by how easy it was to find a seat. Coming from age group meets that are crawling with kids and parents and you have to squeeze to get a seat, it was a pleasant change. However, it did get more packed as the days passed and always at finals.

The crowd at the PAC 12s.

The stands at the PAC 12s.

3.  I still get nervous before Kat swims. Maybe it’s even worse than before. Especially at prelims. I thought I’d get over that queasy feeling, hand-shaking, palm-sweating attack. But, no I did not.

4.  I wanted to spend a little time with Kat. But, she’s on the deck with her team, and we’re up in the stands with the parents.

That's me up in the stands looking down on my daughter.

That’s me up in the stands looking down on my daughter.

5.  I have met some great swim parents on our new team. Don’t get me wrong, there are great families on our club team that I’m life long friends with. I’m thrilled to meet parents on the college team that are friendly and fun, too. I guess that’s what swimming parents are like.

6.  It’s fun to cheer at the PAC-12 conference, hold up signs, and wave pom poms. Kat would have killed me if I behaved that way at an age group meet!

7.  Now that it’s the last day of PAC-12s, I’m shocked at how fast the days went by. Do I really have to wait an entire year to experience this again?

8.  Looking down from the bleachers at my daughter, I’m amazed at how much she’s matured this year. She’s happy and comfortable with her new family, her college team. She has grown independent from us and she’s doing really, really well. I’m happy and proud, but I’m wiping a few tears from eyes, too.photo 2 (1)

Please Someone, Tell Me That It Will Get Better!

Disneyland 14 years ago. I remember a great mother-daughter day.

Disneyland 14 years ago. I remember a great mother-daughter day.

I was texting a friend whose life is pretty much on the same track as mine. We both have our youngest off to school–at the same university–and our oldest ones almost finished. We met at the University’s orientation last summer with our incoming freshman and went to many programs together. We realized we had met earlier in the spring at a high school swim meet.

A beach day with my daughter.

A beach day with my daughter.

My point is that our lives are eerily parallel. We both visited our youngest children this past weekend. We stayed in the same hotel and ran into each other a few times. My husband and I went to watch our daughter swim in two meets. They were there to spend time with their daughter and to celebrate a birthday.

I mentioned to this friend that I didn’t think I’d miss my daughter so much when it was time to leave. But, in reality it was worse this trip than on earlier ones. She said she felt the same way. I knew I’d be upset in August after we moved my daughter into the dorms and had to say good-bye. I wrote about that here. But, this was a close second in sadness. I had this awful lonely, empty heart. I sat in the airport with my husband feeling sorry for myself. I should have been feeling happy. My daughter is doing well in school, loves her team and has many friends.

Sailing in Santa Barbara with my daughter and friends.

Sailing in Santa Barbara with my daughter and friends.

Please someone, tell me that it will get better!

In about three weeks, I’m traveling to my daughter’s conference meet. It’s close by to my mom. I will enjoy and embrace sitting by my mom’s side in her assisted living facility. Despite the sour smell, the closed windows and her refusal to open the blinds. I’ll happily sit with her and watch all the reruns of Golden Girls that her heart desires. I hope I can make her day a little brighter. Just the way my daughter makes mine.

My mom and me. Before kids.

My mom and me. Before kids.