Letting go of perfection during the pandemic

Reading my daily dose of “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again,” a book on igniting the creative spirit by Julia Cameron, I learned that perfectionism blocks creativity. The need to be perfect is counter to being messily creative. I struggle with perfectionism and it leads to writing blocks. I can’t get started or continue with a project because it doesn’t seem good enough.

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I read several parenting articles that shared this same philosophy of letting go of perfectionism. The pandemic is making parents let their parenting ideals go. Just surviving through the day, working from home, home schooling, and going on month seven of being cooped up in their homes gives them a fresh perspective on what “good” parenting looks like.

Here’s an excerpt from CNN.com It’s time to give up perfectionist parenting — forever. Here’s how by Elissa Strauss, CNN contributor. Click here to read the entire article.

Before the pandemic, many of us found ourselves doing a little more parenting than we knew we ought to be doing. Maybe we weren’t full-on “helicopters” or “snow plows,” and, no, we would never have done something illegal to try to ensure our kids’ success.

Still, many of our parenting decisions — especially those of us privileged enough to be making lots of choices about our children’s lives — were informed by more “shoulds” than “coulds.”

The diagnosis? Never-enough-itis. The symptoms? Busyness, guilt and deluding ourselves into thinking we could pull this off.

Our kids, the magical thinking went, would be wildly successful, self-motivated and down-to-earth, and we parents would remain balanced and happy. Rising income inequality, a lack of community and the increasingly winner-takes-all atmosphere in which we live didn’t help.

But now, the chaos and suffering brought on by Covid-19 have laid bare just how impossible our parenting standards are.

It has never been clearer how much is expected of parents, mostly moms, with little support from our workplaces and public institutions. Contrary to popular belief, moms are also subject to the time constraints created by the rotation of the planet. We too, only have 24 hours in a day.

Then there is the impact on our kids, our poor kids, who saw what little agency they had over their time and life choices go down the drain. Our children don’t need us pushing them to be shinier, more brag-worthy versions of themselves in this moment.

Two new books consider what perfectionist parenting does to the human brain, and what a relaxed, more compassionate parenting can look like for parents and kids. While both titles were written pre-Covid, their messages about privileging connection over perfection are more urgent than ever.

It’s hard to avoid perfectionism

Judith Warner, author of the recently published “And Then They Stopped Talking to Me: Making Sense of Middle School” had never intended to be a parent that pushed her kids too far.

“It was always my very conscious intent — my most precious hope as a parent, in fact — that my daughters would feel loved and valued for who they were and not what they accomplished,” Warner said of her daughters, now 20 and 23.

But even with the best of intentions, her kids got the wrong message anyway. This was partly from the world around them, which defined success in somewhat narrow terms: good grades, fancy college degree, followed by professional success. It was also because no matter how hard we try to say the right things, our children tend to be keen observers of our true, sometimes even unconscious, desires.

The second article I read, Leaning Into ‘Free-Range Parenting’ Has Helped Us Manage Our Pandemic Stress by I found at Scary Mommy. She talked about how the pandemic has allowed her to view life with her family in a different light. She’s letting go of her standards and surviving and connecting more with her kids.

Somehow, powered mostly by microwaved coffee and dirty sweatpants, we’ve managed to create a largely relaxed, playful, and even hopeful environment for our kids during this lockdown, more than I ever expected that we could. It hasn’t been easy most days, but we’re doing it. I don’t know exactly how we’ve managed to make this work more than not, but I think it boils down to becoming the kind of parents who learned early on to embrace the giant ass dumpster fire that was new parenthood, especially since it almost ate us alive a couple years ago. We moved from the West coast to New Hampshire in 2019 for my failing mental health and to finally have some family nearby to support us. We never planned on also hunkering down here during a global pandemic.

So what’s been our secret to getting through the endless season of coronavirus without our kids always feeling like it’s the literal end of times? We’ve lowered our standards of living even more, let our children really lead us for once, and kicked perfection out the door. We’ve also turned mask-wearing into a semi-fun game (who knew that was even possible?), navigated our children’s reactions to social distancing with a lot of hugs and empathy, and let go of needing everything to be okay right now. 

Have you found that you are letting go of perfectionism during the pandemic? If so, in what ways?

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Are Helicopter Parents Grounded During COVID-19?

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My favorite place to be a helicopter parent — at the beach.

In a Wall Street Journal article this week called Has Covid Brought an End to Helicopter Parenting? by Anne Marie Chaker, how parenting has changed due to Coronavirus is discussed. Not only are parents working from home, but they don’t have school or childcare to help take care of the kids. The result is relaxed parenting standards, like letting kids go out of the house unsupervised on their bikes and allowing more screen time.

Parents are tired. They are cooped up. They are letting go of their helicopter parenting tendencies. It’s called survival for many. In some ways this is a good thing for our kids, although the increased screen time doesn’t sound like a benefit.

Here’s an excerpt:

Kim Lucasti recently made a parenting decision she never would have permitted before the coronavirus pandemic: She let her 14-year-old daughter ride a bike into town without an adult alongside her.

In the past couple of months, Ms. Lucasti, who lives in Longport, N.J., has given more freedom to her teenage daughter and 12-year-old son. It’s partly because the kids are restless without their usual scheduled activities, and also because she needs space to handle her own tasks. “I have never left my kids alone in the house so much,” she says. Gone are the days of helicopter parenting: “I have let the helicopter down,” she jokes.

Doctors see benefits in giving kids greater independence and freedom to make decisions. It would mark a departure from the hypervigilant approach adopted by many parents since the 1990s, which critics said harmed kids’ ability to develop problem-solving skills, navigate conflict on their own, and create an identity separate from their parents.

But with a less hands-on style come other concerns: Unrestricted screen time, which doctors worry can lead to inactivity, sleep disruption and anxiety. And the pandemic has brought myriad other stresses into family life—a lack of routine, schooling and socialization among them—whose long-term consequences remain to be seen.

About half of 2,067 adults said they are allowing their children to go to bed later (46%), wake up later (51%), and are allowing more screen time (49%), according to a May survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the University of Phoenix. A separate poll found that nearly 30% of parents said their child-rearing styles are at least somewhat or much more relaxed than normal, according to a June survey of nearly 900 parents by Pittsburgh-based consumer-research firm CivicScience.

This parenting sounds like more of throw back to how I was raised. We could leave the house after breakfast, return for a sandwich at lunchtime and the only rule was to be back home at dark. When we lived in town, we played in each other’s yards, and dusk often brought a game of “work up” softball with kids of all ages playing in our dead end street.

In second grade, we moved to “the country” and we’d ride our bikes for miles and miles to visit friends, or go on a scenic loop along the river. Or, my brother and I would be armed with machetes chopping our way through berry brambles to forge a trail and build forts in the woods.

My parents didn’t seem to care where we were as long as we were home for dinner. The one thing mom did have control of when I was very young was screen time. Back then screens were a TV with less than a half dozen stations. Mom allowed two half-hour shows on PBS per day.  I remember the weird feeling at 3 p.m. in the middle of a game of touch football or tag, the neighborhood kids would run home to watch “Dark Shadows.” Of course, we were not allowed to watch that show. Oh well. When we were in junior high, our parents gave up on screen time, too.

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Me and my brother when screen time was limited, but we could play outside all day long.

How has your parenting changed with COVID-19?

True Confessions of a Former Helicopter Mom

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine years ago.

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine years ago.

There’s a study from BYU that says that helicopter parents are hurting their kids. You can read more about it here.  The study says that even loving parents don’t make up for the damage inflicted by excessive hovering.

I don’t know if I’d call myself a helicopter parent or not. My kids would probably say yes, but as one swim coach told my daughter, we are far from the worst parents he’s met.

To try and determine my status I took this quiz from the Christian Science Monitor.

I earned Terra Firma.

13e7cdf4346de40aade6db55399ea91eMy two kids are so different, I question if I parented them differently? I feel like I helicoptered my first born, and was more laid back with the second. The result is one more dependent and one independent.

I used to boil my son’s binky’s after they hit the ground for a good five minutes. I’ll never forget that smell of burning rubber when the water boiled away. The joke my husband used to tell was that with our second child, I asked the dog to “fetch” the binky.

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Binky’s

When my son was born, I worked on my writing and PR business from home. I thought I could full-time parent and work simultaneously. I didn’t take into consideration that clients would want to me run over for meetings without notice.

Then, Robert went mobile. He was crawling around. Spitting-up on my keyboard.

Nope, full-time work and stay-at-home parenting didn’t work out well for me. I hired a full-time babysitter and then became jealous every day they left for the park.

Three years later, when my daughter was born, the full-time help was gone, and I switched to part-time work. I was able to spend time with the kids, and do a little work, too. It was a nice balance.

Early on, I volunteered in my son’s classroom. I corrected papers, taught computers, writing. Anything they’d let me do. I’ll never forget arguing with his second-grade teacher over the word “artic.” After all, I had drilled him the night before on the continents. “It’s arctic,” the teacher told me. Oops.

My son constantly asked me to bring things to school. Papers he forgot. Projects left behind. I always dropped what I was doing and drove to school—including during his senior year! I can’t believe I did that! I did not do that for my daughter. Mostly, because she never asked.

I helped out with her schooling, too. But, in her elementary school years, it was limited to driving for field trips and special events.

I have one child that now calls whenever there is a problem. His face pops up on my phone and I automatically ask, “What’s wrong?” A broken computer, a fender bender, a parking ticket. It’s always something. Of course, there are exceptions—he aced a test, or got asked to be a guest speaker by the Dean at a fundraiser.

My daughter calls once a week or so to talk to tell me how she’s decorating her room, about a backpacking trip to hot springs, or that she had a good workout.

Maybe the difference between my kids is this: they are entirely two different people, with different goals, personalities, and interests. 

As far as my being a helicopter parent? I think I improved over the years.

My two kids.

My two kids.

How do you define if you’re a helicopter parent? What things have you done that are over the top?

What are the worst sports-parenting mistakes?

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I was listening to a webinar from “Growing Champions for Life” sports parenting expert David Benzel and he went through a list of nine of the worst sports parenting mistakes. It was during a talk about whether to push our kids in sports–or not.

Who is David Benzel? He’s a former sports parent himself, whose kids were athletic, loved their sports and made it to the pros—as he says—in spite of him. He felt like kids were coached in sports, but felt he was sorely lacking in knowledge about being a sports parent. He said that he and his wife changed throughout the years and now he coaches sports parents in many different sports including gymnasts, tennis, baseball and swimming.

I discovered Benzel on USA Swimming and have read his book from Chump to Champ, plus I have several copies of his little booklet “5 Powerful Strategies for Sport Parent Success” lying around the house in case I need a refresher.

I too changed through the years as I learned from my swim mom mistakes. I continued to grow as a parent, and looking back there are many things I’d never dream of doing today that I thought were perfectly normal years ago.

The list of 9 awful things sports parents do that Benzel presented was from the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University. 

Here’s the list:

ONE
Exhibit an outcome orientation.

TWO
Are critical, negative and overbearing.

THREE
Apply pressure to win or perform.

FOUR
Make sports too serious.

FIVE
Are over-involved and controlling.

SIX
Compare child to other athletes.

SEVEN
Distract child during competitions.

EIGHT
Restrict player’s social life.

NINE
Too much sports talk.

Between me and my hubby, I think we’ve got this list covered. We’ve been guilty of every single one on the list.

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Junior Olympics for my daughter.

How many on this list have you done? What are things you’ve done in the past as a parent that you wouldn’t do now?

When Parents Do Too Much for Their Kids

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My young Piranhas. They are never too young to learn responsibility for their actions.

I read an interesting article that a friend posted on FB called “8 Things Kids Need to Do By Themselves Before They’re 13” by Amy Carney. Carney is the mother of triplet teen boys and two other younger children and she’s got parenting down.

Her article listed things that parents need to stop doing or we won’t have independent well-functioning kids. I thought it made some really good points, and I wish I would have heard about this list before my kids were in middle school. I have been known to bail my kids out, rushing to school with their forgotten homework or lunches. Their lack of planning on big projects became my emergencies and stress. I wasn’t helping them at all by picking up the pieces. In truth, I bailed out one child more than the other, and that child almost failed out of college his freshman year. He was not ready to go because I was doing everything for him, including waking him up in the morning.

Here are four of the eight things on her list. To read her complete list click here.

1. Waking them up in the morning
2. Making their breakfast and packing their lunch
3. Filling out their paperwork
4. Delivering their forgotten items

Monday morning we pulled out of the driveway and screeched around the corner of the house when daughter dear realized she forgot her phone. “We have to go back, Mom!” Another exclaimed that he forgot his freshly washed PE uniform folded in the laundry room. I braked in hesitation as I contemplated turning around. Nope. Off we go, as the vision surfaced of both of them playing around on their phones before it was time to leave.

Parents don’t miss opportunities to provide natural consequences for your teens. Forget something? Feel the pain of that. Kids also get to see, that you can make it through the day without a mistake consuming you.

We also have a rule that Mom and Dad are not to get pleading texts from school asking for forgotten items. It still happens, but we have the right to just shoot back “that’s a bummer.”

What happens when we do too much for our kids? In my opinion, they aren’t allowed to grow up. They have no consequences for their actions or lack of action. They don’t know how to plan, be responsible or own up to their mistakes. If you’re a parent who is continually jumping in to save your child, stop. You can’t move into the college dorm with them and by then it’s too late.

 

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When they were young and at the beach.

Both of my kids swam from elementary school through high school and one continued in college. I liked having my kids in year-round swimming because it taught them there was a direct correlation between their actions (how hard they tried) and outcomes (getting faster.) Also, practice every day, six days a week with a few doubles thrown in, taught them time management. They were responsible for their own equipment, too. There are tons of life lessons in the pool. But, because of how busy and dedicated they were, I overcompensated in other areas of their lives.

 

Here are a couple of SwimSwam articles I wrote on the subject:

In 11 Tips for Parents on What Our Kids Need to Know Before College, I have created a list of life skills that we should check off before the kids move out.
In 12 Hints You Might Be a Hovering Helicopter Swim Parent, I write about the little things we do for our kids without a second thought, that will put them at a disadvantage when they move away.
What are your thoughts about getting kids ready for the real world? Are we helping or hurting our kids by doing too much for them?

Boomers: Do Not Call Your Child’s Office

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

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. I’m really ashamed to be in the same generation with these people. How will these kids ever make it in the world?

IMG_0279What are your thoughts about a company having to issue a memo like this?

How to Raise Fragile and Entitled Kids

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If only I knew then what I know today.

There’s always a new article about how helicopter parents are failing their kids. I read one today that not only pointed out how badly our kids will do when we do too much for them — including higher occurrences of anxiety and depression — but it turns out parents suffer from our own helicopter parenting, too. Yes, I’m guilty and I’m suffering, too.

When we are helicopter parents, we tend to worry more and also experience higher levels of stress and anxiety. The key is to let our kids fail and learn how to handle disappointment and difficult situations. When we solve everything for them, we rob them of the ability to learn from mistakes and practice problem solving.

Here’s an article I read today by Ana Aznar, who is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Winchester, called How Over-Parenting Harms Your Kids by Making Them Fragile and Entitled. Click here to read the entire article.

I liked this paragraph and felt is really summed it up:

Life inevitably brings problems and disappointment. It is better to teach children how to face these issues rather than to solve all their problems for them. By doing so, parents will help children to develop resilience and the ability to deal with frustration – tools that will allow them to thrive once they leave the parental home.

When I watch one of my kids struggle with problems at work, friends or roommates, I want to kick myself. Did I rob them of the ability to handle these issues that inevitably are going to happen? By trying to make life perfect for them, I didn’t help them in the long run.

Here are a few more excerpts from the article:

During the last couple of decades, new types of parents have emerged. From the anxiously involved helicopter parents to the pushy tiger mums, these differing styles all have one thing in common: they tend to involve over-parenting. This is where parents micromanage their children’s lives – giving them little autonomy, putting too much pressure on them to achieve academic and personal success, while allowing few chances for their children to experience failure and frustration.

These are the parents who run back to school when their children forget their sports kit, do their homework, and ask others in the parent WhatsApp chat for the homework when their child does not bring it home. These parents believe their children are always right. They will confront teachers if the child feels they have been unfairly treated, or will confront other parents if, say, their child is not invited to a party.

Most of the research on over-parenting has focused on how it has affected university students. But the link between over-involved parents and negative consequences is found when examining children of all ages. Indeed, pre-school and primary school children of over-involved parents tend to experience high levels of shyness, anxiety and poor peer relations.When examining adolescents and university students, these negative consequences continue.

For example, 16 to 28 year-old students who reported having helicopter parents were more likely to have low levels of self-efficacy – the trust that people have in their own abilities and skills – and poor relationships with their peers.In similar research, young people who reported having over-involved parents experienced higher levels of depression and stress, less satisfaction with life, as well as less ability to regulate their emotions. They also reported a higher sense of entitlement, and increased drug use than young people with less involved parents.

Here are a few of the problems over-parenting can cause us:

Bad for parents too

Over-parenting does not only have negative consequences for the children, though. Parents who over-parent are more likely to experience high levels of anxiety, stress and regret. This in turn has negative consequences for their children, who may pick up on their parents’ anxiety and make it their own.

This may be one of the reasons why the number of university students struggling with anxiety and depression is at an all-time high. Indeed, a recent poll concluded that one in five university students in the UK suffers from high anxiety levels.

So, should all parents back off and not get involved in their children’s lives? Not quite. Because to make matters more complicated, research clearly shows that children who have involved parents tend to do better at school, have higher levels of self-esteem, and better peer relations than children whose parents are not as involved.

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If you were guilty of being a helicopter parent, have your kids experienced problems because of over-parenting?