Not a helicopter, but a “bunny mom”

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My cutie pies.

A unique viewpoint in parenting was written by Dr. Danielle Teller, mother of four teens and published on NBC News. “In the age of the helicopter parent, why I gave my teens almost total control,” Teller describes how she and her husband decided to step back and let their kids find autonomy during the high school years, so they’d be independent by age 18.

This reminds me of my parents, who said their definition of parenting success was to let us fly from the nest. I recall them doing lots of activities together and my brother and I having an enormous amount of freedom. Most weekends my parents were fishing on our boat, visiting our cabin on the Stillaguamish River or exploring some other areas from Carmel, CA to Eastern Washington. My brother and I survived. We didn’t have parents telling us to fill out college applications or worrying about our homework. We both ended up in the top 10 of our classes and were accepted and graduated from the one college we applied to–the University of Washington.

By contrast, I hovered and cajoled my son and daughter over their busy, crammed packed schedules. My husband and I were fixtures around the pool watching them practice and compete. College applications I oversaw and made sure dates weren’t missed. The end result was—I believe—more anxiety and tougher times for my kids in college than what I experienced. Of course, it’s a different time and things are, well different!

Here are some excerpts from the article by Danielle Teller:

“It’s appropriate to nurture and protect teens from physical and psychological harm, but it’s not helpful to decide for them the course of their future.”

“My teenagers call me a bunny mom. Let me explain. We live in an affluent suburb with high-performing public schools, and many of our kids’ friends have tiger moms and helicopter dads who heavily police their children’s schoolwork, music practice, and extracurriculars in the hope that their offspring will go on to elite universities and professional success. My family, however, has adopted a different strategy.

“Several years ago, my husband and I sat our four kids down and explained that we weren’t going to parent them that way. We hoped that the rules we had enforced when they were preteens had instilled good habits, but once they got to high school, we were going to start to back off. We would no longer insist that they join a sports team, eat broccoli or play piano. We weren’t going to make their decisions for them or push them to succeed. We would provide guidance and support, and we would expect them to be good citizens at home and at school, but our goal was to gradually hand over the reins, so that by age 18, they would have complete control over their own lives.

“It wasn’t easy to hand over control. We could envision the mistakes and poor choices our children might make, and we had met the talented and ferociously hard-working peers they would eventually compete with for college admission and employment. But though we were nervous, we decided to take a light-touch approach for two reasons. First, it seemed most likely to produce happiness, and second, we weren’t convinced that intense parental involvement is key to long-term success. (Notice, too, that we are not conflating happiness with success.)

“It’s hard for parents to let go. Just as we protected our babies from sharp objects, we want to protect our teens from what we perceive as failure. Yet while it is appropriate to nurture and protect teens from physical and psychological harm as we did when they were younger, it is not helpful to decide for them the course of their future lives. As a so-called bunny mom, I have to bite my tongue when one of my children decides to stop taking math classes or quit the swim team. “You won’t achieve your full potential,” I want to say. But that shouldn’t be their goal in life any more than it is my main goal in life. Their goal should be to follow their own ambitions, wherever those may take them.”

I am impressed that these parents were able to let go during the high school years. It would take a lot of strength and conviction to not get caught up in what all the other parents were doing. They are successful professionals in their own right, and definitely not living vicariously through their kids.

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My daughter receiving ribbons from her first coach. I don’t think we ever missed our kids getting awards. 

What is your opinion of hovering over kids, versus a laissez-faire attitude?

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Three Things to Tell Your Daughter on Graduation Night

One year ago today….katwideToday my little girl graduates high school. What a joy she has been to raise, teach and hang out with. I remember her kindergarten interview where she had to be tested for one of the coveted spots at St. Theresa’s. She had fun buns on her head and ankle high “Britney Boots,” marketed for little girls dreaming of becoming Britney Spears. She boldly entered the kindergarten class and announced to the world that she was “Robert’s little sister.”

IMG_4888Today, I have a tall, wise-cracking young lady with a big smile and sparkle in her eye. If I could tell my daughter three things she needs to know for her next adventure called college, what would it be? 

katpromharryFirst…

“To thine own self be true.” Don’t worry about what other people think. Do what you know is right. This famous quote is from Polonius to his son Laertes, before Laertes boards a boat to Paris in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Even though it’s pretty old, it still resonates today.

katsurfSecond…

Happiness is not having a boyfriend or being thin. My mom would tell me the worst things when I was my daughter’s age — mainly focused on the need to “have a man” — or that “a man would make me happy.” This must be a throwback to my mother’s generation, where a woman’s identity and self worth were wrapped up in a spouse. Instead, I will tell my daughter that happiness is found within yourself — by doing something that you love. Once you find happiness in yourself, only then can you share it with others.

swimmer4Last…

Don’t worry about what your career or major will be. You will figure it out. Don’t feel pressure about it. Most people going into college that have a major, change their minds anyway. Get your basic requirements out of the way and then after taking different classes you will discover what you don’t like and what you do like.katandrobert

And most importantly, not even on the list — I love you.

What three things would you tell your daughter on graduation night?

It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood…

images-6I was taking care of my dad who had a shoulder replacement when it happened. We weren’t home from the hospital for one hour when I needed help. Somehow, he ended up sliding onto the floor and he couldn’t get up. I sure couldn’t get him up — and we had to keep his shoulder immobilized.

I didn’t think any of my neighbors would be able to help — except for the crazy guy down the street who brings his dog over to do his business on my lawn. But, after he called my daughter, who was 13 years old at the time, the B word and the C word — I try to avoid him.

images-2Besides the crazy guy who I don’t speak to, I realize I don’t know my neighbors. I recognize them and I wave as I drive by. But, I don’t really know them.

images-3It’s not like we’re new to the neighborhood. We moved into our home in 1992. The two neighbors I knew on a first-name basis — Vera and Betty — well, they died at least five years ago.

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I remember how it was different when I was young. We lived in a small house in a town of 5,000 residents. We knew everyone on the block — actually everyone in the whole town. During the summer, we weaved our way through each yard and kitchen in our neighborhood. We were offered an occasional cookie or popsicle. There was one house we avoided — Mr. Funk’s house. He’s the one with the cat trap in his back yard. I wrote about him in My Son Tried to Give Away the Cat on Facebook.

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Why don’t we associate with our neighbors, anymore? My mom and dad leaned over the fences and talked about their tomatoes with the next door and back door neighbors.

imgres-1We played work-up in the middle of the street after dinner until it got too dark to play.

imgres-4I miss those days.

If you’re wondering what happened to my dad, who had slipped to the floor in my living room, I called my husband who was at the beach with my daughter and her friend — a mere two hours away. He gave me a couple of choices. First, call 911. Second, wait two hours for their return. Or, my daughter piped in — call Karl.  Karl is a friend’s husband. I wrote about this friend in Alpha Moms and the Cupcake Wars. They don’t live in my neighborhood, but close by — and we’ve been friends for 12 years — fellow swim team, Catholic school, high school and NCL parents. Karl came over immediately and saved the day. 

images-4I guess we create our own neighborhoods with our interests and connections.

I have a question for you. Do you know your neighbors? Is this a phenomenon that is particular to my neighborhood that we aren’t very neighborly? Or is it a trend of today?

imagesSome of these photos are from my home town Snohomish, WA. Two are from my current neighborhood, the Old Movie Colony.

How Not to Get into College

swimmer2I was talking to my 82-year-old dad the other day about how one of my friend’s kids may have to decide whether to swim for his high school  — or not.

Our kids swim year-round for a USA Swimming club team. High school swimming is a fun experience that they look forward to and do in combination with their club team. Most high school coaches work hand-in-hand with the club coach — with the best interest of the swimmer in mind — but, sometimes the high school coach won’t.

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This is where my dad comes in. He said, “Then, he has to swim high school, because he certainly won’t get into college swimming for club.”

Wrong. It’s exactly the opposite. Very few high school swimmers get into college based on their high school swimming experience. USA Swimming coaches set long term goals for their athletes, with training cycles to get them to the college level. Some work with their swimmers for ten years or more. The high school program focuses on winning during the short high school season, which can be as short as 7 or 8 weeks. It is fun, it’s a great team experience, and I think it adds to the overall swimming experience.

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But, college coaches are looking to USA Swimming for each recruiting class. At many USA Swimming senior level meets, college coaches attend with their swimmers. Our high school-aged kids are swimming side-by-side with the college athletes. College coaches are recruiting at the USA Swimming meets, not at the high school dual meets. The only high school meets that attract college coaches are the end-of-season championships meets, like CIF.

One of my friends is a club coach and has had two daughters swim for a top-ranked NCAA college team. He made the comment that only ONE swimmer in the past ten years at their University was NOT a USA Swimmer since childhood.

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So, if your child has a dream of swimming in college, join a USA Swim team. Here’s a link to a great article on USA Swimming, “The High School – Swimming Club Relationship in American Swimming.”

If you need to find a USA Swim team, click here. If your child’s goal is to swim in college, be sure to ask the coach how many of their kids do swim in college and what schools they go to.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have a high school coach like ours — not like my friend’s — who cares about the future of their athletes, not just their high school program. 

Our high school coach has told me, “I would never do anything to get in the way of a swimmer’s progress.” Now, that is a good coach!

 images-1Here’s a link to a new story on USA Swimming about Simone Manuel, a swimmer my daughter’s age who will swim for Stanford after high school next year. She specialized early in swimming with a USA Swim Team and she is self motivated. And she’s got talent.