Is letting go the same as losing control?

Four boy swimmers hanging on the lane line
My son with his best swim buddies.

I wrote this when my son graduated college and was starting in his adult career. I realized I had lost control over his life choices and 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 them. They believed the same way I did about everything including religion, politics and what books to read.

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 the classic musicals. I am happy, though, that my kids got to share that part 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 while visiting us 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.

happy kids playing in the sand.
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 aren’t exactly the same as mine. For example, I want to tell my son to pursue a career in business or law. My husband and I send him job openings in the Bay area, where he’s currently living. (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.)

Does he listen? He’s polite. Every time I text an employment opportunity, he thanks me and says, “that’s a good idea.” Then he goes and applies to one of the worst school districts where the standardized test scores are 2 in math and 7 in English. He decides to teach instead of what I want him to do—and in one of the most difficult situations possible. He thinks it will be a challenge.

my son's valedictorian speech
High school graduation speech.

I can’t stop him. He’ll have to live his own life and learn his own life lessons. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. So, I guess I need to learn to let go since I’ve lost control anyway. I am proud that he’s an adult with his own dreams and goals.

moms and kids at laguna beach
The gang at Laguna Beach.

UPDATE: The teaching career ended and our son went into business jobs. He’s loving the job and company he’s working for and also wants to pursue a masters degree in data science. We’ve tried to stay out of his decisions and only offer advice when he asks. He’s making a great life without us telling him what to do! Imagine that?

What is your reaction when your kids make choices you disagree with?

Letting go…of stuff and more stuff

desert view

Views from my neighborhood.

Yesterday I had a breakthrough moment. During the endless hours of unpacking boxes, I realized I could let go of stuff. Lots of stuff. We are setting up our new home in Arizona after escaping the high cost of living in California. This wasn’t easy because my husband is third generation and I’ve lived in CA for 36 years after leaving my home state of Washington.

I got rid of sweatshirts that I’ve had for years, including ones from my kids momentous swim meets and a trip to Ireland. My biggest breakthrough was letting go of my DVD player and hundreds of DVDs and VHS tapes. I called my daughter and asked her if she minded. We have the complete Seinfeld and I Love Lucy DVDs. She looked it up and they are all on Hulu. “Let them go,” she said.

I had second thoughts of tossing my videos from ultrasounds of my babies in the womb. But, I haven’t looked at them in twenty plus years. There are also Nutcrackers when my son and I performed, plus underwater swim videos of my kids at USC swim camp. But I tossed them all. After all, I don’t have a VHS player and forgot all about these tapes.

I texted my son and asked if I could toss a stack of awards he had from St. Theresa’s, his elementary and middle school. “Please!” he texted back.

I’ve put away plenty of things that we need and will make life comfortable. Then I looked at all the boxes and wondered how will cluttering up a new house going to feel? Today, I’m elated I could finally let go. I’ve got more to toss today and tomorrow. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted and I feel 20 pounds lighter.

The view of quail from the Casita window this morning. Earlier, I watched a huge coyote stop outside the fence and we stared at each other for a few minutes.

 

Do you still own DVDs and VHS tapes? If you do, do you ever watch them? Do you have trouble letting stuff go?

 

Why can’t I stop with the unsolicited advice?

My kids

My kids

I wrote this post about unsolicited advice several years ago. I keep on repeating the same mistake. When my kids are going through an uneasy time, I jump with advice on what they should do. This especially angers my daughter and she snaps at me. My so will listen calmly and then ignore whatever I have to say. I really need to stop this constant need to fix everything in my children’s lives! They need to experience life and learn on their own. Mommy can’t do it for them. Here’s the story I wrote about unsolicited advice:

A few weeks ago, my daughter was telling me how she’d missed practice because she had a midterm and the time conflicted. Her coach wasn’t happy, she said.

“Well,” I said, “maybe you should call her and explain. Or, better yet, next time you’re going to miss practice, let her know in advance.”

“Mom, I’m telling you something. I don’t need your unsolicited advice. A simple ‘that sucks’ would suffice.”

I was offended. My feelings were tweaked, not exactly hurt. I thought, what is going on with her?

This week she called and asked for my advice about a sticky situation with a friend. I get it now. She had a problem she couldn’t solve on her own. She wanted my advice and then she would handle it from there.

In her dorm room getting settled.

In her dorm room getting settled.

My mistake has been offering advice when my perfectly capable, adult child is making her own decisions and finding her own way. She does not need her mom telling her what to do all the time.

This was reinforced again when she called with an issue with her university and paperwork for the fall quarter. I gave her a few suggestions of who to call, what to do.

“I’ve done all that, Mom. I’m just telling you about it.”

Yes, I understand now. She’s sharing the trials and tribulations in her life. She’s not asking me what to do. If she needs my help she will ask me.

With teammates after breaking the 8 and under 4 x 50 relay record.

With teammates after breaking the 8 and under 4 x 50 relay record.

I should be thankful that my daughter likes to share. That she can figure things out on her own. That she’s got a strong head and can handle the daily tasks of living in a house, paying utility bills, handling school bureaucracy, and getting a speeding ticket.

Welcome to adulthood! I guess a simple “that sucks” from time to time is all she needs.

How do you handle unsolicited advice when someone offers some to you?

How to Say Good-bye to Your College Student

Here’s a blast from the past — the year my daughter moved from home to start her college days. It seems like yesterday.

 

Last week I wrote about 7 tips for parents on Move-In Day. At the end I wrote: “I made it through the day without tears–mostly. It was a long, busy and tiring day. When my husband and I stopped for lunch — alone — and I realized that we were truly alone — the tears ran down my cheeks. I wiped them off and prepared myself for battle for the next stop at Target. When, it’s time to say good-bye — well, I’ll tell you how that goes another time.”

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

So, how did it go when we said good-bye?

We had planned to stay until Sunday. Move-In day had been Thursday. We wanted to be around for a few days in case she needed us. She wanted us there on Thursday, but by Friday — not so much. It began to make sense for us to leave a day early. We didn’t want to hang out and wait to see if she wanted us around. It didn’t make us feel good and we weren’t enjoying ourselves exploring the city that much. We had a long 11-hour drive ahead of us, too. So we went out for an early morning walk Saturday and talked about how we’d let her know that we felt it was time to leave.

She texted us at 7 a.m. Saturday. 

text from Kat

text from Kat

Okie dokie.

It was time to say good-bye. We walked on over to her dorm. I took a deep breath. I said a prayer to be strong.

“Do not cry. I can do this,” I repeated in my head.

She opened the door, I wanted to say something profound and loving. Something she’d remember — but I said nothing. My husband said a few things and I nodded my head.

I opened my mouth, my voice cracked and wavered. At this point I cannot remember what I was trying to say.

“Mom! Mom! Stop it!” she said. “Don’t!”

She held my face in her hands, like I was the child. “It’s going to be okay.”

A view  during our walk on campus

A view during our walk on campus

Tip 1:  Make it short and quick.

Bill and I walked out of her room into the bright cool air that is Utah. We walked all over campus for two hours, tears running down my cheeks. During the walk, I began to feel better — amazed at what a strong beautiful woman we had raised.

Sage Point dorms at U of U

Sage Point dorms at U of U, the athlete housing for Winter Olympics 2002.

Here’s an update:

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Fighting my inner helicopter

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I’m being tested in my parenting skills. My daughter is applying and interviewing for jobs and I’m having a tough time. My impulse is to go straight into helicopter mode, research jobs on indeed.com and other sites and tell her where to apply.

But, I’m holding myself back. This is her life. She’s an adult. I’m trying to stay tethered to my own life and projects without injecting myself into hers.

I think she should take a few classes in design, because she’s talented in that area. She lives in an area with a ton of new home building and interior designers. She could get a job as an assistant if she learned CAD (Computer-aided design) and took one basic design class. With her bachelor’s degree in Business, she could get a degree fairly easily in interior design if she finds she likes it.

I have bought this up and she doesn’t want to hear it.

She’s had several interviews and been called back for more. I’m a nervous nilly and I want to call to make sure she’s on her way with plenty of time to spare! In fact, I did call her an hour before her interview this morning.

I said, “Are you all ready for your interview?”

She answered, “What interview? Oh no! Do I have an interview?”

I was ready for my aortic event when she said, “Hehe. Got you.”

This is a serious tug and pull thing to my heartstrings I’m going through. How can I help without taking over? How do I give some relevant advice? Most of all, I want it to all work out.

I refuse to be one of those parents who go on job interviews with their child, or calls the company if she doesn’t get an offer. There are parents who actually do that. I’ve written about them here.

katrob 6

I think parenting was easier when they were young.

Any thoughts on how not to helicopter your children when you think they could use your help?

Top Parenting Tip: Don’t help too much!

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I saw this tweet first thing this morning and it stuck with me all day. My kids are in their early 20s and if I had a do-over, I’d do less for them, not more. I love being a mom and my kids survived my over-parenting and have flourished. But I failed them over and over by doing too much along the way. When they are experiencing pain or a rough patch now, I look back and wish I hadn’t been such a helicopter or lawn mower parent and they’d have experienced more difficulties in their earlier years.

What drives parents to do everything for their kids? Here are six reasons why we do too much for our kids–taken from my own experience and observing other parents:

ONE
We want to shield our kids from pain and hurt.

TWO
We want our kids to have the brightest futures possible — and only we can guarantee that by our constant hovering and interference.

THREE
We’re afraid to let our kids fail. This is the exact opposite of what we need to do. Let them fail while they’re young, when the consequences aren’t so big.

FOUR
Peer pressure. We want to be a super parent, like those we see around us at school or in their sports.

FIVE
We do all the work around the house because their schedules are so busy. (Like ours aren’t?)

SIX
We make every decision for them, allowing them to miss the development of good decision-making skills as they grow.

rknatashapartyhats

What reasons do you see for parents doing too much for their kids?

 

 

When in doubt, throw it out!

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My daughter’s first-grade class. I cannot throw this out.

While my daughter was home for a few days after our summer vacation—before she returned to college out of state—she helped me organize our lives.

She got me started, which according to her is the “worst part.” I’m now ripping through stacks of papers and throwing things out without fear.

After she cleaned out our “junk drawer” and purchased a drawer organizer at Target, she focused on me. She’d pick up a piece of paper and ask, “Shred or recycle?” We did that for a couple hours and I sort of got the hang of it. Before, I was overwhelmed with making decisions on every little thing. It seemed like way too much work. I’ve broken through some barrier and can toss out old papers with the best of them.

 

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From the mouth of babes 🙂

I’m tackling the four-drawer metal file cabinet in my office which has tax returns and bank statements going back into the early 90s. It finally dawned on me that I don’t have to keep my returns pre-2010. Or bank statements, nor all the paperwork to close escrow on our first home—which was several decades ago—and no we don’t own the house anymore.

Why do we hold on to every important piece of paper—or the question is why do I? I have to say that on two instances, my large file cabinet has saved the day with much-needed slips of paper.

 

I’ll confess I’m having trouble throwing out my kids stories they wrote from Pre-K through middle school. Their paintings, Iowa tests and report cards will retain a place in the file cabinet. I don’t know why, but I’m not ready to let those things go—yet.

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A first-grade story by my son.  I think it’s a keeper.

 

When the project is done, I’ll feel 20 pounds lighter in spirit.

How do you keep yourself organized with the volume of paper in our lives? Do you keep all your kids art projects, papers and report cards, too?