How not to raise quitters

180334_1867729736781_315297_n

Piano duet at a yearly recital.

In an article called “My mom’s one sports rule? No quitting,” by Samantha K. Smith on espnW.com, I remembered the t-shirts one of my all-time favorite swim dads came up with for the Piranha Swim Team, “Winners never quit, Quitters never win.” We wore those shirts with pride for years.

From the article:

 

“When it came to giving her children unsolicited sports advice, our mother got a lot of flack from her five kids who knew her experience was limited. The one and only story she told of her high school cheerleading days was about how the front of her skirt was longer than the back because the girl who’d previously worn it was pregnant. So we often went to Dad for help with our free throw or pitching form; we went to Mom for rides to practice, trips to the mall for new sneakers, and to locate the water bottle stash. Our mother worked late nights at the YMCA for our discounted memberships and paid our uniform and league fees without question each season. But she had one strict, abiding rule when it came to signing up for a new sport: There was no quitting.

“This was why I had new, never-worn softball gear hanging in my closet for the duration of high school. I’d ordered the uniform but remembered Mom’s tenet: If I was unsure whether I could make the full commitment, I shouldn’t officially sign on to the team.

“Now I walk into the basketball gymnasiums of my childhood and see parents storming off with their children after a bad referee call, or children quitting teams midseason because of playing time. In an age of helicopter parenting and participation trophies, my mother set out to teach us one of her most valuable lessons about commitment. If you make one, you see it through even if, and especially when, it’s not playing out favorably for you.”

I did let my son quit a few sports, but only because we had him overbooked with “if this is Tuesday it must be tennis” running from one end of the valley and back to get from piano lessons to the court. During a stressful rushing afternoon, I hit a curb, got a flat tire and realized that enough was enough. Eventually, we settled on a single sport and music. Our routine and life went swimmingly well from then on.

I interviewed the Anderson family for an article in SwimSwam magazine. The Andersons have three daughters, two are Olympic medalists and the youngest currently swims for a D1 university. The mom also had the same rule as the writer above. She said that each year she’d sign the girls up for swimming with the understanding that they were committing for the year. When the weather was no longer perfect sunny and warm and one of them asked to quit, she’d remind them that they had agreed for the year. When the new season started, it was once again warm and beautiful outside and her daughters would commit again.

There’s something to be said for sticking through it all—so long as the situation isn’t abusive or dangerous. A lot of life lessons can be learned when things aren’t perfect.

10991703_10206244656899152_1163992982021288743_o

Once we settled on one sport, things began to go swimmingly.

What is your rule for your kids and activities? Do you make them stick with it through the season? Did your parents have a “never quit” rule?

Advertisements

Parenting when they’re all grown up

robertdoor 1

My boy with the big heart and eyes.

There once was a young boy with the biggest eyes and heart. He was all hugs, kisses, and could make me feel better by holding my hand. He called me “Sweetheart” because he thought that was my name. He was proud of his little sister and often made friends with this opening line: “Do you want to meet my little sister?”

rknatasha

My kids with Natasha our Rottie.

We went to visit this boy, who is now a grown man in San Francisco this past weekend. We were taking BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) for the first time by ourselves from SFO to Berkeley to see him on Friday night. A nice surprise was seeing our son waiting in the terminal to ride the train with us and to show us the ropes. That’s the kind of person he is—he thinks about others.

I know I did plenty wrong raising him and maybe helicoptered a bit too much. I argued with teachers about his grades. I protected him from failing by driving forgotten homework to school. I had no issue talking to a swim coach or principal if I thought he was being mistreated. In fact, he didn’t fail enough early on when the stakes weren’t so high. But he made up for it when it was costly and he was attending a UC. We must have done something right because he’s kind, considerate and stands on his own as an independent adult. He looks happy, healthy and he there’s no mistaking that big heart and his big blue eyes.

robertbaby

Three months old.

He carved out a chunk of time for us and spent the weekend showing us Golden Gate Park, walking for miles and miles, which is our favorite thing to do. He took us to the deYoung Museum where we discovered Oceanic Art, Art of the Early Americas and the Hamon Observation Tower with break taking 360’ views of San Francisco. 23131707_10215170302154705_934280434165568437_n 

He shared his favorite restaurants and we dined in the Gourmet Ghetto at Lo Coco’s Restaurant for delicious Sicilian linguine with clams, LaNote, for a French bouillabaisse, and brunch at Venus. All amazing.

What’s even more amazing is that he rode back with us on BART to make sure we got on the right trains and could make the transfer. Then, he gave us a hug and returned to his life. He texted me later that day to say he loved seeing us and missed us so much!

I’m enjoying watching the adult person my son is becoming. I realize I may not have been a perfect parent, but I must have done plenty right. Plus, each of us is an individual in our own right, and no lack of parenting — or too much helicoptering — can change who we are.23167969_10215170302114704_2557230305408935752_n

 

How much impact do you think parenting has on our children and the adults they become?

 

Top 10 Life Skills Kids Need Before College

IMG_5886

My son on his “Snow White pony” at Thursday night Village Fest.

Talk about failing “Parenting 101.” My son called me throughout his freshman year of college with the most trivial questions—like how to address an envelope to how to pay for gas with cash. What happened during his 18 years that he made it through in one piece without basic life skills?

I’ll tell you what happened. I was rushing to school with forgotten homework, packing his lunch and swim bag. I picked up after him and did his laundry. He was, after all, way too busy pursuing the title of Valedictorian to be bothered with mere mortal pursuits of day-to-day life. I was the enabler. But, I learned from his questions and made sure my second-born was ready and prepared to leave home.

 

One of my best friends lives 30 minutes from his university. She called him his first weekend at school and said if he ever needed anything, please call. Was she surprised when he said, “Could you bring me some laundry detergent? The thread count is so low on the sheets Mom bought me and they’re itchy.”

She said, “No, I’m not your mother and when I said if you needed anything I meant in case of an emergency. You can find your own laundry detergent somewhere on campus.”

13417585_10210063407525531_6987965472607988093_n

My son during his graduation night speech.

 

Here are 10 basic life skills kids need to know before they leave home:

ONE

Banking skills. Know how to write a check, make a deposit face-to-face with a teller, fill out a deposit slip, and use an ATM card for deposits and withdrawals. Balancing a check-book falls under the banking list.

TWO

Laundry. Have your kids do their own laundry so they know how to sort white and colors, hand-wash, hang dry, and fold–and what it feels like to be out of clean clothes. The clean underwear does not appear by magic! 

THREE

Cooking. Teach your child some basic cooking skills like scrambling eggs, making spaghetti, baking a chicken, steaming vegetables and cooking rice. 

FOUR

Grocery shopping. Just like clean underwear, the food in the fridge doesn’t appear out of thin air. Teach how to make a list, look for coupons, find sale items, and learn how to read unit pricing on shelves.

FIVE

How to get to and from the grocery store. This may seem obvious, but I’ll never forget the phone call I got from my son: “Mom. I’m at Costco and how do I get home with cases of water, yogurt, and Top Ramen on my bike?”  Hmmm. Good question.

SIX

Budgeting. If your child hasn’t worked at a job and you provide their basic necessities, they lack budgeting skills. My son got his first paycheck working a summer retail job. The check was for $175. He bought his girlfriend a dress for $110 and spent the rest on dinner for the two of them. Very romantic, but not practical when he needed to eat the next week and month.

SEVEN

Theft. At college, thieves are everywhere. My first week of college, I hand-washed some sweaters and hung them out to dry in the bathroom. Within minutes —gone. I had a bike stolen from my sorority storage room—and a locked bike stolen when I used a restroom during a ride around Green Lake in Seattle. My son’s laptop was stolen when he left it in a study area in his dorm. Make sure they have “find my laptop” activated and never leave anything unattended! Don’t use a chain or cable lock for your bike—use a solid bar type. 

EIGHT

Professors. They set aside office hours and only one or two students bother to stop by per semester. They are thrilled to help and meet students face-to-face. This can help for future referrals, references, internships—and grades. Have your kid meet with each professor at least once, every semester. It can’t hurt!

NINE

Cars. Basic things like checking tire pressure, oil and water levels, changing tires and pumping gas. Maybe they won’t have a car right away, but at some point they will and car maintenance is not an instinct. It’s a learned skill.

TEN

Learn to say no! College means hanging out with friends, listening to music, parties, dances, rallies, job opportunities, football games, intramural sports, going out to eat, etc. Studying is priority number one. Learning to say no will help your kid stay focused.

What other essential life skills would you add to the list?

386218_2819987102620_2110173964_n

My beautiful son when he was three.

3 Things I Noticed About An Empty Nest

I wrote this after my youngest left the nest in 2014. It’s 2017 and the nest is still empty, but we get visits now and then. We’ve planned trips to see both kids this fall and I’m looking forward to the moments we get to spend together. All in all, the empty nest is not that bad! Here’s what I noticed the first few months with no kids to take care of:
8119501_fpx
Towels

Let’s start with towels. First off, we own too many of them. I gathered our towels into one room and separated the wheat from the chaff. I asked my son Robert if he needed any. I recall sending him off to college four years ago with a small set of matched towels. He’s survived with those two towels all this time? Plus, a beach towel of course — since he goes to UC Santa Barbara.

One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UCSB

One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UCSB

Eighteen towels and two dozen or so hand towels and washcloths sit on his bed, awaiting his return Thanksgiving weekend. These 18 towels didn’t make the cut to remain members of our family — unless they commit to being shredded into rags.

images-3The next thing I noticed about my towels is that I’m no longer washing them every time I turn around. Raising two swimmers as well as overly hygienically-conscious kids, I believe they went through four or five towels daily — each — which never got a second use. I no longer have to hear the thump, thump, thump of my washing machine doing a jig with the over-packed, heavy towel load.

images-5Groceries

Have I mentioned that I raised two swimmers? We joined the Piranha Swim Team around 1999. I honestly believe that having my kids involved in swimming was the single best thing we ever did as parents. Sure, the kids worked hard. Yes, it was a time commitment. But, I will repeat, it was the single best thing we ever did. You can find a lot of my articles about the benefits here and here and here. Read what my friend has to say about swimming here.

Robert and Kat a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

Robert and Kat a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

So, what does this fact have to do with groceries? Well, it means I bought a lot of them. All the time. Robert drank a half gallon of milk a day and a box of Cinnamon Life every two days. Kat could eat whatever she wanted and she liked my sole, chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, and brown medley rice. At least I think she did because I was always cooking and buying more groceries.

Life-Cinnamon-Detail.sflbToday, my refrigerator is bare and I rarely cook. There’s no reason to buy more than three items at a time at the grocery store. When I enter the store, I don’t need a cart. I use the little hand-held basket.

images-4Dishes

 I cannot seem to get a load of dishes to wash for the life of me. My sink is empty. My dishwasher sits bare and lonely.

I guess that’s what they make Thanksgiving weekend for.

This is a photo of Kat. She didn't want to be a ballerina. She wanted to swim!

Why Kat joined the swim team. “I don’t want to be a ballerina!”

Have you heard about the anti-bullying law in New York?

34614_1556248269939_5116013_n

I never saw bullying on our swim team. The pool was a safe place to be.

In a story on ABC News, called “Parents in New York town could face jail, fine under new anti-bullying law” a controversy over the law is being debated across the nation.

According to the story:

Parents in a New York town could end up in jail if their children are found to have bullied others, thanks to a new law.

Victoria Crago began advocating for the law in North Tonawanda, New York, after she said her eighth-grade son was attacked by a classmate right in front of her.

Parents could be fined $250 and sentenced to 15 days in jail, according to North Tonawanda City Attorney Luke Brown. Parents could face punishment if their child violates the city’s curfew or any city law, including bullying, twice over the course of 90 days.

“In reality, what we’re looking for is to engage the parents in the process and try and work on a solution,” Brown said.

The new law is modeled after a similar push in Wisconsin to hold parents accountable, according to Brown. The law went into effect in North Tonawanda   Oct. 1.

USA Today asks in an article, “Is your kid a bully? You could end up behind bars in this New York community.”

The law also targets parents who host parties with illegal activities or whose kids break curfew, per the Buffalo News. It comes after a wave teenage terror in the city, largely led this year by a pack of middle school boys, a juvenile aid officer told the newspaper.

After a classmates attacked her son in June, Victoria Crago teamed up with other parents to form a Facebook group called “North Tonawanda Coalition for Safe Schools and Streets.” The bullies are too young to face jail time, she told WIVB 4, and that’s part of the problem.

Inspiration for the law came from four towns in Wisconsin that passed similar rules. That was four years ago, the News reported, and it appears no parents have been charged under the laws since.

Police Chief Daniel Ault of Plover, Wis., said public education on the law proved key in his community.

“If you just roll it out, you get, ‘It’s government regulation, government telling you how to raise your children,'” he told the News. “

It’s not us telling you how to raise your children. It’s us telling you, ‘Please raise your children.’”

NBC’s Channel 2 WGRZ.com ran a story called “Questions linger over anti-bullying law in NT” 

Tracy and Tim Rodemeyer, whose son Jamey died of suicide in 2011 after being bullied, said they have mixed feelings about the new law. On one hand, they believe North Tonawanda has made a good-faith effort to prevent bullying in their schools and their neighborhoods. They believe the threat of jail time or a fine may force some parents to intervene in cases of severe bullying or harassment.

However, they also have some concerns about punishing parents, who may not always be able to control their children’s behavior at every hour of the day.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but I don’t know if it’s the right step,” Tracy Rodemeyer said. “I think it’s still pushing a lot of the responsibility away from the kids that are actually doing the wrong stuff here.”

I think a lot of bullying today is amplified because of technology. Kids never get any downtime from their peers and the bullying follows them home on their computers and smartphones. Studies show that most bullying occurs in middle school. The kids doing the bullying aren’t suffering consequences for their behavior, or they would stop. They’re also too young to be arrested so this town in New York decided to punish the parents.

What do you think of making parents responsible for their kids’ actions by threatening a $250 fine or jail time? The controversy is that some parents think the threat of jail time is too much. Is it government overreach? Or is it a wake-up call to end bullying, which seems to be a severe problem in their community?

16265230_10212368415589292_2041607070826671774_n

My solution is to put the kids on a swim team. Keep them busy and too tired to get into trouble.

 

The importance of friendships in an empty nest

 

13047745_10209625833066443_4654999307554339854_o

Back in the busy days of parenting with the gang.

I had a great day yesterday with two of my former elementary and middle school mom chums. I hadn’t seen one of these friends for we figured out—12 years! Where did those years go? They went to busy, busy days of parenting with our kids going on separate journeys and different schools.

One thing all three of us decided at lunch, at Spencer’s one of my all-time favorites, was that we have to get together more often.

How often do you say that to people and it doesn’t happen? Well, all three of us are empty nesters, and we’ve managed to stay busy—but it’s different. I miss the interaction with my friends who were the moms of classmates or swim mates. While you’re in the thick of parenting years, you have all the interaction with other adults every single day. You don’t think about it or that one day it’s just you and your husband staring at each other!

Seriously, sometimes I feel that doing what I always wanted to have the time to do—write uninterrupted every single day—can feel like solitary confinement. I’m not a terribly social person, but without the chats on the playground, play dates in the park, or sitting with fellow swim parents at meets and practice—it’s a quiet life.

So, in addition to swimming Masters with my swim friends, I’ve made a pledge to not let my older friendships slip by. I’m glad my friends agree and we’re going to actively work to get together more often.

And I’ll treasure the time my husband and I have together and to go on new adventures together—as well as the ability to write without interruptions from the kids. It’s a good life, after all—but friends make it even better.

 

20768221_1632256046787461_3999311810434397821_n

More adventures to come….

What do you do to make sure you stay in touch with friends?

 

How to Teach Your Kids Good Sportsmanship

 

IMG_7710

Open Water Nats–being good sports after a close 5k race.

 

Nobody likes a sore loser and I think it’s even worse to have a gloating winner. In an article on CNN called “If I Were a Parent: Teaching kids to be good sports” by Kelly Wallace, the number one way to teach good sportsmanship is through role modeling.

“Losing is not easy for many kids, and being a graceful winner can in some ways be even harder, so the question becomes: what can parents do to teach their children good sportsmanship?

“Rule No. 1 seems simple enough but is too often overlooked by helicopter parents who are living vicariously through their children. Parents should model the behavior they want to see in their kids, said John O’Sullivan, author of “Changing the Game: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids.”

“Kids are not very good at listening, but they are fantastic at imitating,” said O’Sullivan, founder of the Changing the Game Project, which says it seeks to “put the ‘play’ back in ‘play ball.’ “

“And so if you want your kids to display good sportsmanship, you should. If you don’t want your kids to yell at referees, you shouldn’t yell at referees.”

The article goes on to talk about the flip side, lousy winners:

“And as for teaching your child how to win and win gracefully, remind them how it felt when they were on the losing side. “The biggest thing that I always say to my team when you’re winning by a lot is, ‘you know what, you’ve been on the other side of it where you’ve lost by a lot. Do you remember how that felt? So don’t do anything that’s going to make your opponent feel any worse right now,’ ” O’Sullivan said.

12768251_10209127311323711_1087820356060339429_o

Cheering on a teammate.

What do we mean when we talk about being a good sport? It’s easy to point out kids and parents who aren’t. They are mean, rude, usually loud and they do not care about how they affect those around them. Parents who are bad sports are causing fights these days with coaches and landing in jail! With social media catching every incident of bad parent behavior, it seems like it’s happening more frequently, but I haven’t seen any stats to know if that true or not.

 

Being a good sport is simple. It’s treating others with respect. It’s not talking badly about others behind their backs or throwing your equipment down. I remember when my brother was on the golf team in high school, there was a player that broke their golf clubs more than once when they lost. Staying composed and not getting too caught up in the moment helps us be better role models. In our kids’ sports, the process is just as important–or more so–than winning.

I think another important element in teaching good sportsmanship, besides being good role models, is to compliment our kids when you see them being a good sport. In swimming after races, you often see swimmers reaching over lane lines to hug the winner or you see the winner reaching out to competitors to shake hands. When you see your child being a good sport, point it out and say you’re proud of them. If you see other kids showing good sportsmanship, be sure to tell your child how much you admire them for their actions.

How do you teach your children good sportsmanship?

IMG_9963

My daughter showing good sportsmanship.