Do I remember how to parent?

Young blond  boy on pony
My son loved to ride the “Snow White Pony” as he called it at our weekly street fair.

I’m talking about hands on parenting. My kids are in their 20s and I haven’t been hands on for years. My son is having shoulder surgery this week and he wants me to take care of him. I leave on Wednesday to be there prior to his Thursday morning surgery. I’ll be staying in an airbnb a few blocks from his apartment so i don’t have to drive. I don’t drive in the Bay Area, period.

He called me this morning and I told him, “I hope I’m helpful.” I haven’t had to take care of anyone since my husband last had shoulder surgery about three years ago and before that when my dad had shoulder surgery in 2014. I guess I do have experience with shoulder patients, though.

My time will mostly be filling the machine with ice that circulates coolness around his shoulder. And giving him meds on a schedule.

I’m a little nervous to travel back to California during this Delta variant thing. I fear they’ll shut down while I’m there! I know I’ll be required to wear masks again after not wearing them since my second shot here in Arizona.

The sweet thing is my son facetimed me the other day. He got his hair cut short and died it blond. He said he wanted to look just as he did when I was doing the full on parenting.

Three year old blond son
My son age three.

I’ll pack a few books, read my fellow bloggers and hang out with him. It doesn’t sound too hard, right? We will see.

Have you taken care of adult children recently? Did your parenting nurturing nature suddenly reappear?

The art of procrastination

cat upside down
Olive.

There are certain tasks I’ve been meaning to do. But I keep putting them off. I’m asking myself why and this morning I’m trying to tackle a few of them before the day gets away from me. Number one, we’re going out of town and I need to find a place to board Olive.

The closer the day of vacation approaches, the more I hesitate. I’m afraid I’m already too late and the “pet resorts” will be booked. I also know that Olive will hate being boarded, but we have to do it for her own good. Plus, I know my husband will be annoyed with the cost and push me to try to find something with a lower cost or demand a discount. Lots of reasons to not pick up the phone.

Another thing I’m procrastinating about is a recall on our car. The notice came in the mail and I just don’t know when it’s a good time to schedule the appointment. I finally called first thing this morning and got voice mail. We also have to get the car fixed after the hail damage. We filed a claim and talked to our agent. They are supposed to get back to us, but they are overwhelmed with claims. Our friends who live in Prescott, at the center of the storm, had a damaged roof, broken windows at their house and found four dead dear in the backyard.

Will we get all of this done on the car before vacation? Or should we wait?

I’m procrastinating on making some phone calls for a couple of interviews I need to do for stories that were suggested for me to write. I’m now procrastinating on writing. Why is that? Do I want to write the stories? Or not?

Live now. Procrastinate later. sign on bookshelf.
A sign I have on my bookshelf in my office.

My son was a master procrastinator in high school. His college applications were pure torture. I hated the whole process. He’d sit for days in front of his computer and get nothing done until right before they were due. He put off a one-semester Health class until the final semester of high school. It was online. I got a phone call Memorial Weekend that he wasn’t going to be allowed to “walk” because he never completed the course. I told the counselor that he had been named Valedictorian and was giving a speech.

“That is odd,” she said.”We’ve never encountered this before.”

They agreed to unlock the entire class and let him finish it that weekend, so he could graduate and be on stage to give his speech. Apparently, they only unlocked one unit of the class at a time, and he had to hunt down the teacher when he was ready for another unit, which was a hassle, he said.

I’m shaking my head at the memory. But at least he came by his procratsination honestly.

Do you have issues with procrastination? On what types of things? Any tips to overcome procrastination?

My valedictorian son giving speech.
My son during his graduation speech.

The Case Against Parenting Advice

Mother with young son at the beach.
Back in the day when I believed I was a great parent.

I used to be big on giving parenting advice. I’d talk to newer parents on the pool deck and give them advice about swim parenting. I had after all learned from great parents with older swimmers. Lots of advice gets handed out in the stands — like what to feed your kids between prelims and finals and how to start the college recruiting process.

My advice around the pool deck morphed into a weekly column of sports parenting advice. You can read my five years of articles here. But then the COVID year hit and I no longer believe I have anything valuable to share. OR the right to give advice.

My daughter had a very tough year with being laid off and struggling with anxiety and depression while sheltering in isolation. I looked on without knowing how to help. For a month or two she didn’t want to talk to me and I’d learn how she was doing from my husband or my son. It was beyond hard. When that passed and she texted me, I was so grateful. But, I learned from her lots of things that I’d done as a parent that was awful and wrong. I think I overlooked signs of her anxiety and depression for years. Why on earth would anyone want to take advice from me? Maybe I can share what not to do. If anyone wants to listen.

This hard, hard year makes me understand that most parents don’t want to hear advice from anyone. I know I never liked unsolicited advice from well-meaning parents. We’re all winging it and it’s a job that doesn’t necessarily get easier as our kids get older. We’re trying to do the best we can.

Mother with baby girl.
Me and my baby girl.

What are your thoughts about parenting advice?

Do we all despise unsolicited parenting advice?

brother and sister playing at the beach
My kids when they liked to eat chicken fingers.

When my kids were young, I’d often get unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends and family members — and even complete strangers. I read with interest this article by Meghan Moravcik Walbert called Keep Every Single Parenting Opinion to Yourself for a website called Lifehacker.com: 

We’re living in a particularly divided country right now, but we are lucky to still have one great rage-inducing unifier among parents: We do not want your unsolicited opinions about our parenting. This is especially true if you do not have children of your own. (Dogs don’t count.)

I have to believe author Jill Filipovic simply wanted to argue about something unrelated to the literal end of our democracy when she tweeted this sparkling gem of an opinion recently:Jill Filipovic@JillFilipovicI know the thing parents hate most is when non-parents assert what they will do as parents which is inevitably smug and incorrect, but I am 100% sure I will never assent to a “kid’s menu” or the concept of “kid food.”9:29 PM · Sep 24, 2020

In a follow-up tweet, she rhetorically ponders, “Do you think children in most of the world order off of a ‘kids menu’ and survive primarily off of chicken fingers and plain pasta?”

It seems her argument is that kids should have more variety in their diets, ignoring that kids’ menus exist to offer smaller, significantly cheaper portions of food for children to make it affordable and less wasteful when families go out to eat. But see, this is why parenting opinions from non-parents is so universally grating: They’re blind to fundamental aspects of parenting that are obvious to those of us who have actually done it.

Yes, you’re very smart, and you’ll introduce your kids to lots of flavors, and they’ll always eat exactly what you eat because there’s no way you’ll cook one meal for you and a separate meal for them. If you become a parent, what’s more likely is that we can look forward to hearing you say, “No, honey, you have to buy the dinosaur-shaped nuggets; he doesn’t like the regular ones.”

I have one dear friend, well more than one, who constantly criticized the bland
“kid food” I served my children. We would go to a friends home and stay for a long weekend and I’d bring food for my kids to eat — things I knew they’d like. Yes, my groceries included chicken fingers. My friend didn’t understand why my kids wouldn’t eat her kale with quinoa or homemade chile rellenos. She’d point out another friend of hers who had kids who loved to eat all her veggies and her adult flavored dishes. My kids liked carrots, snap peas and the like — especially dipped in ranch dressing. At a young age, their taste buds were more sensitive to spice. It wasn’t long before they grew into more adult diets and indulged in sushi, spicy Mexican and Indian food. As adults they love to eat vegetables and they cook healthy and interesting meals. No, they are not living off of chicken fingers.

The point is that I’d get criticized by friends and family members who didn’t have kids, or had children who were infants or teenagers. They weren’t dealing with kids three to seven years old and they either hadn’t been through those experiences yet or their kids were 10 years older and they forgot about those glorious days.

I used to ask my kids what they wanted to eat. My daughter always said chicken. Once I made pan-fried sole for dinner. She said, “Now this is the chicken I like!” That was eye-opening to me, because I didn’t realize that she was calling most foods “chicken!”

One of my friends had a son a couple years younger than my kids. We were at a family-friendly restaurant and her toddler son kept jumping out of the high chair. She said, “I really owe you an apology. All of those things I criticized or tried to give you advice about — I had no idea!”

There’s more great examples in the article about unsolicited advice and how parents think they would NEVER raise their voice at their children (who aren’t born yet). Read the entire article for yourself here. It’s an entertaining read.

Here’s another article I’ve written about unsolicited advice. Read it here.

children climbing on me at the beach
Life at the beach with two young kids.

What’s the worst unsolicited advice you’ve been given?

My son wrote about his “crazy mom” for his senior project

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My son is visiting us soon to see our new home for the first time. I can’t believe we went through such a rocky time as we did during his senior year of high school. Thankfully, our relationship is so much better than this memory….

“I had no idea your life was so difficult and that your mom was so ‘crazy.’ Your senior project made me cry.”

I found these words scrawled in a handmade card to my 18-year-old, valedictorian son, wedged next to the front seat of my car.

I couldn’t breathe. Then I howled. My beautiful first born. The little pee wee with the stocking cap and button nose who stared at me with huge eyes the day he was born. The toddler with white blond curls who called me “Sweetheart.”

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This stranger living in my house made his senior project about me? The horrors of living with me? After everything I had done for him? Years filled with volunteering as a room-mom, midnight trips to the ER for his asthma, driving to the Getty for field trips, opening our house for movies nights and spaghetti feeds. Me?

A friend with older kids warned me that the senior year “can be kind of tough.”

No kidding! I never dreamed how hard. I found myself at odds with this person, who used to be my best friend. I alternated between yelling, cajoling and pleading with him to finish college applications, meet countless deadlines and study for exams. No wonder he called me crazy.

The stress of applying for college proved to be filled with potholes, no, make that sinkholes — the kind that swallow entire houses and families. What to declare as a major, where to live, what to write for a personal statement are enough to stress out the calmest kid.

So what else makes applying to college so awful?  Try these numbers on for size:

• More than 3,000,000 high school seniors apply to college in the US — never mind the ones throughout the world trying to get into our top schools!

• The number of students who apply to seven or more colleges has grown from 9% in 1992 to 29% in 2011. 

• Yale’s applications doubled from 2002 to this year, topping 30,000.  Yale accepted roughly 2,000 in 2013.

• Harvard has nearly 35,000 applicants, 2029 admitted in 2013.

• Number of applicants for University of California Santa Barbara in 2013 was 62,413, They had 4,550 in the freshman class last year.

• UCLA is one of the most applied to schools in the country, with nearly 100,000 applicants, and they admit 15,000.

Between December and graduation, my son received eight out of nine college rejections –further making him love me, hate me, turn to me in need, and then reject me again. I could do nothing to help his torment. In the end, he accepted admission to his one school.

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Hang in there moms of juniors and seniors. When it seems like there is nothing you can do to help, take a deep breath.  Be there for support and offer advice if they ask for it. Love them, even if they are undeniably rude. Forgive yourself if you lose your temper.

I believe our kids take out their fears and frustrations on those they love most.

I am happy to report that two years later, the stranger living in my son’s skin has disappeared. I have a son who calls me the moment he finishes a final that he knows he’s crushed. He calls to ask how to cook chicken stir fry.  And he calls to say he loves me.

Photos: (top) My son during graduation. (second) a beautiful baby, (above) my son when he was at the age when he thought my name was “Sweetheart,” and (below) a view of my son’s university. Not too shabby, after all.

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Do Boomers spend too much time with adult kids?

Two years ago I made this trip to the Bay Area to be with my son and his girlfriend. It was a great trip. I miss not traveling to see them this past year. My daughter lived in Arizona then and we were thinking of relocating there. Now that we are here, she moved and lives a mile from her brother in Nor Cal!

Sutro Baths San Francisco

Sutro baths on the Pacific. photo by Robert Wickham

As a baby boomer who loves hanging out with my adult kids, I found this article in the Wall Street Journal called “Baby Boomers and the Art of Parenting Adult Kids” by Clare Ansberry to be right up my alley. “More involved with grown children than previous generations, many boomers struggle with letting them go” was the tag line to the story. Hmm. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Am I struggling to let my kids go? Or, do I simply like hanging out with them?

I had a trip to Nor Cal to hang out for a few days with my son and his girlfriend, and I treasured the trip. I don’t go up to San Francisco very often, mostly because it’s too far and it costs a lot. My son treated me to some great sightseeing including hiking up to Indian Rock to see the sunset, a trip to SF MOMA and the Sutro baths. We had some incredible meals including Belotti and a Chinese restaurant where I watched them roll out fresh noodles in the window called Shan Dong.

Sunset from Indian Rock Park

The view from Indian Rock Park. photo by Robert Wickham

On my trip, I visited a swim team in Roseville, California Capital Aquatics, and talked about things swim parents need to know so they don’t make the same mistakes I did. That was a blast, and having my son take time off work and drive me there, gave me a boost of confidence. He seemed to enjoy what I had to say and was encouraging.

The following weekend, we were off to Arizona to spend the weekend with our daughter. We are exploring where we want to “downsize” to, which I wrote about yesterday. Presently, Arizona is at the top of our list. Plus, my daughter is there. Enough about me and my time hanging out with my kids. Here are some excerpts from the article about baby boomers and their adult kids:

Linda Hoskins would like to believe her adult son considers her a friend.

She’s a baby boomer and boomers tend to think they’re cooler than their own parents were, she says.

“Therefore why wouldn’t our kids want to hang out with us all the time. We’re their friends, right?” the 69-year-old executive director of the American Pie Council asks half-jokingly.

Her son sees it a little differently. “She’s my mom,” says Rick, 44. While very close—seeing each other several times a week until she recently moved and texting in between—his mom isn’t on the same level as his friends, nor would he want her to be.

Baby boomers are far more immersed with their own grown children than their parents were with them, says Karen Fingerman, a professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas, Austin. She found that parents in the early 2000s offered about twice as much counsel and practical support (which could be anything from babysitting grandkids, running their grown kids’ errands or reviewing their résumés) as parents did in the 1980s. Such deep ties can make it hard to let kids go or accept that they will likely love their children more deeply than their kids can love them.

FAMILY MATTERS

Tips for boomer parents dealing with their adult kids

  • Don’t give unsolicited advice. If they want your opinion or need your help, they will ask.
  • Let your kids make mistakes. You did and learned from them.
  • Make a life of your own, so your children don’t feel guilty as they move on with their own life.
  • Manage your own expectations. The fewer expectations, the less likely you are going to be disappointed when they don’t call or visit as often as you would like.
  • Keep in touch in ways that are meaningful to them, whether that’s texting, FaceTime, or phone calls.
  • Set limits. If you can’t or don’t want to babysit all the time, let them know.

Boomers are also the first group of parents in the psychological era, when therapy became more commonplace and relationships were closely examined, says William Doherty, a professor of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. Their own parents were concerned about a child being safe, getting a job, and getting married. “They didn’t obsess about how they were feeling about you,” he says, adding that there are far more elements of friendship in boomers’ relationships with kids. “In many ways, that’s good. But then you have to deal with disappointment if kids are not as close as you would hope for.”

That’s what Linda Stroh found when she and a fellow author surveyed nearly 1,000 baby boomers for their book, “Getting Real about Getting Older.”

“My kids use language like ‘my family’ and ‘our family’ and they don’t mean us,” one man commented. “I’m at the mercy of their whims. We see them when they want, not when we want,” said another. “I miss my kids. I want to be around them more,” one woman said.

It’s not that grown kids don’t want to be part of a parent’s life, but that they are really busy, says Dr. Stroh, herself a boomer and mother of two children, who are very involved with their careers. “If I get a call, I’m thrilled and flattered,” says Dr. Stroh, who teaches human development at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Pittsburgh resident Art DeConciliis, 58, remembers when he and his wife, Mary Pat, got married. “It was sink or swim,” he says, their parents offering little help or support. Today, his three adult children, all married and living near their Pittsburgh home, frequently call for advice about work, buying a house and starting a family. He’s happy to offer it.

“My self-identity is very closely tied to my relationship with my children. I don’t think that was the case with my dad. His was wrapped up in his business,” he says. While he sometimes wonders if too much advice-seeking and advice-giving is a good thing, he also felt a little disappointed that his youngest daughter didn’t involve him when she and her husband bought a house.

That daughter, Samantha DeConciliis-Davin, 26, says that while close to her parents, she has always been independent. Buying a house without their input wasn’t a slight as much as it was an affirmation of their lifelong guidance. “I still depend on them for advice,” she says. They are the first ones she calls if something happens at work.

Kathy McCoy, a psychotherapist specializing in family dynamics, says some distance can be a good thing. Kids should refrain from telling their parents everything and parents should refrain from trying to direct their adult child or grandchild’s life. “That distance can lead to a new kind of closeness,” says Dr. McCoy, who wrote “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” about estrangement between parents and their adult children.

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My adult son at SF MOMA.

If you’re the parent of adult kids, do you think you’re struggling to let your kids go, or like me, do you like to spend time with them? 

Guest Story: My Son Tried to Give Away the Cat on Facebook!

I’m excited to have my story shared by Katzenworld this morning. Check out my story and everything else all about cats from this entertaining and educational UK blog.

Hi everyone, Please find below a guest story by Elizabeth from bleuwater: Robert’s asthma and allergy appointment–on his first day home from college …

Guest Story: My Son Tried to Give Away the Cat on Facebook!