Needing some downtime

Pink flower
The simple beauty of nature.

It’s been a few weeks since our vacation to Utah and I’m already feeling the need to get away. There’s something about the heat of the desert, being stuck inside because of 100-plus degree temperatures that gets to people.

I remember in my former life in Palm Springs that controversy always bubbled up mid-July to early August. Especially with our swim team. You take a bunch of over-involved parents who are competitive about their kids — put them on a hot pool deck — and you have a recipe for a few outbursts.

Once the former president of our swim team told me “Take this team and shove it up your A**!”

Then he walked off the pool deck with his kids and started his own team, taking about 30 or 40 swimmers with him. I stood in shock. As a board member, I had been in the middle of a power struggle between our coach and him. He wanted to be the coach and was actively trying to discredit our current coach.

It was an ugly episode in my parenting years. We noticed every summer around the same time things began to boil.

I don’t thrive with conflict. I try to avoid unpleasantness in my life.

Last week, a club meeting rivaled the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

A woman who I consider a friend acted horribly out of anger. I don’t know where the anger came from. But what should have been a nice night of having dinner and friendship turned into a battleground. I feel especially bad for the woman who opened up her home, prepared dinner and dessert for the club.

Now I feel caught in the middle. It’s a bad place to be. I want to get along. I am willing to give people a second chance and the benefit of the doubt. Even when they lose their temper and act badly. We are all human and make mistakes.

I’m going to distance myself from all these clubs for awhile until my emotions settle down. I can’t wait to get out of the heat and out of town, which is in a couple weeks.

How do you handle conflict? Do you forgive people for bad behavior or write them off?

Letting go — or losing control?

my son with swim teammates hanging on the lane line
My son in front hanging on the lane line with his teammates.

Six years ago, I debated the question if there was a difference between letting go and losing control. If you’re a parent of kids who have flown the nest — or are getting ready to — you’ll recognize these feelings.

Take a look at what I wrote about this. At that point in my parenting life, I wanted what was best for my children and felt like I had all the answers. However, looking back, my kids needed to make their own decisions and find their own paths. 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. They believed the same way I did about everything including religion, politics and entertainment.

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 musicals. I am happy, though, that my kids got to experience that slice 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 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.

brother and sister at the beach
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 are decidedly different than mine.

For example, I wanted to tell my son to pursue a career in business or law. My husband and I sent him job openings in the Bay area where he lives. (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.)

Did he listen? He’s polite. Every time I texted a job opening, he thanked me and said, “that’s a good idea.” Then he did what he wanted. He applied to teach at one of the worst school districts where the standardized test scores were 2 in Math and 7 in English. (Those numbers are not out of 10, but out of 100.) He decided to teach — instead of what I want him to do — and in one of the most difficult situations possible. He thought it would be a challenge.

My son giving the valedictorian speech.
High school graduation speech.

I couldn’t stop him. He had to live his own life and learn his own life lessons. There’s absolutely nothing I could say about it. I needed to learn to let go since I had lost control anyway. I am proud that he’s an adult with his own dreams and goals.

kids andmoms at the beach.
The gang in Laguna Beach. Me and my good friend Elaine with our kids and a few more we took along with us for a beach day.

UPDATE: The teaching job proved to be more difficult than my son could handle. Issues included students who had no support in learning from their families. A counselor entered my son’s classroom and told the students they didn’t have to listen to my son. The final straw was when he reported a student for truancy and he learned the student was deported. He felt beyond guilty.

He’s been working for a tech startup for several years. He’s able to use his Math and English skills. The company has a good work/life balance and he likes the people he works with.

So much for mom and dad telling him what to do and what path to take. On the bright side, I’ve learned to step back and let my kids be who they are.

When have you questioned if you’re losing control or letting go? What difference do you see between the two? What situations in your own life made you realize it was time to let go?

And now they’re gone

kids on a rock
Laguna Beach picture of my kids from around 2001.

I’ve been fortunate to have two quick visits by my kids. They called my husband and asked what he wanted for Father’s Day. He said he wanted to see them.

My daughter’s visit was fun because she had a few days off and we got to spend a lot of time together. It’s been great to have my son here, too, but he works remotely so we only had evenings free to talk and hang out.

Both kids wanted my home cooking rather than going out. That made me smile. It made me mom proud.

I enjoyed watching my son work remotely. He wears a headset and stands while working on his computer. He’s either typing away furiously or conducting meetings, laughing, talking and smiling. He works nonstop from 8 a,m. until the evening when he finishes up with his last meeting.

I’m very proud of the adult he’s become and how hard working he is. Also, it seems this is a job he really enjoys.

Now that they’re gone I’m a bit sad, but happy that they are living their lives.

It’s back to me, my husband and Olive the cat.

What are you doing for Father’s Day?

Olive cat
Olive giving me that look before she jumps in my lap.

Parents against smartphones

boogie boarding in Laguna
My daughter and friends boogie boarding before any had smart phones.

Fifty-three percent of American children have a smartphone of their own by age 11, according to a 2019 report by Common Sense Media. By the time they’re 16, 89 percent of kids have one. An earlier report by Common Sense Media found that 50 percent of teenagers felt addicted to their smartphones and that 59 percent of their parents thought that was the case. All of this has coincided with a startling increase in mental health challenges among adolescents, which some psychologists believe might be tied to the adverse effects of social media use.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2022/05/09/parents-kids-smartphones/

That quote came from an article in the Washington Post called “Meet the parents who refuse to give their kids smartphones” by Ellen McCarthy.

It was an interesting read to see how the children felt about not being allowed to have a smartphone. In some instances they were the only person in their school without one. The parents gave them a phone that didn’t have internet access but they could use to text and call. One child was so embarrassed with that type of phone, they never got it out at school.

One mother who refused to let her children have smartphones was a psychiatrist who treats high school and college students. She said her patients were on their smartphones nine hours a day or more — more than they sleep.

I agree with WHY the parents didn’t want their kids to have smartphones, but I’m not sure in today’s world if I could do it. My kids had childhoods without cell phones. My son didn’t get his iphone until high school graduation. My daughter got hers earlier and there was a lot of bullying going on. Also, I remember this thing on Instagram my daughter showed me where young girls were posting pictures of their thigh “gaps.” It was a body image competition that probably boosted anorexia.

By the end of eighth grade, Annalise Stacey was the only one in her class without a smartphone. And her mom’s spiels about how bad the devices are for kids’ brains didn’t make that much easier.

If her friends decided to hang out after school or on a weekend, they would make plans via group text. When she went to sleepovers, she often ended up watching other girls scroll on their phones. Annalise, who is now 15, sometimes didn’t know what her classmates were talking about because gossip had been exchanged over text or social media.

“I was frustrated just because I’m more of a shy person, so I felt like I was definitely getting left out of things and I didn’t really know how to get included.”

What are your thoughts? Would you be a parent against smartphones, even if your child felt left out? At what age did your kids get smartphones?

What to do about obnoxious sports parents

diving off the blocks
My daughter diving during at a swim meet where the swimmers were selected from So Cal teams.

As a swim parent, I saw my share of obnoxious swim parents. And I had my own moments of not being able to contain myself — although not to the point of punching a ref out — or yelling at a coach.

I saw so many parents taking over their kids’ sports, coaching from the stands, and yelling at their children when they had a less than awesome swim, that I wrote weekly articles with sports parenting tips. You can read them on SwimSwam Parent Tips on my blog or on SwimSwam HERE.

We hear about “those” parents in the news. Their videos of violence on the field or gym go viral.

I saw an article today that had the perfect solution. Duct tape.

Here’s an excerpt from the NY Post’s “The solution to obnoxious sports parents? Duct tape” by  Kyle Smith:

Last July, a woman on a flight from Dallas to Charlotte bit a flight attendant, then tried to open a door to the plane while screaming. Crisis was averted when she was duct-taped to her seat

An excellent start! Now let’s get out the duct tape for sports parents, who need to sit down, shut up and remember that Pee Wee football is not the Super Bowl. In Mississippi this month, an umpire presiding over a ballgame played by 12-year-olds was punched in the face and given a black eye by a woman wearing a Mother of the Year shirt who had been thrown out of the stands for cursing. “It gets harder and harder to staff these tournaments because no one wants to listen to the verbal abuse and run the risk of what happened to me happening to them,” the umpire, Kristie More, told WLBT

Like other forms of bad behavior (deaths in car crashes are way up), hyper-reactive-sports-parenting seems to have spiked during the pandemic, when tempers have been running as hot as Bidenflation. Even before that, anyone who was thinking about helping out the kids by signing up to be an umpire or a referee would have been smart to buy a Kevlar jacket and make sure his insurance was paid up. “There has been a huge drop off in the number of available referees and officials in youth sports due to the obnoxious behavior of parents,” Rick Wolff host of WFAN radio’s “The Sports Edge” told The Washington Post in 2020

https://nypost.com/2022/04/23/the-solution-to-obnoxious-sports-parents-duct-tape/

I highly suggest you read the article. It’s funny, but highlights what’s wrong with public discourse in today’s world.

What’s the most obnoxious thing you’ve seen parents do? What solutions do you have? Do you think things have gotten worse since the COVID shutdowns?

Why do 50% of freshman fail college?

I remembered a post I wrote years ago after reading LA’s post called “Do We Owe Kids College?” There’s an interesting discussion in the comments about whether or not parents are obligated to pay for their kids college or not.

The post I remembered is below. The stats are shocking of how many kids fail. I wonder if it’s gotten worse since I wrote this?

Why Do Kids Fail College?

I wonder why so many kids fail college? I was shocked to read a statistic from ACT that 50% of freshman students do not return for their second year. Then, 30% of those remaining, do not graduate within five years!

Why? What can we do to better prepare our kids for college? There is so much pressure on our kids to get into great schools.You’d think with the great expense, and all their work to get in, it would be a breeze once they are there. But, it’s not.

Swimmers on a recruit trip to Utah.
My daughter and friend on a recruit trip where they were allowed on the football field during a game.

Here’s my list of why I think kids fail their freshman year:

ONE

Too many kids go to college. I do not think everyone should go. When I was in high school the majority of students did not continue their education past high school. They were able to get jobs, support themselves and their families without a college education. Today, a college degree has become the norm and standard. There are many kids who would be better served to work for a few years, and then decide if they want to go to college. By having everyone go, and not everyone is equipped to go, some kids are set up for failure.


TWO

High school doesn’t prepare kids for college. The work is often spoon-fed by teachers in little lumps of daily assignments and reading. Having a syllabus with a couple dates on it and no day-to-day requirements is more what college is like. It takes discipline, motivation and self-determination to not procrastinate, but to work and study in advance of deadlines.

imgres
A gorgeous location. UCSB.

THREE

We do too much. As helicopter, hovering parents, we are afraid to let our kids fail. We don’t let our kids learn from their mistakes. They need to have more chores, part-time jobs or something to do besides homework. Some of the crazy, heavy AP schedules don’t allow for real life experiences. Plus, some parents cater to their kids’ every needs—even to the point of helping them complete projects or assignments. My conversation with four-time Olympian and former University of Texas head coach Jill Sterkel included some great advice that you can read on SwimSwam here. She believes in letting kids work out their problems in a less high-stakes environment. We need to give them room to do this.

FOUR

Millennials mature later, according to Kari Ellingson, Vice President at the University of Utah. I attended a talk by her at orientation with my daughter. I wrote more about her talk here. According to Ellingson, “It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28.” It’s no wonder they can’t handle the many demands of laundry, getting their own food, studying, etc. Maybe our kids are not mature enough to handle the responsibilities of college at age 18?

My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.
My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

What can we do to help our kids be prepared for success in college? What do you think are the reasons why so many kids fail in college? I’d love to get your feedback.

Day one of mom and grand-dog duties

Waffles at the ER vet
Waffles the pug not feeling so good.

I made it to the Bay Area to help my daughter who has COVID. I’ve been wondering how much help I can be, since I can’t be with her? If I can’t do much, I’m looking forward to quiet time alone writing.

So far, it turns out — more time than I thought.

I didn’t arrive until evening to my airbnb which is .2 miles from her apartment. The problem is she’s on quarantine and can’t leave her apartment. I’m not sure what the protocol is these days, but I can guarantee she hasn’t hit it yet.

She texted me a list of groceries. I asked if I could go to the Berkeley Bowl to get the items on her list. It’s one of my favorite places to go to when I visit the kids. This running errands will be a treat if it includes the Berkeley Bowl! I blogged about it HERE.

I picked up clam chowder and a salad for my own dinner and a few groceries for my airbnb mini-fridge along with her list. When I dropped off her groceries at her doorstep, we waved at each other through her window.

I walked back to the airbnb and sat to savor the Berkeley Bowl clam chowder. It’s so delicious. I called my son and we were talking about plans for tomorrow’s dinner. He may be recovering from foot surgery, but he doesn’t have COVID. We can be together in person.

That’s when I got a call from daughter asking me to take Waffles the pug to the ER. He’s been having issues with his tummy. I wrote about it HERE a few days ago. Waffles has been throwing up and hasn’t recovered from chicken bones. The animal ER won’t let my daughter with COVID inside.

I sat for more than two hours with Waffles in the waiting room. My daughter texted me the recent details since I was traveling from Arizona and not totally up to date. We — the vet, the vet’s assistant and my daughter on the phone — decided not to hospitalize Waffles last night, but to bring him back in the morning if he doesn’t improve.

I’m wondering what tomorrow’s role as mom and dog grandma will bring? What’s driving me crazy is to be so close to my daughter, but not being able to give her a hug.

Have you traveled to help your kids away from home? How have you helped? How have you helped family members with COVID?