Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Indeed, this sums up the Job Description for the "Toughest Job"

"24 People Who Applied for the World's Toughest Job Were In for Quite a Surprise"
 AdWeek! (press the AdWeek link).

This about sums it right up: Once a Mom, Always a Mom!
Thank you AdWeek!

Friday, April 4, 2014

First time college go-ers

For those of you that have kids heading off to college for the first time, the summer tends to be made up of lots of planning, certainly from Mom's perspective. The logistics of getting from home to college are probably the most covered topics. How are you going to get Johnny and all of his stuff to college? How is Susie going to get all of those shoes there? Do you ship everything? Ship some? Buy some there? Will everything pack into the back of the car? Do you ship the bike? Buy a clunker? Us mothers are doing all of this stuff in our heads, trying to figure this all out. Your kid is thinking about their roommate, maybe about the room set-up, should they "loft" their bed? If you're anything like me, I needed a "visual" so I could help my kids think about storage, after all, everything that they bring to school has to fit in this approx. 9 X 12 foot space. Good news: More and more schools are providing pictures online of the residence and even the dorm rooms, some are providing measurements too. All very helpful information. This is much better than when you got the visual the day of arrival.
But there are some other things to think about. Here are suggestions of a few things that are some of my takeaways that you don't hear much about:
1) Look into tuition insurance. You never know what life brings: mono, death of a loved one, depression, the list goes on and on, so if a child has to "stop out" for a period of time, like a semester or quarter, you're covered! Having that insurance is a safety net.
2) Money conversation BEFORE they go. Most likely it's the first time they've had to budget. Discuss allowance, what you as parents think that should cover. Who's paying for books, dry cleaning, entertainment, their vacations...
The colleges have meal plans and "cards" (like credit cards) that take care of basics. Every college is different, some have you write a lump sum check and your kid uses it as a debit card kind of program, others charge you for the meal plan up front and whether or not your child has eaten all meals they have paid for, you don't get the money back (some have programs where the leftover money rolls into the next semester, but may not roll into the next year,) read the fine print. Some of the cards take care of laundry, others you need good old fashioned quarters. Fine print!
3) Now that your child is 18 they're considered an adult, but you as a parent have expectations. Discuss with them checking off the box with their college that you as a parent get sent their grades, if that's included in some of your expectations. No joke. You may be picking up the tab or some of it, but as far as the school is concerned that's a privacy issue. I know several kids who started struggling with college and all of that freedom and if their parents weren't getting their grades they had no way of knowing there'd been a change...it's not high school.
I'm sure you'll hear loads of tips from your network of friends that cover Twin XLs, buying storage bins there or shipping them, going online and ordering and then picking up at Bed Bath and Beyond or WalMart, wherever, at the store close to the college, rather than paying for shipping. Computer/ printer conversation, telephone plans...

I want to come back as one of my kids!

Has anyone else in the Boomer generation noticed the incredible opportunities available for our Gen Yers? Have you heard what some of these kids have gotten to do? Maybe your own have done some neat things!? Please don't misunderstand, I had a terrific upbringing with all kinds of great adventures along the way (both educational and experiential) but our kids, these days, have it pretty darn great! When else do they have a chance to try different things out? No mortgage to pay. No mouths to feed except theirs. No real responsibilities. (Except, maybe they've got loans to pay back.) And best of all, Mom and Dad are picking up the tab, or at least a portion of it. Sound familiar? These Gen Y kids have got the "marketing" thing down, they sure do know how to spin / persuade us that it's OK to do these things!
From language immersion programs in Italy, to volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica, to playing soccer in Amsterdam...to living on a Kibbutz, to building a violin in England, to competitively skiing in the summer in Oregon...to building reef balls on Eleuthera, marine biology in the Galapagos, summer school in New Zealand...the list goes on and on!
OK, OK, maybe there's been some adjustment in the last year due to our economy, but not much. I've read several articles related to this topic and because kids are having a tough time finding jobs or internships, these programs are hanging in there. Our kids have convinced us that if they can't find summer employment or a permanent job, then these things are "great for the resume" or "this will really broaden my perspective", whatever, loads of us are buying into this, or even suggesting this! These opportunities have been available for years and lots of our kids have been able to take advantage of them. I know mine have. They've had some incredible experiences! I, of course, am totally envious and thus the title of this blog post.
I've had numerous conversations lately with friends that have Gen Y kids and each of us are having to have "reality talks" with our kids. Especially those kids that have recently graduated from college and they're trying to figure out what they're going to do with their life. Some's approach is much like it was while in college, find a program or research a trip online and figure, "this is it! Mom and Dad will definitely go for this." And then reality sets in or "the talk" happens, who's going to pay for this? Or maybe, who's going to pay for this to continue? Maybe the summer between soph. and junior year, but now? as a recent college grad?
A couple of my favorite comments by friends were:
"I've told my son he'd better find an insurance salesman and ask him if he sells 'status quo insurance' and buy a boat load of it!" ~a Dad.
"I've told my kids by 30 they need to have a real job with benefits and a 401k, because the gravy train will be over! This train will be traveling a different track!" ~a Mom
Reality. Sometimes a tough thing. But the experiences these kids are having before "getting there", pretty incredible! And I must admit, these experiences have indeed broadened their horizons, heck, I want to go to New Zealand! :)

Destination vacation!

I've got to let you in on a little secret: Some of you may have already figured this out (I'm just a little slow on the uptake): destination vacation with your Gen Yers!
With two kids out of college and two kids in college, vacations have become a real challenge! Each of our college kids have different vacation schedules (of course) and each of our working kids have highly coveted, allotted, paid-by-their-employer vacation days, to the tune of maybe three weeks / year. Not to mention ourvacation schedule (the parents)! Trying to align all of our schedules and to presume that our kids actually would WANT to vacation with us or spend their vacation with us, that's the goal, right?
Well, through some trial and error, mostly at the expense of our eldest kids, we (us parents) have discovered:
If we choose a desirable destination
A week that conceivably could work for everyone
Let our kids know that that's where we'll be and when
We're paying....
They come!
You know "Field of Dreams", "if you build it, they will come?" So true!
It's fantastic!! We're just back from our 2009 vacation. This year was in the Rockies and it was terrific! All 6 of us under one roof. What's so great about this destination vacation stuff, is that there are no friend distractions. Selfish? You betchya! The problem with them coming home for their vacations are that you never see them! They may appear for a meal or two, but they spend most of their time visiting with old friends! And mom-here gets to do their laundry! Just love sorting through whose boxers are whose? :) Of course we're guilty of being distracted too when we're home, so this is a win-win proposition!
Before we enter into the next phase of life, with significant others, spouses, etc., this has been a welcome change to our previous vacations. We were a family that always vacationed with my parents. Wonderful, for sure, on so many levels...and as my siblings started having kids they started joining us too...really great! But there's middle school, high school and college between my kids and my sibs' kids, so it's a totally different dynamic! About three years ago we decided to mix things up, and we head out on our own once a year. It's been great!
It's evolved into different people taking charge! Take meals for example, what a kick that is to witness. Some are better sous chefs than others, some prefer clean up to cooking, others prefer to "direct traffic" in the kitchen...all while music is blaring, laptops are humming with Facebook or Gchat (unbelievable) in the background....my husband is still usually the one to man the grill (everyone's leery of "hockey pucks" as burgers). And as for the day's events and the planning, everyone chimes in on their wants, the usual sibling and /or parental pressure is applied to that person that "doesn't really want to go for the hike today." And in the end, we all go, there are loads of laughs, some blisters, and so many conversations about so many different things...did you know that you can video chat on Google now? Who knew? Or what goes on with pledging a fraternity and the numerous warnings/or advice an older sib gives a younger brother. BTW, pledges and cars; your kid will be running errands for the older "brothers" and if there are lots of seat belts available in that car, many miles will be logged on that vehicle for whatever "road trip" the frat decides to go on....who's paying for gas??? And that one of your kids can put you in Facebook pergatory (my words, not FB), only allowing you to see some of their posted pictures????
These are important topics! I learn a ton on these trips!
I highly recommend this vacation strategy with your Gen Y kids, who knows, maybe when we do enter the next phase this will be an "established precedent?!?" In the mean time...where should we go next year?

Helicopter parents...ugh!

You know the phrase. The media has coined this term for us. Can you imagine!?!? :) Me a helicopter parent? A friend forwarded me a segment from 20/20 about this subject and I have to say, watching it made me cringe, made me a wee bit defensive, and quite a bit of "I don't do that" ... do I? No, I don't. What I do do is definitely struggle with "letting go". That's why running things by my friends who've been here before me, or are experiencing this with me with their own kids, are saviors.
I remember way back when my mother strongly urged me to send our eldest to cooperative nursery school. It was good advice. Not only was the price tag more affordable, but there I was able to see once a week my daughter with her peers, I got to know other parents to bounce ideas off of, I got to check and see if what my daughter was doing was on par with the other kids...we didn't have the internet then to compare notes or have discussions on blogs with or websites to go to, we depended on that interface, on that exchange. It also paved the way or should I say sealed the deal with being sure to volunteer in the classroom when the kids were going through school. That was another great way to find out what was going on. But now that they're "launched", just how involved can or should you be? The million dollar question.
I really like the analogy Deborah Golder, Dean of Residential Education at Stanford University uses on this subject of 'letting go' and allowing our kids their independence and to live independently from us and we need to learn to live independently again too. "It’s like learning to hit a ball. In the end, the student has to swing the bat. If your parent is there, holding on to the bat and not letting go, you can’t learn. Parents can stand on the sidelines and give advice, like “keep your eye on the ball.” But let the student be the one out there swinging the bat." Hear! Hear! Well said.
I blogged about this idea of letting go and not being that helicopter parent they talk about before. Check out Transitions: Part One from High School to College.
It's a constant struggle, I won't lie. And it seems to be ongoing, but for now I'm watching the game from the sidelines, and loads of "keep your eye on the ball!!!"

$$$ College kids and Money! $$$

It's not to late to have a conversation about money with your college kid! It's one of those things that seems to slip through the cracks and before you know it, either you're A) getting a phone call from Johnny saying he's out of dough B) you go online to transfer their allowance and you realize their account is overdrawn (yikes!) and you hit the roof, C) your kid says to you that they can't buy their books for the semester because they don't have any money
("I'm just hearing about this now? What have you been doing for the last three weeks?")...you get the picture.
So before you experience some of those scenarios, take my advice: Have a conversation.
This conversation varies from household to household, but the common thread is:
Spell out your expectations! If you agree to an allowance, how often will they receive it, every month, every semester. The beginning of the month, the 15th, the end. What is that supposed to cover, exactly what are incidentals anyway? Shaving cream and toothpaste? Pizza and a movie? A pair of jeans? Whose money pays for what? Ideally they've got some money of their own from their summer job, or Aunt Harriet or something and that may be the fund they dip into to support their concert tickets or the train ticket to visit a buddy at college in the city, whatever. Maybe you expect them to pay for their own books? Believe me, this is not figured out through osmosis. And your idea of what their allowance covers compared to theirs can vary a great deal too. For example, I've always told my kids that we don't pay for beer, they do. (Of course they have to be 21!) That Wii their desperate to have for "down time"....sorry. But shampoo and toothpaste, yep. Vitamins, covered. We'll even cover that Broadway ticket for that freshman field trip. There really needs to be some clarity around whose money this really is. Is it their money, after all it's their allowance or is it yourmoney, because you've made the deposit? It's OK to say that you'll be happy to discuss this over the school year/years. Adjustments to what you originally agreed to may need to be made. You might even get a phone call from your son saying, "Mom, I really don't need the amount of allowance you give me. I know things are tight, please ratchet it back. I'm able to cover my expenses with X instead of Y." Really? Really.
And maybe your child has to get a job on campus to cover some of these expenses. There seem to be all kinds of jobs for students on campus, some are a one shot deal, like being part of a research study for a Sleep and Dreams professor and sleeping in a lab for a night (really) or maybe it's being a tour guide, or working in the "stacks' checking student id's, or being a lifeguard at the school's pool....but again discuss your expectations, should this be part time, and just how "part" and what happens if their grades start to suffer? Communicate!
When you look at the meal plan that's been purchased and the "university dollars" that are on their student card, side note: as each of our kids have gone through the different colleges those univ. dollars seem to cover more and more. Thank God the roll of quarters for the washing machine and dryer seem to be a thing of the past in more and more colleges. Boxers just may get washed! Maybe their sheets too, at least once. If all they have to do is "swipe" the card, how tough can this be? At any rate, a lot of their basic needs are billed by the college, but certainly not all, and depending on the meal plan that your student has chosen, they may not be fed on the weekends, so "incidentals" may include groceries or full meals out. Who knows? What I do know is that it sure adds up and as in any relationship, money is a funky conversation to have.
Believe me, this is a good way to help them start to really think about budgeting and how expensive things are and prioritizing.
Another lesson they learn along the way is who pays for what amongst their friends? Hopefully it just happens once when your son agrees to pay for the burgers, hot dogs, chips, charcoal, etc. for a tailgate, thinking that he'll be paid back by all of his frat brothers and guess what? Not. That can be an expensive lesson, not to mention the ill will that he feels because his "brothers" are slugs. If your kid has a car on campus and you've given her your gas card, watch out, she'll be doing all the driving for sure, but if you tell her that she's paying for her own gas, very quickly she figures out that either she doesn't volunteer to drive or she gets her riders to pitch in for gas.
I knew upfront that I was never going to be able to go home for Thanksgiving. Not when my family lived in CT and I was going to school in CA and Thanksgiving break was 4 days. It didn't really "hit me" until there was this mass exodus from campus that first Wednesday afternoon. Geeze, that was brutal! I made a very tearful call back east begging my mother to let me come home. Can you imagine receiving that call? Many years later she confessed to me that that was one of her toughest moments as a parent, having to calmly say to me that "I knew upfront, that I'd be home in just a few weeks and to wipe my tears and certainly there would be an invitation coming my way from a local family." Well, there was! Thank goodness, but I think my kids would tell you that I sometimes spell it out a little too clearly and a little too much in advance....
Everybody handles this a little differently and it's even handled differently within the same family. You know your kid best, and you know just how much dot connecting you need to do when having this conversation. You also know what you can and can't afford, so communicate with your son or daughter.

Golden Rules for every generation!

This about sums it up:
Ann Landers " Golden Rules for Living"
1. If you open it, close it.
2. If you turn it on, turn it off.
3. If you unlock it, lock it up.
4. If you break it, admit it.
5. If you can't fix it, call in someone who can.
6. If you borrow it, return it.
7. If you value it, take care of it.
8. If you make a mess, clean it up.
9. If you move it, put it back.
10. If it belongs to someone else, get permission to use it.
11. If you don't know how to operate it, leave it alone
12. If it is none of your business, don's ask questions

These are displayed in my grandparents' summer spot in Maine. I think my grandfather took Ann Landers' rules and tweaked them a bit.
Don'tchya just love the Maine humah!
Home Rules:
If you sleep on it-
Make it up.
If you wear it-
Hang it up.
If you drop it-
Pick it up.
If you eat out of it-
Wash it. (or put it in the dishwasher) (this was added in the last 10 years)
If you step on it-
Wipe it off!
If you open it-
Close it.
If you empty it-
Fill it up.
If it rings-
Answer it.
If it howls-
Feed it.
If it cries-
Love it!
Rules to live by!
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