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!

Parents' Weekend is coming! It's all about the Visual!

That's right, it's about time you get to check in on your little darlin'! They've been in school since mid August, or maybe the beginning of September and now it's time for the onslaught of parents. I highly recommend going if it's your kid's freshman year. It's a great way to get a visual! And I don't know about you, but I'm ALL about the visual!
You can check out their digs, meet some of their friends, get a gage of what's going on on campus, go for a re-supply of some of those basic essentials (like detergent, deodorant, toothpaste....), maybe go to a class or two...
I must say, after going freshman year, when you make a return trip the following years, it's a kick to see their friends again, or reconnect with some of the other parents. By graduation, you have your own little network of familiar faces to at least say hello to! From my perspective, Parents' Weekend is a welcomed "new" tradition on campuses across the country. I don't remember this event when I was in college? I don't know when they started them, probably for us demanding Baby Boomers, but I quite like them. And if we don't go on the actual designated weekend, try to go on another weekend in the fall, so you can achieve some of the things I previously mentioned, like the all important visual!
OK, true confession, the college designated Parents' Weekend is great freshman year; you're a newbie, the college/university puts on "the dog" for the parents, they strut their stuff, other parents are there to meet, the college is sparkly clean, there is loads to do on campus because they're expecting you... but after freshman year, it's kind of nice to go on a "quieter" weekend. Then you get the real story, the straight scoop. I guess the potential bummer is that your kid is on their own for Parents' Weekend, no free dinners, but MAYBE one of those nice other parents that go will include your child?!? Just like you will include theirs when you're there!

Your Job as Parent.... ongoing!

I remember thinking, when my kids went through middle school, how different it was parenting.
Yes, it was physically busy, transporting them from here to there. Being "on them" about doing their homework. Running around gathering their supplies, their sporting equipment. Going to their games, their performances, attending their science fairs, volunteering on their field trips, chaperoning their dances....the list went on. Very busy. But the shift really was in the emotional quotient piece of parenting. These young people were experiencing real life stuff. Hurt feelings, emotional highs and lows (which usually involved their friends), not making teams, receiving grades for the first time (no longer the "need strengthening stuff", the VG's, etc.)... and all of this stuff would eventually end up at home in some form or other. I remember feeling that I wish I could take on some of their pain, some of their emotions, so they wouldn't have to suffer. I also felt like that, if one of my kids ended up in the emergency room from some injury and they were in pain. Crazy I know.
Well, this role of emotional supporter sure does continue long past middle school, all through high school, through college and long after they've graduated. If you think your role as parent is "done" when they go off to school...wrong! Their "problems" or emotional experiences take on a considerably different ability in parenting. I've found that I've really had to hone my listening skills and I can't take on their pain and upset. The "voice of reason" comes to mind as I'm writing this. No one tells you that as a parent of young adults you're really a jack of all trades: counselor, consultant, psychiatrist, cheerleader, spiritual advisor... there are a million adjectives to use for parenting skills.
It's a big transition to college, and the rest of the college years! This time can bring about big changes in a student's life! It can be the first time they are dealing with a lot of issues: depression, displacement, eating disorders, self confidence issues, friends with problems, divorcing parents, roommates, etc. Even if your child showed no signs of issues with these problems in high school, a lot of times these things pop up in the 4 years of college: more often than you think. So, as a parent, be looking for changes in patterns with your child. It can be anything from changes in voice tone, sleeping schedules, calling home (or not)... it could manifest in any way, you know your child best, and you know what is normal/ not normal for them, so listen and pay attention! If you notice changes, then encourage your kid to talk to someone: use the college counselors, it is not embarrassing, more students use the counselors than you would think, for a wide, wide range of issues, both large and small: anything from feeling homesick, to being stressed, to being worried about a friend, frustrated with a roommate, or just wanting a third party to talk to, they've got support, they've got resources. Encourage your kid to ask.
This is tough stuff, and as a parent of Gey Yers, it's a balancing act too. You have to realize when you're hovering and there too much, and when you have to let them make their own decisions and choices on things. You need to encourage them to use their resources. You're not always going to be there, nor are they going to want you, so they need to know where to seek help and advice if you're not. I'll admit that I have an underlying assumption that as parents, we've laid the foundation. We've been talking to our kids all along, about loads of different stuff. Our kids are used to us asking them how their day was, or "tell me about the game," so as they get older we should be able to talk to them about the tougher stuff too, like sex, drugs, their feelings... We have to have confidence that our kids will make good decisions, based on that foundation; the value system you've helped them establish, will inform those choices, those decisions.
Will there be mistakes, "98 and 3/4% guaranteed", but they'll learn from those (you hope). Just remember, you did!

Parents' Influence!

I'm going to throw something out there. I've been "noodling."
There's been a lot written about marketing to various generations and how kids influence their parents' purchases. As a parent of Gen Yers, let me tell you, we parents influence our kids' purchases!
I'll back up. Way back before Gap Kids, 1980ish, my husband was a Boys' buyer at Macy's California. He convinced a couple of outerwear vendors to make the famous "members only" jacket in boys sizes 8-20, well, they blew out the door. Those little boys didn't like the "Little Lord Font Leroy" peter panned collared stuff." I'm exaggerating a tad, but not much. They wanted to look cool, so when Mom took'em shopping,they'd beg and plead for 'members only' and... you know the rest. Well, that kind of thinking evolved and developed into many different businesses, by many different people. Those little darlings influenced our purchases. Fast forward: Now that our kids are older and the price tags for things they want has escalated exponentially AND they don't like to part with their own $ do-re-mi $, our kids turn to us for our help and advice on things.
These kids are very knowledgeable and opinionated about electronic purchases, so they tend to take the reins there, but when it comes to buying a bed, or furniture, or housewares, or a suit, or a car... that's where Mom comes in (or Dad). Now I'm not talking about paying for these items, necessarily. I'm talking about the fact that they call us and ask us for our opinions, our suggestions, our recommendations on those big ticket items, where to go, what websites to check, and nine times out of ten they buy what's suggested.
When it came time for my son to get an "interview suit," he didn't head out on his own to make that purchase, WE went. There I was rummaging through the rounder of suits, picking out the wool gabardines, leading him away from the summer khakis, "a wool gabardine will take you through 9 months, a khaki through 3 AND you'll have this suit for years, it's a classic. This is a much better purchase, more bang for the buck," I said. When my daughter was looking for a dining table, same scenario. Both Mom and Dad went recently to the furniture store with our son when he was buying a bed... these are big purchases, they're long term purchases and our kids look to us for guidance, and oh yes, the possibility that we just may pick up the tab. But it's really that they don't want to "go this alone," not when there's serious money involved.
When your Gen Yer graduates from college; no more furnished dorm room, it's time for that apartment and making choices. There's probably a bunch of stuff they can have from the family home, as long as they provide the U-haul and the brawn, but if they don't live close by, that's not necessarily the best option. Some conversations sound like this: "does it make sense to spend X dollars on a brand new rug for the living room that I'll have for years? or Should I go to Target and pick one up that I may only have for a year or two? Should I spend X dollars for a new bed? My back is killing me after a night on a lousy mattress." Our kids are asking for advice on their benefits packages (401ks, insurance, etc.), they're also asking about their "real world" purchases and let's face it, we have influence!

Have you made reservations?

That's right, you! I've learned over the years that if you want to see your kids over the holidays (at a reasonable price), you better be actively involved in the reservation making! So if you haven't made those flight reservations for Thanksgiving, you're really pushing the proverbial envelope. I've just checked some websites and to travel Wed. through Sunday of Thanksgiving, fahgetaboutit.... The prices are going up. And going up a lot. And the availability is the pits, unless you want to travel on turkey day, which is a bummer. So if you want to see them over the holidays, get on the computer!
Negotiating these plans is an interesting process. When they're in college, you know when their breaks are and you assume that the holidays "belong to you:" they'll be coming home or meeting you somewhere. When they're in the working world, they only get two or three weeks vacation per year, and you may make the assumption that they of course want to spend their time off with you, but not necessarily....
Thus the negotiations begin! A couple of the added bennies we parents have is that we offer the "traditions they grew up with," we stroke the nostalgia key. Who knows, there's a real possibility we might pick up the tab for their travels? Why not sweeten the pot? We might even offer a "destination" vacation. But you better communicate with your kids about all of this: dates, times they're available to travel, etc. You don't want to experience their wrath if you made the wrong assumption. Assume nothing. Talk to them.
One thing is clear though, if you haven't made those reservations, you better get on it... they're not, I suppose they just assume that you're going to "take care of this" and may even pay for this. But speaking as a past retailer and not being able to go home for Christmas those first several years out of college, I have real empathy. It's a real bummer not to be with family over the holidays, so if you can help your Gen Yer avoid that, do! Make those reservations! It's a good gift!

'Tis the holiday season!

Merry, merry and happy, happy!
They're home or they're coming home! I love this time of year, but I won't lie, it's an adjustment for everybody! If you haven't had a houseful this past semester then you know what I'm talking about. Just when you had things where you liked them, the gas gauge on your vehicle where you remember leaving it, the food in the fridge that you knew would be there to make dinner...it all changes...but there's more to it than that.
Think back to when you were in their shoes. They have been living on their own, making their own decisions and choices about things. They've been deciding when to come home at night, (no curfews at college), when to eat and sleep, how long to sleep, maybe they've been taking naps during the course of the day. What they eat, when they study, when and how much they exercise. You have not been a factor in the structure of their day. Where we parents run into trouble is if we instantly regress and go back to the time when we did structure their days. Not a good idea. There will be conflicts a-go-go.
I know I blogged about a related timeframe when they come home for the summer (blog: Summer They're Pushing the envelope), but somehow the holiday timeframe is different. Maybe because it's a compressed period, maybe because there's more emotion associated with the holidays, maybe it's because there's a bit of a competition for your kid's time: their friends want to see and spend time with them and so do you and their siblings. It's tough to be so popular! :)
They are usually completely exhausted when they first come home. They've been burning the midnight oil, cramming a semester's worth of material into their brains, probably not eating well and most likely they're sick with a cold or worse. What I've learned through my kids, is let them sleep. Everyone's happier if your kid is rested. Some good home-cooked meals tends to be appreciated and if you're really nice, you've scheduled those doctor and dental visits for a little later in their vacation. I have that image of the Wizard of Oz when the Scarecrow, Tinman, Cowardly Lion and Dorothy all get fixed up for their visit to the Wizard, that's what it must feel like to our kids when they are home.
A friend forwarded me a good email that George Washington University's Director of Parent Services sent out. (Interesting job title, don't you think? What a reputation we parents have!) Basically he said, that it's an adjustment for everyone, a transition for everyone and there needs to be communication about expectations from both parties. Hear! Hear! I think that's the key, communicate! Let your kids know what are MFO's (mandatory family obligations) and what aren't, what your expectations are about when they come home: how late friends can stay at night, who's doing their laundry, what meals you expect them at, use of the car....believe me, when you have this conversation they'll chime in their expectations and there may have to be some compromises. Depending on who you talk to in our household, I think my kids would feel differently about who's compromised most. But that's not the point, having everyone under the same roof, co habitating and enjoying each other's company, that's the goal!

Summer, they're pushing the envelope!

Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but this summer in the northeast has gotten off to a very soggy start, we've been growing webs between our toes! But the rain hasn't curtailed the behavior of our Gen Yers. "School's out for the summer!" It's almost a mantra, and when it comes to the "rules of the school year" it seems to be the summer when the envelope gets pushed the most, and the rules seem to be pushed right out the window! Or at least there's a serious attempt to throw them out. :) This isn't just about kids who've just graduated from high school, this is also about college age kids and even kids who are living at home after college.
For those of you parents that have been through this, you know exactly what I'm talking about. For those yet to get there, trust me, you will!
Kids and curfews. Kids waking you when they get in to let you know they're home (as requested). How do these apply on a "school night?" A work night? The weekends? Over the fourth? And I'm afraid this is a debated topic when they come home for Thanksgiving, for the holidays, for any of their breaks!
You've got rules in your home regarding curfews. Maybe it's midnight, maybe it's a phone call at midnight to let you know where they are. And then you ask them to wake you when they get home, because if they don't, when you wake up to pee you can't help but go check their bedroom to be sure they're safe and sound. Then of course YOUR REM sleep has been interrupted and if they're not home, then you're worried; you're texting, or calling....Does that curfew stand every night of the week? After seven days of midnights, or one, two, three in the mornings, I don't know about you, but that gets exhausting! Not for them particularly, for you! Maybe you can reach a 'weekend understanding' and the weekdays they're in at a more reasonable hour, say 10. My mother had this saying, "nothing good happens after midnight." That's another one of those things I've adopted, to my kids' chagrin.
Well, something's gotta give, the proverbial 'you know what' hits the fan...and one thing I think many of us can agree on, it's not pretty when Mom blows her gasket. Usually this happens after Mom has had virtually no sleep or at least no continuous sleep and she's been working, keeping the house running smoothly, getting meals on the table, doing the laundry and she feels that she's doing everything and the kid, feeling or acting ever so entitled (or at least it seems that way to you), isn't doing anything but staying out til all hours, sleeping in until noon (if there's no job to get up for....) Does this sound familiar?
If it does, communication is key! Communication between you and your kid. Be upfront! Don't get to the "gasket blowing stage" if you can avoid it. Let them know what your expectations are, they'll let you know what theirs are, and then come to consensus or a compromise.
As your high school graduate is stretching, feeling their oats, saying their "good byes," working on their independence, etc. they tend to push these buttons the most. The second runner up is the kid home from college, having experienced independence and making decisions on their own, they're not used to parents and their rules, and then comes the kid that's been living on their own, 21 and over, and they can't understand why you need to be woken up or why it matters what time they come in at night? Hello?! (Just wait until their parents).
I have to confess, that I was surprised to hear my mother's words come out of my mouth when I first experienced this as a Mom, summer-days run into nights-run into days-curfew vs. no curfew-discussion: "as long as you're living under our roof, it's our rules..." YIKES! I'll also confess that I didn't quite come down that hard, we worked out compromise and consensus. When I was able to articulate how I felt, how rude I thought they were being and how I felt taken advantage of, that though they may not need a lot of sleep, some of us do...and the guilt started to set in (their guilt), they got the message...life's improved dramatically! They don't hear their mother's wrath or maybe they were hearing nagging or as I re-read this, whining...Sleep! Sleep is key! But more importantly, communication, it tends to work things out!

Tech Support

I'm a Facebooker, I've got an iPhone (I'm a bit of an addict,) I'm blogging, I'm tweeting, I'm texting, I'm working on my Gchatting (there have been some complaints from my peanut gallery that I'm a lousy Gchatter. Can I help it if I leave Gmail open and walk away from my computer a lot, or if I'm not a terrific multi tasker when it comes to the computer!?) I have apps on my iPhone that I actually use...
How did this happen? Well, thank goodness for my tech support! My kids! They're part of the GenY generation, they've been brought up on this stuff!
My kids have been incredibly helpful getting me set up, communicating and sharing various apps I should take a look at, or websites I should check out...I was informed by Stanford that if I wanted to hear news about my upcoming reunion, I needed to join Facebook, because that's how they were going to communicate. My kids tend to text me now, more and more, just with a quick check in. I take loads of pictures, I used to leave them on my computer, just "sitting there", now I actually do something with them, whether it's on Facebook or making a book through Shutterfly or Apple. I took advantage of Apple's personal trainers, a really good deal and those guys are really helpful. I heeded my own advice about tutors and my kids, get the fight out of the kitchen, talk to a neutral party and get help...it's good advice. Everyday things seem to be changing and between my kids, reading various newspapers and periodicals (which I'm doing more and more online) and my "personal trainer" I think I'm doing pretty well for a Baby Boomer. I really want to encourage you to get with the program. Don't dig in your heels on this. Ask your kids for help, hire someone, ask your friends, your work colleagues...just do it!
I must say, this is so much fun! And I am incredibly thankful to my tech support for their patience and help. I think they think they've created a monster though!

Sick without your mother

A phone call or a text, "Mom, I'm not feeling well. My throat is killing me, my stomach aches like crazy...I got hit in the head and I feel nauseous..." Does this resonate? It's flu season and even if it wasn't, it doesn't matter. Unfortunately, this is life! But, here in lies the challenge as a parent: They're at college or living on their own somewhere and you aren't there to evaluate the situation yourself.
So you drill them with questions: Do you have a fever? What hurts? Do you have a rash? Could it be something you ate? What are your symptoms? ...
If need be, you've convinced them to go to their school's clinic, their doctor, or the Emergency Room. Well, once there, things can get "interesting":
They've told you that's where they are, but guess what? There's no cell service in a hospital, you know that they headed there or were actually there, but after that, it's the great abyss. You might not hear anything for hours! As one girlfriend said to me, "I of course, was going to every dark corner in my mind, imagining the worst." All you want is to know how your kid is? What's the prognosis? Diagnosis? And the next steps?
They're also considered adults, 18 and over, so it's difficult to get any information. Here are some thoughts and suggestions that I've learned along the way. Of course nothing is fool proof and I'm sure you have some thoughts and ideas too.
* Get the name and phone number of their roommate, so if you need information about your kid, they are a good place to start.
* Suggest to your sick child that they A) tell someone they're going to the ER B) Ideally have someone take them and stay with them, at least until they're all squared away.
* Be sure to get the name of the hospital, clinic or doctor they're going to. (When you're in a different city, you have no idea where or who). Just in case you need to start sleuthing.
* If you're not getting any information, no communication with your kid, try calling the roommate or good friend that you HOPE went with them. Text them if all else fails.
* You don't have a phone number or email for a friend or roommate, but you have a first and last name: go to Facebook, go to "friends", go to "find friends," you can refine your search and add the college or state they're from and see if you can deduce which one of the names that matches is your child's friend. If you think you've got a match, then send them a message. Kids read their FB page, so they'll see it. Of course, all of this is if you don't have any contact info.
* Try calling the hospital, get connected to the ER, with luck you'll get a person on the phone that's a Mom. Pull the Mom-card. Tell them you're the Mom of someone who's there, you've heard nothing for 4 hours! You're concerned and would like to know that they're still alive. OK a tad dramatic, but you get the gist. You just may be pulling the Mom-card with a Mom...bingo! She just may tell you something, gather information and call you back! It's worth a try.
If you want to be proactive: When your kid is filling out forms for college, there will be a place where they can give parents permission to receive grades, be informed about emergency-like situations... encourage your child to check the box "yes." That helps. Also, when visiting your kid and you're introduced to friends and roommates, write down names, phone numbers and/or emails. You never know when you might need them. (That contact information can come in handy for birthdays too, if you want to surprise your child with a cake or something and you need the help of their roomie.) Arm your kid with information. If they're allergic to any medications, be sure they have that information, otherwise they rely on you and in an emergency that's not the best. Besides, if you're like me, who can keep track of who and what allergies, especially if they're not written down???
Being sick without your Mom can be lousy and as a Mom, having your kid sick away from you arguably can be lousier!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Broken Hearts

Broken hearts. Tough. Seems like a good topic since we're surrounded by hearts this time of year.
I'm not talking about your heart, I'm talking about your kid's heart, and you may or may not know that it's been broken. We all go through it, it's part of that "life experience" thing, but just like so many other aspects of being a parent ... you wish your kid didn't have to go through the pain.
Well they do.
Now the questions that arise as a parent (assuming you know) are:
What do you say?
What kind of advice can you give?
Do they WANT your advice?
Is this a time to share one of your broken heart stories?
Do you jump in the car and "drive to the rescue?"
Does there need to be an intervention?
Is that person you, to be doing the intervening? A roommate? A good buddy?
Well there are several different scenarios I've heard about: from jumping on a plane and "flying to the rescue!"...to not doing anything but listening,... to calling a good buddy and asking if they'd check in on the broken hearted,... to ignoring the situation and pretending it's not happening to your kid (now that's a good parent)...
I think as their Mom (or Dad) you need to gage your own child...listen for those various flags or signals...as a girlfriend shared with me, "I was super concerned about the spiral downward, he sounded so bummed out, I couldn't just sit back and watch and wait, I had to get a visual, I didn't want him to do anything drastic!" FYI: She and Dad went to the big city, got a visual, helped their son move (now that's a whole new entry, living together!) did some major cheerleading, told their tales, suggested strategies that their son might use to keep moving forward, suggested activities to get involved with after work, exercising, etc. And now it's all good.
As for other scenarios, it may be more of a bruised ego than an actual broken heart, but I must confess, sometimes it's really hard to tell the difference at the time.
I know some of you are thinking to yourself, butt out, tell your kid "you're sorry it didn't work out" and that's it. Move on! Maybe so.
What do you think?
My poor kids have heard my tales of whoa. I'm not sure that's a good or bad thing, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time?!? Why let my kids think that I have no idea how they may or may not be feeling, right? Emapthy's a good thing.
The other thing you may be thinking, is tell your kid "to get back on the horse," (sorry) "to get back out there..."
"no groveling!"
"no begging to be taken back!"
"this too shall pass"
This is always a fave....NOT!
"there are other fish in the sea!"
Mom-isms...love those! :)
In my experience, broken hearts mend and you learn from them! Hopefully.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Leap of Faith

It takes a leap of faith when you get the phone call and your child says:
"Mom, I'm quitting my job...."
"Mom, I've QUIT my job...."
"Mom, I'm making a move to another company.... it's smaller, more entrepreneurial...."
"Mom, I'm starting my own business..."
"Mom, I've got an idea for a business, so I'm quitting my current job to work on it...."
I'm suggesting that, as the recipient of said calls, you have to have faith in your kid and that hopefully you've helped lay a foundation where they make good, sound decisions... that they're not chucking caution to the wind, that they've thought this through, that they've still got health insurance, COBRA, something! That they've figured out how they're going to pay their rent? Eat? AND that they've ideally NOT quit their job, until you've had a good vetting conversation....
These Gen Y kids are adults, they're making decisions on their own every day... that's what we want, right?! They're becoming more and more independent. Arguably, they are independent! At least if you ask them, they are. Again, that's the goal, right?
Here's a suggestion: IF you suspect that you may have a kid that's thinking in any of the above directions; rather than wait: don't close your eyes, cross your fingers, pray,... whatever,... that this will all go away or that they'll "come to their senses" and keep their job, especially in this economy... don't do it! Don't wait, have a conversation. Bring it up. Get them to talk about it, think out loud with you!... they just may surprise you. They actually may have thought their decision through and they just may have a plan!
This is my thinking, our thinking: they're young, no mortgage to pay, no mouths to feed (other than their own)...when else is a good time? When will they take a chance / a risk, and try something new, especially if it's their own idea?
OK, I have to admit, this took some time to get to this point, "risk-adverse-mother-that-I-am". I know to some, it sounds good, and to some of you, you're probably thinking, "has she lost her mind????" "I would never behave like this as a parent!" "Take control! Tell your kid they can't quit!" And some of you Gen Yers reading this may be thinking: "I WISH I could quit and start a business!" "I have loans to pay from school" "my parents would kill me!" "There's no way!"
First of all, good luck to you parents who try to "take control." Let me know how that goes. Second, though I'm incredibly risk adverse, especially when it comes to my family, if there's a good, well thought out plan (more than a germ of an idea) and you sense your child's conviction, I mean, what the heck? You've picked them up when they've fallen before, who says you won't pick them up again. This time the pick up may have conditions or a timeline or may come a little later... but let's be real...
The process itself of researching, budgeting, figuring out how to start your own business or going with a start up...it's all a very steep learning curve, but incredibly worthwhile! If they get "hungry" enough, either you'll hear from them (or perhaps, see them) or it will force them to move in a different direction or make a different decision or decide to put together Plan B (maybe graduate school?) or network a little more or market a little differently or switch up their selling technique... but is any of this a real negative? Really?
Have a little faith!

Celebrating a Birthday Away from Home

We've all been there, away from home, having a birthday, but as a parent of four grown kids who all are away from home celebrating birthdays, it's proving to be more of a challenge than it used to be!
"Check your PO Box!"
Why is it that college kids don't check their PO Boxes?
"Why should I? I never get any mail."
Kids who've graduated, figure out very quickly that they better check the mail because good stuff, like bills are sent that way. I know, not for long, or not if they check that box to have it sent electronically, but for the most part, at least for now, snail mail.
Not only is not checking the PO Box a challenge, but then there's the big question of what do you send? Is it better / easier just to send money or transfer money or tell them to buy themselves something and you'll pay them back... That's assuming they have the do-re-mi to make the purchase up front, not likely.
Do you send them an electronic birthday card? Is that where you tell them that they'd better check their PO Box or that you've sent something UPS or FedEx to whereever it's supposed to be sent at their college, (ie., their dorm).
Or if they've graduated and living in a city, can you send something UPS or FedEx and not worry. Is there a doorman? Or a place that takes their packages safely? Is it better to send stuff to their work address? All of this is a challenge. What do you do?
Colleges make it a little easier with their "Parents' Clubs" that offer a cake delivery with balloons to the dorm room. Are kids horrified by that, embarrassed or are they secretly thrilled that you remembered and went to the trouble of ordering that?
Do you send a big box filled with stuff? I've got friends that basically unload Hallmark into a box: paper plates, balloons, streamers, party hats... It's a party in a box! As for the cake, it's delivered by a nice "Mom volunteer". The box also contains an article of clothing, maybe a coffee mug from the local store, so they don't forget "home", maybe some fun earrings or makeup or a local team T shirt just so they don't forget their old allegiance!!
It's a dilemma!
You want them to know that you're thinking of them, after all, you were there all those years ago! Whose birthday is it anyway? I mean really! :) You used to make such a production out of their birthdays when they were little: clowns, excursions, inflatable trampolines... all of their nearest and dearest came, OK OURnearest and dearest...it was a scene! And now? How do you just stop? And then to make things more complicated, what you do for one you sure as heck better do for the other, or at least something comparable, because if you don't think they notice or compare notes, you're sorely mistaken. Right guys?
Maybe you enlist the help of a friend, a significant other? Maybe you just send a check? Do you make a big deal or a bigger deal out of the milestone birthdays? 21? Is 25 a milestone? I think so, I'm not sure why, but I do. If you're hundreds or thousands of miles away do you rely on crossing your fingers and hoping one of their friends comes through and commemorates the day or do you actively engage and ask them to rally on your behalf for your kid? Maybe one of their friends or siblings or significant other has taken care of the celebration on their own with no engagement from the mother, now that's a milestone! Thanks girls!
Why am I even thinking about this? Today is our youngest's birthday. No more teenagers in our family. What did I do to commemorate the day? I used Facebook and texting, I even uploaded a photo to HIS Facebook page (that took a few minutes to figure out how to do), I called and left a message on his phone... and a few days ago I sent a package with a few assorted items, nope no party in a box, but definitely a couple of "heartstring" reminders of where he's from AND I told him to go to his PO Box. (Btw, when he did, there was a package from Valentine's Day that I'd sent....that was weeks ago!!! argh!) And finally, one of those nice "Mom volunteers" will be stopping by his fraternity with a cake today/tonight. I think he's going to be mortified...but secretly pleased that his Mom remembered him. Fingers crossed.

Once a Mom Always a Mom

I had an interesting conversation with my neighbors the other day. They're in their 80's have raised four kids, have 9 grand children. Mrs. asked me "how's the book on parenting grown kids coming?" I replied, "we've got it written," or "we've got quite a bit of it done, we just need to hear what others' think." She stopped and then said, "you realize that once you're a mom you're always a mom. It's a lifetime vocation. Well, at least until you're about 79."
"79?" I asked.
And she explained that at about 79 the roles tend to shift and change or "at least you kids seem to think they ought to."
We went on to have an interesting conversation about how throughout each stage of life: school, real world, jobs, marriage, birth, kids', their schooling, their real world's, their jobs..." (you see a trend?) That with each stage comes a new set of questions, of comments, of consultation and advice. As parents, your "kids" are calling with their thoughts and questions, seeking your consult or advice, but somewhere along the way, 79 in this example, kids decide that they need to play a new role, more of a parental role.
I know in my life, with the sudden passing of my Mom at the age of 77, she was still very much my Mom. I hadn't done the role reversal, none of us had. I think back though and I think she was hoping we might have taken on some more responsibility, help lighten her load, but we didn't bite. Now my Dad shows no sign or interest in having his load lightened or responsibilities shift. But I do hear in some of my siblings' conversations a slight shift in tone....a "suggestion" that maybe it's time to have someone else take care of some things....
Back to my neighbors, because it's of course much easier to have this discussion with others than with your own immediate family...
I asked them if they minded the roles shifting? Mrs. responded with a smile and "we just ignore them." Mr. smiled.
I of course, holding onto the "Mom thing" asked if they really have stopped feeling like a parent or being a parent? Mrs. responded, "I told you, once a Mom always a Mom... and a grandmom, now that's the best!"
Agreed!   :)

Spring Break!

It's that time of year again! Has anyone else noticed that colleges seem to have juggled the weeks in such a way that Spring break doesn't fall in the same week for everybody. Could it be that they've coordinated calenders and actually communicated that it's not such a good idea to have all breaks fall during the same week? (Judging from times gone by, Ft. Lauderdale and Cancun barely survived. MTV made reality shows about this week.)
Now here's the question: who funds Spring Break? Do you parents, do you Gen Yers? Is there a shared expense? Seems to me that there's this expectation that has evolved over time that senior year of college there's a "senior trip." Is that a graduation present? Assuming they graduate. Or is it "on them." AND if it is on them, are you, Mom and Dad, willing to let go of control over this vacation? You know what I mean,
the list of questions:
Who's going?
Where are you staying?
How are you getting there?
How many in a room?
Is it a hotel, a condominium, a house?
Is it owned by parents of friends? Grandparents?
Did you find it on Craigslist?
Did you use a travel agent?
Do you need any shots?
And then the comments:
(In no particular order)
Bring Pepto Bismol.
Don't drink the water.
Be sure you have cash.
Be sure you keep your passport on you at all times.
Don't take rides from strangers.
Use the buddy system.
Bring your hotel key (those plastic cards) home with you and destroy it! You know it has all your personal information on it, including your credit card info.
Don't drink too much.
Bring sunscreen.... wear sunscreen.
Mind your P's & Q's, I have zero interest in receiving a phone call from the authorities about you.
Let's be honest, whether you pay, supplement or not you're going to ask those questions and make those comments regardless. We just can't help ourselves! We're your parents!
And I'm afraid that continues well into your 20's. Our 26 year old has just left for a little R&R in Florida, a vacation from work. I covered the questions with her months ago. I even made many of the comments. She humored her mother and responded, she even texted me when she landed safely and I'm imagining her on the beach, soaking in some rays... and thinking about Spring Breaks I had.... those were the days!

Don't do anything rash!

"I'm thinking about swooping in on my college kid and yanking him out of school!"
"What? Are you kidding? Calm down. Don't do anything you're going to regret."
That's how a handful of conversations have gone with friends over the last couple of years!
Sound crazy?
Not really. Here are some of the various scenarios (all altered a bit, for obvious reasons):
1) He's come home from college for Spring Break and much like Christmas, he's sleeping in until noon, not very helpful, not very communicative, seems totally unmotivated to do...much of anything. Now, come to think of it, as a parent, I haven't seen any grades all year...what the heck is he doing at college? This is a really expensive 'sleep tank,' if that's what he's doing???
2) The conversations with my daughter have become less and less. The texts, on her end, consist of one word responses. When I do talk to her, she's disrespectful, busy telling me that she's an adult, doesn't have to do what I say...
3) My daughter isn't communicating with either parent, virtually at all. Doesn't respond to texts or emails. There've been all kinds of flags. I'm worried, really worried.
4) College seems like a "big drink'em up." As a parent, I don't sense he's going to any classes, all it sounds like he's doing is partying. His Facebook page is full of pictures with red tumblers! Every time I call him, I seem to be waking him up.
5) There's been a death in my child's world. She sounds very down. She seems to find it hard to go to class...to do anything.
OK, the line of first defense is the college. As a parent, call the Dean of Students. A girlfriend of mine was the Dean of Students at a small liberal arts college and she used to say her title was "Dean of "Parents."
These people are there to help! Talk to them! But here's the kicker, you have to be open and honest with this person. Lay your cards out on the table, whatever they are. They can't help if they don't know the real picture. They are going to be able to:
A) Suggest people you and/or your child should talk to. Resources.
B) Check in with your student, either directly or through their RA.
C) Make recommendations on various courses of action. (ie., notifying professors, etc.)
D) Rest your (and your student's) mind at ease.
and most importantly,
E) Help you sort things out from a distance so you can take the appropriate action or not take any action.
Regardless of what parents are told today about letting their kids go, you know your kid best and you need to recognize the flags and then decide whether or not you should intervene. But don't do anything rash. Often times things work themselves out, but sometimes not without some parental intervention.
I have a friend that did drive down to college X, found their son in the rack, accessed the situation, had a conversation with the Dean of Students, and everyone decided that a semester off was best. During that semester he had a job, responsibilities and guess what? He turned it around! It took more than one semester, but he did. Another friend, saw the "flags," flew out to get a visual of her daughter, realized that her daughter's health was in serious jeopardy and intervened with the help of the college.
We've all heard versions of these stories.
Some takeaways I've learned:
1) When your child (Gen Yer) signs up for classes when they first get accepted, be SURE they check the box to have their grades come home to you. Just because you're paying the bill does NOT mean you're privvy to anything! :)
Getting their grades helps you have somewhat of a handle of what's going on.
2) Get the telephone number of their roommate or good buddy or a significant other. You never know when you might need them.
3) Don't hesitate to call the college and speak to the Dean of Students (or someone like that).
As a CU Boulder spokesperson said, when my daughter was a freshman, "you have resources in your hometowns for you. We have resources here for your son or daughter. Please don't make your kid your "couch" and don't you try to be theirs. Call us if you need us to help direct your student to those resources." Good advice.
4) Don't jump in the car or board a plane. Have a conversation with your kid, first, if that gets you nowhere and your flags are still up or hoisted even higher, then call the Dean of Students to get some advice.
Any of this sound familiar?
What are your takeaways?
What's your advice?
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