Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Advice to My Kids

Sometimes it still seems impossible that I am the mother of adult children. They are 19 and 21, both in college (my daughter is headed to grad school at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia next fall), and have lived all their lives up to this point in Wisconsin, USA. I'm not sure if they consider themselves fortunate or unlucky that they grew up with a realist for a mother, but I was never one to tell them pretty little lies or make them empty promises.

"You can be anything you want to be!" No, you really can't. I wanted to be a jockey when I was young, and no amount of effort on my part would have ever made me short or small enough to be one. Find out what you're good at, and use that to establish your education and career goals.

They know when they ask me for advice I will be honest with them and tell them what I think, and they know to expect unsolicited advice, which they almost always take well. I accept when they don't follow my advice, and they know enough not to complain too loudly to me when they don't and things go badly. They know I go to my parents and my Schwiegermutter for advice as well and have benefitted much from their life experience and wise decisions. In several ways already, my daughter is much wiser than I was at her age, and from what I can tell, so is my son.

For whatever reason, I woke up the other morning pondering what advice I would give my adult children as they enter their early twenties, and I decided to put it in my blog. So here it goes, kids. Volume One.

Ready to listen?

See the world!

You have been lucky enough already to have been with M and me to Germany, Switzerland (sort of), France (briefly), Austria, the Isle of Mull and the highlands of Scotland. S. you and I have been to Rome and you studied for a semester in Berlin. A, you've been on a road trip with friends. And you have both seen some parts of the U.S.. There is so much more to see! Make travel part of your budget and get out there!
Isle of Mull, Scotland

in the Austrian Alps

Read books!

There's more to life than text messages and Instatwitter, and far more to be learned from books. I loved seeing you both consumed by books when you were young and reading yourselves to sleep every night. Keep your mind and your imagination alive through reading.

My son starting reading alone early.

before the days of social media...

Keep learning!

Don't ever stop learning. When you're finished with your studies and gainfully employed, find something you want to learn more about and dig in. Learn as much as you can in your lifetime. If you have children, encourage in them a love of learning. Learn another  language. Learn how to fix a car or how to cook amazing and healthy meals. Learn how to fix things around the house or how to take really good photos. Learn how to play another instrument (or re-learn the piano!).

installing surround sound speakers

Speak and write well!

You know this is an important one in our family. Using language properly is important. Many people seem not to care about using correct grammar these days, but there's no reason not to when you know better. Making language mistakes could cost you a potential job - especially on your resume, cover letter, or in your interview. You know the big ones: Never say "Me and...", it's "should have gone" not "should of went", use "lie" not "lay" in almost every instance in the present tense, and say "There are three things" instead of "there's three things." You also know the difference between its and it's, your and you're, and too and to. Don't be lazy; when in doubt, look it up. And don't forget to proofread!

P.S. Four typos have been spotted, reported, and fixed since this post went live!

Take breaks from social media!

When you are spending time with a person, be with him or her. Communicating with someone else on social media sends the message that the person you're actually with is not worth your full attention. During meals, put your phone or tablet in another room. Unless you are expecting an emergency, you do not need to respond immediately just because your phone buzzed, beeped, or vibrated.

Don't marry (too) young.

Make darn sure you know who you are and what you want out of life before you settle down and get married. If you figure that out after you're married, there's a good chance you and your spouse will be headed in different directions, and that rarely ends well. I'd recommend marrying someone you know really well, and knowing someone that well takes years. There's no rush.

Don't have children just because it's what people do.

Wait to be a parent until you want to be one (and take the necessary precautions to ensure that). You will never hear me say, "So, when am I going to have grandchildren?" That's your business and your decision. I know lots of people who are happy and living fulfilling lives without being parents. Parenting is the most important, most wonderful, most painful, most rewarding, and most frustrating thing you will ever do if you do it. Once you go down that road, you are changed forever. Don't take it lightly.

Don't do anything just because someone says you should.

The someone includes your best friends, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your future spouse, and yes, even your mother. You alone are responsible for your actions, and the validity of the "But he told me to do it!" excuse expired in about the third grade. Be willing to say "no," and practice it if necessary.

These photos may have been taken before you learned to effectively say "no" to me, but oh my goodness, the cuteness!!


Do what you say you will do...

...and don't make false promises. Pause before you promise to do something and make sure you can commit before saying so. Don't say, "I'm sure that won't be a problem" as a way to end a conversation. Maintain integrity, and finish what you start.

Keep shoveling, kids. You're not done yet.

Do not buy on credit!

Ok, you'll probably need a mortgage someday, and maybe a car loan. But pay your credit card bill(s) in full when they are due. Do not ever carry a balance on a credit card through several months, because that is no different than walking down the street dropping dollar bills. You are giving your hard-earned money away to the credit card company. If you cannot afford to pay cash for something, wait to buy it until you can.

Save for emergencies and unavoidable expenses.

And start saving with your first real paycheck - even if it's only $5. Unavoidable expenses: car repairs and maintenance, home repairs and maintenance, a necessary flight home for a wedding or funeral, utilities, gas, phone, insurance, yearly car registration, rent or mortgage, groceries. Everything you want to spend money has to come after all of that.

Have a hobby you're passionate about.

Yes, many hobbies can be expensive, but you need to have something outside of work that brings you satisfaction, preferably something that doesn't involve bars or casinos. You've had a lot of exposure to various activities while growing up - riding, judo, kayaking, swimming, basketball, gymnastics, soccer, hiking, photography, golf, travel, football, baseball, music... What's next?

And don't forget to call email your mother!

I don't expect you to call overseas, but regular emails are important! When you want to talk, let me know and I'll call you.

Have fun and laugh often!!

Lastly, thank you for making parenting pretty darn easy and most definitely enjoyable! Ich liebe Euch!!

Photos posted with my kids' permission.


  1. This is a fantastic post. I wish someone had told me this when I was entering my 20s! Except the reading part... nobody needs to tell me to read ;-)

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. :-) I don't know everything, but experience is a very good teacher. Reading has always been a part of my life, too. I can't imagine a home without books.

  2. Lovely post! You're a great mom and we can all learn from the advice you give.

    By the way, I just saw your great interview on Multicoolty! I was interviewed by them in March and they asked me to suggest other expats and I suggested you. :)

    1. Thank you! They told me you'd suggested me - I'm flattered. They ask very good and interesting questions. :-) I haven't seen the interview yet "live". I'm almost afraid to look! I read your interview as well shortly after they contacted me. I like their project and find all the interviews so interesting!

      I'm doing ok as a mom; they're great kids and make me laugh and smile often. :-)