teenagers, turning into adult, freedom, parenting advice, nature, outdoors, Portland;and, pacific northwest, mt hood


The last 15 days, have been the longest 15 days of our lives. A whole lotta change has taken place.

My eldest kid, 17-year-old Jake, has been away on an Outward Bound white water rafting and mountaineering course and I have had zero contact with him until pickup yesterday. For those of you not in the know, Outward Bound is a global organization that specializes in exposing your kid to the outdoors which also, naturally, helps them discover and overcome their own personal hurdles and blockages in life–ultimately giving an individual a lesson in themselves and an opportunity to seek improvement and acceptance. There are a multitude of courses offered–from 60 day dogsledding treks across Alaska, to 100 day boating navigation adventures from Maine to Bahamas, to diving and service based work in Costa Rica, etc. Since Outward Bound was so new to us, we chose to stay in Oregon–knowing that Jake would still get exactly what he needed to get, without traveling far from our own backyard.

outward bound, confidence, teenagers, letting go, parenting advice,

The first few days were a nightmare. And of course, I’m only speaking for me. But you can bet I was transferring it to him: this emptiness and lack of knowing what’s happening is scary and horrible! This must be how he feels too! So I spent a couple of days assuming what was going on out there: that he was hating it, and hating me. But then I had to admit I surely wasn’t giving him enough credit. This was about him proving to himself that he could do it–and here I was making rude bets and sneaky arrangements with my subconscious that he couldn’t.

So I just let it all go.

If he hated me at the end, well then, it was the beginning of making up for a lifetime of holding him back. But if he didn’t, it was worth the risk, discomfort and challenge of becoming a better parent.

Prepping a teen for adulthood is harder than anything. Mostly because the act of getting them ready to fly from the nest is also getting you ready–for the absence, for the extra space, for not hearing from him, for not knowing what’s going on, for missing out, missing him, for the rest of my kids to follow him out the door. And so, you’re right in thinking that this adventure away from home was just as much about prepping me for the future of Jake, as it was him. Although I didn’t completely realize it at the time.

I had to work hard at dismissing my thoughts in order to make space for him to come home, not as a different kid–but an adult who didn’t need me anymore.

teenagers, turning into adult, freedom, parenting advice, nature, outdoors, Portland;and, pacific northwest, mt hood

I had to be honest with myself and let go of needing him to need me–because he doesn’t anymore and he hasn’t for a long time. But before you start weeping and cracking open the wine in solidarity with my sad realization, let me remind us So-Called Moms, that this doesn’t need to be examined under a fatalistic lens. It’s critical to interrupt this overthinking and deeply consider what we really want for our kids and own when we are tragically holding them back. Do we want to raise them into adults who are clingy and afraid or bold and sturdy? I vote for the second option. I’m sure we all do, but which side do our actions really nurture? Because even if we think we are encouraging them to be bold and resilient, our actions often communicate otherwise. No wonder they get so frustrated with us.


At the end of each Outward Bound course, there is an opportunity for self reflection that the staff offers as an option to students who are ready: the 24 hour solo trip. I was surprised that Jake opted to participate over the alternative: Summit the mountain with the rest of the group, whom he had become close with. But instead he hiked 1/2 mile away from everyone and spent 24 hours alone. I bet going solo was Jake’s version of summiting the mountain. I haven’t asked, but I think he knew the summit would be easy for him and sitting alone for what felt like an eternity and counting on no-one but himself was the challenge that he was after. I’m just shocked he didn’t take the easy way out: summit that mountain, coast through the rest of the course and finish the trip with flying colors. But no, he actually wanted to sit alone with his thoughts, which took a level courage I didn’t know he had. Maybe he didn’t either. Now that is something to open our wine and toast to!


So-Called Mom

How to make up for WEAK Parenting

We are at the halfway point with Jake being at Outward Bound. Even though we haven’t heard from him at all, I already know how much change and growth is happening. I know because I can feel it happening to me. I feel strength, confidence and like a huge leap has been taken into adulthood. And I haven’t been there to hinder him.

I hate to make it about me, but I fully recognize that I was a big part of the problem.

Case in point, here I am tying his shoes, not once, but twice, in the last week leading up to this thing.

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Embarrassing, I know!

This is a really good exercise in accountability. I really believe that most of us So-Called Moms don’t intentionally meddle or try to mess up our kids. I think we have babies, teach them to survive and then continue, out of habit, to teach them they need us. For everything. And then we get frustrated when they get frustrated with us for not letting them take on their own life, even when they are sending very clear messages.


It’s never too late to redeem yourself for all those years you did some crazy hand holding when it definitely was not needed. I’m excited to see him, but I’m also excited to have him come back and be unfamiliar to me. He’s on his own now.

I’m grateful for this program. I knew I would be, but this is a different level. I feel like Outward Bound is our family’s version of what most parents would consider Yale or Harvard for their kid. There is nothing more to say about it. I’m beaming just sitting here writing about an experience I am really only speculating about. And the bast part is knowing that it’s not speculation, but intuition. And that’s all I need to become the parent that I’ve always wanted to be.

So-Called Mom


Life Begins When You Let Go of Your Kids

Letting go of your kids is the hardest part about parenting.

Which makes sense because we often quit our own life so we can dedicate it to someone else–to teach them how to crawl, walk, eat, sleep, go to school, make friends, study, make the team, graduate on time, and ultimately leave the house in one piece (and hopefully with rave reviews and 5 stars on your parenting skill card). So it’s no wonder we get carried away on our parenting adventure–that we forget they need adventure of their own.

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Still, no one has really asked us to quit our lives to focus on theirs, per se, but we do it because we think it’s what is best. And it might be, for the first handful of years, but after awhile, it all just turns into bad habits. Really bad habits. Or repeat nightmares that sound like: mom, I can make my own sandwich or worse– mom, I can tie my own shoes; ask for her number myself; tell my friends no…and what I’m also doing is trying to tell you no.

letting go, parenting advice, helicopter parenting, outward bound, helicopter mom

I believe the gray area between helping your toddler and your 17-year-old figure things out for themselves is called meddling.

And I have become such an expert at meddling for so long that it has turned into Jake believing he can’t do anything–which has killed his self esteem. However, the best part about being a So-Called Mom, is that there is always redemption waiting in the wings (ta-da!). Which means, I decided to pull the plug on myself, while also shocking him back to life, by signing him up for 2 weeks of wild, survival based Outward Bound goodness. 


I understand that putting him on that bus full of strangers headed for the woods will be much like putting a cat in a toilet, but I’m going through with it because I know it’s what he needs.

It’s what we both need. He’s going to be out there, freaking out on the first day I’m sure, but kicking ass by the time it’s through. I’m also open to him not being too thrilled about the experience when I pick him up two weeks from now, but I do think he will be able to look back on this and get what he needs out of it. And if he doesn’t, well, there’s always next summer. 😉

So-Called Mom


feminism, glass ceiling, so called mom

Is Feminism a Dirty Word?

I’ve learned much more about feminism than I could’ve imagined this month. At times, the focus on this theme was overwhelming because well, I’m pretty freaking far from being an expert. And the hardest part about getting in the ring (because feminism sure isn’t a spectator sport), is looking like you’re not repping very well. There’s nothing worse than swinging around with your dukes up like a cartoon character and having your ass handed to you from someone who knows what they’re talking about. I mean, since I am a woman, I should look and talk like I eat feminism for breakfast. But I don’t. Or didn’t rather, until now.

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I remember taking a woman studies course in college in 1996 (basically yesterday, gasp). I sat in the back and never raised my hand. I didn’t feel like I had a voice worth sharing because I felt overshadowed by the women that could ace the course with their eyes closed because it was built into their DNA.

They breathed feminism, while I choked on it.

As the only girl raised in an all boy family, I had zero feminism roaring through my blood stream. I also didn’t understand hating men–because they were often my best friends. As a matter of fact, I clearly remembered high school was the place where girls were the problem: so catty and cruel. And so, sitting in that lecture hall felt no different, like a cult-clubhouse: You’re either with us or you’re against us.

I never asked to have both worlds because asking about it scared the shit out of me.

I just decided that anger and intimidation was not my style and I also decided never to take another class like that again. I had assumed they all must be the same. Then I cemented the fact that feminism was not for me because I didn’t fit into one ounce of what it looked like. I loved dresses and heels and lipgloss. I loved lace bras and matching underwear and having a man open a door for me and even order my dinner while I sat right in front of him, very capable of doing it myself.

And because of this very feminist-focused month, I’ve come to learn though you, dear readers, and my own family–that feminism for everyone–regardless of your gender and whatever you wear to express yourself.

So about that word: feminism. It does stir up some hella-intense imagery, doesn’t it? And it’s important imagery too–Feminism has an potent, gritty history because we had to go there. But the images of the past are now stereotypes. And they are watering down the original meaning of feminism that could be scaring off it’s future use. Equality is where it’s at.

Re-establishing our beliefs and re-assigning our truths based not on sex, but our unstoppable selves is what will create the kind of kickass world we all want to live in.

As always, your insight and sentiments mean so much to me. I’d love to hear your side and have it help me shape my new perspective on feminism.

So-Called Mom

Quiet girls, strong girls, feminism, raising strong girls

Letting the QUIET Girls Speak: They Have Something to Say

I set out to conduct this interview with my middle kid, MJ, who always seems to get lost in the shuffle. And I stumbled through what I would ask her: in my head, on paper, up at night when I couldn’t sleep–you name it. I realized I was missing the point of her speaking about strong girls because I was so caught up in the message and worried she wouldn’t have anything to say about it. Or worse, would show my camera, me and the entire world that she wasn’t strong (gasp). Or that she hadn’t thought about it. Because, ehhh, well she is a pretty quiet kid.

I mean, god forbid I have a member of the family, let alone a girl, who doesn’t know how to kick the doors in on life.


But she showed me otherwise. And it wasn’t until she was paddling around, waiting for the others to swim away, that she just outright came to me with who she was and what she was after. I spent several days floundering over how to even bring the subject up–and here she was dishing it out, exactly her way. Soft spoken. Tiny. And super sure of herself. All I had to do was listen. And learn to be there for her more. And quit trying to put a name to who or what she is. She is MJ, and that’s that.

Quiet girls, strong girls, feminism, raising strong girls

Back when I used to attempt corporate career momlife (haha), I went to a team building event. It was all about how extroverts (like me) and introverts (like MJ) can work together. Extroverts stereotypically like to talk and talk and talk and overshare even if you didn’t ask. Introverts stereotypically like to keep to themselves, are shy and have nothing to say or contribute.

But if the extroverts would just stop sucking all the air out of the room (i.e. shut up and listen), the introverts would have a moment to process and draw in enough breath to respond without their 30 seconds of fame being up.

feminism, quiet girls, raising strong girls

MJ is a good exercise in the art of me shutting up. And of not worrying about her anymore–because I shouldn’t, she’s got this. She is the exact opposite of what you’d assume strength to be–stereotypically: She’s like 10 lbs soaking wet. She’s long and lean like a string bean. She keeps a detailed journal jammed under her mattress and she reads books that are thousands of pages long. She has an obsession with mechanical pencils. Quiet indeed–UNTIL she opens her mouth and her brain starts showing me up. Which is exactly what I love about her.

Because there’s nothing better than finding strength and tenacity in the unexpected.

So-Called Mom