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.

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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.

Check out the full adventure in my YouTube playlist here: So Called Outward Bound Adventure

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


Kid Interview: Parent Bullies & Suburban Social Engineering

I just stumbled upon this parenting fad that’s being labelled Suburban Social Engineering. Have you heard of it? I first discovered it here when looking into reasons why moms bully other people’s kids. Suburban Social Engineering is when a parent (typically the mom) bullies other children to maintain their child’s social status by excluding anyone that might taint their child’s image of prestige–And that it’s most common in suburbia. This is helicopter parenting on crack. I mean, it’s one thing to be controlling your own kids’ every move, but walking all over children that aren’t yours because of…um…maintaining the appearance of affluence…? That’s pretty gross behavior. What’s worse is the most unsettling part: this style of parenting is being heavily linked to teen suicide. Did your stomach just hit the floor like mine?

I think it’s safe to say that this series has been a wild ride that’s far from over.

To review where all of this is coming from: My first post was about deciphering what’s mean and what’s bullying. Which then uncovered the truth about what was really going on.

Finally, I decided to put my 9-year-old Pascal on camera, in lieu of rambling on about it myself:


Could it be the real adult in this situation is really the kid in the room? I’m heartbroken, but determined to keep her fighting the good fight.

So, what do you say, moms? What can we do to talk to our kids about sticking up for other people? How would you help your child remain strong through this? I look to you, moms, for help.

Putting my foot down HARD,

So-Called Mom

MEAN Kid or REAL Bully & When to INTERVENE!

Bullying is one of the hottest parenting topics out there. As one of those overly protective moms, I have often overreacted to hurt feelings. Often times, I’ve used this terminology without really understanding its side effects. Aside from putting a label on kids, it also decreases opportunities for building resilience, acceptance and most importantly: resolution.

My last two posts had me vowing to clear my helicoptering parental habits. And ever since then, I have exorcised the demons! Well, sort of. There’s still a nagging feeling that wants to govern every situation my kids simply must experience on their own. But now I’m doing my best to ignore it. Even when it comes to the neighborhood bully. So I’m working on a different approach.

Feminism, LGBTQ, Teenagers

Which has me putting my new set of rules to the test: Case in point, The other day Pascal’s neighborhood tribe of new pals suddenly turned on her. She spoke of some rude name-calling earlier yesterday and I fought the urge to run out on my lawn, eyes a blazing, asking which kid wanted to experience a real bully. So for a moment, I fantasized about it and then directed my attention to Pascal. How do you imagine the issue resolving itself?

And then I buttoned my lip and listened.

Pascal seemed to have it sorted until the text messages started in as we were sitting there. I suddenly realized this was a bigger problem than just a squirmy boy calling her ugly (apparently name-calling isn’t considered bullying, go figure!). These kids were only engaging in a normal act of thick-skin building meanness until they began pulling other kids into a group text, ganging up on Pascal with the promise of social exclusion as far as the our neighborhood development could see. Then she was blocked, by all of them, in unison, so she couldn’t respond. Now that, my dear mom friends, is bullying.

Learning the ins and outs of this stuff is new to me, especially now that I’m So-Called helicopter aware. And even though none of us want our kids to feel any of the above, it helps to see these problems separated out into categories so that we know when to stay grounded and listen and also when to fly in, rescue and hover like hell.


But the information on what to do is still conflicting in my mind, despite obsessively reading a number of articles between my sleeplessness last night and this mornings coffee. Step in or get out-of-the-way? Rescue or relax? What builds resilience and what feeds into self-destruction?

The difference between intervening and not isn’t a chasm dividing the two, it’s splitting hairs between championing parenthood and letting your kids down when you should’ve been there.

And even though I seem to do it plenty, I’m not into the mom-fail thing. Or letting kids get away with bullying mine.

bullying, resilient kids, mean kids, parenting advice

So then, I’d Love to hear it directly from my mom group.

What would you do: Intervene or not?

That is the question,

So-Called Mom

step parenting, step mom, parenting advice, blended family, blending your family,

Help Me Stop Being a Helicopter Parent

Last week I confessed I was a Helicopter Mom. The truth is, while I’ve heard the phrase Helicopter Mom for years, I never once thought it applied to me. In fact, even when I posted about being one, I was being a little cheeky about the whole thing.
Then I turned to Dr. Google.
I’m a textbook case:
I’ve stayed up late completing school projects for my kids.
I have meet with teachers and answer questions, originally directed at my child.
I intervene with dance and gymnastics coaches when my child hasn’t advanced at the speed I think they should be.
And literally and metaphorically, I don’t let them make toast, because they could get burned.
I am now obsessed with kicking years of dedicated helicopter habits. Like everything else I do, I’m probably over-correcting:  I’ve checked out ten library books with titles like The Overparenting Epidemic and Because I Said So.  I’ve scoured the internet for articles (there’s literally 8 million results). And I’ve drawn up a set of rules to help me self-check:
Helicopter Mom, Helicopter Parent

Allow them to feel uncomfortable:

I realize I’m more uncomfortable listening to or even anticipating their discomfort than they are –  as if it’s happening to me, not them.  I’m robbing them of the right to feel badly and then learn that this too, shall pass.  If this means pissing off your five-year-old because they have to sleep in their own bed, or allowing your 17-year-old to fuck up his grade because he pulls a no-show for a really important test, then so be it. Hell, I didn’t rag on my husband when he paid cash for a stolen car, why am I hovering over these kids?  Maybe next time they will make the right choice, and I will save myself a big argument.

Helicopter Mom, Helicopter Parenting

It’s time to stop “child-protecting” the family environment  

In short, they can do things without my supervision.  Failure is ok.  Or in other words, they may get burned making “toast,” but they will probably survive.
Helicopter Parenting

Prepare to kick them out of the nest

In other words, teach some concrete life skills and model them. I’ve unconsciously fostered a home atmosphere where no one (except Pascal), really cares about hanging out with anyone outside the immediate family.  They are all devoutly anti-social.   And that’s just a small example.  Jake and Phoenix are complete slobs.  They can’t even do a load of laundry or take out their own garbage.  Jake has failed his driver’s license twice.  Em hides in her room most of the day.  I could go down the line, but believe me, none of them are learning any independence. Five year old Leo doesn’t even have the basics: I could start with getting him to spend the night in his own bed.  Which leads me to:
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Let them find their own solutions

All too frequently, I solve the problem or step in just because it’s easier.  Because I tell myself things like, 14-year-old Em would forget to breathe if I didn’t tell her how to, I end up enmeshed in a ridiculous conversation about what she should do with a basket of laundry. I think I’m doing some badass parenting, because I turn it into a Q&A: What do I do with this basket of laundry? Well, what’s in it? Towels, should I fold them? What kind of towels are they? Dishtowels. Do we waste time folding dishtowels in our house? No. Where do they go? In the drawer. Bingo.  But seriously, who is to blame? Why didn’t I start this sooner?
Helicopter Mom, Helicopter Parent
The goal is to end up with resilient kids who can problem solve and don’t need your input for every detail in life. They might make poor choices, but they will be able to come up with a backup plan or a solution. Ultimately they will be able to resolve issues without holding your hand. This also creates an adult that is prepared for the world.

But I’ve done none of this. I’m SO late to the party, but it doesn’t mean I can’t still go.

Helicopter Mom, Helicopter Parent, Step Mom, Blended Family, Parenting Advice
For more than ten years, I’ve been posing as an expert on both parenting and step-parenting. As far as blended family issues?  Ask me anything.  Every kid still has ten fingers and toes, they are reasonably healthy, and they like each other so much they don’t even want to leave the house most of the time.  must be a great parent. Helicopter Mom is a term for some other dame.
But then I started this blog.  From the sheer weight of having to self-reflect and edit my thoughts, and review the various comments – both positive and not – I realize how much I don’t know about raising kids. So I’m flipping the conversation for a bit; rather than impart my own So-Called Mom wisdom into the world, I’d like to share a series of posts over the next few weeks about different parenting challenges I’m facing and ask for your advice.
Helicopter Mom, Helicopter Parent, Parenting Advice, Step Mom, Mom Support, Mom Blogger
From the various comments I’ve received, it’s easy to see the support and the hate.  I welcome both.  After all, we moms are in this together, aren’t we?
So here’s to a better version of this mom,
So-Called Mom


blended family, step mom, step dad, family therapy, reality tv

Confirmed: I am a Helicopter Parent

Another parenting challenge you won’t find in any of the how-to books is how to help your 17-year-old firstborn navigate his first heart-break. Apparently helping doesn’t mean hovering, shouldering or swooping in and saving the day, my bad! Believe me when I tell you that there is nothing worse than realizing you’ve been meddling like this right up to your kids’ adulthood.
As a freshly self-identified helicopter parent, I recognize that no one, especially Jake, has asked for my help in this way.
Full disclosure (I’m getting good at those): my first instinct was to memorialize my reaction in a vlog.  And in all my well-intentioned emotional “honesty,” I realized while editing, that all of it was best left on the cutting room floor as they say.
So here’s what I got out of this:
I’m lousy with boundaries.  Whether it was their first day at kindergarten, or navigating friendships or getting their driver’s license or
having their heart-broken, I have bumbled my way through helping my kids cope, thinking I could “fix things,” truly believing I was an expert. Ironically, this blog is teaching me the flip side of being a so-called mom: that the more I think I know, the more I realize I don’t.
Don’t we all have that mom fix-it impulse?  To step in and just take-over?
Well, apparently this So-Called Mom doesn’t just take over and fix, I flat-out hijack any and all rites of passage and then take it upon myself to fix things that aren’t even broken.
Helicopter Parent
So back to where I began: my 17-year-old, Jake.  Yesterday he fessed up that the reason he’s been staying home from school isn’t his “migraines,” but because the girl who he’s been crushing on all year-long is moving far away. I spent the day texting with him, while he was in class, about what to do. That’s no-no #1. And then I bawled about it like it was happening to me.
Note to self:  Don’t create a false narrative about your kid’s so-called heartbreak like it’s going to create a lifetime of regret over “the one that got away.”  Especially over a relationship that never even happened.  It’s as if I see the disappointment of a first crush as proof that leaving the bubble of homeschooling was the bad idea I knew it would be.
Helicopter Parent
My problem?  I feel my kids pain even more than they do.  And then whenever there’s a remote discomfort, I want to “protect” my kids from feeling it—and I do, without realizing that letting them experience these things is essential to building confidence and resiliency.
Look, I want to say it’s not as bad as it sounds, but the truth is that he is transforming into an adult faster than I can keep up with and I just want to be able to say I did OK. Part of that means that I can look back and confirm that I provided an equal balance of support and letting go—that he has been able to find his own path after I showed him the ropes. But I realize now that I haven’t been doing that—and not just with Jake but will all my kids. I’ve been leading the pack too strongly and controlling their emotional responses.  

So this next part is going to be hard.  It means backing off of my instinctive responses and keeping my pain to myself.  I get this about letting them fail.  But maybe I’m afraid of failing myself? Do other moms also share that?

Please say yes,

So-Called Mom