Teen Driving: How We Shot Ourselves in the Head in California

At some point – and I could go figure out when this happened but it pretty much doesn’t matter – we took Driver’s Education out of our schools. Stupidest move ever.

If you aren’t aware, here’s how our kids learn to drive today.

1. They take an online course to get a certificate. This is a joke because it can be gamed and passed really easily. So the only kids learning at this point are the ones who are earnest and naive.

2. They study for their learner’s permit, this is the written test at the DMV. Again. super easy. There are so many videos and online tests you are really in trouble if you can’t memorize enough to pass the test.

3. Immediately, upon obtaining the learner’s permit, they have to take one hour (of six hours total!) of driving instruction from a licensed driving instructor. After their first hour, they can start driving with you, their licensed adult over age 25.

4. They drive with you – or a reasonable facsimile. (There’s a whole blog here to be written about who gets to drive with the learner based on temperament, skill and tolerance for anxiety and bickering. Pisces were born for the job. For everyone else, this is why we drink.)

Step 4 is very important and here’s why.

You know when you scream asshole at that person who blew through the yield sign causing you to slam on your brakes? Or the sonofabitch who cut you off on the freeway after they tailgated you for the last three miles? Or dipshit who thinks 30 miles per hour is too fast and so they serve as an illegal pace car for everyone else. Or the person who is on their phone or eating or doing their make-up or parked badly or …. you get the point. THAT’s who’s teaching our next generation to drive. Seriously. Bad drivers are responsible for future drivers. Think about that.

5. They log five more hours with their professional driving teacher. We supposedly had the best person from the shabby mix in Santa Cruz. Her advice, “Katie should park closer to the curb.” She also told my kid I had painted my license plate so traffic cameras couldn’t record my information. Um yeah, no. They are just old. Why would she say something so stupid? She also said don’t go to the Watsonville DMV – more bad advice. They turnsed out to be the nicest people at the most positive DMV I’ve ever been to! I love those people (and I’ve been back with another kid and just as nice)!

6. They take their driving test. And an amazing amount of them are passing on first try. It’s an eight minute test; typically with one “gotcha” that we all know about because we talk to the people who’ve recently taken the test. And there you go. Instant driver.

Only here’s the thing. This is so stupid.

They have no common understanding. In the olden days, when we had driver’s ed, we all learned the same things. We all knew the rules, the consequences and there was agreement among all teens on how things worked. That’s just gone. Gone, gone, gone.

Now their skills depend now on how parents interpret the rules. Kids are 100% learning by example so if you use your cell in the car, guess that they do. If you swear at other drivers (oops, me), guess what they do. That tailgating that’s your bad habit? It’s theirs too. They can’t even support each other because they don’t have a common understanding.

They have no collective sense of consequences. They all have heard us tell them what can go wrong, but I’m convinced their sense of immortality causes them to dismiss it as soon as they hear it. But remember when we watched hours of car wrecks and stupidity – together – so at least it was recorded in our brains? They get none of that. We attended a workshop put on by the CHP – it was good – but I could see it just wash over the kids. Because they only saw it once; in one 90 minute class.

Adaptation to change is left to our interpretation. I’m convinced driving is harder today than its ever been and as adults, we’ve adapted accordingly (but not uniformly or with any training). More cars. More poorly trained drivers. Complex dashboards, Cell phones. I don’t think we’ve done a great job but at least we have driving experience on our side. These kids could actually use four months of class time to understand all this complexity, and instead, we’ve eliminated it.

And then there’s the gift of provisional driving. They aren’t supposed to drive with other kids for the first year of their license. This is a corollary misdemeanor from what I can figure out. Corollary because they aren’t stopped for having kids in the car. They have to be stopped for some other offense and then get cited for the provisional driver violation. I think some lawmaker thought this law would cut down on teen accidents. Maybe it has (you can review the study – it honestly looks like too many variables are co-mingled to really get to an answer).

The truth is – at night, I want my daughter to have someone else with her when she drives. I like the extra pair of eyes on the road and a buddy to keep her safe as she walks to the football game or store.I spent a lot of time letting her drive with friends in the car during permit time because I wanted her to learn how to ignore them and focus on driving. Fingers crossed she grokked it.

So what’s my recommendation?

We need to put drivers ed back in school. I can’t figure out why our insurance companies aren’t paying for this (if we want to play follow the money). They have the means and it would save them big bucks ultimately to have these kids all on the same page.

Then I say keep the provisional driver stuff but allow one other person in the car because we might actually get more compliance. Teens don’t do stuff alone. Make a law that instantly turns them into violators is nuts.

Finally – and I know this will shock everyone – when a teen goes through drivers ed, use that time to refresh parent’s driving skills (maybe they get $50 discount on insurance for attending a refresher course). We will still be sitting next to them during the permit months. Wouldn’t it be good if we were reminded of all the things we’ve forgotten since we started driving? Who goes first at a four-way stop? Are you allowed to pass a bicyclist on the right if you have to cross a double yellow on the left? Can you have liquor in the car if you aren’t drinking it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic. It’s been a hot button for me. Please let me know what you think!

The Joys of Midlife: A Kid that Can Drive and Three Things…

Katie is finally a junior and this summer she got her license. That means I don’t have to drive her around anymore. That means I am free. The result, I’m trying new things and having some adult fun once again. And, in my 53rd year, I’ve discovered three things that are keeping me very happy.
What is the secret you ask? Why let me share. My three things.

1. Improv. I started in January at a Saturday drop in class at the Broadway Playhouse in Santa Cruz. Offered by The Fun Institute (that’s Santa Cruz code for Cliffordand Dixie), I met a great group of adults who come together to play and fail publicly (and with conviction dammit – go hard!). The experience had been great.

Since starting the class, I’ve attended a number of workshops and an on-going practice group that’s invited me to be in my first public performance (coming this November). The best thing I have learned from improv is saying “yes”. I’ll have more to say about this soon – but just know saying “yes” is probably one of the coolest things you can do – for anyone including yourself.

2. Medical marijuana.Like any 50 year old woman, I have my fair share of anxiety and trouble falling asleep. There’s nothing more coveted than a worry free night a pure slumber. And yet, it’s often illusive for so many reasons. I have the kids to thank (blame) for trying this next generation of marijuana. I have to stay, it’s amazing.

With just a tiny edible, I can get a good night’s sleep, or, if I take CBD, my brain stays clear but anxiety fades away. Perfect for non-profit board meetings. I mean you just don’t care with some CBD on-board. It makes collaboration a breeze and because you don’t care, you aren’t likely to sign up for some dumb committee. I encourage you to go get your cannabis card and throw your prescriptions away.

3. Heated car seats. Until April 15th, I was driving a 2003 Honda CR-V. Great car but it started to fall apart during Spring Break as we traveled to the Grand Canyon. Katie was supposed to drive her when she got her license, but we both came home knowing it was time for Goldie (our name for her) to move on.

I impulsively bought a 2008 BMX X3 and it has heated seats! These have changed my life. I can get in the car, after a long day working at the computer, drive to the store with the air conditioning on and my seat on high. Suddenly the seat radiates heat into my back and butt, relaxing my muscles and making me feel oh-so-good.

I’m starting to realize what this second half of life is all about. Being chill. Trying new things. Not moving with urgency but instead bumbling and fumbling along, laughing and taking time because that’s the one thing we can’t see to get more of. 

Someone Get Me a Xanax, It’s Finals Time

Look closely at that photo: On Friday she was barfing her guts out with the 24 hour flu; the bucket’s still there but now it appears papers are what’s been barfed out. What a way to study! 

I think the greatest testament to the first year of high school is the fact that I haven’t blogged about it since November 1st.

This year went by at times painfully slow and on whole, remarkably fast. Today is the first day of finals (first semester finals were a joke but that’s for another blog), so today is the first “real” final for biology. And I am a wreck.

I know it’s not about me. 

I don’t have to take the darn test. But the Herculean effort I have put in to helping this kid learn how to learn all year long is coming down to two days: today and tomorrow. And this morning’s breakfast is still a rock in my stomach until 12:20 when I see Katie to hand her her yearbook (that she forgot this morning) and look at her face to see if she survived – oh, and maybe got a passing grade (because seriously, I do NOT want to do this over again).

Oh there’s so much to share about freshman year and now that it’s coming to a close, I think I will have time to reflect, record and release (you knew I had to find another “r” word because school is all about the three “r’s” isn’t it?).

So for now, this blog will serve as my faux Xanax as I wait for word and get ready for tomorrow’s second mad dash to her math final (thankfully English isn’t having one – first time that horrible teacher has done something good!).

And then I will start a list of blog topics: How I Survived Her Freshman Year. 

UPDATE: I got an excited text from her that she got 100% on her lab book – her choice to focus on that last night was a good one – and she thought the final wasn’t that bad. She’s off the lunch with friends before sweating the math final tomorrow. Whew. One down, one to go!

Just Got Off the Bus in Times Square

You can’t have her, she’s alllll mine….

A good friend of mine remembers his adolescence amazingly well.

As I described to him the changes going on with my 14 year old daughter, a freshman in high school, he said, “It’s like she just got off the bus in the middle of Times Square. She is so overwhelmed having to adapt to these new surroundings – learning the language, how to dress, what music to listen to, where to go, how to be, noticing what the older kids are doing – her brain is over flowing.”

His recollection and description truly helped me. Before he explained this to me, I really couldn’t grasp how she could sit down to eat and keep forgetting to get a fork. Seriously – she’s been eating since – well forever! The fork is now a hard thing to remember? Yes, he helped me understand. But it doesn’t change the fact that I feel like Jekyll and Hyde living in two very opposite emotional states of mind.

I want to shoot her.

She has been brain dead at home. Worst grades ever. No ability to string two thoughts together. If I ask, “What’s your plan?” she looks at me like I am speaking French – no wait, something far less interesting – like I am speaking whale. Or like those teachers on Charlie Brown.

“Mom, I want to live in the moment,” she says clarifying as she heads back to her bathroom to make yet another cosmetic adjustment. Fifty-year-olds don’t spend this much time on their faces. My god.

“That’s fine honey when they are all your moments, but in this case, you need me to drive, get food and frankly put my life on hold while you figure things out,” I say while I am often picking up another pair of her shoes (not co-located) or moving her crap off the table an into a single location.

And thus the battle begins. No matter how hard I try to eliminate any challenges, just simple communication seems to be impossible. And she’s explained to me it’s perfectly normal: all her friends hate their parents. Gee, awesome. Let me run right out and get the special yogurt you want.

I am missing the crap out of her. 

My friends theorize since I am a single mom, it’s probably harder for me than most. But I don’t think that’s it. I’ve busy and fairly fulfilled – I’ve been working like crazy and I am blessed to have a fantastic, diverse group of friends.

No, I think it’s because she and I actually got along really well and liked each other’s company. I always counted my blessings I got a kid that liked to do what I liked to do (wasn’t the case with me and my mom – she was an orange and I was an apple…well, actually she was more of a banana). I miss the time I would spend with her getting into mischief – even if her friends were along for the ride.

Just keep swimming.

So here we are.I’m 90% sure I haven’t changed on iota since September 1st. Yet little miss NYC is caught in the swirl of emerging adulthood and is fifty shades of different: excited and overwhelmed in the middle of Times Square. Please tell me I’m not just a pigeon on the sidewalk trying to avoid all those feet.

This too shall pass. Right?

It’s True, I Love Stealing Other People’s Children

It was so easy.

All I had to do to lure them away was send them a text. And then they were mine!

Much to Katie’s chagrin – she really can’t complain, she’s off storming the South Pacific with People to People – I swiped her friends and took them to a food fest at the Second Harvest Food Bank in Watsonville.

My glorious partners in crime, Emelia and Eva, are Katie’s friends and they are wonderful, fun and appreciative. They accompanied me to the event to learn more about the food bank and the local service organizations and foods we have in Santa Cruz County.

Free Food at the Food Bank!

We got there to find a great spread – lunch! I wish I could remember which group made the food. It was tasty. Enchiladas, salad and if you look, that’s a tri-tip sandwich on Eva’s plate.

It was sunny and warm and it was fun to feast with the girls and dish about my daughter! Well not exclusively, but there was a little gossip about her flirting with some boys in New Zealand. I hadn’t heard that story. It was so good to get the “deets” (that’s slang for details if you aren’t hip – it’s probably actually old-school slang at this point).

After lunch Bly, pictured on the right, gave us a personal tour of the food bank. We started in the offices learning about their marketing efforts like The Waiters Race organized by Soif Wine Bar owner Patrice Boyle to celebrate the French holiday Bastille Day and raise money for the Watsonville-based charity Second Harvest Food Bank.

We rounded the corner and found the sign (right) that noted half the people served by the food bank are children. That one hit home for all three of us. We also saw this huge whiteboard that lists where food is being delivered and when. It’s a two week window of outreach that extends all over Santa Cruz County. Very impressive and real.

The warehouse was next and thanks to a great Capital Campaign, the bank has racks now to stack the food that’s donated from many places. It’s rather amazing to see stacks and stacks of donated food. One of the girls said it felt like a “Costco for good.” Couldn’t agree more. We passed by strawberries donated by Driscoll’s and Happy Boy Farms tomatoes and more.

We ended looking at the inside of a box of food that’s delivered to families based on the donations given in those food bins that show up at the holidays all over Santa Cruz County. In the photo on the left that says Food Drive, you see what a family might get. I saw two cans of anchovies and it took me a minute to force down my gag reflex. They are so gross to me.

Then I realized, if I was hungry, that would be food and I would be grateful. I am grateful that I am not that hungry and don’t have to rely on Sardines. Very, very grateful.

We walked outside to find Sam Farr talking with the gathering about his support of the Food Bank. When I snapped the photo, he was surrounded by Plantronics Interns who always seems to be on hand to help out at these events (wow).

Before we left, we visited the various booths set up around the event featuring local growers and plenty of great produce. I buried myself in raspberries – like gold at the store and I could have as many as I wanted! – and the girls tasted tomatoes, apples, strawberries and more.

They gave us bags and we were invited to take home produce. We all left with lots of fresh goodies from organic carrots and radishes to home grown plums, apples and berries.

The girls expressed interest in volunteering sometime soon; maybe to sort food. I was glad to have the chance to share such a good time with them. They were terrific company and made me miss my daughter just a little bit less.

Stealing kids is totally worthwhile – as long as their parents agree! I just hope Katie won’t kill me when she gets home!

LTS is the YOLO for the Over Forty Crowd

I think his nickname is OJ…just sayin’…
If you have been living under a rock or simply been too busy working or listening to the kids squabble, you could have missed YOLO. (You can watch this Jimmy Kimmel video to help you feel better about being so out of touch). 

It’s the current excuse to do anything that you would normally not do if you were using judgement. You Only Live Once is what YOLO means and the internets are loaded with videos of youngsters pushing the envelope to prove they’ve got what it takes to YOLO (great POV video here: warning, he uses adult language to make his point).

I suppose the upside of YOLO is it pushes you to step out of your comfort zone. And that push doesn’t have to be toward the negative.


But what if you are over forty?

Of course we YOLOed (I’m not sure how well that works as a verb). Except back then we called it partying or the walk of shame or spring break. Whatever the name, it was stupid, reckless and in the past. Thankfully we are still around to talk about it – although it seems many of you have selectively forgotten your YOLO days when it comes to your kids. Maybe a view stories from your past might serve as a cautionary tale for your teens and up your “coolness factor” at the same time?

But that’s not what this is about. It’s about a new acronym that I find myself using a lot lately probably because I am older and I have changed my point of view: LTS. Alright, it’s not really an acronym but I was trying to work some parallel structure into the story.

Life’s Too Short.

It has become my mantra and in some ways, my salvation. It really comes from getting older because it’s not until a good friend gets sick, or you lose someone you care about, or your own body doesn’t work the way it was supposed to, that you realize, life really is too short! Suddenly you want to grab every moment and make it last longer. And the tolerance for trivia goes right out the door.

Relying on “life’s too short” can be dangerous and perceived as meaning you don’t care. This first batch of examples have a hint of that intention.


  • Hey Jen, can you help with the dance committee? Me: No, sorry, my client load is really big right now (and life’s too short to sit on yet another committee of adults parsing snacks and streamers). 
  • Oh Jen, you really should read this new self-help book. It’s amazing and discusses the history of man’s struggle with pathos, ethos and parapsychology! Me: Wow, sounds fantastic, I’ll check it out (never because life’s too short to read yet another convoluted self-help book). 
Okay – those are easy. They are kind of sassy and trite and I think we all do them. But then there are the hard ones. The ones that require me to step up, take the higher road and move toward the greater good. And these are the ones I wish everyone would consider. They go something like this:
  • I am stressed out on a deadline and Katie walks in the door with lots to tell me about her day. I might might be tempted to say a short “hello” and then scramble back to work but. Instead I choose to sit down, relax and have a nice talk with her. Because life’s too short to let these moments slip by – she’ll be in college before I know it and I will never get this time back.
  • I know I’m going to a meeting with a few people who rub me the wrong way. In a perfect world, I’d avoid it, but instead, I employ my new saying and I show up AND I greet everyone and relax into letting it all happen because, life’s too short to let the discomfort get me down. 
  • I pay my money and take the time to do something cool – a meal at a restaurant, a movie, a special event – and I sit down and start to panic about all the things I should be doing that are more important that what I am doing. Then I smack myself in the head (internally) and realize life’s too short to not enjoy this moment right now; and not being present to enjoy it is the new walk of shame.
What do you think? Are you having this epiphany too? 

I have a good friend who shares my passion for this way of thinking. We are starting a business together and I am ever so grateful that this is her position. It creates a safe environment for disagreement and aligns us on the things that matter most: doing our best, enjoying the process and being delighted about the outcome – whatever that maybe.
Here’s to a great life regardless of how long it lasts!

Every Body Eats! Unleashing Katie’s Passion for Learning

Yeah, it sounds nuts. What the heck am I talking about?
When I learned a long time ago that neuron connections are vital for a rich, healthy brain, it became my focus. I wanted to make sure that when I took information, I was building new connections and hopefully improving my ability to retain what I was learning.

More neurons equate to a more complex organism. A central preoccupation of neuroscience is deducing the way billions of neurons produce the human mind.” from 100 Trillion Connections

Ever since I walk around trying to take in new information and relate it to existing information hoping to connect and cement that new knowledge into my internal database. It seems to have worked for me and became my top priority for raising my kid. Build her neuron connections.
I have been less interested in what she learns than how she’s learning it. Whenever there’s been an opportunity to stop the conversation and relate the content to other things, I’ve done it. That “pause” button on our TiVo remote is the most-used button the dang thing. No show goes unpaused. We are always stopping to analyze, debate, question, relate and even fact-check the information that’s coming our way.
And last night, I got to see some of the fruits of my labors!

We attended Every Body Eats with a panel of guests and food expert, Michael Pollan. The venue was packed and warm and based on discussion; not the kind of event a 13 year old puts high on her list. I had no idea how the night was going for her while we were there but boy did I find out when I got home!
Katie blasted in the house at 9pm saying she needed to finish watching a video she has started on nutrition that is part of her science fair project. Okay, I said, go ahead. The next thing I knew she was asking me about details of the talk – Monsanto, DuPont, more about corn and GMO corn, nutrients – and I just kind of watched it unfold.
“Mom, tonight was totally about my project!” she exclaimed about 20 minutes later. She was suddenly synthesizing information in new ways and I was watching her connect information from different sources and getting how they related or conflicted with what she was thinking. I didn’t realize it but she was putting together the information that supported her hypothesis for the Science Fair and she was so excited.
I have loved watching her grow over the years.

Not just the obvious ways but how reading and math provided the foundation for learning more complex concepts. How she has been able to move from me helping her with home work to finding help online and with her peers. And now how she is taking responsibility for learning what she will not be taught in any formal way. That kind of learning many of us still pursue when something grabs our interest.
Her new holy grail: contributing to the body of knowledge. We’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, this is so fun. She’s helping me build new neuron connections!

Blog Action Day 2012 – The Power of We is the Key to Successful Parenting


There is nothing that rings more true for a single mom.

I chose to be a single mom. When I wasn’t married at 34 – and there were no prospects on the horizon – I decided I would go ahead and have a kid using a sperm donor. I also knew I would be on my own raising my child and I decided early on that my journey would embrace anyone who wanted to participate.

The Power of We

became a rallying cry for me. I found a care provider for Katie who had worked in early childhood development and taught me ways to parent and guide her (in particular about the RIE method* that has helped me with Katie and so many other children).


The Power of We

was a promise my old college roommate, Sandra, made when she jumped in and helped me when Katie got colicky. She’d walk in to check on my around 6pm every day and I could walk out and get some fresh air and a break. Thirteen years later Sandra is still very involved in Katie’s life providing a welcome respite from a driving mother (me) offering different energy and an fantastic extended family (she’s Creole with six sisters and a zillion relatives).


The Power of We

brought my mom and me together around a common goal as she taught me to master all the operational issues associated with being a mom – from feeding to sleeping to mastering the bath. Over the years I have called her with every kind of problem looking for advice or just a shoulder to lean on.


The Power of We

is just another way of saying “It Takes a Village” and anyone who has raised a child knows you really, truly don’t do it alone. It takes an orchestra of teachers, coaches, friends, family, and so many more that provide guidance, direction, inspiration and correction to both you and your child as they grow.


The Power of Weis what I teach Katie now that she’s old enough to start giving back. It started with her friends and teaching her how to listen and offer support and help. It moved into taking action in the community with Girl Scouts and the Second Harvest Food Bank. And now I am seeing her consider “the greater good” as she thinks through ideas for her science project or thinks about what she might want to do with her life.

In a world where so many want to emphasize individual achievement and rugged individualism, I believe The Power of We is our hope for the future. Not to sound too “Obama” about this, I truly wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my family, friends and community.


That is The Power of We.

*Interesting, I did RIE with Katie nearly 12 years ago and loved it. I always told Katie what I was going to do with her before I did it and I still do it today. Even as an adult, there’s nothing I hate more than one someone tries to make me do something without a heads-up. No wonder kids always scream when someone shoves a Kleenex in their face without warning! In searching for a link to REI now, I see that somewhere mid-2000’s, it became a “fad.” Whatever you read, know you can adapt REI to fit what works for you. It’s the intentions that are meaningful.

The College Solution: Our Fantastic Evening with Lynn O’Shaughnessy

We attended one the best events about college finance and planning last night at Santa Cruz High School.

Steven Shapiro (who I met with privately) had told me I needed to go and he was right. Lynn O’Shaughnessy was amazing. While Katie started to wear out, I think I could have stayed for another two hours. The information was that good and her speaking style was fantastic.

I’ll do my best to share the highlights – which is to say those things that I took notes on. I think it’s safe to say subscribing to her blog and buying her book The College Solution are two good bets. I believe almost everything I heard is in her blog or book in one way or another.

The big takeaways:

Know your kid. Think carefully about what colleges will work best for your child. Big schools aren’t personal and don’t necessarily guarantee and education. Smaller schools are focused on teaching, have smaller class sizes and more access to instructors.

Financial aid is accessible for nearly everyone. You just have to know how to be a good consumer. I believe this is where her book/blog can really help. She has so many insights on how to approach aid. Oh yeah, and those sports scholarships everyone thinks exist, the really don’t. 2%. That’s how many kids get sports scholarships. But there are a ton of schools that give merit-based aid.

Where you go to school doesn’t determine career success. She cited studies that compared Ivy League kids with non-Ivy League and the biggest predictor of success is the nature of the child, not where they went to school. Duh. It also doesn’t affect grad school. Here’s her write up from a study on where kids who go to Harvard Law did their undergrad work.
She spit out a ton of websites that can help you figure out costs, search colleges, even help kids figure out how they rank against their peers and their chances of getting into specific colleges. I found this blog post from Lynn that lists most of what she shared with us. She’s screened the (apparently there are tons more) and she likes the ones she’s listed and spells out her caveats.
She recommended two more books:
Colleges that Change Lives which talks about the value of smaller schools. It was interesting to hear her talk about this because I went to USC for one semester as a freshman in 1980 and I HATED it. I was so miserable. I was lost in a sea of students with no access to my professors, teaching assistants that barely spoke English and no personal experience at all. I transferred to UC Davis where I fell in love with school, my major was small and intimate (Rhetoric) and even my minor in Psych which was much larger, was still close and inviting. Big schools can really be a challenge for a kid who needs to feel like they belong.

Students’ Guide to Colleges. She really likes this book because the kids actually write up the reviews and provide insight on how things really work, the nature of the professors and much more.

Okay – that’s the big picture. Happy to answer questions if you have them. I feel like we can do this now. There’s a lot of research to do to find the right schools with the right financial aid packages but at least now I know how to “play the game.”

UPDATE: this infographic just came out summarizing student loan debt in the US. Very interesting.

Unlearning Parenting

“Mom, you have to stop,” Katie tells me firmly but still calmly. Thank goodness she’s patient.

“You know,” I said, “I think I am having an epiphany. I need to unlearn how to parent you. I have been doing these things since you were born and now I need to stop doing them. And that’s going to be hard.”

I went on telling her that from the beginning, I had to anticipate what she was doing, redirect her or tell her what to do almost all the time. From brush your teeth to look both ways and everything in between. As I broke it down – and as she caught on and started thinking of things on her own – we both realized how many things parents do all day to help their kid grow up.

But, as a very smart therapist once taught me, the habits we learn that once served us well, often become bad behaviors when they are no longer needed. This was truly one of those moments. I realized I need to unlearn parenting.

It’s super hard.

I am basically trying to break habits that I have worked hard to cultivate to keep Katie safe, to teach her to be a good person, to care for others, to stand on her own. Now I need to shut up because I did my job. She’s good. Really good but me telling her what to do now is driving her crazy. And I can see how parents fall into power struggles with their kids at this age – 13 (almost) – because we have been telling them what to do for ages.

But now, it’s time to trust them and let them figure it out. They know. Seriously, I know she hears me in her head. My work here is done. If I want to have a relationship with her going forward, I need to stand back and let her go it on her own. Will she screw up? I certainly hope so because that will only positively reinforce my voice in her head.

Of course I’ll be there if I see her making big mistakes.

But my approach will be different. Offering her suggestions and alternatives but shutting up in between so she can weigh the options and make her own sound decisions. Oh yeah, and I still have to shut up. Talk less. I tell that to myself all the time. It’s horribly difficult. I pride myself on being right. But that doesn’t matter. Right this time is backing off and butting out.

We ended our talk with me asking her to be patient with me. That unlearning takes time. That I would totally blow it and tell her to wipe her feet before going inside and to brush her hair before we leave and all the other little things we have done for so long to get to this wonderful place of self-sufficiency.

She promised me she’d cut me some slack. And she told me she’d be happy to start telling me what I needed to do on a regular basis. Sounds lovely. 

I hope I don’t pitch a fit.