My Son Wrote About His Crazy Mom for a School Project


“I had no idea your life was so difficult and that your mom was so ‘crazy.’ Your senior project made me cry.”

I found these words scrawled in a handmade card to my 18-year-old, valedictorian son, wedged next to the front seat of my car.

I couldn’t breathe. Then I howled. My beautiful first born. The little pee wee with the stocking cap and button nose who stared at me with huge eyes the day he was born. The toddler with white blond curls who called me “Sweetheart.”


This stranger living in my house made his senior project about me? The horrors of living with me? After everything I had done for him? Years filled with volunteering as a room-mom, midnight trips to the ER for his asthma, driving to the Getty for field trips, opening our house for movies nights and spaghetti feeds. Me?

A friend with older kids warned me that the senior year “can be kind of tough.”

No kidding! I never dreamed how hard. I found myself at odds with this person, who used to be my best friend. I alternated between yelling, cajoling and pleading with him to finish college applications, meet countless deadlines and study for exams. No wonder he called me crazy.

The stress of applying for college proved to be filled with potholes, no, make that sinkholes — the kind that swallows entire houses and families. What to declare as a major, where to live, what to write for a personal statement are enough to stress out the calmest kid.

So what else makes applying to college so awful?  Try these numbers on for size:

• More than 3,000,000 high school seniors apply to college in the US — never mind the ones throughout the world trying to get into our top schools!

• The number of students who apply to seven or more colleges has grown from 9% in 1992 to 29% in 2011. 

• Yale’s applications doubled from 2002 to this year, topping 30,000.  Yale accepted roughly 2,000 in 2013.

• Harvard has nearly 35,000 applicants, 2029 admitted in 2013.

• The number of applicants for University of California Santa Barbara in 2013 was 62,413, They had 4,550 in the freshman class last year.

• UCLA is one of the most applied to schools in the country, with nearly 100,000 applicants, and they admit 15,000.

Between December and graduation, my son received eight out of nine college rejections –further making him love me, hate me, turn to me in need, and then reject me again. I could do nothing to help his torment. In the end, he accepted admission to his one school.


Hang in there moms of juniors and seniors. When it seems like there is nothing you can do to help, take a deep breath.  Be there for support and offer advice if they ask for it. Love them, even if they are undeniably rude. Forgive yourself if you lose your temper.

I believe our kids take out their fears and frustrations on those they love most.

I am happy to report that two years later, the stranger living in my son’s skin has disappeared. I have a son who calls me the moment he finishes a final that he knows he’s crushed. He calls to ask how to cook chicken stir fry.  And he calls to say he loves me.

Photos: (top) My son during graduation. (second) a beautiful baby, (above) my son when he was at the age when he thought my name was “Sweetheart,” and (below) a view of my son’s university. Not too shabby, after all.



No Parents Allowed!


This week, while I am recovering from surgery, I am reposting some of my earliest blog posts. Enjoy! I’ll try to make it back to work next week.

I was sitting outside a roped off area with a sign posted “No Parents Allowed” at a three-day swim meet in LA with close to 1,400 swimmers.

“But, I HAVE to get my son this bottle of water,” a mom begged the volunteer parent wearing a neon orange vest, who was in charge of guarding the entrance to the “swimmer’s only” area.

“ARE YOU PROMISING TO GET MY SALLY TO HER EVENT ON TIME? I’M HOLDING YOU ACCOUNTABLE!” another mother yelled with her finger wagging in the face of the orange-vested volunteer. The mom was shaking in frustration and anger.

I sat calmly by — watching, observing, and remembering  —  that was me. Not the yeller, but the one pleading. My daughter is 18 and going off to college next fall. She’s been a swimmer since age five.

Helicopter after helicopter mom argued and pleaded with the volunteers, who are swim parents themselves, on how they’d just be a second to find their child, bring them water, lunch, or make sure they made it to their event.

I wanted to tell them “RELAX!” If their swimmers had made it this far, to the season’s championship meet, they’re going to be okay. Calm down, let them hang out with their friends and teammates. They’ll be fine and will survive. After all, I had just made it through watching my daughter swim the mile. I didn’t get up once and scream, “GO!” which I have done at every flip turn for the past 15 years. If I can calm down and let go — you other moms can too!

And — if they don’t drink enough water, or miss their event — they might actually learn from it.


Here are 10 great things to remember as a parent of children in any sport. It’s from USA Swimming.


I. Thou shall not impose thy ambitions on thy child.

II. Thou shall be supportive no matter what.

III. Thou shall not coach thy child.

IV. Thou shall only have positive things to say at a competition.

V. Thou shall acknowledge thy child’s fears.

VI. Thou shall not criticize the officials.

VII. Thou shall honor thy child’s coach.

VIII. Thou shall be loyal and supportive of thy team.

IX. Thy child shall have goals besides winning.

X. Thou shall not expect thy child to become an Olympian.


More handy tips can be found at USA Swimming’s page for parents.

FYI, the top photo of my daughter’s relay team was taken by a 12-year-old teammate, who obviously can make it to her events, stay hydrated, swim fast, and take great pics! The second photo is my daughter 12 years ago. The last photo was taken from the “parents only” section of the East LA College pool.

Video of my daughter’s 400 free relay from TAKEITLIVETV from Feb. 17.


What Parents Would Do This? Seriously???



Two little cowboys.

My kids are on their way to adulting. One will be celebrating a full-year on the job in a month, post-college degree. My daughter is going to career fairs and has interviewed for two jobs so far, landing one job offer. I will repeat and say loudly that I had nothing to do with it. Well, maybe one thing—I helped them by purchasing clothes for their interviews. But that was it. Apparently, other parents of millennials are getting much more involved. I wrote about crazy helicopter parents interfering in their children’s job searches a few months ago here.

I discovered another article that gives more examples of parents going over the line in the name of “helping” their children. The article is called “Parents of millennials are too involved in their kids’ careers” by Corinne Purtill on Quartz. She talks about a mom “mean tweeting” a company that didn’t offer her son a job and includes scary statistics from a 2016 survey of how many helicopter parents are getting involved in their adult children’s careers. You can read an excerpt here:


“Parents: butt out of your adult children’s job searches.

“This may seem obvious. But it’s not, in the context of the wildly inappropriate parental intrusions that hiring managers see with astounding regularity. Parents are calling to arrange interviews for perfectly functional adult children, inserting themselves into schedule or salary negotiations, and haranguing a manager by phone or email for failing to hire or promote their precious offspring.

“In a misguided effort to help their children gain short-term achievement, hiring managers say, many parents unwittingly cripple their adult sons’ and daughters’ ability to succeed on their own. What’s more, these unhealthy entanglements in their adult child’s professional life are preventing parents from being supportive in ways that actually do help their child—who is, in fact, an adult.

“Much too much
“In a 2016 survey of helicopter parenting in the workplace from the staffing firm OfficeTeam, senior managers reported parental intrusions of astonishing cheek: asking to sit in on job interviews, bringing cakes to potential employers, calling the hiring manager in the guise of an employment reference to heap praise on their son.

“After media reports of meddling parents in the workplace started surfacing after the recession of the early 2000s, Michigan State University researcher Phil Gardner surveyed 725 employers about whether they’d seen such behavior. A full 31% of respondents had a parent apply for a job on behalf of their adult child, according to a 2007 report. Another 15% of the employers fielded complaints from parents about passed-over children, 9% had a parent try to negotiate the new hire’s salary or benefits, and 4% actually attended job interviews alongside their adult children. The financial crisis of 2008 and the rise of texting, which enabled constant communication between parents and grown kids, has only intensified the trend.

“On this point hiring managers are explicitly clear: absolutely nothing good comes of a parent getting involved in a child’s job search.
“No employer is going to think this is okay,” said Alison Green, a consultant who writes the popular blog Ask a Manager. “Managers really need to refuse to engage if a parent contacts them, assuming it’s not to relay some sort of serious emergency with their kid.”

“Casey Newton, an editor at the Verge, received a baffling direct message on Twitter in 2016. The tone of the message was accusatory. It was “something along the lines of, ‘You have a lot of nerve getting someone’s hopes up like that,’” Newton recalled. He’d never met the woman, but her last name looked familiar. A quick check of her social media profiles confirmed she was the mother of a job candidate Newton had recently passed over.”

It is stunning to me that 31% of parents interviewed in the study quoted in the article, applied to jobs on behalf of their adult children. I bet they are the same parents who did their children’s homework to ensure good grades. Then, they filled out college applications and wrote the college entrance essays, too.


My kids on their way to adulting.

What are these parents thinking? Do you have any idea of why parents would do this to adult kids?


Helicopter parents blamed for “failure to launch”



When they were young with our Natasha.

In an eye-opening article, helicopter parents are being blamed for the failure of their kids to launch, “Helicopter parents who put their children on ‘a pedestal’ are to blame for them still living at home at 25, according to an expert,” by Sarah Harris for the Daily Mail, explores how anthropologist David Lancy compares cultures to compare differences in how kids are raised. He believes we are screwing up our kids by being too involved and putting them on a pedestal.

I’m a former helicopter parent and I admit freely that I did way too much for my kids. I would help them with homework if it was getting late, I’d micromanage schedules and homework, and I’d run to the pool or school with forgotten swimsuits or papers. I cooked all the meals and did their laundry. I thought I was making life easier for them. I hated to see them fail. Looking back, it’s better to let them fail at a few little things, rather than wait for them to fail at college or life. The consequences of taking over for our kids makes them feel insecure and less self-sufficient. We are literally destroying their prospects to be independent, strong adults—which should be our goal.

I would tell my kids when they were selfish that “the world doesn’t revolve around you.” Yet, I had set up our household so my life did, in fact, revolve around them. I am glad that I made the choices I did, yet all of it wasn’t helpful to them. I’m grateful that I could leave the workforce and stayed home. I’m thankful for the opportunities I had to help out at their schools, plus for the three years I homeschooled my daughter. I loved helping out on their swim team, too.

Things I didn’t do: I didn’t take over for them on major projects, I didn’t write papers for them, nor do their research. I was there to help, not do the work. I do know many parents that completely take over and that’s not helpful at all. In any case, we are all trying to do the best we can. If you get a sneaky feeling that you’re doing too much, chances are you are doing too much. My 24-year-old isn’t living at home and is independent, and my college student is applying for jobs, so I must have done something right.

Here are some excerpts from the Daily Mail article about helicopter parents:


It can leave children only ‘patchily employed’ and reliant on their parents in 20s.

He said there is a worrying trend of ‘raising each child as special and unique.’

Anthropologist David Lancy has warned that mothers and fathers praise their children too readily, which does not adequately prepare them for modern life.

Young people believe they can continue doing ‘what’s exciting and wonderful’ and end up only ‘patchily employed’ and reliant on their parents by their mid-twenties.

The emeritus professor of anthropology at Utah State University, United States, said this results in their ‘failure to launch’.

He has examined different childcare models across the world for his book, Raising Children: Surprising Insights from Other Cultures.
In an interview with the Times Educational Supplement (TES), the anthropologist outlined ‘our’ society’s ‘WEIRD’ way, which stands for Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic.

This has worrying characteristics including ‘raising each child as special and unique and patting them on the back for every achievement, to protect their self-esteem’. Referring to ‘WEIRD’, Professor Lancy told the TES: ‘I think one of the drivers (of this) is this underlying notion that children should never be unhappy and that if they are, that’s a problem that the parent is maybe responsible for and certainly has an obligation to remediate.’

Parents are ‘totally wrapped up and centred on their children’ – an approach that is problematic.

‘You can relate all sorts of things to that, including the spectacular rise of psychotropic medication being given to children,’ he said

‘When you put a child on a pedestal and say, “The horizons are limitless for you, my child, you can do anything you want to do, there’s no hurry, you can take your time,” that creates a situation that you say to your kids, “You don’t have to conform to society’s expectations or expectations of the workplace, you can continue to do what’s exciting and wonderful for you,” and we end up with kids still living at home at 25 and only patchily employed.’


My kids ready to launch.

Do you know parents who do too much for their kids, helping with projects and homework? What are some extreme examples you’ve seen?


When should we jump in to defend our kids?

When they were young.

I was always a stickler for what was right or wrong and I never shied away from addressing any issue. I would go to bat for my kids whenever I felt they were being slighted. Looking back, I see that is a trait of helicopter parenting and I might have done more good for my kids by letting them fight their own battles.

Here are a few battles I took on when I thought my kids weren’t being treated right:

I wrote an email to my son’s AP History teacher to complain about his grade. He was .05 off an A and I felt the teacher should round it up. I got a note back explaining that if he were to round up my son’s grade, he’d have to go back and do the same thing for every other student in his grade book who was a fraction off the next higher grade. (Not a bad idea, I thought!) My son was being passed over for his school’s nomination for the coveted National Merit Scholarship award because of the B, but he lived through it.

When I felt a coach was picking on my son, I made an appointment to complain about it, only to find out that he had earned the “coach’s award” for best attitude and effort. That surprised me and I’m embarrassed about that meeting to this day.

When my daughter was given five days of after-school detention for forgetting to bring the photocopy of Christmas song lyrics to music class, I complained that the punishment was over the top. In fact, other kids were given two nights detention, so there was a definite crossing the line by the music teacher—in my humble opinion.

There are countless other incidents where I went to battle for my kids. I do believe I taught them the difference between right and wrong and that they should stand up for themselves. At least that’s what I told myself at the time.

I couldn’t understand why other parents would stand by and let bad things happen to their kids. I do now. Sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and shrug your shoulders. I’ve found that some of the things that would have bugged me to no end, will soon disappear on their own within a few days or weeks. By making an issue out of little things, they can turn into big ones and burn a lot of energy and create angst.

My daughter complained to me last night that during a meeting with students on a group project, the guys were complaining that all the women coming forward about sexual harassment were “just looking for attention.” That infuriated my daughter to no end. I asked her if she was going to put up with it or wanted to go to the professor or counselor and complain. She decided to let it go. She’s a week from being done with the class and just wants to get through it. I told her I would stand by whatever she decided.

When my son received a letter telling him he was kicked out of school during the summer after his freshman year for bad grades, I was horrified. But, then I stood by and watched him research his options online. He wrote a letter to contest the decision and got hospital and doctor records to substantiate his unfortunate circumstances of an injury and surgery which caused too many missed classes. He was let back in without me doing a thing. After that, he earned As.

Me and my boy.

One thing I know about parenting is all we can do is try our best. It’s been my goal to raise kids who know the difference between right and wrong and will try their best as well.

What do you think about parents fighting battles for their kids? Are they helping or hurting them by getting involved?


The not-so-funny truth about helicopter parents


rkcowboys 2

The goal is to raise happy, healthy kids who experience failure at times so they can also experience success.


I often joke that I’m a recovering helicopter parent. But, it’s not that funny after all. It’s important to raise kids who can handle the curve balls life throws at them. By not allowing our kids to fail, we’re robbing them of the ability to learn, grow, and understand hard work. Not only that, but studies show that kids with helicopter parents suffer more from anxiety and depression.

In an article in USA Today by Katy Piotrowski, M.Ed. called “How to help your adult children find success,” it appears success comes most often after failure. So, if we’re not allowing our kids the chance to fail, how will they be successful later in life?

Here are a few tips from the article:

“In a study reported in Psychology Today, the majority of children with helicopter parents have higher anxiety and view life’s challenges as being more daunting than those with more hands-off moms and dads. So what can we do, as parents, to truly support career success in our children? Psychiatrist Joel Young, M.D., suggests these strategies:

“Rather than sharing your goals and wishes for your child, listen to theirs. This builds their skills in independent thought and critical thinking, and sidesteps imposing your values on them.

“When your child receives a consequence, such as not getting hired for a job you think they’d excel in, don’t try to intervene to change the outcome.

“Avoid being your adult child’s keeper and don’t remind them of deadlines. By middle school, they should have learned to stay on top of their to-do lists.

“Instead of offering your solutions to their career challenges, encourage your child to come up with remedies on their own.”

Honestly, is there anything worse than watching your kids suffer, feel hurt or experience failure? We want to make life easy for them. But, while they are young, let them flunk a few tests, or oversleep for school. These are minor things that they can self-correct. They can learn from their mistakes. If we’ve helped our kids every step of the way from kindergarten through their senior year in high school, and they’ve never experienced failure, they may feel overwhelmed when they get a lousy grade on a college paper or fail an exam. They also may feel they aren’t worthy and are incapable on their own without their helicopter parent at their side to save them.

It reminds me of a book I learned about at a writer’s conference more than a decade ago called “Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones” by John C. Maxwell. It was recommended for writers to read this book because in this tough profession we face rejection after rejection and the key is to keep going and fail forward, rather than failing backward. I believe it’s an important read for parents, too, so that we allow our kids the growth experience that only failure provides.


Before my kids experienced anxiety, stress or failure. Those were the days!

What other sad side-effects do you think helicopter parents may inflict upon their children–with the best intentions? Do you know any helicopter parents? What have you seen them do that you would never do yourself?



Watch out college students, helicopter parents are coming, too!



I was a helicopter parent when they were young.

I enjoy reading and posting stories about helicopter parents because the outrageous, over-the-top behavior of the few mentioned makes me feel like I’ve done a decent job parenting my two young adults.

In “Crazy Parents Are Calling Up Colleges Pretending to Be Their Kids” by Kristen Fleming in the New York Post, I wonder exactly who are these parents and what are they thinking?

A friend told me about someone they knew whose only child was going to start at the University of Redlands which is about 40 miles away. My friend was surprised to hear that the mom got a hotel room and stayed the first week so she could be close to her son. The parents didn’t want him to be alone. When he got a poor grade on a paper, the dad called the University president to complain! Yes, this is a true story. I can only imagine how the student’s four years went—or if he made it that long.


Here are two examples from the article:

“I think the wackiest example was when a mother called and asked for permission to do her daughter’s internship for her because [the girl] had too much anxiety. I said, ‘It sounds to me that this would be a fun and interesting experience for you but I don’t think your daughter is going to get any credit for it,’ ” recalled Jonathan Gibralter, president of Wells College in upstate New York.

An administrator at a liberal arts college in the Northeast, who asked to remain anonymous for professional reasons, has trouble keeping up with the parental texts and e-mails that flood her phone.

“Over the last two or three years it’s become unbearable,” she said. “I’ve had parents calling up and impersonating their children, asking questions that could have been easily asked by their kids. One lady didn’t even bother to disguise her Long Island soccer-mom voice.”

I learned that technology is partially to blame and that the cell phone is the world’s longest umbilical cord at my daughter’s orientation for students and parents at the University of Utah. We were told to not jump every time the cell phone rang or we received a text. Let our kids learn to problem solve was the advice. Usually, they’re just venting and the problem will solve itself or be no big deal after a day.

In the New York Post article, technology is pointed out to be an issue and one main cause of helicopter parenting:

Harlan Cohen, who wrote the book “The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College” is in demand at schools as an instructional speaker.

“I’ve heard all of the horror stories,” said Cohen, who recently led a seminar for parents at Purdue University in Indiana. “I’ve heard stories of parents wanting to come along for job interviews, coming unannounced to resident halls and reaching out to the president for every little situation.”

Still, he said, “I’m sympathetic to both sides.”

He blames technology for the seismic shift in academic life. Previous generations had to rely on landlines and phone cards to call home, limiting contact and allowing kids to feel their way through challenges. Now, armed with smartphones, students are apt to sound off with a text or social-media post after a frustrating encounter with a professor or roommate — raising the alarm back at home.

I have a relative who stayed up several nights to finish projects for her son and she also would rewrite his papers. She was very upset when he (she?) got a bad grade and made an appointment to speak to the teacher about it. She had the good sense to laugh about it and said it was hard not to say “Why did you give me this bad grade?” — rather than her son. It dawned on her that she might be doing too much for him.

Why do you think parents are so overly involved in their high school and college-aged kids lives?


I think they’ve had enough of my posing them for pictures!