I’m excited to welcome you to a special episode of the Mother’s Quest Podcast that I am extremely grateful for, just in time for Thanksgiving, featuring the amazing Julie Lythcott-Haims and my 17-year-old son Ryan Neale.

Julie is an incredible mother to two, a former Stanford Dean and New York Times bestselling author of the anti-helicopter parenting manifesto How to Raise an Adult, which gave rise to a TED Talk that has more than 5 million views. Her second book is the critically-acclaimed and award-winning prose poetry memoir Real American, which illustrates her experience as a Black and biracial person in white spaces. I’m so fortunate to have had the opportunity to interview Julie for the podcast several years ago when that book was first released. 

When I heard about Julie’s new book Your Turn: How to Be an Adult, I knew I wanted to invite her back to the podcast again. And, I hoped that my son Ryan, on the threshold of adulthood himself, would join us in the conversation.

The stars aligned and Ryan was available the day of the interview, enabling Julie, Ryan, and I to explore the concepts of her book, about navigating adulthood and embracing our differences, especially our neurodiversity, in deeply personal and relevant ways. 

In this episode, I’m also excited to share a dedication from Deborah Reber, former podcast guest, fellow mother on a quest, and host of the TiLT Parenting Podcast.
Deborah’s heart-felt dedication honors Julie and other mothers raising neurodivergent children. I could not agree more with Deborah’s assessment about what an exceptional human Julie is, about the power of Julie’s commitment to put the stories of a diverse group of young people with different identities on the pages of her book, and about the impact of Julie’s work for normalizing and honoring differences. 

As you hear our conversation unfold, I know you’ll be as struck as I was by Julie’s wisdom and humility as she talks with Ryan, helping him to understand that he deserves to be cherished for who he is, that he can approach things like writing in ways that work for his differently-wired mind, and that he can seek out environments, like college, that enables him to play to his strengths and allow him to thrive.

Since our conversation, Ryan was able to take Julie’s advice to heart, using voice to text without shame to write his personal statement for college applications and sharing his personal insights on a panel at the recent Stanford Neurodiversity Summit. You can follow the link in the show notes to listen.

Finally, this conversation is a demonstration that there is no destination to becoming an adult, but an ongoing journey of learning and discovery, that parents and their children can support one another in reciprocity with curiosity, and that we can all benefit from asking ourselves the question from Mary Oliver’s famous poem, that Julie gives us as our challenge, “What is it that we want to do with our one wild and precious life?”

As we approach Thanksgiving, the five-year birthday of the launch of Mother’s Quest, and my 50th birthday, I can say there is nothing I’d rather do than hold space for a conversation like this one and share it with you.

About Julie:

Julie Lythcott-Haims believes in humans and is deeply interested in what gets in our way. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the anti-helicopter parenting manifesto How to Raise an Adult which gave rise to a TED Talk that has more than 5 million views. Her second book is the critically-acclaimed and award-winning prose poetry memoir Real American, which illustrates her experience as a Black and biracial person in white spaces. A third book, Your Turn: How to Be an Adult, is out now.

Julie is a former corporate lawyer and Stanford dean, and she holds a BA from Stanford, a JD from Harvard, and an MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts. She serves on the board of Common Sense Media, and on the advisory board of LeanIn.Org, and she is a former board member at Foundation for a College Education, Global Citizen Year, The Writers Grotto, and Challenge Success. She volunteers with the hospital program No One Dies Alone.

She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her partner of over thirty years, their itinerant young adults, and her mother. 

Connect with Julie: 

About Ryan

Ryan Neale is a neurodivergent 12th Grader from San Mateo, California. His parents discovered he was differently wired when he was 18 months old but he has been in fully mainstream education for his academic career, with most people around him not knowing about some of the struggles that he faces.

His experiences publicly masking his neuro differences have given him a unique perspective on many of the struggles neurodiverse people face, such as public stigma, ableism, and the ever-present desire to fit in. As he has begun advocating more for his needs, he has high hopes to use his perspective and communication skills to increase public understanding of neurodiversity, and hopefully create a more inclusive society for everyone.

In his free time, he enjoys playing varsity basketball for his high school team, coaching youth sports, roughhousing with his little brother, and diving headfirst into his many fantasy special interests. He is thrilled to have participated in this fall’s Stanford Neurodiversity Summit on a K-12 student panel. You can listen to the panel here.


Connect with Ryan: 

Topics Discussed in this Episode:

  • How Julie’s experience listening to students as a Stanford Dean and raising her own children led her to write a book about young adults
  • The painful admission Julie shared about overlooking her own son Sawyer’s challenges with ADHD and anxiety and the poignant moment when her son acknowledged Julie’s shift in understanding him 
  • The ways that Ryan identifies as neurodivergent, how he has adapted, and the pain he has experienced trying to fit in a neurotypical world 
  • Julie’s advice to Ryan about embracing who he is
  • Her recommendation of the book Normal Sucks by Jonathan Mooney 
  • The revelations parents can take from Julie’s book
  • How to help young adults figure out what next steps to take on their path to becoming an adult 
  • The lessons Julie has personally gained from writing her books
  • Julie’s words of wisdom for Ryan on how to move through his resistance of writing by trying methods that might work better for his differences and strengths 
  • The biggest takeaway that Julie learned in her research and in her own journey writing the book about how to be vulnerable and connected and open to the support of others so that you don’t have to feel alone
  • Julie’s challenge for all of us that can help us live our best lives as adults

Resources and Topics Mentioned:

 This Episode’s Challenge:

Ask yourself the question from Mary Oliver’s famous poem, “what do I want to do with this one wild and precious life?” Explore what would you do if it was only up to you…if nobody else’s opinion really mattered. Go to a quiet place, a shower, out in nature, or on a hammock and ask yourself “What is the work that brings me joy? What are the places and spaces where I feel valued and seen?”


This Episode is dedicated by Deborah Reber

Debbie Reber is a parenting activist, New York Times bestselling author, podcast host, and speaker who moved her career in a more personal direction in 2016 when she founded TiLT Parenting, a top resource for parents like her who are raising differently wired children. The TiLT Parenting Podcast has grown to be a top podcast in Kids & Family, with more than 3 million downloads and a slate of guests that includes high-profile thought leaders across the parenting and education space. A certified Positive Discipline trainer and a regular contributor to Psychology Today and ADDitude Magazine, Debbie’s newest book is Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World. In November 2018, she spoke at TEDxAmsterdam, delivering a talk entitled Why the Future Will Be Differently Wired. In the summer of 2020, she co-created the Parenting in Place Masterclass series.

Prior to launching TiLT, Debbie spent more than fifteen years writing inspiring books for women and teens, including Doable: The Girls’ Guide to Accomplishing Just About Anything, Language of Love, Chill: Stress-Reducing Techniques for a More Balanced, Peaceful You, In Their Shoes: Extraordinary Women Describe Their Amazing Careers, and more than a dozen preschool books based on the series Blue’s Clues. In 2008, she had the privilege of creating and editing the first-ever series of teen-authored memoirs, Louder Than Words.

Before becoming a solopreneur, Debbie worked in TV and video production, producing documentaries and PSAs for CARE and UNICEF, working on Blue’s Clues, and developing original series for Cartoon Network. She has an MA in Media Studies from the New School for Social Research and a BA in Communications from Pennsylvania State University. In 2019, her husband, and 17-year-old twice-exceptional son relocated to Brooklyn, NY after living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands for five years. 

Connect with Deborah:

You can also check out my conversation with Debbie on the Mother’s Quest Podcast about embracing differences here!

Special Q & A Brunch with Julie Lythcott-Haims

Join Mother’s Quest and Happy Women Dinners for a special opportunity to receive Julie’s new book, get it personally signed, and enjoy brunch and a Q & A with Julie at Julie Neale’s private home in the SF Peninsula on January 23, 2022 from noon to 2:30 pm. Cost is $125 and includes brunch and a copy of the signed book. Email jill@happywomendinners.com to secure your spot ASAP. Tickets are sold out with the exception of a small number for Mother’s Quest listeners and members. 


Mother’s Quest is Turning Five – Celebrate With Us!

On December 1st, Mother’s Quest will be celebrating it’s 5th birthday. To honor this milestone, we are having a virtual celebration with poetry, music, toasts and more.  If you’ve been impacted by Mother’s Quest and have wishes to share for our next chapter, I’d love for you to join us. Email hello@Mothersquest.com to get all the details and RSVP.

Mother’s Quest is a podcast for moms who are ready to live a truly E.P.I.C. life.

Join in for intimate conversations with a diverse group of inspiring mothers as they share how they are living an E.P.I.C. life, Engaging mindfully with their children (E), Passionately and Purposefully making a difference beyond their family (P), Investing in themselves (I), and Connecting to a strong support network (C).

Join our community of mothers to light the way and sustain you on your quest at https://www.facebook.com/groups/mothersquest/