And…She’s OFF!

Well, it’s finally happened. My daughter turned 18. The age of consent. The age of responsibility.  She can vote, go to war, pay taxes – do pretty much whatever her little autonomous heart desires, as long as it doesn’t hurt her or anybody else.

18th bday cakeWhen you ask the parent of an 18-year-old how it feels to have one, you’ll get a myriad of answers – and you’ll hear different answers from the same parents, depending on the day.

Speaking as a seasoned mother of 18 years, so far it’s been a heck of a ride.

Since the Big Birthday, I’ve run the gambit of emotion: excitement, relief, disbelief (“Jeez, I’m old!”), tears, and celebration.

Then night falls, worry sets in, GPS tracking is activated, and the confusion about exactly how much control I have over this new “adult” begins.

“Mr. Google” and I have done much surfing on this topic of late.  My house=my rules seems to be the usual parental mantra.

But everyone makes that sound so easy. intellectually, it’s a simple concept to grasp: when someone lives in my home, they follow my rules. But throw a rebellious teen into the equation and all bets are off.

So, I wrote them up – the newly-revised expectations of my daughter — rules for when she’s in the house and rules for when she’s not.HouseRules 

And since she’s primarily OUT of the house, there they stay – the House Rules – posted prominently on the fridge being completely ignored (read unseen) by my new vagabond.

But she’s 18, so my only recourse is to tell her to get her own place, right?

But what if she can’t afford her own place? And there’s the fact that I’m still unsure she’ll even keep herself safe in the world, because she’s made some really unwise choices in the recent past. What if her inexperience makes her vulnerable and she puts her life in danger?

Welcome to my world at 3 a.m.

After much agonizing (come to me, Advil), I realize my angst and sense of powerlessness are the result of fear and sadness — fear that I can no longer keep my daughter safe, and sadness that she doesn’t need me to.

The reality is, she has taken flight, and I’ve got to let go.

It’s more than a transition – it’s a paradigm shift – no longer seeing my kid as a child but as an adult, responsible for her actions, her time, her job, her future. I’m more or less out of the loop. And that’s really, really weird.

earth in hand (usage)But as emotional as it all is, she’s doing remarkably well for a “newborn.” She has not one but two jobs, her own checking account, a healthy sense of self-confidence, and is sailing with (what I hope is) a strong moral compass.

She also has a safe car with GPS, AAA, and a bottle of pepper spray  – all compliments of Mom and Step-Pop.

We’re helping her build a safety toolkit, knowing once it’s in place we’ll rest easier as we watch her successfully “launch”.

But these dang mood swings are running me. Naps, bubble baths, and the basketball Finals (NBA, take me away) are helping soothe this savage Mom-beast, but I think the only real antidote will be seeing her survive and thrive over time.

And, independent or not, with the help of satellite technology, Big Mother will still be watching.




7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by deadwrite on June 7, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Thanks for writing this great article, sweetheart. I know that you didn’t get much sleep last night (or for several nights), and I appreciate you turning the awake time into something so positive. Love You.


  2. Hi- I really liked this article. I haven’t blogged in months, so don’t bother visiting my blog to reciprocate (I know I spelled that wrong and in the time it took me to type this I could’ve looked it up, but whatevs!) for the comment because it’s old news.
    I just wanted to thank you for a great post. It’s my feelings exactly right now. My daughter turned 18 June 5th and man oh man am I having a hard time. She’s a good-hearted kid whose made some bad choices and it’s those bad choices that scare the heck out of me! I know I have to let go, but how far do you let go??
    I relate to what you’re saying and you said it beautifully. Sorry to ramble, just upset and searching for answers from the Google God at the moment.
    Thanks again and hope everything works out well for you!


    • Hi – thank you so much for your comment! The fact that I reached even one person makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. 🙂 It is SO hard to let go of a kid who you know has a good heart but doesn’t always make the best or safest choices. Many of my friends either have younger kids or older kids who are like, perfect, so my husband and I are kind of on our own dealing with this. Thankfully my daughter and I are very close, and we had a heart-to-heart talk today about the one rule I have set up for her while she lives under my roof: let me know where you’re staying on any particular night so I don’t worry when you don’t come home, and if that place changes, send me a text or call to let me know you’re no longer there. I need my sleep too! 🙂

      Not sure if you saw the link to my post on GPS’s for kids, it’s in the article…if you haven’t already, I gotta tell ya that having GPS monitoring on both of my kids’ cell phones has provided peace of mind of a hundred occasions. It usually costs $5/month or so depending on your cell carrier, and is worth 100x more than that. I actually located my daughter this morning through her GPS when I couldn’t reach her by phone. Had a good scare, but all’s okay now, thank goodness. My poor heart can’t take much more of this.

      Anyway…thanks again for your comment, and know that you’re not alone in your feelings. This is one of the hardest parenting phases I’ve ever had to endure. Be gentle with yourself and keep the lines of communication open with your daughter, and realize that at some point we just have to trust that we’ve done our job and let the world teach them what we weren’t able to. Sounds like you’re a wonderful, caring Mom. Keep up the good work! 🙂


  3. Posted by Honey on June 7, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    ❤ … lots of support, love, listening ears if you need, and prayers Honey. .. Love, Honey


  4. Even when your kids are “perfect”…. it doesn’t mean that we don’t SERIOUSLY feel for YOU, our dearest friends, or “your children” whom we’ve come to know and love and worry over too. You may feel alone… please allow me to remind you that you are not. That said…. here’s lie you’re so fretting about
    ” … as long as it doesn’t hurt her or anybody else.” She can hurt herself and she can hurt others – she has the “power”, she has the choice… we all do. The Great Gift. The Blessing and the Curse.

    In my humble opinion, you (and Step-Pop) are doing an amazing job of parenting and transitioning – And Al-Anon is a fantastic program for those of us who love those who stray from their own happiness – including ourselves.


    • Thank you, ‘Stina. Knowing you’re all there for us makes any challenging time so much more tolerable. Thanks for the kind and wise (as always) words. We love you all.


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