July 14, 2010,
L.J. asks from Valdosta, GA on May 10, 2010
18 Year Old Son Wants His Freedom...
We have a son (H/S senior) who will turn 18 next month (June). He is an excellent student (Honors/Gifted) who earned money to pay for half of his own car, pays his car insurance & hasn't been in trouble at school or with the law so far, ever. He was just accepted into the honors program at a nearby University. HS is for the most part over for him (done with finals).
He has a 9:30 curfew on school nites & 11:30 on Friday/Saturday. We would give him til 1pm over the summer til he leaves for college & he also has complete freedom during the daytime when he is not working. We have caught him in lies a number of times when he has asked to spend the nite at a friends house & found out he was at a party all nite. We asked him to be honest with us and so he has. He says he drinks, but never drives (which is why he asks to spend the nite elsewhere all the time) and smokes pot with his friends (most of whom are not good students or collegebound like he is (pre-med)in the fall) & is having protected sex with a variety of girls. He has also had 4 speeding tickets in the last year & he is rude and disrespectful to me.He wants complete freedom to do what he wants, stay where he wants all night because "he is an adult now & needs to make his own choices". We want to give him the freedom to make his own choices & mistakes, but how can we give a stamp of approval to his underage drinking, having sex & smoking pot while he is living under our roof?? He *says* he would never use harder drugs and draws the line at drinking and pot (PHEW, isn't THAT a relief...HA!). It took his dad 20+ years to overcome his addictions, which also started with alcohol & pot, and he knows this but is not concerned that he might have the same issues. He has a very bright future ahead of him and we can't bear the thought of him hurting himself or others or throwing his life away with bad choices.
He asked to go camping overnite on Friday and we said no because he acknowledged the alcohol that would be there, etc. He pitched a fit and took off on foot anyway and didn't come home til Sunday evening when we asked him to come by to talk. He says if he can't have complete freedom til he leaves for college in August, he will leave & stay with friends til then. We told him that we want to launch him properly and help him financially through school, but if he leaves, we cancel his phone contract, his car insurance policy (our policy, he pays), and we will sell his car & give him the half he paid for so he can be the "responsible adult" he claims he is & he will be on his own. We told him we love him, but we can't condone his behavior & bad choices. He said he would think about it for a few days & had his friend come pick him up again. This is absolutely killing me & I've done nothing but cry since then. Are we doing the right thing or are we being too strict? I want a relationship with my son, but I want him to live so we can have one. HELP!
Catherine: He will be receiving grants & scholarships for college for the most part, but we had offered to give him a monthly allowance to help with his expenses as long as he keeps his grades up.
So What Happened?™
Well, he decided to "be an adult" and stayed with the friend who picked him up...for 3 days. Then he called to ask me to log into his bank account and "check the balance for him". When I told him he had $3 in there, he said, "Dang. I'm reeaaally hungry", so I told him we were making burgers on the grill. Then he asked (meekly) if I could possibly pick him up from the Walmart parking lot. He came home and we had a nice talk along with dinner. I guess he found out that he had it pretty good at home with a nice room, a soft bed (instead of a pillow on the floor) and a fridge full of food. He came home several hours before his curfew every nite for the next few weeks. We've kept him pretty busy since with a vacation, family get-togethers and then we sent him (his choice) out of state to work for a relative for 3 weeks to earn money for college. Once he returns, we just have to get through a few more weeks and he will be launched off to college! I no longer live in dread of that day (a year ago, I thought I would melt away into a puddle of tears!)...I welcome it. We have taught him our values and right from wrong and once he is in college he will have to make his own choices and live with the consequences. All I can do now is pray :)
D.P. answers from Pittsburgh on May 10, 2010
If he is under your roof, even though he pays his personal expenses, he needs to obey your rules. If he's not willing to do that, let him go. He'll get a rude awakening sooner or later, might as well be now. You are doing the right thing, in my opinion. Hang tough, Lisa. I think you're doing the right thing.
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M.O. answers from Chicago on May 10, 2010
I think you are being a FABULOUS parent. I felt similarly to your son at his age. It's the wanting your freedom to make choices for yourself without the means to support yourself or some of those choices. Yep, he's a young adult alright. Pushing limits, demanding to be treated "like an adult", complete with all the bad decisions that come with that...like drinking, smoking and having multiple sex partners.
You should stick to your guns. He will appreciate that you have rules that apply to those who live in your house, and the benefits that come along with your rules - like health/dental insurance, the car, phone and financial assistance while he is a "full time student".
Perhaps you can talk with him and come to a "college bound" agreement that will work through college (after HS graduation)? Like no cerfew, but if he's not going to be coming home he has to call before 10pm? The reality is he is legally an adult, responsible for his own actions and soon you can't impose a cerfew on him while he's away at school anyway.
However, your agreement can stipulate that he is responsible for respecting your house rules - he does his own laundry, keeps his room decent and keeps the "common areas" clear of his junk. Also, that he has to treat you and your husband with respect, as his parents and as his providers. That means, no "attitude", being home for family holidays (Christmas, Easter, Mothers Day, etc. or whatever you celebrate).
My parents knew they had little "control" over me when I was that age. You have to trust that you did a good job. However, you still get to make the rules of your home and have "strings" attached to any money you give/send.
Keep at it Mama! Your teaching your grown son that if he wants to make adult decisions then he needs to do it "the whole kit and caboodle".
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L.C. answers from Dayton on May 10, 2010
I think you are doing exactly the right thing. He is so sure that he wants to be an "adult" what that means in grownup speak is that he wants all the fun of being the adult while you pay the way to make it happen. Adults get their own car insurance, buy their own car, get their own cell phone, have a job, a bank account, rent and utilities. This is what adults do. This is really the perfect timing because he has a chance to learn this hard lesson before he goes off to college and you aren't there to ride herd on him anymore.
You have to do this FOR him. Keep that in mind. You are not doing this TO him, but rather FOR him. No one has complete freedom. Not a soul. We are all accountable to someone, somewhere be it the boss, the spouse, the landlord. Sometimes taking a step back and letting them stumble and fall is the best thing we can do because they need to learn what they don't know more than what they do know at this age.
Add to that the fact that he is doing things that are illegal. Yeah, lots of kids do them, but the common thing doesn't make it the right thing. You cannot condone dangerous things that are illegal.
Keep your chin up!
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C.E. answers from Denver on May 10, 2010
Been there, done that!! You are doing the right thing. He either lives by your rules while under your roof, or he finds his own roof!!
That is the only way he will learn and you will never get respect until you demand it. If he wants to be independent, then let him be independent - with all that entails. If he wants your financial support - then he needs to live by the rules you are putting forth (which sound VERY reasonable)
Hang in there. It's hard, but you are doing the right thing. God bless -
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A.O. answers from San Francisco on May 10, 2010
Drugs are bad news no matter how they're involved. And apparently it's bringing your son down. After fighting the cause with your husband for 20 years, I can't imagine the strength, courage, and love you must possess to do it all over again with your son.
I watched my mom do it with my big brother since he was 13 (both her mom and dad were alcoholics). She would cry herself to sleep when he came home drunk or stoned but they never kicked him out like they threatened. They had the idea that they would rather have him that way under their roof than not knowing what happened to him. He abused this idea of theirs. He finally moved out at 27 after dropping out of college due to his drug use. He is now 31 and is doing much better but is still struggling a bit. But we have always been there for him. Being a family is more than just the good times, but sometimes some people chose the hard road to grow up on.
Maybe if you're lucky, he just wants to sow some wild oats before he goes away to college and will straighten up once he's there. But I agree with Denise. If he doesn't want to live by your rules, then he can't live under your roof. Everyone has to chose their own destiny. Just hope that he listened to the lessons you taught him growing up and that he uses them as a guide to a good life. You did your job well, but you can't hold his hand forever. He'll realize his mistakes soon enough, hopefully before it's too late or someone gets hurt.
You will be in my thoughts. Good luck and God bless.
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T.N. answers from Albany on May 10, 2010
Wow Mom, this must be breaking your heart! I'd like to say an otherwise good kid and focused student will survive a little rebellion, but if he is genetically predisposed to serious addictive issues, and is not regretful when busted, and is actually rude to his mamma, well this is a different thing, I think maybe you're right, I think you need to stick to your guns...I hope you can find little ways to let him know you love him so fiercely, don't want him to jump headlong into a life of addiction (whether he's a doctor or a truck driver) miss him very much.........when you see hear notice a thing you can be proud of about him, do so! You can still guide him a teeny bit here and there, but for the most part, he is right, it really IS his life now and you will have to let him make his own way....good luck, keep him close as you can without making demands
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C.C. answers from Fresno on May 10, 2010
Does he want to go to college? If so, who is paying for it? If he is paying his own way, then I guess it's time to let him go make his own mistakes (including finding his own place and paying rent, buying his own food, etc). If you are paying for it, then my view would be, while he's living under your roof, he lives by your rules. I do not think you're being unreasonable for worrying about drinking, drugs and loose girls. He's still a teenager. On the other hand, when he goes away to college, it will be an absolute free-for-all and you won't be there to supervise... but on the other hand, neither will you be up all night worrying, and most likely he can WALK home from parties on campus so it's not as dangerous.
The way my parents always did it was, when I was at home, I had to play by their rules. When I was away at college, as long as my grades stayed up, they didn't interfere. Had my grades fallen, they'd have made me move home, live with them, and attend the state school that was in town. Because I didn't want to do that, I made sure I didn't get too wild while I was away at college!
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M.F. answers from Sioux Falls on May 10, 2010
He is on the way to trouble and can lose it all if he stays on this path. My son pulled the "I am an adult card" too. While he is living in your house, it is your rules. If he believes he is an adult and can face the responsibilities and consequences of his actions, he can move out and make his own rules. I told my son that there are rules because I love him and want what is best for him. There are responsiblities and consequences because I care. If I didn't care, I'd let him do whatever he wanted and he would be in a whole world of hurt.
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