My daughter just graduated high school and turned 18. We’ve always had a close, open relationship, and in the days leading up to her big birthday, she’d warned me about a few things: she wants to travel, stay out all night, join Tinder, and get a medical marijuana card (18 is the age you can get a medical card in our state).
She’s taking a year off to work before going to school and I won’t lie, it’s a bit hilarious to listen to someone whose butt you’ve wiped tell you they are an adult and they know what they are doing when they are 18. I’ve realized something important: the way I handle her “ambition” to do certain things now that she’s 18 can’t be my knee-jerk reaction of feeling her no.
I’ve always preached that I want my kids to feel comfortable enough to tell me anything. I have to keep playing my part if I want them to be open with me. So when they are, by law, old enough to do something, I can’t tell them that they can’t. If they want to and can do adult things, I need to have adult conversations with them.
So, while I don’t love the Tinder profile and medical marijuana card, I also can’t technically stop her. I have to let her grow up and find her way. I wish watching our teens grow up didn’t equal things like pot and dating, but it does. And I have to face it.
Instead of telling her I don’t want her to do these things, I’ve expressed my concerns and we’ve had open talks about safety. I told her when she goes on a date with someone she needs to always get a last name, meet in a public place, and let me (or someone she trusts) see a picture of them and tell us where she is going. If she decides to leave the place they’re meeting, she needs to let someone know exactly where she’d be going and when she’d expected home.
As for the marijuana card, I’ve reiterated that she is absolutely responsible for her actions and I won’t be able to bail her out if she buys anything for a minor, drives under the influence, or abuses this legal right. The law sees her as an adult, and she needs to understand that comes with a lot of adult responsibility.
After her birthday, she wanted to stay out all night and come and go as she pleased. But that wasn’t working for me. But, I don’t think a curfew is fitting for somebody who is technically grown, so instead I told her that it was more respectful to let me know where she was going to be and what time she was going to be home. If she wants to stay out all night with her friends, that’s fine. I just want to know so I don’t worry.
She didn’t like the idea of having to check in at first, but I reminded her a quick text only takes a second, and it’s for her safety, not a form of discipline. When I was in college at her age, my roommate and I always told each other where we were going and about when we’d be home. And when I was married, when either of us left the house without the other, we always let each other know when we’d be home. It’s just what you do when you share a home with someone, even if they’re just a roommate.
I get that she wants her freedom. When I was her age, I was living in a co-ed college dorm a few states away and my mother had no idea what I was doing or if I came home every night.
But I’m also not comfortable with a free-for-all. She decided to stay living under my roof for another year and really likes the fact there’s always food for her to eat, clean clothes, and a roof over her head that doesn’t cost her a dime. That does come with some strings.
I’ve found that talking to her like an adult and explaining why I do want to know where she is and when she’ll be home is more about safety than anything else.
And during her first Tinder date, I was pacing, trying not to cry, and needed my best friend to calm me down. She doesn’t have to know that though.
Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.