Sometime around their junior high years, my three kids told me (on different occasions) that I was overprotective. I didn’t let them go over to a friend’s house after school unless I talked to the parent and made sure it was okay with them and that an adult would be home.
Of course, they were the last ones in their friend groups to get cellphones. I’m pretty sure every parent hears this at one time or another, but my kids still bring it up and they’ve all had cell phones for eight years. Which reminds me, I think it’s time they all start paying their cell phone bills.
I worry about my kids just as much as when they were younger. (Shutterstock Ocskay Mark)
As they got older, I thought it was even more important to check in with my kids. I made it a rule that if they were going somewhere with a friend, I just wanted a quick text letting me know that they got to their destination.
It was rare I’d tell them that they couldn’t do something since I believe that the high school social experience is really important. We had an agreement that as long as they followed my rules, obeyed their curfew, and let me know if they were changing locations from where they said they’d be, I was fine with them living their life without my interference.
Senior year of high school, they didn’t even have a curfew, but I did ask that they let me know where they were going to be and when. They hated this rule and thought I was too overprotective. I explained to them it wasn’t about me trying to control them or be strict.
In this day and age, we need to let someone know where we’re going to be. When I was married to their father, I didn’t go anywhere without telling him where I was going and about when I’d be home so he didn’t worry. I did the same thing with my roommate when I was in college.
Now that they are 20, 18, and 17, and my youngest will graduate high school this year, I still have the same rules: Let me know when you get to a location, when you are going to be home or if you’re going to be out all night. If you tell me you’re going to the mall, then you do somewhere after that, just send a quick text so I know.
All my kids live at home. If they didn’t, I’d still check in often, but I’d have to loosen my grip a bit on their whereabouts. But I don’t have to do that yet because they are all under my roof. It’s only common courtesy to let your mother know if you’re going to be home for dinner, or if you’ll be out all night. I also want them to know I care deeply about their lives and what they’re doing.
I still want to hear about their day and meet their friends. I still want to be the one they come to if they are struggling in a relationship or having problems at work or school. I realize they are older and they feel like they don’t need me checking up on them.
I also realize that I can drive them mad. But, I’m still very much their mother. I still worry just as much as I did when they were younger. I still want them to know they are my first priority and that I’m always here for them.
To them, it feels like I’m being overprotective. And while I don’t want to suffocate them, it also feels so unnatural to me to not have them check in. To not let me know if they’re going to be out all night. To not say, “Hey, Mom I won’t be home for dinner.”
If they didn’t check in, I’d be a constant ball of stress wondering if they were okay.
Yes, part of my “overprotectiveness” is for me. They are my children and as much as they want me to turn off my mothering instincts as soon as they reach a certain age, I don’t know how to do that. Do any of us? It feels as normal to me as breathing, and it’s certainly not something I feel like I can stop doing. Not right now anyway.
It took me a long time to get used to being a mother. In fact, I wasn’t sure having a little person depend on me to stay alive was something that I’d ever learn how to do. But I did. And now it feels like I can’t undo it.
I need time to get used to the fact my kids are adults who don’t really need their mom the way they used to. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take me, but hopefully as I try to be patient with their newfound independence, they’ll be patient with me and realize how hard this transition is for all of us.
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