Our oldest daughter moved back in with us after a breakup. We agreed she could stay with us while she saved up money to get back on her feet. Because she's over 18, we let her know that our only "rule" for living with us is to text us and let us know if she was going to be out after 11:30 p.m. so we wouldn't have to worry. We don't ask for rent money, grocery money, utilities, we even let her use our car whenever she needs. The first few weeks were fine, but then steadily she started staying out late, even all night, without communicating with us at all. And she's started taking the car without asking. We try to talk to her about it, but she always has an excuse and says we don't understand what she's going through. We're not sure what to do.
Feeling Used Mama
Explaining the “text by 11:30p” is not a rule, but just a worry prevention act should help to reduce resistance to the “don’t treat me like I’m a baby” issue. Further explaining that she is not calling to get permission to stay out late, but rather to just help her overly worried Mom get back to sleep at 2 am. Most parents have this potentially sensitive issue to deal with when their college kids come home for vacation. On their own, they come back when they want to without having a worried parent imagining head-on collisions with 18-wheelers. Really, it’s a pretty simple courteous act. However, our job as a parent never really goes away. If our semi-adult child is out of line, it’s still our duty to teach. I would suggest for your consideration the following steps:
1. Extend one more explanation of your expectations and why (it’s respectful, ya know?).
2. Hold said child accountable for coming up short by temporarily revoking car borrowing privileges (a day or two should suffice). Obviously they can still go out- just not with your wheels.
3. Taking the car without permission is a much bigger violation. I’d disable the vehicle overnight, if you can. My old Suburban has a little removable switch-thing near the underside of the dash that keeps it from starting. I’d use a club to keep her from stealing my car a second time- not on her, but on the steering wheel. ($9.95 on eBay).
4. Don’t get all crazy about violations. Deal with them calmly and competently. We are always teaching our kids how to be parents themselves.
P.S. When our kids say, “you have no idea what I’m going through”, they’re probably right. Proper sympathy and offering a loving helping hand counts for a lot.