Don’t take my phone away, Mom!

My mom cut off access to my phone, so I bought one of my own. Then she found the FedEx slip…

Our elder has some advice for navigating a difficult conversation.

Dear EWC

I’m an 18-year-old girl, a senior in high school, and I could use some fast advice. Lemme explain; I have a tense relationship with my mother, we’ve butted heads ever since my parents divorced in 2013. Both my parents still live in the same town, so I’ve switched between houses weekly with my little sister (13 years old). But my mom holds all the money, for college, phone plans, etc. I’ve recently gotten into an online relationship with a guy I really like, and we’ve been dating for nearly two months. My mother doesn’t know about this yet, and I don’t plan to tell her until we’ve dated for a little longer. My grades dipped and my mother cut off all my access to calling and texting and the internet. This has been a repeating cycle for years, and I’m really sick of it.

So I signed up for my own cheap phone plan with a basic phone. I planned to try and keep it from her until I get my grades back up, but a FedEx slip let her and her boyfriend know that I had ordered an expensive package. And I know she’s gonna ask about it tonight. I’m worried that she’s going to be angry and try to take the phone I paid for because she doesn’t like not having control over me. I’m just really nervous about it because I know that I’m an adult, I have my own money, and I can buy what I want with it, and I haven’t done anything scandalous or illegal; but I really don’t want her to think I’m just doing this to spite her. This is something I’ve wanted to do for years, and I finally got up enough nerve because I want to stay in contact with my boyfriend and have my own privacy. I need some advice.

JoeF replies

It seems as though you’re in a difficult situation. You’re at a point in your life where you’re ready to take more charge of your life as an adult, you want to make decisions as an adult, yet your mom feels that she still needs to make decisions for you to keep you from making bad decisions. This is literally the definition of being between a rock and a hard place.

I think your mom is coming more from a protective place rather than, as you mentioned, wanting control over you, so I think you need to take that into account before you start to discuss things with her. If you go into the discussion angry and with a chip on your shoulder it will probably escalate into less understanding between both of you, each of you holding on to your positions, and no one really listening to the others point of view, so I would recommend you try to think of it not as a confrontation, but a way to see her reasons as helping you rather than hindering you. That doesn’t mean she’s right and you’re wrong, but more as her trying to understand how to act with you now that you’re an adult and want to make some of your own decisions. Something that all parents go through when their children reach a certain age.

You do mention that she’s reacted the same in the past when your grades dipped, so this is nothing new. It’s important to be able to talk honestly about why you think your grades have come down, have a plan of your own to raise them, and explain to her what the plan is. I believe this may give her more confidence to trust how you live your life, make positive decisions, and not feel like she has to control you to keep you headed in the right direction.
You say you have your own money, so you have the right to spend it the way you want without any interference. Of course if you’re making poor financial decisions, are in debt, and getting your allowance from her then I can understand her wanting to have a say in how you use it. In either case I think it’s important to be able to talk about it from your point of view and show her that you can manage your finances like a competent adult.

The way to go into this conversation is to think of it more as a way to talk together about how you can move forward into adulthood, making good decisions, and sharing both your ideas as to how to do so in the best way possible. It’s important to change the dynamics of the conversation from trying to force your opinions on each other to what is the best way for you both to agree on ways for you to mature and become a competent, honest adult.

Try to have her understand that to become an adult you need to make some of your own decisions, whether they turn out good or not. Every parent wants to protect their child from what could be bad experiences. You do mention that you haven’t done anything scandalous or illegal so I think she’d be open to hearing that you need to make some mistakes in your life to learn from them, and have the confidence to make better decisions as you get older. If you explain that you value her advice and would like to be able to ask for it she might be more agreeable to giving you more leeway in the future.

Last but certainly not least, I think one of the most important things to establish is a way to be more open and honest with each other. There comes a time when a parent should change from telling their child what to do and helping them learn how to make their own decisions. As a parent myself, I know how difficult that can be. On the other hand a child has to understand that to break free from a parent managing their life they have to give their parent a reason to believe they are mature enough to let go. Here is where I believe the two of you are stuck. I’m not sure, but your low grades may be one of the reasons she believes you’re not ready to be on your own. That’s why talking to her about what you’re going to do to change that can be invaluable.

What I’m saying essentially is that if you want her to treat you like an adult you need to speak to her as an adult. Let her know you love her and be open and honest with your feelings about what’s going on in your life, what you intend to do to make things better, how much you value her opinion, and want her to be a part of how you move forward.

Letter #: 453952
Category: Family

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