When I graduated high school in the early ‘90s I could smell the freedom. I was headed off to college in the fall (three states away!) and I couldn’t wait to be on my own and come and go as I pleased.

My parents weren’t strict, mind you. However, I thought they were. Looking back now it’s a natural tendency to want to break free and do what you want without having to check-in. After all, when you are eighteen you are pretty sure you’re an adult. Also, you know everything from what’s best for you, to what’s best for everyone else. Am I right?

I loved having that freedom even though I went to my classes, always got homework done on time, and I didn’t get too hung up in the party scene. That wasn’t the point. It was just…nice and refreshing to be on my own, completely.

 Being on the other side

Now that my son has graduated high school and has decided not to go to college (something I fully support), I think it’s important that he gets a taste of what that kind of freedom feels like. Otherwise, how is he going to be autonomous and learn what works for him in the working world? (Which, of course, is where he is now). This is how his house rules changed after he graduated high school:

He no longer has a curfew.

As long as I know when he’s going to be home so I’m not worrying, the time he comes home isn’t important to me. He’s had his license for two years, has a social life, a girlfriend, works full time, and likes to go to his gym which is open 24-hours.

If he wants to stay out all night and crash at a friend’s house or his girlfriend’s house, I am okay with that as long as I know he is being safe and responsible. After all, I was doing the same thing at his age and my mother had no idea if I was being safe or responsible.

I pay for his living situation and food, but everything else is on him.

He can live here rent free for a few more years. Afterall, he’s only eighteen. However, if he wants fast food, new sneakers, to renew his gym membership, or to buy a four wheeler, he needs to come up with the dough. 

He makes his own money now and I want to teach him that if he can’t afford something he really wants, he should wait until he can. It’s showing him how much hard work pays off a lot faster than me sending him spending cash while he’s hitting the books in college.

He will still be respectful.

While he doesn’t have to ask permission to go anywhere, since he lives here I do like him to tell  me what is going on. This isn’t a hang out for him and his friends, and he will be quiet if he comes in late because the rest of us are still asleep. 

Just because he is older and can come and go, doesn’t mean he gets to drink the last of the milk and not communicate it to me, or tell his brother he can’t take him into town when he’s going anyway simply because he doesn’t want to.

He will still have chores.

If he’s living here rent free, he will still help me with things when I need them. That might mean going to the beach with friends later than he wanted to when the lawn needs to be mowed. I still expect him to take out the trash just as he always has.

If he were in college, he wouldn’t have these chores and he could keep his dorm room or apartment as messy as he wants to, but here he will do his usual jobs and clean up after himself. No one likes a messy roommate, even if they are hardly here.

He will not be punished for not showing up to work, or going in late.

He knows the consequences for staying up too late and blowing off work. I will not be here setting an alarm to make sure he gets up on time like I did for school. I won’t nag him or tell him to not call in sick if he just wants to do something with his girlfriend instead. 

Those are his decisions to make. He knows that if he compromises his job, he might not be able to afford his truck, gas, and insurance or have spending money. That will not be my problem. It will be his.

Any path my son wants to take is fine with me but I can’t lie– I love having him home. I don’t see him half as much as I used to before he graduated, but that’s okay. He is learning to make his way into this world, independently, one day at a time. And for me, it’s a huge bonus to witness it.

I feel great about the fact he’s able to experience some of the freedoms I did after going to college, because I truly believe it’s the only way our teens will turn into responsible adults.

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