So, I'm a senior in high school. I'm really excited to be leaving home and going off to a brand new world where I'll make new friends and learn so much and, just, wow, college seems amazing.
My mom has other ideas, though.
Don't get me wrong - she definitely wants me to go to college (I think if I ever had the inclination not to go and told her so she would physically drop dead on the spot), but she doesn't think I'm ready to live alone. And I'm not planning on going to college in-state, so it's not a matter of living at home and commuting.
It's a matter of my mom wanting to come with me and have me share an apartment with her the first two years of college.
She thinks that without her, I am going to somehow fail out of college (me, a student who took seven AP classes last year at a school that only offers four class periods and passed them all). I love my mom, but I don't want to live with her when I'm at college. She's extremely strict about grades, and I don't think I can handle a college workload with her screaming at me about whether or not I've finished my homework. I want to make friends and be able to go out to eat with them and go to parties on campus (I've never gone to one in high school - never hung out with anyone but my best friend since middle school, and frankly, I think I deserve more of a life.) I want to have a roommate. I want to shower in the terrifying dorm bathrooms and have certifiably insane neighbors and be able to stay up until 3:36 working on papers without being told I have to go to bed. I don't want college to be grades 13, 14, 15, and 16. I want to be an adult.
If I told her all of that, I feel like it would only make her more resolved to make me live with her. She would much rather me focus on school than on any of that — and I would still focus on school, I just want to be able to do that stuff too. I have no idea what to do here to make her see some kind of reason.
First things first, Sparkler: let me assure you that what you want, all of it, is perfectly and completely reasonable.
And let me further assure you that what your mother wants, all of it, is perfectly and completely batshizz nutbags crazy. Crazy to the power of ELEVEN. So crazy that when I got to the third paragraph of your letter, I actually screamed out loud. And more than anything, I wish that your mother, not you, had written to me, so that I could invite her over, and sit her down for a nice afternoon cocktail, and politely ask her what she's been smoking.
But alas, it's just you and me. And if your mother is as terrifyingly unreasonable as you say she is, I must warn you: you're likely going to have to call in some heavy artillery before all this is over.
But first, let's unpack this issue... and, along with it, some of your mom's likely motivations. Because at first blush, it probably seems like this is all about you, your ability to handle living independently, and whether or not you can be trusted to balance schoolwork with a social life—and I'm sure that's part of it. But more than that, I'm guessing that actually, this is about your mom... and her complete and total inability to deal with your leaving the nest. The fact that she'd want to uproot to a new state and move in with you, that she even could, says so much about the things she doesn't have: no friends, no family, no husband or boyfriend, not even a beloved career or role in the community that would keep here there after you've moved on. She has, apparently, not even one meaningful connection to tie her to a place she's lived for years. And though I can't say so for sure, there's the distinctly sad suggestion emerging here of a woman who's spent her life defining herself by her role as your caretaker, never considering that things would one day have to change.
None of which makes her plan to follow you to college any less awful—it is, without a doubt, the worst plan in the history of terrible plans—but it might help you, when you approach her, to do it with sympathy and consideration.
And you do have to approach her before you do anything else. Here's how:
1. Acknowledge her position.
Ex: "Mom, I understand that you're concerned about my living alone—and I know that having me gone will probably be a big adjustment for you, too."
2. Then, assuage her concerns (while complimenting her parenting abilities).
Ex: "But you raised me to have a good work ethic, to organize my time well, and to take good care of myself. I feel more than ready for this, and I know you'll help me be as ready as possible to live on my own. And if I hit any snags, my college has resources that are there to help freshman who are having a rough transition; that's part of their job."
3. And finally, make your case.
Ex: "I promise to call you often, and if I have any problems, you'll be the first to know. But college isn't just about getting an education for me, it's about living independently and learning to deal with things on my own. I have to be able to do that, and this is the right time to start. So while I appreciate that you've offered to come with me, I'm going to live in the dorms along with the rest of my freshman class."
And notice: there is no whining in this conversation about wanting to go to parties or stay up late, just a calm, assured argument for your ability to live independently. You're not asking for privileges, here; you're exercising your hard-earned legal right to be a grownup. And with any luck, and as long as you stay cool and mature throughout, your mom won't push this issue—even if she secretly believes that you'll fall to pieces without her. (In which case, do make sure to prove her wrong by being a champion of self-sufficiency during your freshman year.)
But if she continues to insist on living with you, then it's time for you to enlist an adult your mom respects—a family member, a guidance counselor, your mom's pastor or friends, or even your father, if he's in the picture—to weigh in on the side of reason. Call or meet with whomever it is alone, first, and explain what's going on. And then, because any rational grownup will agree with you that your mom's idea is bonkers, ask them to talk to her and/or meet with you both.
Which, barring a catastrophe, should see you safely to school on your own terms—and waving goodbye to your mom on the first day of freshman orientation along with everyone else. (If not... ugh. But write back, and we'll take another stab at it.)
What would you do in this situation? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at email@example.com.