Putting the Safety Net Under the Kids Instead of Over Them

"I'm not a perfect Mom," says Rosie O'Donnell, whose 17-year-old daughter ran away from home four days before she turned 18 to meet a man she met on Tinder. "When someone u love is drowning in the rapids -- u throw everything u can into the water -- hoping they will grab on and stay afloat. I did what I had to do, [sic]" she added. What she had to do was go after her daughter, and everything she could do -- give the police her daughter's cellphone -- was enough to save her. The social media trolls have called Rosie out for telling the media her daughter is mentally ill, but if that's how to get the police more involved than they usually are when a 17-year-old leaves home of her own volition, any mother would.

There is no perfect mother, just the mother we wish we'd had, the one we wish we'd been, the one we can never be. However perfectly we may be attuned in infancy -- theirs and ours -- separation is inevitable, because without it growth is impossible. And letting go is hard on both mother and child, particularly when one or both isn't ready or capable. Once they're 18, what little power and control you have is officially over. You can't ground, punish or even commit them, even if if it's clearly for their own good. Your influence, like an ex-President's, is largely historical -- it's not that you don't matter anymore, you're just not relevant to their desires, dreams and dedication to making their own decisions, even -- and especially -- if they're the wrong ones. You have only the power of the purse, the choice to support them on the course they've chosen or not.
You can't keep the safety net over them any more -- you have to keep it under them now, do what you can to pick them up when they fall. Even the most perfect mother can't do more than that.