I recently received the following e-mail from a worried friend in Toronto. She had no contact with her son for 36 hours after the time he was expected to be home:
Andrew is MIA for 24 hours now, went out Friday night, Mike (his Dad) talked to him last evening and Andrew said he’d be home last night. Hasn’t shown up. He was supposed to go back to university in Hamilton today. Can’t find him – left 2 messages on his cell which went right to voice-mail, sent a text, no reply. Now I’ve messaged him and his best friend on Facebook… I’m mean: REALLY! I know he’s almost 26 and all, but if he’s staying at our place, shouldn’t he let us know where he is, what his plans are? I am starting to get concerned.
Anxious mom of irresponsible adult child
You have a right to know if Andrew is safe. When people live together, especially if they are part of the same family, they look out for one another. Andrew needs to know how much you worry when he doesn’t show up as expected. He also needs to know you are not trying to control him.
He probably doesn’t understand your concern because he knows that when he is not living at home, you have no idea where he is for days on end. He needs to understand that everyone’s freedom gets curtailed a little when living together to ensure it works for all involved.
You might want to devise a plan with him so that you know he will be arriving home late. If after a discussion, he doesn’t abide by your agreed upon plan, you could tell him he can’t have the car or some other privilege he gets when living at home. It’s no fun treating an adult like a child but when the adult acts like a child, you have no choice. Alternately, you can tell him that you will be contacting the police a certain number of hours after he hasn’t shown up at the agreed upon time. You, of course, would have to follow through, and I am not sure the police will take you seriously.
It’s a tricky situation, for sure. Christina Newberry talks about developing a contract with adult children who come home to live even for a short time. You might be interested in taking a look at her advice.
When my 27 year-old son recently moved home for two months while in transition, our plan was that if he didn’t come home at night, he would let us know by 11 am the following morning that he was fine and when we could expect him next. I did not need to know where he was or what he was doing, but I did need to know he was safe.
I do the same with him and my husband. I don’t want them to worry about me, so if I will be late, I make sure they know. And if my husband and I are out together, we let my son know when we will be home. I thinks this helps my son realize that this is about mutual obligation and concern for one another and not about control. And funny thing, unlike him, we’re always happy to share where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing.