Dear Carolyn • My husband and I are very anti-smoking. Both of his parents died before age 65 due to health complications related to smoking. My mom, a smoker for decades, has reached her 70s, but with diminished quality of life. We were, therefore, deeply disturbed when our daughter came home with a suitcase that reeked of cigarettes.
We asked her about it and after the typical deflective responses, she admitted that, yes, she "and a few friends" smoke sometimes.
We are unbelievably frustrated here. This is a topic we’ve been discussing since she was a little girl in the context of her sick grandparents -- a direct one-to-one correlation that seemed to resonate with her. This is one thing we did not think we would have to worry about.
She is a legal adult and we have no idea what we can do, other than to keep nagging her about the dangers.
But we only see her when she comes home, which, as she reminded us, she "chooses" to do but may not always. What else can we do here?
Dear Maryland • Nothing. You won’t accomplish anything by getting involved except to drive your daughter away; her defensiveness told you all you need to know about that. And since your whole issue with her smoking is that you’re afraid of losing her, there’s just too much irony in driving her out of your lives by harping on her choice.
A choice, mind you, that she made after your "discussing (it) since she was a little girl." There’s little chance this is a coincidence. If she wanted to put some distance between her own identity and yours, then she couldn’t have settled on a better wedge, could she?
So, looking at it that way, the best thing you can do is not fuss over the cigs, but instead go the counterintuitive route of giving her your blessing to be herself.
Say you love her, say you of course will worry when she makes harmful choices, say you will nevertheless keep loving her and supporting her right to make her own choices -- however she needs you to. Butting out included.
Carolyn Hax’s column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
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