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She laughs at the same stuff I do, sharing in the secret codes we know because we’ve known each other for so long – 16 years in February. She can recite lines verbatim from every film she loves, and most of the time I even know the ones she refers to.

“You’re slipping, Mom,” she tells me when I fail to remember the exact movie she’s quoting. Ah, Ferris Bueller. An “oldie” but goodie.

I know most of her friends, a side effect in being involved in the important parts of her life. I don’t know them all, and it would be ridiculous to think I could. But I trust her enough to know she is feeding the friendships that build her up, and letting go of the ones that can lead her astray.

Trust. It’s a hard word to swallow when your daughter is 15. You just don’t know who they’re hanging around or what they’re doing at all hours of the day you’re not around them. Are they experimenting with drugs? Are they testing boundaries? Are they lying?

Perhaps. If not now, maybe later.

I’m not trying to be flippant about these things. Honestly, the thought of my daughter doing anything off the path I’ve laid out in front of her scares me to death. I read news stories every day of kids who are in trouble with the law, who are now suffering consequences they had no idea they’d have to face. I read stories about kids who are dying from completely preventable situations. I read about how lives are upended and permanently changed because of one wrong turn they never should have taken.

But I trust my daughter. Why? Because we talk – about everything. We talk about sex. We talk about drugs. We talk about friends she worries about. We talk about things she’s experienced, or things she’s concerned about. We talk honestly, and we talk free from judgment. When she puts a boundary in place (leave me alone!), I listen and let her be. And because of this, the door is open between us. When she’s ready, she’ll come to me. And instead of focusing on how I can stop her from making mistakes or bad choices, I can instead focus on building a relationship with her and being a guide in her decision making—

Even when I’m not there to give her advice.

After all, she’s almost 16. And soon she’ll be on her own, making decisions for herself without her mom there to tell her what to do.

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