Yikes, I’m parenting a teenager!
I’m in the midst of parenting a teenager. A good kid, with a blessed brain. Now he’s showing all signs of puberty. Sleeping weird long hours, growing facial hair, sprouting inches, eating mass amounts of strange food and saying silly things. His favorite expressions lately, especially after I ask him to do one of his specific assigned chores is “I have to do everything around here,” or “Mom, just let me live my life.” He delivers those lines with a twinkle of sarcasm in his eye, looking into mine for a reaction.
A couple of weeks ago, he came home and shared with me that he and his friend had taken a shopping cart from Walmart’s parking lot. He was giddy about it….the thrill of the experience in his voice as he talked about lifting the cart into the back of his friend’s truck and making a quick get-a-way. I asked, “Why would you guys want a shopping cart?” He said they needed it for a school project. They are in the robotics club so I started thinking they wanted to strip it for parts. I ask if this was why they took it and he nods. I told him that they had cameras in the parking lot and what was he going to say when the police called? He immediately started justifying his choice with a litany of explanations that made no sense. Things like, “Walmart won’t miss one cart,” or “You don’t even like them; you always complain that they are mean to their employees and Jerry Springer dysfunctional type people shop there and that they sell useless crap like decoder rings made in other countries.” It’s true, I have said that…. but stealing is stealing even when you steal from the super-uber, discount, global giant Walmart. My son goes on to say I should look at it as a “donation.” I reply, “Yeah son, but first you’ve got to do the ask on school letterhead, and they probably would have given you a cart, maybe two.” Daddio chimes in with “We are not posting bail when you get arrested and those carts cost money, probably $300 or more.” I end the conversation with “You will return that cart.” A few days later I follow up with him and his friend. I was relieved to find out they did return the cart.
Now this is nothing compared to some of things my husband or I did when we were teenagers. And I suspect more drama will come as my son is still young and has a long way to go before leaving puberty. It was good timing to come across this article about the teenage brain written by David Dobbs for National Geographic. He opens the article with scary story about his teenage son driving way too fast…..Every parents worst fear about letting their kids behind the wheel.
Turns out, there may be some evolutionary reasons on why teens act the way the do. Yep, evolutionary, as in natural selection. Imagine if we all still acted like teenagers! Think of someone you know that still does act like they did in high school. Capricious, dangerous behaviors of thrill seeking – you’re annoyed by them. Right? Those traits get weeded out or for a reason. The teen brain is rewiring itself in preparation for leaving the safety of home base. It’s also about risk and reward. Reading that article made me feel grateful that my son shared his experience. I think he wanted feedback on his choice, like he was borrowing my conscious brain, specifically the part that regulates righteousness because his isn’t fully developed? The article is by no means a free pass to be lackadaisical in parenting a teen….but it does put a different spin on they “why” behind the behavior in their blessed teen brains.