We sat around the kitchen table recently listening to my borrowed teenager recount his scars. It took an hour. My personal favorite was how he rode his bike, while wearing his rollerblades, with no brakes, down a very steep and winding road that I know is heavily trafficked by very fast drivers. And I remembered, again, how his mother, my business partner and close friend, told me of a study which showed that teenage boys go through a period where they are incapable of experiencing fear. They can not recognize the emotion of fear in others, they do not feel fear themselves. I remember my own younger brothers and the exploits they got up to - how high a roof can I jump off safely? How many donuts can we spin in a car after an ice storm? And how much fun was skitching - holding onto a car while on a skateboard or sliding on the ice. Having been a cautious (female) child who ‘got’ the whole concept of cause and effect verbally without needing to experiment, I listened with dread, knowing that my own 8-year old son would undoubtedly be trying feats of daring and experimentation once he hit the teen years.
So, what is a parent to do? I’m guessing that fighting what seems to be a ‘survival of the fittest’ developmental phase is pretty pointless, so how about equipping our kids with life-saving skills? When they are out with their friends doing things that would turn our hair white and shorten our own lifespan by a decade if we knew the full details (and how much of your teenage years did your parents really know about so don’t think it’s not happening). You’ve been teaching them right and wrong and safety since birth, but to get them ready to survive the teenage years with only scars, enroll them in a CPR and First Aid course. Think about those Outward Bound or survival courses, Scouting, or finding a like-minded adventurous mentor that can teach them the smart way while maintaining the cool quotient. Plus, I’ll be sticking with the ‘call anytime, day or night and I’ll pick you up, no questions asked’ policy. Or maybe I’ll just send my son to my friend when he’s a teenager!