Why Teenagers Make Such Perfect Lunatics

Isabelle Gibran By Isabelle Gibran, 24th Jul 2017 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Kids

A comical, heartfelt look at why teenagers are such peer influenced, risk taking lunatics, and what it means in today’s world

The Gene Factor

The Gene Factor

I remember watching my 10-year-old son Cruze one day as he fearlessly jumped across a stream running through the office park we were in, precariously landing on one slippery rock after the next, and thinking, "Oh God help him. I've cloned myself.”

I've lived my life in an aggressive, fearless manner. After 40 or so years of this, I started to notice a trend. About 50% of the time I would end up knocking it out of the park to the adoration and cheers of those around me, in awe of my fearless tenacity and courage. The other half of the time I would severely crash and burn, usually for not taking more time to calculate the risk and gather more critical "intel" before launching.

The disastrous results would ensue, and I would look around to find most everyone would have quietly scattered, quickly making haste in my opposite direction.  So how does a risk-taking parent actually parent her child, who got this side of her personality, knowing it will be even more greatly magnified during adolescence?

The Adolescent Factor

The Adolescent Factor

What to do with my "Mini-Me" son, especially knowing he is headed directly into adolescence, where common sense and caution are always in extreme shortage? Well, I could try to tell him what I know, what I've learned, how I see myself in him, both good and well...challenging. But I think of me at that age and know it will be futile. He won't listen. He might pretend to out of respect, (if I'm lucky,) but it won't phase him in the least. That's him. That was me at his age. After all, back then I knew it all, just as he thinks he does now.

Teenagers have dopamine changes and fluctuations in excessive supply in their brains that are responsible for enabling and possessing them to take great risks, as well as be much more highly emotionally influenced and susceptible to peer influence. This starts in early adolescence and tapers off in our later teen years. But why? What purpose would this serve? 

Back in the cave man days survival depended on many different factors. A budding adult had to take risks or face extinction. If they didn't leave the cave out of fear, didn't hunt the huge buffalo, didn't sleigh the saber tooth tiger, they would starve or get eaten. Being willing to take big risks was a part of survival.

As the budding adult rounded into old age, (back then, late 30's,) they no longer needed that fearlessness. It behooved their chances of survival to start slowing down, hanging back. Plus, by then, they'd done their job. They'd produced offspring and gotten them a decent start. If they failed to take risks now after they had their bloodline well on its way, and they starved as a result, no big whoop. Their evolutionary contract was fulfilled.

The Teenage Lunatic In Our Modern World

The Teenage Lunatic In Our Modern World

Today, that inordinate fearlessness and risk taking flooding the modern teenagers' brains aren't quite as likely to produce the desired result of survival. Now, right when that is peeking, around 16, we hand them the keys to a 2,000-pound machine made of hard steel, capable of moving at speeds that the human body just cannot withstand if things go sideways. 

Then we unleash them into the world where they seep their already supercharged brains, devoid of cautionary logic, in chemicals that give them an even greater lack of logic and reason: drugs and alcohol, which makes them think they are even more invincible. We stand by, scratching our heads, wondering what is happening here as our teenage kids, drunk, high and without any possible logic, drive our cars at speeds or in ways that defy all sense, or take such outrageous risks we stand there simply stunned.

After all, they have NO idea what it feels like to slam into another car at 30 mph, or how quick someone can pull into your lane and dangerously cut you off. Or how it feels to hydroplane going 75 mph, or to watch as a friend, now dead, gets hauled off in a quiet, slow-moving ambulance from a party because he thought trying a shot of heroin that night might be “kinda fun.”

They have no clue what it feels like when you get a call from a friend in jail to come pick her up at 6 am and the horror of seeing what a night in the drunk tank, peeing in a bucket she had to share with the scummiest prostitutes in town, will do to a girl. All because she had three drinks with the work crew on a Thursday night and like everyone else, drove home. Or tried to, anyway.

They haven't yet experienced the excruciating mind bend of waiting seven days for STD and HIV test results and what your mind does to you during that wait, all because you lost your head to a night of passion.

Even our most cautious offspring will still take unnecessary chances while in this phase of life. "Why? WHY?" We will ask. "The reward was not even close to justifying the risk!!!"And they will give us that unsettling, deadpan stare we are not at all fond of, and say,"Can I go to my room now?"

And we will throw our hands up in exasperation. Again.

Our Hearts Living Outside Our Chests[

Our Hearts Living Outside Our Chests

Having a child means to forever have your heart go walking around outside your body. It's risky. It's dangerous. It is not a half-hearted investment or even a good odds bet that things will go smoothly. You have to devote yourself, every last bit of your finances, every last minute of your time, and sign up for endless worry for the next 18 years. Correction. Make that for the rest of your life. Parenting never ends.

Of course, it will also offer you the chance to experience the most intense, rewarding, heady, mind boggling, life changing love you’ll ever experience. There will be many times that you will be absolutely mystified how you could possibly still be so madly in love with that gangly, pimply, obnoxious, expensive, demanding, rude, know-it-all that is taking up residence in your house.

But in us is a primal, innate urge to procreate, and furthermore, to protect that procreation and see it through the perils and dangers of life until our last breath. Even in an overpopulated world, even when it is bad timing, we can't even begin to afford it, and it's the absolute worst choice of partner we could possibly make, we do it. A lot. Have so for thousands of years and will for another 100,000 or so more.

Keeping The Bloodline Rolling

Keeping The Bloodline Rolling

And just as strong as our urge to ensure these resident lunatics we bring into our world survive. These lunatics, that clearly make us completely lose our minds, these fearless copies of ourselves with way too little knowledge and experience intertwined with just ridiculous, unfounded amounts of insane courage, who notoriously make wholly ludicrous, dangerous, idiotic decisions—daily. Our pride and joy. Our lovely offspring.

For if we don’t manage to keep them alive, we are dead in the water. Everything we are, our footprint, however brief in this world, all of our efforts, learning, suffering and surviving, is all in vain. And that is not to mention that the sheer emotional side of failing at this endeavor will drive us straight to the nut house. Do not pass go. No two hundred dollars. No mam.

The bloodline must continue. Even if that means taking on the nearly impossible task of attempting to guide total lunatics through this way too dangerous world. And hopefully, we succeed. If we do, it will likely be in spite of the thousands of times we will wear out our voices by saying,

"But I told you about that! I told you the time I tried that and how miserably it failed! What the heck were you thinking?” Of course, I know what he was thinking. Or at least how. He was thinking just like me.

May the forces of parenting tolerance, extraordinary patience, and very resilient vocal cords be with us all, and especially those who have so generously passed down their "caution to the wind" traits to their descendants.


Parenting, Parenting Teenagers, Risk Taking, Teenagers, The Teenage Mind

Meet the author

author avatar Isabelle Gibran
A veteran of a long-term custody battle and parental alienation, a poet, a pro writer trying to help other parents get through the eye of the storm.

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