"Brain scans revealed that the front of the frontal lobe—responsible for impulses and decision-making—was among the very last parts of the brain to mature, which researchers say could explain a lot of irritability and recklessness among teens." Rob Quinn at newser dot com
i've thought a lot about the duke being a teenager. having been a teenager i know what can go on. and what often does. and while i was pretty much a good kid and made it out fairly unscathed i'm certain i wouldn't want my own son to engage in some of the behaviors i did. okay, a lot of them.
BUT this is not something i can fully control. nor do i think i want to. because the duke has to have his own adolescence. period. oh and just because i believe that doesn't mean i have to like it. because i don't. but i didn't raise him all those years the way i did to lose faith in either us now. faith that i can loosen the ties and not yank too hard, or at all if necessary, faith that he'll hold on as tightly or as loosely as he needs to.
so i sat him down and i said 'look. there is a time and place for everything. and while a lot of things look tempting and you can't see a problem with at least trying it, remember to hear my voice in your head. remember to hear me telling you that you can't un-do un-see un-experience a thing. and if you do some things too early, when you are unprepared emotionally or physically, it shapes your view of the world. it shapes you. not to mention dragging danger and illegality into some of it.
the problem here is that as a teenager the processing and decision making part of your brain is not growing along with the rest of you. that means you may not be equipped to properly assess certain situations and their level of risk. because impulse kicks in. that's why there are parents in the world. and that's why you need to listen to me and trust what i am saying. look at the boundaries i give you as an opportunity to learn as you grow, and ease into adult behaviors. try not to see them as roadblocks to fun. plus, if you do everything at once, where's the fun in that? seriously, life is pretty amazing. you don't need to it all right.now. and, it's better if you don't.'
then we talked a bit more about the frontal lobe. and why it makes teenagers behave like toddlers. because you can teach toddlers all kinds of things to be aware of/avoid like hot, ouch, pinch, etc. just like with teens, sex, drugs, risky behaviors, etc. you can teach them about these things but if the frontal lobe isn't supporting proper reasoning skills then it's in one ear and out the other. and impulse kicks in and that's that.
'it's like if you were a toddler and i taught you that the stove meant *hot* but you saw a bright shiny apple sitting on it.'
'there might be times i would only see the apple. not the stove.'
but just because you're up against flawed biology it doesn't mean you don't teach them. or talk to them about it. you do. early and often. he needs to know the stove is there. especially when he can't see it.
i stressed, again, that THIS is why he needs to hear my voice. yes, he will learn as he goes, and yes i want to hold space for that. but that he needs to let me parent, too.
i also stressed that i get that many decisions teenagers make are age appropriate, but that that doesn't mean they are *okay.* that it's about safety. and developing personal responsibility. and yes, restraint. not my favorite concept, but it's important. plus, and this is a big plus, we have addiction and mental illness in the family. so that's another layer that makes addressing the concept of safety and personal responsibility and restraint EVEN THOUGH YOU WANT THE APPLE a doubly good thing.
so far the duke is a young teen. he's well socialized (i cannot STAND that word but it's one the masses get) but being homeschooled he certainly hasn't been exposed to large groups of hormones and attitude all wrapped up in bravado and ego and shyness and self consciousness and peer pressure all moving in the same direction all at once.
but he is going to high school next year. and his world is going to drastically change. and THAT'S when it's all going to kick in. there will be context to what i'm telling him. and it will be interesting to see what happens.
i'd be lying if i said i was 100% ready. but i'm a mama, i wasn't ready for any of it to change and it always did anyway. and i changed with it. and here we are at the precipice once again.
at least, thus far, the edge is pretty amusing.
'no offense to anyone in this car (his family) but i'm really looking forward to spending my days away from you at high school next year.'
and the other day i chided the duke for not remembering to put the milk away. again. because this is an issue with him and this time the milk went bad.
'sorry, mama. i think it's that pesky frontal lobe at work.'