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And That's Final

The Teen Evolution

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Parents of newly minted teenagers often seem astonished by the trouble, pain and unpleasantness involved in raising what they lovingly refer to as their “hormone-fueled… conflict-seeking… little… smart-mouthed… aaarrrgh… gack… gggaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!”

Why, the parents ask, does this have to be so?

The good news is that there is a logical reason for what you have to go through. The bad news is that the mountain-climber out West who recently hacked off his own boulder-pinned arm with a pocket knife in order to escape certain death also had sound logic behind him, but that doesn’t mean it hurt any less.

To clearly understand this logic, it is helpful to consider, ironically, the process of pregnancy and childbirth. Since witnessing my wife carry our two babies to full terms, I have been convinced that the sole purpose of the tenth month of pregnancy (40 weeks of pregnancy รถ 4 weeks per month = 10 months and don’t you forget it) — from the unbearable discomfort to the impossibility of sleep to the humiliating number on the scale and even to the constant and unwelcome belly rubs from strangers — the purpose of all of this is to put the mom-to-be into a mental state of such profound discontent that she will do anything, anything!, to get that baby out. NOW!

Whether as a result of evolution or divine inspiration or both, the tenth month of pregnancy is supposed to be miserable, to make the inevitable and necessary pain of childbirth bearable. By my math, the same principle applies to parenting a teenager: it is supposed to be as difficult as it is. And once again, God or Darwin’s theory or both have succeeded wildly.

Take communication — a key ingredient to healthy relationships. A parent has no more a chance of understanding the meaning or motivation behind the next 20 words that come out of his teenager’s mouth than he might of understanding the next 20 grunts that come out of the kid’s CD player. The point is moot, however, since the parent is unlikely to get 20 words total out of his teenager between now and high school graduation.

Then there’s music, which intersects with communication. How many times do you think this conversation has occurred?

Parent, snapping fingers: Hey, this band is good. Who is it?

Teenager, mumbling while not looking up from the TV: No Doubt.

Parent, gamely: Yeah, no doubt! They’re great! What’s their name?

Teenager, irritated: No Doubt!

Parent, confused: Right, no doubt… but, um, what’s their name?

Teenager, exploding as she storms out: YOU DON’T EVER LISTEN TO ME! GEEZ!

I wouldn’t be surprised if bands actually name themselves with an eye toward sparking these types of exchanges:

Parent, slightly gun-shy but still trying: Uh, hi… Ah, this band sounds good too. What’s their name?

Teenager, still mumbling: I Hate You I Hate You I Hate You Don’t Ever Talk To Me Again!

Parent, defensively: You don’t have to have an attitude!

Teenager, storming out again: You’re always telling me I’m doing something wrong!! GEEEEZZZZ!!!!!

And before you know it, these two formerly loving family members, who spent the last 13 years cuddling on the couch reading Goodnight Moon and playing checkers, now cannot wait for the kid to grow up and get the heck out of the nest.

Simply put, humans’ survivability as a species improves when offspring of a certain age want to get as far away from their parents as they can. Sort of like those helicopter seeds riding the wind to a new sprouting ground far from the parent tree, except the seeds don’t slam the door and curse the tree’s name on the way out.

So there it is: a logical explanation, rooted in evolutionary principle, for why the teenage years — for parents and teenagers — are as difficult as they are. It is to make the inevitable and necessary separation of parent from child more bearable.

Feel better? No? Well that mountain man’s stump probably still hurts too, but at least he’s alive. And in five or 10 years, he and you and your kids are gonna have a pretty good — but sometimes still slightly painful — story. FS

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