Teenager Brain

First appeared in the Platte County Landmark.

It was nearly one am when my nose started to tingle. I rolled over in bed to the typical source of smells in our bedroom at one am and asked my wife, “do you smell something?”

She replied with something inaudible and likely dreamland’s version of a curse word and resumed her snoring. But my nose wouldn’t let up. It was now smelling something… burning.

If this were a Christmas poem, I would’ve sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. As it was, I fell out of bed and stubbed my toe on the corner of the bed as I began to track the source of the burning odor. I made it to the kitchen just as the smoke detectors began to go off only to see a cloud of black smoke rolling from the microwave and my 14 year old son standing there with a cup of water.

I won’t besmirch this fine newspaper with the words that came out of my mouth at that moment, but it was something like “golly, son, what on earth is going on to make so much smoke?”

He explained to me that he was hungry. Naturally. And that he wanted to make some microwave macaroni and cheese. This is the kind that comes in a microwaveable bowl. But the trick is that you need to add about a half-cup of water and that is what my son failed to do – even though he has made this meal about 200 times.

“I forgot to put in water.” He explained to me as we began opening every window in the house and I began shopping for new microwaves on Amazon.

That was only the first of a series of events that can only be attributed to “teenage brain.” The idea that something so ridiculous would come out of the mind of a fully functional human being used to seem impossible to me. Yet, a litany of forgotten chores, failed to remember text messages, and assignments that just never got turned in only confirmed that my son is, indeed, suffering from the condition.

And teenage brain is a real thing. According to an NPR article, scientists used to think the brain had become fully developed by age 10. New science is showing that during puberty, the brain goes through another spurt of growth – kind of like a kitchen remodel where you probably don’t want the user to be using any power tools.

Knowing about the condition is half of the battle, but making sure they don’t do anything incredibly stupid in the process. Every year, we hear about teens killed in joyrides, or kids who decide to walk on barely frozen ice, or pick up dangerous addictions as well as other risky ideas. Growing up, we just attributed these things to kids learning their limits or not being very bright. But now scientists believe that there is a literal disconnect with the portion of the brain that says, “is this a good idea?” part of the brain. It can also affect the details center of the brain causing forgetfulness as evidenced by our ruined microwave.

Is there a cure? Sure. Grow up. Get older. Use caution and leverage the people around you to tell you that doing something stupid is, in fact, stupid. And probably something about eating your vegetables. I don’t know. I guess I missed that part when I suffered from teenager brain.

In the meantime, I can only rely on my nose to monitor the current situation in my home to protect from the teenage brain running loose in my home.

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