Somewhere I read that the shift to night-owl-dom in adolescence once had a biological imperative. Young teens in tribal times were the ones who were given spears and left to guard the encampment from enemies and predators by the fire all night long. Now that’s meaningful responsibility — life and death stuff! By contrast today’s young teens are given the responsibility of finishing their social studies essay on time.
People often ask me how I am handling having Erin off on the opposite side of the earth, having adventures I know next to nothing of, travelling with a loose itinerary I can’t possibly keep track of, out of reach of telephone and internet. Honestly, I don’t find it hard. Partly because my parental pride at her courage and adventurousness offsets the worry. But mostly because I think this sort of independence, responsibility, self-sufficiency and risk is an absolutely crucial part of maturing towards adulthood. I did a lot of really stupid things as a teen, trying to test my mettle. I hope that as they grow through adolescence all my kids will find smart ways to test their mettle. Erin is having her turn now.