National Geographic : 2011 Oct
• Although you know your teenager takes some chances, it can be a shock to hear about them. "Well," I hu ed, sensing an opportunity to nally yell at him, "what would you call it?" "It's just not accurate," he said calmly. "'Reck- less' sounds like you're not paying attention. But I was. I made a deliberate point of doing this on an empty stretch of dry interstate, in broad day- light, with good sight lines and no tra c. I mean, I wasn't just gunning the thing. I was driving. "I guess that's what I want you to know. If it makes you feel any better, I was really focused." Actually, it did make me feel better. at both- ered me, for I didn't understand why. Now I do. MY SON'S HIGH SPEED adventure raised the ques- tion long asked by people who have pondered the class of humans we call teenagers: What on Earth was he doing? Parents o en phrase this question more colorfully. Scientists put it more coolly. ey ask, What can explain this behav- ior? But even that is just another way of won- dering, What is wrong with these kids? Why do they act this way? e question passes judgment even as it inquires. One ne May morning not long ago my oldest son, 17 at the time, phoned to tell me that he had just spent a couple hours at the state police bar- racks. Apparently he had been driving "a little fast." What, I asked, was "a little fast"? Turns out this product of my genes and loving care, the boy-man I had swaddled, coddled, cooed at, and then pushed and pulled to the brink of manhood, had been ying down the highway at 113 miles an hour. " at's more than a little fast," I said. He agreed. In fact, he sounded somber and contrite. He did not object when I told him he'd have to pay the nes and probably for a lawyer. He did not argue when I pointed out that if anything happens at that speed---a dog in the road, a blown tire, a sneeze---he dies. He was in fact almost ir- ritatingly reasonable. He even pro ered that the cop did the right thing in stopping him, for, as he put it, "We can't all go around doing 113." He did, however, object to one thing. He didn't like it that one of the several citations he received was for reckless driving. During lunch break, a teen shows off leaping skills in the urban sport of parkour.