Humor by Greg Schwem

As the orthodontist put braces on my 14-year-old daughter, I sat in the waiting room, casually flipping through National Geographic.

Halfway through October's cover story, I realized I could never let her see this issue. Even if it means hunting down all of the magazine's 8.5 million subscribers and stealing their copies, it's worth it. I may have to hack into the National Geographic website and furiously hit "delete," as well. The penalties will be severe but, as I linger in my jail cell awaiting a bond hearing, I will breathe easier knowing I kept her from reading an article entitled, "Beautiful Teenage Brains." If she finds it, I will never win an argument with her again.

Until I read David Dobbs' piece, I was of the firm belief that teenagers don't have brains, period. Sure, there is a mass in their heads that allows them to pepper every sentence with "huh," "what" and "like." It's the same organ that creates the ability to simultaneously text, update one's social network status and download Pitbull's latest musical masterpiece while studying for final exams. But it doesn't actually produce intelligent thoughts.

The article's accompanying photos certainly supported my theory. There was the girl who showed off her newly pierced tongue and said she tried to hide it from her parents by "not talking." Or maybe it was the image of a teen appearing to launch himself, face first, into a brick wall. Turns out he was simply practicing a sport called parkour, which involves leaping from walls and in between buildings to get where you're going. I thought only Spider-Man could do this.

Or it could have been the picture of the "Fight Club," where one teenage youth gripped another boy in what looked to be a rather painful headlock. Two other lads stood by and, instead of helping their struggling friend, recorded the action with their cellphones and prepared to upload the footage to Facebook.

Dobbs says questionable decision-making, coupled with a desire to seek new thrills, is perfectly normal because teenagers' brains are not fully developed. The corpus callosum, which connects the brain's left and right hemispheres, is thickening. The hippocampus is strengthening. And let's not forget that the teen's synapses are learning to work with their axons and dendrites.

Parents, are you up to speed now?

I'm not sure my daughter's corpus callosum could process the complexities of Dobbs' article. But I can't take that chance. Even if she just skims it (much like she skims her homework assignments), it will provide her with verbal ammunition beyond her wildest dreams.

"Chill, Dad. I know I missed curfew by two hours but that's because my dendrites weren't functioning properly."

"Don't blame me for the unloaded dishwasher, Dad. Blame my still-developing cortex."

"Dad, I can't find my volleyball bag. Or my math book. Or my cellphone. But what did you expect? It's because my axons are not yet insulated with myelin. Like, duh!"

See what I mean?

Dobbs concludes that I'm just going to have to ride out the storm with my daughter. With a few exceptions, she is going to choose her friends, instead of her parents, as her source for learning new things. Her occasional tendency to do something that I would scientifically call "stupid" is just a means of learning to adapt to new situations, a trait that will help her later in life. She's going to be in her mid-20s before those frontal brain areas mature but the results will be wonderful. She will, according to Dobbs, have an easier time moving out of the house. She will learn when risks outweigh rewards and vice versa. I just want to give her a hug and congratulate her on the progress she is making.

I will do that right after I scream at her for chewing ice with her new braces.

Humorist Greg Schwem is a stand-up comedian and author of Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad

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