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11:03 p.m. - 2009-12-18
While we're on the subject...

My darling friend, Red, once said she'd love to be in on the suppertime conversations at our house, always much more interesting and intellectual than the ones at her table. I have to wonder if she'll still think that after reading about this one. Interesting, maybe. Intellectual? You decide.

Tonight at dinner Wolf asked if the prefrontal cortex was a real thing, and if so was it true that his was still growing and different from an adult's? (Something he got from a 'Zits' comic strip, btw. My kid doesn't sit around reading The Lancet or anything, okay?)

Yes, I told him, his brain truly did have a prefrontal cortex, and yes, it was a long way from mature. For some years after he stops being a teenager numerically that part of his brain would still be organizing itself. A rather important part of the brain it is, too, as it helps regulate decision making and impulse control. This, I explained, was why teenagers did bonehead stuff. The part of his brain that might chime in with, "Hey, that's not such a good idea" was still too scrambled to be of much use.

I frowned at my boy and said, "This does NOT let you off the hook, however. You are heading toward 13 and according to the Jews at 13 you become an adult."

Wolf perked up. I could see what he was thinking.

"No, wise guy, this doesn't mean you get to drive the car. What it does mean is that you are held accountable for your behavior. You are expected to take responsibility for your character and your choices."

Wolf's shoulders sagged over the loss of the car, but he nodded to show he understood.

I cut a look at Mick and then said, "Unfortunately to go with your immature prefrontal cortex, you, my son, have another handicap. You own a penis."

Mick choked on his linguini. I looked at him again and he waved a hand at me that he'd be fine and I should continue.

"As you go through the next few years your penis is going to start talking to you. Loudly. It's going to have a lot to say. Mostly about how it wants attention. It will want you to get girls to pay attention to it too. You're going to do many, many stupid things because your penis says you should. Your penis will be why you'll get into a fistfight with a guy 9x your size. There's no end to the dopey stuff you and your penis will do. Listen, your penis and the hormones produced in your testicles are very important, but just like your immature prefrontal cortex, in your teenage years your penis isn't very organized or smart yet. In some ways it'll be your best friend, you just need to remember your penis is also a stupid friend and you should try not to listen when it says it has a wonderful idea. I guarantee it'll be a dumb idea and probably get you into trouble."

By this time Mick had managed to swallow that wad of linguini. He patted my hand and turned to Wolf. "Your mother is absolutely correct, kiddo. Listen to what she's saying to you, okay? When you're older, maybe you and I will talk about some of the dumb things my penis encouraged me to do when I was a teenager. For right now though, just believe what your mom told you and try to think things through before you do stuff, understand?"

Wolf nodded. "Yup. Small brain. Dumb penis. Big trouble. Got it."

By George, I believe he does.

Hey, Red, still wanna join us for dinner? ~LA

9 Wanna talk about it!

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