Teens and Maturity

Recently, I’ve been caught up in the story of Abby Sunderland. For those not familiar with Abby, she’s the 16 year old teen from Thousand Oaks, who set sail in January from Marina Del Rey, CA, with a goal to circumnavigate the world non-stop. She had to pull into Cabo for repairs in February, resetting that as her start point. She had autopilot trouble in April, and pulled into Capetown SA for repairs. She’s been keeping a blog of her trip.

Yesterday, her parents lost communication with her, and two of her emergency manual beacons were set off. This prompted a lot of worries and search planes to be set out. The good news is that she’s fine, but the ship lost its mast (which is why satellite communications went down). Rescue ships are on their way; they should be there in 24 hours.

So, going to the title of this post. Look at any of the news reports on this, and you’ll find two camps of comments: Those that are supportive of Abby, and those criticizing her parents for letting her go, to the extent of wanting legislation or licenses to prevent this. To the latter group I say: “Shut up.”.

As a parent of a teen, I know how mature my child is. I’ve seen teens that are immature, and teens that are 34-year-old in teen bodies. I know that if my daughter set her mind on something like this, she would approach the problem logically and maturely. Additionally, there would be the fact that she would be safer isolated on the ocean than on the streets of our cities. In the case of Ms. Sunderland, I think she has already demonstrated her maturity by knowing when she had to give up on part of the dream to safely make repairs. She showed maturity through her activation of the beacons instead of trying to bluster through. Reading her blog you get the sense of her levelheadedness. You can see why her parents trusted in her ability to do this.

Am I saying that every teen should able to do this, or encouraged to try? No. I’m saying that we shouldn’t lump all teens together, and if a teen wants to achieve a dream, we should trust the parents to gauge their maturity.