How to Parent a Type T Teen

This post originally appeared on GrownandFlown.com

 

Not long ago, my husband and son were trout fishing in the river that ran behind our house. On this particular winter day, the Chattahoochee was low and clear and as cold as ice. My son cast his line, and it caught on a branch that overhung the water. He pulled and yanked and tried to work it free, but to no avail. Reaching for his pocketknife, my husband prepared to cut the line.

“Don’t cut it. I want that lure,” my son yelled. “I got this!” My husband and I tried to reason with him, “Let the lure go. It’s not worth it.” But it was too late. The challenge rose before him; the gauntlet was laid.

Ignoring our protests, my youngest son made his sock-footed way to the end of the thin limb, determined to save the lure. It creaked beneath his weight. I covered my eyes, I couldn’t watch. The water below him might have been ten feet deep, or one foot deep, and rocks lurked under the surface.

After some time, my son prevailed, and as you’ve probably guessed, he saved the lure and made it safely back to land. But not before bouncing up and down on the branch like a tightrope walker, just to make me crazy. However, my son is not a tightrope walker, nor is he in the circus. And he’s certainly not a Flying Wallenda.

He has Type T personality.

Type T personalities seek thrill and have very little fear. They love a rush and are unconcerned about consequences. They crave excitement and are bored with the mundane. They’re Leland Van Lew in Along Came Polly, “The base-jumping, crocodile-wrestling, shark-diving, volcano-luging, bear-fighting, snake-wrangling, motocross-racing…” You get the idea.
That’s Type T.

Frank Farley, Ph.D., a psychologist and professor at Temple University, coined the term in the 1980s. According to the experts, these thrill-seeking personality types tend to be extroverted and creative and make great entrepreneurs.

Bear Grylls, Lindsey Vonn, Steve Irwin (RIP), Danica Patrick, Johnny Knoxville, and Pink – suspended by wires, singing while she twirls and tumbles through the air – are all likely Type T. Also, most X Game competitors, Cirque du Soleil performers, and any member of the US Special Ops Forces would probably fit the description.

You might be wondering if Type T is genetic. It’s possible. Dr. Farley’s opinion was that Type Ts are, to a certain degree, born that way. So when considering the apple and the tree, I have to wonder if my son might have inherited his desire for thrill from my husband and me.

I remember a particular night at the large university I attended. My friends and I were restless. “Let’s climb the bubble,” someone said. The bubble was a giant structure that covered our football team’s practice field. It looked like a huge space bounce from the outside. The white canvas was held in place by thick wire cables, which rose from the ground on one side, crisscrossed over its top, and made their way back down the other.

“Let’s do it!” we responded, and off we went. Climbing the bubble was easy. Running along the top of the billowing canvas was euphoric. But getting back down was a nightmare, a terrifying one. Thankfully, we all made it safely back to Earth, no major injuries, no broken bones. We were lucky.

At the other end of our son’s gene pool, my husband tells a story about the year he turned 13. He agreed to drive a friend around his neighborhood in her family’s car; a joy ride, I believe it’s called. Unfortunately, things did not end well for the poor car, or an innocent oak tree, but fortunately, no humans were injured. They, also, were lucky.

Genetics aside, here’s the real question. How does a mom survive emotionally while raising a Type T child? Speaking from experience, the process is worrisome at best, terrifying at worst. The fear for your child’s safety can be overwhelming. It’s the type of anxiety that knots your stomach during the day and prevents you from sleeping at night. It’s ever-present and all-encompassing. It’s exhausting.

So how does a mom cope? You might meditate, or seek counseling, or find respite with friends. You might be into extreme exercise or keeping yourself busy enough that you don’t have time to worry. I’ve always turned to my faith in God to get me through. I trust that He wants what’s best for my son; I have to believe that. I’ve taught my son how to take care of himself, so when I’m not with him, I try to let go. Because what choice do I have?

We all need an outlet for fear regardless of our belief systems or coping mechanisms; we have to be free to live our lives in peace, letting go of the constant worry that comes with raising a thrill-seeker.

The other day, my son and I walked up the driveway toward our house.

“Watch this, Mom,” he said, a wild look in his eyes. I knew that look. I’d seen it a million times before. Sensing he was about to do something risky, I buried my head in my hands and begged, “Please, please don’t.” Despite my request, he bent his knees, clenched his fists, and jumped. After flipping backwards through the air, he landed on his bare feet, dangerously close to the concrete, but fortunately on the soft grass. I believe a real gymnast would have called it a back tuck, and not a bad one at that. But my son is not a gymnast. He’s never taken a tumbling class. He’s no Bart Conner.

He’s just Type T.
And God help me, I love him for it.

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