Seventeen-year-old Kaleb Langdale had a choice. He could give an alligator his arm, or he could risk losing his life. He did the smart thing. The teenager swimming with friends in a Florida river let the gator take his arm.
I don't know this kid from Adam, but my chest is swelling with pride for him right now. Somewhere along the way, Kaleb's parents managed to do the unthinkable: they taught a teenager that some risks aren't worth taking.
I mean that sincerely. These parents, and their son, deserve a lot of credit here. Take the average teenager, put them in the same situation, and there's a high chance that the outcome would have been different.
Risk taking is literally wired into the teenage brain. Scientists studying young adults have found they're extra sensitive to "rewarding signals" that surge through the brain when something good happens unexpectedly. They've used their discovery to explain why kids do foolish things, with the hope of a big payout.
But knowing that it's natural for kids to do dumb things doesn't make it any easier for us, the parents, to deal with it. If anything, it's harder knowing that you really can't be that angry with your kid because they're fighting their brain chemistry to do the right thing. So we end up repeating ourselves over and over and over again, and hope it sticks.
With Kaleb, it did.
When the alligator attacked, Kaleb's sister explains that he "put both feet on the alligator’s head and pushed and pretty much took his own arm off before the alligator could." This enabled him to escape to the surface and scream for help, which came in the form of the other swimmers. They kept pressure on the wound until rescue workers arrived, and Kaleb is alive, albeit missing a limb.
Maybe we can't teach our kids not to take any risks (and really, would you want to kill all their fun in life?), but this kid is a shining example that teaching them to take good ones can pay off. The alligator may have his arm, but this teenager is alive!
What's the craziest risk your teenager has taken and what did you do?
Image via wwarby/Flickr