7 Reasons Why Raising Teens is Like A Survival Show


I don’t know why, but I have an unhealthy attraction to survival shows. My favorite so far is “Out of the Wild: the Alaska Experiment.” Those people were freaking insane! Just normal working stiffs, they took a three-day survival class and then volunteered to be DUMPED INTO THE ALASKAN WILDERNESS until which time they were able to find their way out. The show took great pains to tell us that nobody on the show was paid a penny.

I was breathlessly watching this show on Netflix…from the comfort of my couch. I don’t mind seeing other people voluntarily share a mouse for dinner or shivering under a tarp all night…as long as I can keep my own environment at a comfortable 70 degrees.

Some people dropped out after the first day. There was a tough old bird from Kentucky who was good with a shotgun that I would have bet money on was gonna win the thing. Two days later (after finding out everyone else had a bite of mouse and didn’t share) she said, “Later, gators!” and pressed her little GPS locator to call the helicopter to pick her up.

I was dumbfounded. I thought she was gonna make it for sure. For real, I didn’t think the tiny Asian medical student would make it–first of all, she didn’t have a lot of fat to work off in the first place, and secondly it seemed evident that her life of privilege was sure to work against her. But it turned out in a shocking twist, that the super tough country boy went down like a bouncy house in a paintball fight.

The tiny Asian chick really rocked, and nearly made it to the last episode.

Anyway, it struck me that this show is a lot like raising teens. Just so you know, they canceled it because people figured out it sucked to be dropped into the Alaska with only a compass and a stick of beef jerky.

1. You’re in unfamiliar territory with very little training. Where are the teen parenting courses? If they’re out there, I hope experts are teaching. And by experts, I mean people who have raised at least one teenager with their bare hands. All the degrees in the world don’t impress me unless you can tell me you’ve been there in the trenches.

2. The map sucks and looks like it was drawn by drunken preschoolers.You can read every book ever written, and until you’re dropped in and left in the situation to figure it out…it pretty much seems unreal.

3. There are wild things … everywhere. Sometimes the wild things belong to and resemble…us.

4. It’s hard to know who to trust. To be good at survival parenting you must have a network, but sometimes when it gets tough, friends we thought we trusted turn out to be not so trustworthy. Trust your gut on this one.Most time it’s just because they are busy too and that people tend to be selfish and self-centered. If you are going through something (with your kid or otherwise) you will undoubtedly find out who your real friends are. They are the ones who come sit with you in the waiting room while your kid is having surgery, without being asked. Keep that friend.

5. It’s really cold some nights and the fire just doesn’t seem hot enough. Again, when raising teens (and kids in general) can sometimes be socially isolating. Take time to reconnect with your teen and your family, especially your spouse. It’s a lot warmer in the frontier when you have someone to snuggle with.

7. Sometimes you just have to call the helicopter. Don’t be afraid to ask for backup. This parenting thing–it’s a beautiful mystery sometimes, and not one to be handled alone. That’s why on the Alaska show they didn’t just send in one person, because they knew it was too dangerous and chances are nobody would sign on for that. So don’t you try to do it alone either.

7. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, and you will never forget the experience. Raising kids is totally worth it, and though at times you feel extremely frustrated and nauseated, there are moments of silent beauty that you wouldn’t trade for the world.

Do you watch reality shows? Which is your favorite?