Puberty sucks for both parents and adolescents. It’s a clumsy and hormonally-psychotic rite of passage that makes parents pine for toddler tantrums and makes teens look forward to the day they can put their dreadfully uncool oppressors in a nursing home.
It’s also a time filled with some rather uncomfortable “teachable moments” for both generations.
My husband and I had a deal that I would talk to our daughter, and he’d handle the boy. There was never a formal “This is How Your Body Changes/Don’t Make a Baby” speech; our kids have been asking questions since they were little, and I’ve been answering them as we go. Notice I said, “I’ve been answering.” My kids never want to ask their dad about this stuff. Both came to me because, as my son stated, “Mom is better at handling all the body stuff.”
My son was four when he asked how he was born. Thanks to television shows, he believed doctors lifted babies from their mother’s stomachs, but my then 7-year-old daughter set him straight because she saw the whole thing in the delivery room. “That’s a lie,” she said, “I saw you coming out of Mommy’s butt.” Needless to say, my son was horrified, and I had to do a quick lesson on the difference between the rectum and birthing parts.
As it turns out, my lessons have not always been clear to my children. When talking to my daughter about the menstrual cycle, I failed to explain how long a period lasts. My poor girl believed she’d bleed everyday for the rest of her life. When talking to my son about how he would develop body odor, I failed to mention when that would kick in, and I soon had a 7-year-old with stinky gym shoes proudly announcing, “I’ve got my puberty going on!”
All of their little questions over time have led to a pretty decent overview of puberty and growing up*. As uncomfortable as it was, I’ve talked with my daughter about topics like pornography, birth control, date rape, alcohol and drug use, abortion and the hook-up culture. In time, we’ll hit the stuff that will make me really squirm. Given his age, my son’s knowledge is a bit limited, but we’ve talked about things like how his body will change, how babies are actually made and what girls experience during puberty. Surprisingly, neither the kids nor I have been embarrassed by any of this.
My son’s school recently held the puberty talk for all the fifth grade students. He was a little embarrassed about having to hear the information with his peers, but was soon relieved to know boys would be in one room and girls in another. Parents had the opportunity to check out the materials that would be used during the discussion and had the ability to opt-out if they felt it was inappropriate. My son saw the 20-minute presentation about male puberty and was given his own trial-sized version of Old Spice antiperspirant. (I am so thankful the boys were not given Axe Body Spray.) When asked about the presentation, my son casually responded, “It was no big deal. You already told me everything.”
The Old Spice now sits on his bathroom counter, and thankfully, he’s been using it. He understands he’s growing up, and despite having an invisible layer of peach fuzz, he’s expressed interest in learning how to shave as well. My daughter is solidly in her teens, and although we butt heads from time to time, she’s a good kid/young lady. She doesn’t ask questions as often, and I find myself searching for “teachable moments” from current events and pop culture to start conversations. There’s a lot of eye rolling and “I know, Mom,” but it’s stuff we need to discuss. She’s even taught me a few things I didn’t know.
I think puberty is harder on me than it is on them. I have to acknowledge my babies are growing up and making decisions on their own. Even though their bodies are maturing, their minds are still very child-like, and I’ve got to squeeze in as many lessons as I can. Puberty also means I’m growing older, and there will come a day when I am no longer here for them.
Here’s the worst part. Puberty makes me realize my kids were probably online checking out nursing homes after I vetoed their plans for an R-rated movie.
*Our family takes our Christian faith very seriously, and purity is a major element in all of these conversations.