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How Kids — Not Just Malia Obama — Grow in Their Teens

malia obama, michelle obama

A timeline of growth spurts for all teens, not just the one living in the White House.

I can’t figure out if LA Times health blogger Jeannine Stein wanted to write about teenage growth spurts or if she wanted an excuse to inform the public that Malia Obama is in the throes of puberty. The former is totally interesting and hardly requires the first family’s eldest for a news peg. Which is why I suspect Stein was hiding behind biological inquiry when what she really wanted to do was speculate whether Malia is having boy problems.

Malia, we’re reminded, is only 13 years old, but already stands around 5 feet 9 or 10 inches tall and is going through puberty. Had Stein speculated on Malia’s weight, the reporter would have hit the trifecta of information no teen girl wants discussed, no matter what her address is.

Even more baffling is that we’re discussing the height of a girl who has taller-than-average parents. Her height — growth spurts or otherwise — is a surprise to whom? No one, not even the endocrinologist who was interviewed to give us the lowdown on child growth patterns during puberty (and who also assured us that Malia wouldn’t always be taller than the boys. Ew. Can we let Michelle talk her through that one?).

So growth! The thing is, teen growth is really interesting, but clinical facts are good enough — no need to bring in big names to make it relevant.

Parents, here’s what you can expect as your child enters puberty until they’re mostly full-grown, according to Dr. Jamie Wood, the pediatric endocrinologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles who was interviewed in the LA Times. Of course, age varies.

Girls will start developing breasts at around 10; boys will see an increase in the size of their testicles around age 12. Two years after these corporeal changes, the famous tween/teen growth spurt kicks in due to a rise in estrogen levels in girls and testosterone levels in boys.

This rapid growth continues for about two years — during which time kids can grow up to 3.5 or 4 inches in a year! — and then things start to slow down. It’s at the peak of the growth rate that girls typically get their first periods at which point the growth slows down but doesn’t stop for another couple of years.

After watching the all-important height and weight gains of my babies and toddlers, it’s been a while since I’ve seen sudden changes instead of just the gradual ones. I’m excited to watch what happens in the middle years. Of my own kids, I mean. Not the president’s.

Did you find you needed help processing Malia Obama’s growth spurt? Do you have growth spurt stories of your own? Four inches in one year — does that really happen?

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