Well, hello there, Puberty. It’s been a while. What’s new, you ask? Let’s see, I have an 11-year-old son — oh, wait. That’s right. You know him.
You know all about Boy Wonder — the kid who grew nearly five inches last year who’s now suddenly sprouting pimples and hair in all the … places. While I knew it was only a matter of time until we’d meet again, I’ve got to tell you, I wasn’t expecting to see you so soon. You see, my son is still a kid. He likes Legos and SpongeBob. He eats SpaghettiOs and argues with his brother over the toy in the cereal box. And yet here you are, showing up at my front door and expecting to stay here for like the next seven years or something. You really should have called first.
For those of you who might not know, parenting a kid along the puberty path is beyond weird for you, your kid, your family members, and probably even your mailman. There are things happening. Unspoken things. Things nobody wants to talk about but suddenly has to. It means using words like “penis” and “vagina” more often than you want to. It’s pubic hair and maxi pads. It’s hoping your kid doesn’t ask awkward questions and then worrying when they don’t. It’s pretending to be comfortable answering awkward questions and then hoping you answered them right. It’s performance and information and openness and it’s scary and amazing and real.
I’ve talked to my son about his changing body on multiple occasions. I told him about periods in a Target bathroom, gave him the 411 on how babies were made, and no matter how many times we chat or how organically the conversations flow, it still feels weird to talk openly about puberty and human sexuality.
As the first among my friends to have a child go through puberty, there’s a lot they don’t understand. “I can’t even.” they admit. “I’m dreading this someday!” they say, but what they don’t know is that their “someday” is a lot sooner than they might think. One unsuspecting day, their child will begin the long and arduous process of developing into an adult. And they’ll scramble, much the way they scrambled when they first brought that newborn child home. They’ll have to learn how to care for and best comfort their once baby all over again when the rules have changed.
Fumbling through new motherhood all over again with Boy Wonder is something I never expected to do, but here I am, navigating uncharted waters of awkwardness that provide the occasional glimpse into the person my child is in the process of becoming and just so you know, it’s kinda beautiful.
So we take the good, we take the bad, we take them both and there we have the facts of life and 12 things only parents of pubescent kids understand …
1. Every day you meet someone new.
One day your kid is this super awesome and engaging young person and the next day they’re brooding and silent. What happened? Puberty happened. Welcome to the revolving door of moods and personalities your child tries on for size.
2. You need to fast-forward …
… through sex scenes, crude humor, innuendo, or the possibility of sex scenes, crude humor, or innuendo. Your remote trigger finger is poised and ready because they either get it and that’s weird or they almost get it and that’s just as weird, if not weirder.
3. There is not enough food IN THE WORLD.
You’ll have to mortgage your house to afford all the nutrition and sustenance your child now requires to grow into a young adult. Get used to grocery cashiers not only knowing your name, but knowing which Hot Pockets variety your kid can’t live without.
4. They smell.
Eau de puberté is a powerful and gag-inducing aroma that sees your clinical strength deodorant and raises you a nose clip.
5. You’re afraid.
Yep, you’re afraid that you didn’t adequately prepare your kid, scared of driving them away, scared to peek into their search history/texts/backpacks/rooms because of what you
might probably will find.
6. You always need to knock.
Especially before opening a bedroom door … for so many reasons.
7. You don’t feel important.
In fact, you feel less important than your kid’s exchange student acquaintance from second period. While it can certainly feel as though you come in fourth place behind your child’s friends, acquaintances, and social media following – you don’t. Your growing child needs you more than ever right now.
8. Nothing and everything is wrong.
On any given day, a girlfriend of mine might ask, “What’s wrong with him?” The answer is quite simply nothing and everything. I don’t know why my kid’s mood shifts whichever way the wind blows, I just work here.
9. They’re so totally slow.
And you thought getting a toddler out the door was tough! Adolescent kids change clothes no fewer than 63 times (leaving each item on the floor as they go), feel the need to style every last strand of hair on their head, and then complain about how they look before finally leaving the house. Oh, and then they’re annoyed with you for being annoyed that you’re late.
10. They’re Lazy McLazersons.
Forget about the fact that they live here too and eat more and create more laundry than the rest of the family combined, pubescent kids are too busy growing to do much of anything else.
11. They’re clumsy.
You’ll wish you never ditched the plastic sippy cups and childproof corner guards because your adolescent kid will suddenly become an uncoordinated disaster who exhibits the force of a thousand men when turning doorknobs, opening drawers, and rounding corners. The wreckage. The injury.
12. They’re truly awesome.
It’s amazing to be able to share in new and mature activities with your growing child. As they begin to understand more and exhibit a genuine hunger for life experiences, they serve as wonderfully eager companions. So get out there and enjoy the sneak peek into the fascinating young person you created!