Puberty is a nightmare. Going through puberty is exactly like sitting through an experimental foreign film: it’s confusing, things randomly happen for no reason, there are a lot of feelings bubbling up all at once, and in the end you’re glad when it’s over (even though you’re not quite sure what you just went through).
And when you’re a parent, puberty is just as bad. Let’s face it: none of us really remember going through puberty. Sure, we recall the general sense of awfulness, but the specifics got washed away by raging hormones, the challenges of adulthood, and straight up old age. When you’re a parent of a teen, it’s almost like you experience puberty all over again … only worse, because this time you’re expected to have an answer for all of it.
So this past May when my 10-year-old daughter brought home a permission slip to watch a puberty video in class, I signed that bad boy immediately. I mean, why would I not have the school do the heavy lifting of teaching my daughter about puberty? One less thing I have to worry about, right? Check that parenting chore off my to-do list!
But then I got to thinking. Hey, I’m a progressive dad (and by “progressive,” I mean I let my daughter paint my toenails for practice), I should be involved in my daughter’s life as much as possible. I shouldn’t shy away from uncomfortable conversations. I want my daughter to know that she can come to me with any question and I won’t blow it off.
So the day of the video, I picked my daughter up from school and dove right into the interrogation:
“So, you watched the puberty video today, right?” I asked her. “How was it?”
“Gross,” she replied.
“Yeah, I can see how you’d think that,” I said. “But it’s an important thing to know.” (See that expert parenting right there? I was killing it!) “So … do you have any questions?”
“You sure?” I nudged. “You can ask me anything.” (Look how I’m not giving up on the cause!)
“Well … I do have one question.”
“Go for it. Ask me anything.”
“Do tampons hurt?”
“Well … uh … that’s a very good question …” (Uh-oh.)
“Because they seem like they’d hurt.”
“You know …”
“And if they do hurt, how long do they hurt? Like do they hurt when you put them in? Do they keep hurting once they’re in?”
“I’m not sure …” (I was not expecting this line of questioning.)
“And what about taking them out? Does that hurt? Why do they have to hurt?”
(Dear God, please stop with the questions. I am so ill-equipped for this. What was I thinking?)
“This wasn’t gone over in the video?” I asked.
“Nah. Also, are there some tampons that hurt more than others? Can I get the ones that don’t hurt?”
(And that’s where I tapped out.)
“You know what? These are all great questions that I think you should ask Mom. Mom will know all of this. In fact, any questions you have about puberty — any at all — go ahead and just ask Mom. Seriously, ASK MOM.”
So yeah, I kinda dropped the ball on the whole puberty video situation. But at least my intention was good, and that should count for something, right?
At some point, your son or daughter is going to come to you with questions you don’t have answers for because you haven’t been through it, so arm yourself with information. My mom sent me Untangled, a book about dealing with girls as they transition into teenagers, which is a great resource for any and all dads.
While I may have come out a failure for this first conversation, I’m happy we had it. I’ve opened the door for more personal chats with my little girl, and that’s worth every awkward minute.