My 5th grader is having the puberty discussion today in school. I have known this was coming all year and to some degree we talk about some things already but he is curious, nervous, giggly and knows only bits and pieces of what they may discuss (all gleaned from the class that went today and of course from the classroom known as back of bus talk). This image I chose covers how I feel about my son - my baby who is on the verge of puberty .. ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The puberty talk - on the week of his birthday. I know it is cliche but it really has gone so fast. The first 2 years went slowly - maybe it was the lack of sleep, the frantic pace of trying to understand the whole motherhood thing and just the wonder of every blink, turn, milestone that was watched for with CIA stealth like surveillance (by me - yes by me).
The rest of the time seem to speed up every time - here he was going to his first day of pre-k so how is it that in record speed he is now finished with elementary school? I look at his friends and have the same thoughts - who are these boys that are getting taller? these girls who are taller than the boys and have the beginnings of breasts? I mean they are little kids still in so many ways and their bodies are pulling them toward teenager much too fast.
I remember the puberty talk in my own 5th grade class. I remember that they told us about menstrual cycles and showed us these pads that I still suspect may have been crib mattresses by the depth of them. I remember smelling my arm pits to see if I had the smell they were talking about - I did not but may still be a bit of a fanatic about ensuring that I do not smell. I also remember the blush and giggle of learning about the changes that were coming for me and boys, as well as about the penis ... who knew it could change shape like that ? I did not grow up in an overly conservative house, my parents and their friends were good at off color jokes but puberty that was not open for discussion. I recall getting my period in end of 6th grade, looking for pads (smaller than the mattress sized ones I saw in the movie, oh yeah which had some odd belt thing that I did not know what it was until later) and then calling my mother calmly to tell her. My mother cried and then told family and friends -- nothing garners an eye roll like that memory. Tampons came much later - my mother and her friends had a virginity issue with them no matter how much I told her it did not do anything to you, top it off with the Toxic Shock Syndrome cases that came out about that time and it took me and a job to get those in my arsenal.
My son already heard about the dreaded "period" and I tried to calmly tell him that it is not a terrible thing - that he should not make girls feel weird about it because it is just a part of growing up - he was not that convinced, his friends explained that it was gross, I have some work to do. I am not sure I am ready to think of my son and his friends in these terms but puberty and time wait for no one to be ready - it is awkward to go through it and I am finding it is a balance to mother to it.
I am trying to balance between how much information my 11 year old, still yikes writing that number, really can handle, how not to make him think of sex as dirty or puberty as bad, to work on being ok with the changes and keeping the dialogue going and knowing that these things come with respect for yourself and for your partners. I want my son to not be shamed or uptight without being flip about these things. I do not recall having open discussions with my mom about these things, even older it was bits and pieces and a large part of that was not on her but on me. As many kids do I was not sure she would ever relate, was hesitant to get a negative response and there is the natural yuck factor - I mean I really still would not want to swap details with my mother about anything that has to do with sex. I know now though that she would have probably been kinder and less shocked then my younger self judged her. My son will have his puberty talk at school tomorrow and I have had 11 years to build a trusting relationship with him that will continue to grow along with my amazing son.