Family / Kids

The P Word

yes Photo Credit: classic_film via photopin cc

My lazy-man’s searchable online New Oxford American Dictionary defines puberty as: “the period during which adolescents reach sexual maturity and become capable of reproduction.”

It’s evident that the New Oxford American Dictionary doesn’t have a 12-year-old son. This likely explains the absence of phrases such as “The Seventh Circle of Inferno” or “Stench that could knock a buzzard off a shitwagon,” or “Mood swings that make Sybil look entry level.”

You would think that a family consisting of two sons surrounded by All Dads, All the Time would be able to navigate this craggy terrain with a bit more aplomb. Hey, just us fellas here. Been there, done that. Piece o’ cake.

Stop thinking that.

Our boys would no sooner confide any details about “this special time of life” to us than they would to Margaret Thatcher.

Well. There was that one time, when Ben (who shall remain nameless so I don’t embarrass him on the World Wide Web) bellowed down the hall from his bathroom, “PAPI!? IS IT NORMAL FOR A 10-YEAR-OLD BOY TO HAVE A HAIR ON HIS PENIS???
ME: (Also hollering down the hallway) “YES, BEN, IT’S FINE!”
There was a silence during which I presumed the affair was settled.
“YES, BEN!?”
Having had ten years to hone my parenting skills, I declined to bring him the scissors, clear that it was never good policy to allow a 10-year-old to put a cutting tool anywhere near his schmeckle. Even if I am jewish.

Apparently, another side effect of puberty is a head cold that lasts for years. At least that’s what the kid told me when I noticed the abundance of crumpled tissues littering his room. Perhaps I should start buying the kind with the lotion built in. There’s only one thing worse than a sore, red, dry nose.

Another casualty of “the onset?” His little brother. All this voice-changing and hair-sprouting and zit-erupting has our younger son cowering in stark terror. He finally gets to grow up and this is what he has to look forward to? (We’ve tried telling him that lima beans prevent puberty, but either he’s smarter than we are, or he’s way smarter than we are.)

When we first became parents to boys, I made the foolhardy assumption that, being a mom-free household, these things would progress so much more smoothly. That the boys would feel free to consult us breezily on all these boycentric topics, and we’d all crack open a coupla cold, frothy root beers and answer their queries openly and honestly, with the perfect mixture of concern, empathy, and sage advice, along with a careless dash of tomfoolery thrown in for levity. We were idiots.

When Ben was in 5th grade, he was subjected, along with all his classmates, to the unfathomable joy of sitting through “The Puberty Movie” in the school auditorium.

After class that day, we eagerly greeted him on the blacktop, abuzz with questions. “Did you see the movie? Did you learn anything?” “What did you think about it?” Ben’s sober response? “It was the most disturbing fucking thing I’ve ever seen.”

And what have I learned from all this? Buy the deodorant, shut the hell up, and let ‘em learn this shit on the street corner.


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  1. And after they’ve learned this shit on the street corner, I’m sending our boys to your house for an education. Thank you, and good luck!

  2. Mmmmm lemon squares

  3. Deborah. I’m doing an atrocious job with mine. Whatchcu wanna send your young’uns over here for?

  4. Why o why did you not write this piece about 3 years earlier??? Seriously though I laughed so much at this. It could be worse…you could be a single mom like me with 2 boys. I totally went with funny You Tube videos. Seemed legit.

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