It's probably been a long time since you've had to think about that awful thing called puberty. Just the sight of the word makes me cringe as I recall all the crazy feelings I went through as a little girl, longing to remain that way and the young lady who was steadily emerging from inside. What frustration I felt as a child!
My parents always asked why, at the tender age of 12, I'd begun shaking my hips in such a way as I strode down the beach in my "mom-legal" one-piece swimsuit. I honestly had no intention of walking that way, and the question always irritated me because it really was not by choice, but looking back, I'm not sure what caused me to strut the way I did at the time. Was it my changing body or my inevitably changing attitude? Don't you remember those feelings?
One day, you wake up from your childhood slumber and begin to question every detail of every thing your parents ever taught you! Just thinking of how it was for me causes quite a bit of sympathy in my heart for what my own children still must go through, and I hope it makes you sympathetic for your own kids, too.
My mom had the decency to tell me ahead of time that menses would occur and my body would undergo many changes. I don't remember a specific conversation, but we always talked about things like that and "put them on the table."
I've tried to do the same for my kids and have learned from Dr. James Dobson, psychologist and head of Focus on the Family, that parents should share this important information with their kids before these events in the body begin to unfold on them.
Dr. Dobson once shared on his daily radio program how his father handled this conversation with him. His dad told him about another ugly word that we all try to avoid - masturbation. He told him quite frankly that it would happen sometimes and not to exaggerate it or become obsessive about it, but also not to feel guilty about it either. He said to avoid it as much as you can, but acknowledge that it'll still happen once in a while.
I thought that was very well said and great advice that I also passed on to one of my sons. I went on to tell him about wet dreams (all you moms with girls and no boys are smiling with relief right now!). I told my baby not to be embarrassed or even feel the need to mention it. After all, they don't choose for this to happen, but he should peel off the bedding and leave it in a pile for washing.
Those are the physical aspects, but of just as much importance are the emotional aspects. Ladies, can you imagine getting a hormone from the doctor to treat your menopause or to use for birth control and not getting the warning, "This may cause extreme mood swings" on the label? You'd think you were just going insane! So then wouldn't it also be thoughtful of us to tell our kids - boys as well as girls - that they will indeed experience some serious moodiness during these few years? I think so.
It's not a big deal unless you make it one. Don't clam up or act weird; just go for a walk or go shoot some hoops with your child and let them in on the details (It's good for your child to have a comfortable place to avert the eyes).
Around ages 8 to 10 is a good time for this; just be sure your timing beats their body's or else you'll be in for a very uncomfortable setting. Do it when you see that it may still be off in the distance, and if you're a little late, still do it. Just don't treat them like babies.
Ruthie Davidson is a mother of four children, ages 5 to 10. She lives in South Daytona and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.