The date was July 4, 1982. I was wearing my new pink and white bathing suit and my sister, six years my senior, actually paid me a compliment. I went to the bathroom to make some final adjustments and I soon became aware that my first “monthly visitor” had finally arrived. After realizing that I wasn’t hemorrhaging, I was thrilled to discover that my official foray into womanhood had begun.
With all the complications that come with our periods—and being women in general—at least we pretty much know when puberty has begun. I learned from my sister about tampons, learned the joys of cramps and excessive moodiness from my own experiences (I am woman, hear me complain). The appearance of hair in various locations was also a charming component. The first time I used a razor I took off the top layer of skin from my legs.
Puberty was truly a lovely time in my life (can you hear my sarcasm?). The only real positive was growing five inches in fours months, leaving me tall and thin for about six whole weeks. I saved the size 6 skirt from that brief period of time. I am actually thinking of donating it to the Smithsonian.
Fast forward 14 years, when the monthly egg drop resulted in my being blessed with becoming a mother. In less than four years, I gave birth to three yummy boys. I had always wanted sons because I was such a difficult daughter. Chubby girl with a shopaholic mom is never an ideal combination, so I was happy not to have to worry about tights or Spanx or heels with these future men.
Little did I know.
Puberty with boys is not so cut and dry. There is no starting point by which to measure their changes. Many times I found myself saying, “I don’t have one of those, I can’t help you.” Unfortunately, asking their father about the wayward sprouting of whiskers or other sensitive questions resulted in him giving me the same response, “I don’t remember.” That doesn’t help me, or them. I don’t know about facial hair (not that I am admitting, anyway), or various nighttime occurrences that may or may not happen with their “manhood.” I can’t help you boys. I don’t have one of those!
Some of their friends shot up in height quickly; my eldest did not. I seem to live in a community where every other kid is on growth hormones, whether they are actually growth hormone deficient or not, so when son #1 started high school and was not yet 5 feet tall, off to the endocrinologist we went. The doctor was shorter than my son, so we weren’t off to a rip-roaring start, but after a non-invasive x-ray, we learned that there was ample room for growth and we shouldn’t worry. I stand at 5 foot 8 inches (though rapidly shrinking) and my husband is a drop taller; we just wanted to make sure everything was OK (though there would be nothing wrong with another short Jewish guy).
By the time he graduated high school, he had grown almost 11 inches. Yet, he still doesn’t shave. What does that mean? Is he still going through puberty? Why are boys so simple when it comes to so many things, but so complex when it comes to figuring out whether or not they are finished with puberty? I will just remain grateful that they don’t like to shop and take everything else as it comes.