Hello, Puberty: Local Mom Reviews 'The Movie'

"The Movie" is a biology lesson. It does not discuss intercourse, masturbation or those special feelings for a girl.

Today my son will experience that school-day rite of passage: The Puberty Movie.

Wasn’t it just yesterday I was changing his diapers?  I feel like the fiddler on the roof singing Sunrise, Sunset: ”I don’t remember growing older … when did they?”                    

I suppose I should’ve seen it coming. Puberty, that is. The signs were there.

A couple years ago, he stopped holding my hand in public.

He cringed when I shouted “Way to go, Pumpkin!” at his baseball game last summer.

He corrects me if I suggest inviting a friend for a “play date.” It’s called “hanging out.”

He prefers to bike to friends’ houses, rather than getting a ride from me. And when he is in the car, he sits in front, leaving his younger siblings to bicker from their booster seats in the back. 

And, tragically, he likes a girl on the bus. (My seven-year-old said so.)

When he got braces last month, I was asked to complete a patient information form. It was titled “Medical History of Your Adolescent.” I was sure I had the wrong form because I don’t have an adolescent. I have a kid.

One who still writes to Santa, who catches frogs in the yard, who sleeps with a certain stuffed animal every night and who gets excited when Grandma mails him a stick of gum (sugarless, per the orthodontist).

Rather than wallow in maternal nostalgia, I decided to preview “The Movie” myself. The school librarian cheerfully led me into the “screening room” and popped in a VHS tape called “Growing Up! For Boys.”

“The Movie” begins with pimply-faced preteens laughing, playing sports and studying. The narrator, a rock musician playing an electric guitar in his studio while concert footage plays on a screen behind him, explains what puberty is. And what boy wouldn’t listen to a rock star?

Basically The Movie is a biology lesson. Using charts, the rock star labels body parts (maybe it’s time I stopped saying “pee-pee” and “hiney”), explains how they change during puberty and shows how sperm and egg combine to form a baby.

“The Movie” did not discuss intercourse, masturbation or those special feelings for the girl on the bus.

The only thing I considered a tad inappropriate is when the rock star advises boys to “eat right,” there’s a close-up of a dewey wet cucumber. I doubt if fourth graders will see the irony.

While the biology of puberty hasn’t changed with the times, “The Movie” set and actors are outdated. This may be The Movie my classmates and I saw circa 1981. The teen actors have horrendous hair (think AquaNetted bangs) and clothes (acid-washed jeans, shoulder pads). In one scene, a boy is typing on a computer bigger than my microwave. And of course, there isn’t a cell phone in sight. My son may wonder if it was filmed in outer space. 

Note to Hollywood: you could make a bunch of money by updating The Movie. Put an iPod in those actors’ hands and Apple would probably produce the film for you.

The rock star also gives positive and reassuring messages: Growing up is fun because you gain knowledge and learn new skills, Everyone grows at different rates, and Just because your body is capable of creating a baby does not mean you’re ready for the responsibility of being a parent.

I was raised in a large Catholic family. We discussed politics, sports, religion, crazy cousins … everything but sex. My parents simply didn’t talk about it with any of us kids.

When a subject is off-limits, it may be interpreted as dirty or shameful. That was the case in my house growing up. I was scared and confused the first time I got my period. 

“Little House on the Prairie” was on, and I paced across the living room for the entire episode—wondering how to tell my mom and how my life would change.  

When Madonna sang “Like a Virgin” on my radio, I turned the volume down so my parents wouldn’t hear the lyrics and pull the plug.

I censor my kids’ music, but am trying to show an openness and willingness to talk about sex with our kids so that they’ll be comfortable coming to my husband or me with questions. 

I remember eleven years ago, leaving Abbott Northwestern with our firstborn bundle of joy. A nurse waved goodbye and said “Enjoy him … he’ll be off to college before you know it.”

She’s right.


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