My father didn’t do much of the talking when I reached the age of puberty. In fact, the interview conducted with him was the first time we discussed the topic. It was such a pleasant surprise to capture his sentiments on the topic of puberty because he had so much to share. It was also interesting to discover his feelings about growing up as a teenager in the 1950’s and 60’s. There were three main things that stood out from our conversation. First, his priorities at the age of 13 were different than they might be if he were a 13 year old boy today. Secondly, the myths of the old days still prevail today. Lastly, he sympathizes with kids who are entering puberty nowadays.
My grandmother talked my dad about the changes he would encounter. She pointed to my grandfather’s moustache and muscles to show my dad that he will be big and strong like him. She was crazy about smelling good and superb hygiene. Because of this, dad never had acne like other classmates. Ever since my dad could hold a basketball, he clung to that passion all the way towards snagging a college scholarship. Puberty represented a time to get taller, stronger and faster for him. If he were a 13 year old boy today, his priorities might be looking good for the girls. He explained this based on his experience as a guidance counselor. In the 1950’s and 60’s, he only wanted to play ball despite the attention he received from the girls. Another thing that impacted the way he handled puberty was that Catholic school deans and teachers never discussed puberty or sexual education. He never learned about STD’s, pregnancy prevention or even sexual anatomy in school. My grandparents taught him that sex was for marriage. Sex became one less thing for him to be bothered with since he only wanted to be on the basketball court each day.
One of the things he wished my grandparents would have taught him was that girls would behave differently. He stated, “At the start of 8th grade, some of the girls looked completely different. They had developed so much that it was hard to believe they were little stick figures in 6th grade”. He went on to say, “They were bold and flirtatious and I didn’t know how to respond.” One girl tried to kiss my dad. He thought that if he let her kiss him, she would become pregnant. He thought that having a baby would interrupt his basketball dreams. It was not until high school that dad learned the truth about babies at the dinner table with my grandparents. When asked about being an early bloomer, he was not sure how to respond. He was considered to be an early bloomer because he was always the tallest boy in class. However, his moustache, scented underarms and ultra-developed muscles didn’t jump on the puberty train until the age of 16. The only thing that was embarrassing about puberty is that he didn’t have the muscular physique that other boys had on the basketball team.
When asked if the present generation has an easier time with puberty than his generation had, he gave an answer to which I stand in strong disagreement. He explained, “Kids today have a harder time with puberty because of the music and television shows of today. Kids are scantily dressed and everything that influences them is too sexually suggestive.” In my opinion, these are the things that make puberty easier to manage. Kids are comfortable with these changes because they welcome them. Their understanding of puberty is greater because of the internet, social media and in classes that were not taught 60 years ago. These things make dealing with puberty easier. More than likely, dad was saying that dealing with puberty is harder on today’s parents than when he was young. His wisdom was priceless and I wished we had talked years ago.