Confession: I’m Terrified Of Puberty

by Joelle Wisler

My son is 10. He has never been that wild, rambunctious boy who is driven by his testosterone to leap off of tall objects. He usually looks at the tall object, measures the distance, and then makes an informed choice about leaping.

He’s sweet and sensitive and cries at the same parts in movies that I do. He thinks about things, assessing all danger. He always checks to see how deep the pool is before he cannonballs in. He communicates. He talks about his feelings, and I always know if something is bothering him because he wants to discuss things with me and his father and come up with ways to make things better. If you’re thinking I lucked out, well, you’re right, but don’t worry, his little sister is making up for him in the pushing-all-of-our-boundaries department.

But he’s 10.

Soon he’s going to be 11. And then 12. And then all hell is going to break loose in the form of a hormone called testosterone. And I’m terrified.

I’ve seen glimpses of what might happen. Most often, they are little rages from him when he thinks something isn’t fair or when he doesn’t want to do something like clean his room. Just recently, while at a climbing class, he was yelling encouragement very loudly to a friend, and I saw another glimpse of what was to come. He started shouting like he was suddenly overcome by something outside of his carefully curated control. He was wild and untethered. His teacher was like, “Whoa, that was some intense yelling.” I later asked him what it had felt like to scream like that, and he said, “So crazy, but kinda fun.” Well, that’s testosterone for you. So crazy, but kinda fun.

I’m scared that when puberty comes knocking at our door that he will become someone different than the sweet-talking, curious, animated child whom I adore. I don’t want to lose him. I don’t look forward to the shy smiles turning into sullen looks when I ask how his day was, or his solid, sure hugs turning into avoidance and shrugs. The smooth boy face turning squarer and hairier and more manly. The already voracious appetite turning into him eating all of the food in the house. The little boy stinkiness turning into plug-your-nose smelliness. The chatter turning to quiet. The open doors and quick-fire questions turning into a closed door and lots of parental locks on the internet. I don’t look forward to any of it.

The anger, the moodiness, the hairiness — I’m scared of it all. I don’t even want to talk about the magazines and other horrible things I will find in his room.

Those things are so not him. I don’t want to lose who he is.

I realize that he needs to change, that it’s important for him to let us go a bit. It’s healthy. It’s normal. And there will be things that I enjoy about his growing — his pride in being independent, his accomplishments, his figuring out who he is and who he wants to be. Him towering over me will be cool but kind of strange too.

I will love all of that. But for now, I find myself hugging him just a bit tighter, holding those sweet, smooth cheeks, and listening a bit closer to that boy-voice that hasn’t yet started to crack into a man-voice. I will encourage his chatter and his off-key singing and the way he looks me in the eye when he talks. I will memorize all of it for those days when he won’t need me as much. For when all I hear from him are grunts and requests for money. For when he turns quiet. For when he let’s go. I will hold on while I can.