This Is What It's Like When Puberty Hits

by Melissa L. Fenton
Originally Published: 

I can clearly recall what puberty looked like way back in the mid -’80s when I went through it. It started something like this: All the seventh-graders shyly walked into health class, the girls and boys were separated, and then a soft-spoken teacher spent several days talking about breast buds, pubic hair, maxi pads, and heavy petting. We giggled over drawings of side views of penises, were told we needed to start wearing deodorant, and learned that everybody’s bodies change at a different time and at a different pace.

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If we wanted to learn anything else about our bodies, we headed to the school library and searched the encyclopedia for photographs of naked native peoples in their habitats, because instant porn on our tablets had yet to be developed (thank god). Then we spent about the next few years piled into our bedrooms listening to Duran Duran, prank calling boys we liked, hair spraying our bangs 3 inches above our heads, and in general staying out of our parents’ way.

What I don’t remember is a lot of talk about my bad teen attitude, teen bullying, or any type of discussions with my parents about my changing body. We kinda went through puberty in a vacuum back then, with our parents still very much in the background of our lives, not hovering. Quite honestly, the only thing I remember my mom noticing about me was that I needed to be wearing a bra. I don’t remember it being a volatile phase, full of constant changes and frustrations.

Unfortunately, these days, this is not the case. We modern moms and dads are in it, and in it deeply when our kids go through puberty. We just may not recognize it right away.

I don’t know about you, but I had no idea what puberty was going to look like for my sons until it practically happened overnight, and I hear it’s the same for girls. So what can moms of girls and boys expect it to look like? Well, aside from a few of the obvious body changes, be prepared for the following:


They will not stop eating. Be ready for something called second dinner. Then third dinner. When you find yourself buying eggs in cartons of 36, you know you’re smack in the middle of puberty.

Height happens overnight. Growing out of their clothes like the Hulk is an actual thing. My son skipped three whole shoe sizes in the span of six months.

Voice changing is bizarre and shocking. One day your kid answers the phone, and you think it’s your husband so you say something inappropriate. Yeah, that.

Privacy becomes their top priority. They will start hibernating in their rooms, only coming out for food or rides. It’s OK, they need their space at this age.

Fuzzy beards on baby faces are funny. It’s a big deal for them when they need to start shaving. Be prepared for them to suddenly need to start at the exact moment one whisker pokes out.

Hide your good lotions. Just do it. Trust me. And keep plenty of boxes of tissues around. And always knock first. ALWAYS.

He will stop hugging you. It will hurt your heart, but it’s only temporary. But keep trying anyway. One day he’ll hug back.

His language skills revert back to toddlerhood. Grunting. Incomplete sentences. Pointing. Whining. All of it. Unless he’s in front of another set of parents — then he’s freakin’ Shakespeare.

They take risks. The consequence and danger filter in a teen male brain is not yet developed. There will be several what the fuck were you thinking? moments per week. Sometimes by the hour.


Tears. Just because. Because everything and nothing all at the same time. No rhyme or reason. No explanation. Just tears running down sad and pissed-off faces all the fucking time.

Tears. More of them. More often. Did I mention crying fits yet? The floodgates only a marathon viewing of Steel Magnolias could induce are spilling over into every aspect of your daughter’s life, and nobody, including her, can explain why.

They get mean, and you’re the punching bag. The teen mean girl is not an urban myth. One day, out of nowhere, they wake up suddenly royally ticked off about things like algebra and all of life in general. I’ve heard it described as the The Exorcist meets Children of the Corn one night in your kitchen over spaghetti and meatballs.

Drama Club anyone? If you thought your mom drama was enough to make you want to drink by 10 a.m. daily, you’re about to be upstaged by someone half your size. This would be a good time for your daughter to join a local theater company, because holy shit feelings and emotions, ya’ll. She’ll be feeling all of them, at one time, and in 45 seconds.

Elsa and Anna underwear are fine one day, then it’s Victoria’s Secret thongs the next. HUH? Not only do you instantly become the furthest thing from cool, so do your daughter’s undergarments. Thanks VS marketers for telling my 12-year-old she needs a lace thong to empower her. Fuck you.

Her moods are like a box of chocolates. That’s right moms, say it with me: You never know what you’re gonna get.

Rebellion. I was 15 once. I get it. But being on the other side of “NO, NO, NO!” really sucks. When they’re toddlers and do this, who really cares. When they’re 15, and they do it? Well, bigger kids, bigger problems is no joke. Brace yourself while they exercise their demons for a few years. They’ll come back around. Promise.

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