* Photo courtesy of author
Having raised three children (current ages 19, 22 and 23) means I survived puberty four times!
How I survived puberty four times
My own, then theirs and I still have one more to go (current age 3.) Now that I am in my 40’s I can tell you it was and still is one of the most difficult and curious times. The changes, physically, emotionally, and to your skin, is a lot to take in for a kid.
I digress – if I didn’t tap into my own experience, I couldn’t have supported my kids through theirs. My theory is that losing baby teeth is the first real noticeable change in children. After that, the kid that loved you, needed you, wanted to crawl into your bed, freely gave and offered hugs, now wants their friends. Sleepovers – usually at some other mom’s house now deemed the “cool” one. Or the kid that didn’t have to share a room, or the one with the newest game console.
Several years ago, during our annual camping trip, I watched my friend’s daughter, Nicole, play freely in her kid bikini, catching fish with her hands, climbing trees, catching lizards, just a real tomboy at heart. I enjoyed watching her, as my own daughters had passed this stage. This is the calm before the hormonal storm comes crashing in. I called mom and dad, Felicia and Matt, over and asked them to watch her. I said, it all goes so fast, enjoy this moment. I think they thought I was nuts, but it really is a blink of an eye fast! Said daughter is now very much a typical teenager and she still thinks I’m cool! And I think mom and dad finally realize it is really a special time that goes so quickly.
Top 5 rules of surviving puberty:
Remember your own!
If I didn’t have the ability to recount my own disastrous changes, stretch marks on the front of your thighs, anyone? Anyone? My growth spurt (4’11” to a whopping 5’2”), semi-oily skin and, although for the most part my face was pimple-free, my chest and back not so much. One positive was my pug nose finally looked a little more like it belonged on my face and, as I filled out, people stopped calling me Olive Oyl!
Keep communications open!
As rough as it might be parents, let the kids talk. About the changes to their body (yes, hair down there) to hormonal changes, to cute boys or cute girls. Take the dramatics in stride and try and find a way to let them “express feelings” without it ruling (or ruining) your household dynamics. Try to set a time – you have 10 minutes to mope around, then I want you to go play, clean your room, call a friend, go to the movies! It is a good idea to suggest alternates as their minds are on overdrive. You can even offer (gasp) to take them to the mall or out to eat.
Being a kid is tough and inevitable friendship dynamic change in middle school. I talked to my kids about the many forks in the friendship roads they would face. Middle school is the first major hurdle, it is perfectly normal and okay to make new connections – bonding through music, sports or other interest. It is also important to instill kindness. You won’t like everyone and everyone won’t like you. Nevertheless, treat everyone respectfully.
Your job is not over
Even though you see physical changes, and are on the uncool list, remember your child, no matter how stubborn, needs you. Through high school, through college and beyond. The appreciation may fluctuate throughout the years but it’s important you stay consistent.
As you let the reins go a little bit take the time to treat yourself to a day or date night out! I needed my own friend time to recap what my child confided in me earlier. Part of being a parent is the say anything aspect and in turn you need to “say anything” to your friends! It takes a village.
I didn’t have a cell phone until well into my 20’s and you know what?! I survived and thrived in this world! I survived boys to men, the forks in the friendship road, and three teenagers! I did it by following these five rules and a lot of wine nights! It is not always easy but think of puberty as the caterpillar years and soon will come a beautiful, colorful, dynamic butterfly. That you helped create!
Jake McKenna Ibarra is a mother, writer and 4th generation San Francisco native. She studied early childhood education at S.F.C.C. and is a certified SBD doula, focusing in postpartum, certified in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders through Postpartum Support international and is also a P.S.I. member. In her spare time you might find her walking around San Francisco.