Friday, March 09, 2012

A trial for kids and parents

From today's Briefing:

A small group congregated, away from the crowd, and spoke in low voices. There was giggling. A couple of gasps. Some reddened cheeks.
The topic: puberty.
The whisperers: not teens or preteens, but moms of fifth-graders.
Our little group casually gathered before our boys’ soccer game last week. We were talking spring break destinations, middle school electives and then the biggest topic of the week. The maturation video. Thefilm.
Just after 2 p.m. today, fifth-graders across Frisco will segregate by gender to watch a 20-minute video about their changing bodies.
They will have time for questions and further discussion. Then they’ll pack their backpacks, head out the doors for a week away from their peers and into homes led by parents with varying degrees of comfort discussing puberty.
My level of comfort has improved over the past few months. Partly because Cooper has already learned about puberty — and much, much more — from a trained counselor in a church-led sex education class. And partly because there’s really not much of a choice.
My child won’t stay a child forever. There’s no stopping the natural plan for his body. I’ve got to get on board or get left behind.
I recently watched the video that Cooper and his buddies will see this afternoon. The boy version focuses on hygiene (frequent showers and deodorant, please) and what to expect as the body and its reproductive organs mature.
As you hope an educational video would, it’s all explained with correct medical terminology. There are some animated drawings to describe functions that would be inappropriate if illustrated with real people.
What impressed me most — in both the version for boys and the one for girls — was the adult behavior. Granted, they are actors playing parents and teachers and a school nurse, but they are good role models for the giggly adolescent that still lurks inside most of us.
When children in the video asked questions about their changing bodies, my first instinct was often to squirm, to dart my eyes around the room, even though no one was with me.
Not so for the serene adults in the video. They treated each question with earnest, calm concern. They didn’t once giggle or turn red or condescend or dismissively wave off a child. They spoke with simple language, never shying from the truth. (Though I quibble with the optimistic notion that eventually girls just get used to their periods, as if it’s no big deal.)
When Cooper completed his church-sponsored sex ed class last fall, all the kids and all the parents made a vow. That they would be honest, and so would we. That they would come to us as the experts, and that we would always answer.
So today I’m bracing for more questions. I’m working on shifting my instinct from nervousness to laid-back cool. And I’m focusing on gratitude for my built-in support group of friends, for plentiful resources and for the opportunity to be an expert for my son — as long as it lasts.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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