I recently took my 11 year old son for his yearly well visit with the pediatrician. At the end of the appointment, and after being assured all was indeed well, the doctor handed me a nifty little printout detailing the visit. The first page listed current height and weight, any labs and tests ordered, results from vision and hearing screening, and any follow up appointments that needed scheduling. How nice to have all that information neatly summarized on one page for easy reference – thank you, electronic medical records.
Then I turned the page.
The next page was captioned “11-14 Year Old Adolescent Visit”. Adolescent? My visceral reaction to reading this was “Holy sh*tballs! For reals? Where did that come from?” I was just getting used to the term tween. Tween is cute. Last week he was still 10 years old. This week he’s 11 and suddenly the word adolescent is being bandied about? That just has a clinical ring to it I’m not sure I’m ready for.
And “11” is light years away from “14”. In my inner panic all I could picture was a sullen, monosyllabic sleeping and eating machine who is six inches taller than me, at risk for trigger thumb from too much texting and suddenly interested in commercials for Axe deodorant. This is a far cry from my sweet little boy who still reaches for my hand whenever we cross a busy street (if no one’s looking, of course).
I don't know why I was so floored. From infant to toddler to preschooler to big kid to tween (and technically I think I can still hold on to that one), my son’s new identifier as “11-14 Year Old Adolescent” is just the next step, right? But there it was in black and white, mocking me as if to say "ready or not, here I come!"
The document went on to list information and guidelines about topics such as school performance, immunizations, testing, nutrition and oral health, physical, social and emotional development, and talking to your newly minted adolsecent about "risk behaviors" – you can just imagine what that’s about.
“Doctor,” I said, “Don’t get me wrong, I think this handout is great, but that ‘11-14 Year Old Adolescent’ thing kind of grabbed me by the throat.” This man, who has been my son’s pediatrician for 10 years, laughed and said, “Yes, I know it’s a shock, but it’s here.”
And the hormone talk, like spring, must be in the air. A few days later as I was looking over the curriculum topics to be covered in his class after the spring break, I noticed that “Puberty” was nestled in there between the Latin American Unit, Rocks and Minerals, and Essays and Fiction Writing.
I turned to my son and asked him if he knew what puberty was. “I don’t know”, he shrugged “something about growing up, I guess”.
Like the doctor said, it’s here.
It’s really here.
Have you had "the talk" with your kids yet? How did you handle it? What's in store? I really want to know!