Saturday, April 30, 2011


"Oh give me a break..." My son says in a low, nervous voice to himself. Mumbling and giggles are heard as the video being played on the big screen contains a cartoon image of a preteen girl becoming a young woman. My son tilts his head into my shoulder as the same video is now presenting a boy growing (all over I might add) through his teen years. The kids break out into an unsettling laughter as the screen is filled with tales of pubic hair, sweat glands and reproductive organs. Yes this is a bonding moment for fathers and their sons as we witness "Changing Bodies" a film providing helpful, accurate, age-appropiate information regarding the physical and psychological changes of puberty. 

Two days before this night, I and a few other parents were invited to watch the short film in a way to pre-shock the parents into realizing that sooner or later someone is going to have to tell our kids where they came from. The health teacher conducting the lecture is straight forward and direct while talking about the sensitivities of the subject and seems up to the task. I sit there confident in the presentation and with the format of father and sons watching it in one room and the mothers and daughters watching it separately will soften the blow. The teacher also wants to make sure that the kids sit with their parents instead of the kids gathered together while the dads huddle in the back staring at their phones. "This is an important opportunity for sons to foster and encourage comfortable and open communication between themselves and their parents." The teacher explains.

As I walk into the school's multi-purpose room with my son, we have already discussed the evening and what to expect in the movie. We sat in the forth row towards the center aisle for optimal viewing. Before the movie portion starts, the teacher introduces himself, outlines the evenings agenda and proceeds to pass around a hand-out containing about thirty-four questions, each one with either a True, False, or Not Sure answer. I let my son glance at the questionaire, and as I watch his eyes move down the page, I see a series of smiles, then eyebrow scrunches ending with a drop jaw response. The teaches goes through each question and the boys respond out loud. I scan the room to see the dad's reactions upon reading the questions, some are smiling, some are squirming and some also react with the drop jaw. A sample of some of the questions:

1. If a boy has pimples during puberty he will probably have them all his life.
7. Most boys stop growing at the age of fourteen ("I hope not!" someone screams)
9. Penis size had nothing to do with height, muscle build of sexual abilities.
10. Wet dreams are common for most boys. (this is where my son turns to me and asks, "Did I have any yet?")
13 Erections can occur for no apparent reason at all. (Gasp from the crowd)
23. Voice changes are caused by the growth of the larynx or voice box. (A boy then asks if there is also a laugh box?)
25. Most women have a period every 28 days. 
31. Boys should pay extra attention to their nutritional balance when they enter puberty.

Now we are set to watch the movie. The movie covers the body changes in girls as well as the boys in an effort to teach respect, and privacy, "After all there will be moments for boys and for girls to be in situations where discretion is needed." the teacher continues, "What would be an awkward time for a boy to get an erection" resulting in a boy in the front row to respond "Right now?", easing the uneasiness in the room. The movie concludes with the child actors playing soccer and feeling good about themselves, while our kids are fidgety and tense. 

The teacher turns off the projector and approaches a few more topics with both kids and parents participating in the discussion, allowing the apprehension to subside and by the end of the evening everyone is relaxed and feeling positive. 

The teacher recalls a time when his oldest of three daughters asked him "Where did I come from?" and after gingerly detailing the attributes of men and women, the genetics of reproduction and scientifically laying out the steps to how babies are made, his daughter interrupts him and says, "Geez dad!, I just wanted to know what hospital I was born in!" 


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