It Happens Sooner Than You Expect

While finishing my first cup of coffee this morning, I realized that my adolescent had not returned at all last night. I knew he was getting more restless every day, but I never expected him to stay out all night. I searched the house and the neighborhood, calling his name. I put out an online appeal on Can anybody help me? Have you seen him?

It was probably his hormones, I realized. Puberty arrived earlier than I expected. “You should have taken action sooner,” I scolded myself. But…I thought I had more time, so I hadn’t made it a top priority. Did I wait too long? Would he be safe? Would others be safe around him?

At 11 am, he finally came home. I was relieved…until I saw the blood around his ear.

Leo, my nine-month-old, orange-and-white tabby cat, had been in a cat fight. After I cleaned him up and assured myself that he was not seriously injured, I called the vet and made the appointment I had been procrastinating—Leo will be neutered next week. Until then, he’s not going outside, no matter how loudly and often he howls.

A year ago, my previous pet cat, the beloved 13-year-old Midnight, had never returned home after one of his nightly outings. Although that incident was unrelated to cat puberty, it was nonetheless a very traumatic event for me and my boys. This morning, when Leo didn’t return, in spite of winter temperatures well below freezing, I’d experienced a flashback to last year’s heartbreak. With Leo, why hadn’t I taken action sooner?

Leo’s adolescent urges will be tamed pretty easily, with just a little snip. With human teenagers, however, that option is not available. At least, I don’t think it is…

When my sons went through puberty, I also procrastinated before taking action. I assumed that school and church would educate them properly about matters related to sex, morals, and relationships. Maybe I wouldn’t have to have “the talk” with them.

The schools and the church did their best, but, to be honest, those institutions provide little shelter in the hurricane of our modern culture. From TV sitcoms to movies, from MySpace to mp3 lyrics, our children are buffeted by strong societal winds as they enter puberty. As parents, we need to voice our values, knowledge, and wisdom to them—early and often.

As my sons can tell you, I did eventually have “the talk” with each of them, but it was brief and awkward. As a father-son talk, it was true to stereotype—short on details, long on unspoken assumptions, with minimal eye contact. It was not one of my finer moments as a Dad, and I regret not doing it sooner or more conscientiously. (Is this an easier job for Moms?)

As humans, we don’t have to be slaves to our animal instincts. Teenage boys don’t inevitably tomcat around, and teenage girls don’t go into heat. But if you’re a parent of a child on the cusp of adolescence, please don’t underestimate the power of puberty.

Published in: on February 19, 2009 at 8:56 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. After reading through the article, I feel that I really need more info. Could you suggest some resources please?

  2. As I implied in my original post, I’m not sure that I did that great a job with my kids. So, I’d look to experts like the ones mentioned on the following websites:

    If you follow the links within these websites, you’ll find a good range of additional perspectives. Good luck!!

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