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Warning: Puberty in Boys, The Things They Don’t Tell You

recognize puberty in boys

I don’t remember the day when my son hit puberty. It seemed to happen in the blink of an eye or maybe it happened so slowly I didn’t see it until it was in my face. So much was changing, not only for him but for me. I was completely caught off guard by all the different emotions I would feel.

When did he grow so tall?  I no longer was looking at him eye to eye and had to tip my head back to look into his eyes. He talked less to me. My heart started hurting as he was pulling away.

No one can prepare a Mother for their son to begin to morph into a young man.  But, it would have helped if someone would have warned me, shared what to expect and how she felt. Maybe her experience would have eased my mind, helped me to panic less and relish this time just a little more while reassuring me that he would come back.

Here, sweet mom of a tween and teen boy, are some of the emotional and physical changes you can expect your son to go through, from my own experience, so you’re not caught off guard.

May you be comforted and reassured that your feelings are normal and your son is too…

He will talk to you less, need his privacy more and begin to pull away.

Your heart will ache a little (and if you’re like me, you will cry behind closed doors).

Me sitting on the edge of his bed during late night chats became few and far between. He wanted his privacy. Instead, I would knock, poke my head in and say a quick I love you and good-night.

If I acted out what I was feeling inside I would have desperately gotten on my knees, wrapped my hands around his ankles and allowed him to drag me around while pitifully crying, “Come back! Please don’t go.” It took every fiber of my being to contain myself (and I wish I could tell you this goes away).

You will doubt yourself A LOT.

He no longer spent hours hanging with me in the kitchen and would retreat in his room. I would wonder, “Is he okay? Is anything wrong? Should I go check? Should I leave him alone? Might he need to talk if I only ask him?” I had no idea what he needed from me.

When I’d ask if everything was okay, he’d answer back – “Everything is fine.” “What does fine mean?”

When I tried to pry or go digging for more information he’d shut down. Sometimes, in an attempt to get him to engage I’d end up nagging (at least I knew how to do that!).

My husband continually told me I was worrying too much and to stop hovering (must be nice to be him – right?!)

You will fall from your pedestal.

There is something very special about a mother and son bond that you just can’t put into words. I still remember the days he adored me when he was little. He would grin and talk to me for hours. And we would laugh. It was easy.

One day I was cool and the next I was anything but. I went from funny and interesting to boring and irritating.

His mood swings can be violent.

Remember that tweens and teens cannot regulate their emotions, their brains are still developing and they have no impulse control.

The best you can do is not engage, no matter what they say remember these are the hormones speaking, the undeveloped brain. He still loves you, just give him his space.

Your grocery bill will double.

The first words out of his mouth after he dropped his backpack and went up to his room was, “What do we have to eat?”

Food was the way to his heart. We went through food like it was air. I made daily trips to the grocery store. And when the friends came over the pizza delivery man became my new friend.

He will start thinking and talking about sex.

When your son is 10 or 11 girls still have cooties. At 10 they don’t blink if they’re offered to see a naked woman but when puberty hits this all changes so buckle your seat belt.

You may find doodlings of penises or he may snicker or make an inappropriate comment because one word someone says instantly takes on a sexual meaning. He may look at pornography. Don’t worry. This is all part of his raging hormones and his transforming into a man. He’s not a pervert (just make sure to find a way to block pornography to keep him safe).

He will stink (BADLY!).

It’s like molding cheese or a hundred raw onions.  You will walk into a room or they’ll get in the car and you will bite your tongue to keep from saying, “Holy Cow, that smell could kill a horse!” When they have friends over the smell is worse (but keep them coming).

This is when you run, run as fast as you can to stock up an arsenal of deodorants, body washes and Axe (a tween/teen boy favorite).

He will take a shower. Then another one and another. All in one day.

The days when it was like getting a cat to take a bath are now over.  While the stink can be really bad, the good news is they will love taking showers, lots of them. And they will be looong enough to double your water bill.  Just be grateful, the alternative is worse.

You will become familiar with all the acne products.

My son even watched YouTube videos and followed them. He tried everything, then one day his face cleared up at about 18. A little tip is to buy an antibacterial soap to kill the bacteria that causes zits and smells.

His voice will change.

This is really something to behold. His voice will go from high to low to cracking to low to high all in one day. You may be tempted to laugh. Don’t, unless he does first.

He will sprout right before your eyes.

His clothes will become floods after you just went shopping a few months ago. My son’s shoe size went up a couple of sizes in a span of two months.

Don’t worry if all of a sudden they seem to gain some extra weight and even look a little pudgy. This is normal right before they sprout up.

Hair will grow like a chia pet (depending).

I still remember my son’s friends comparing their armpit hair and joking around. My son didn’t have any even though he was taller than most of them.  How much hair usually depends on the family and their “hairyness” factor.

That sweet baby face will start looking like a young man. The peach fuzz will get fuzzier and he will be asking for a razor (usually before he is really ready).

The sheets might be sticky.

I hate to be gross here and didn’t know if I should bring it up, but I’m going to because I had no clue what this was.

Your son will have what is called “wet dreams.” Maybe you are less clueless than me, know what these are and that this is normal. “Wet dreams” (sticky, damp areas in pj’s and sheets) don’t mean your son was having a sexual dream or masturbating. He can’t control this happening. It is a natural and normal part of his body developing.

He might have spontaneous erections.

Again, I had no idea. What I do know is this is when I’m grateful I’m a female.

Just so you know this is normal. It just happens (without them doing anything). This can be embarrassing for your son especially if it occurs in school or out in public.

And making sure he knows this can help save a lot of embarrassment and make him feel more comfortable talking about it.

He may begin humping things joking around, or rubbing himself.

All normal. We just had a little rule to live by – “you can do it where ever you can do it behind a closed door.” Whatever you do, avoid shaming.

His breasts may swell a little.

I get asked about this so I will let you know that this too is normal. Some boys may get short-term swelling and tenderness around their nipples and it can be painful. Usually after a few months (sometimes within a year or two) the swelling will disappear.

He will need your patience, understanding and guidance.

This is the time you may be tempted to go away because, let’s be honest, it hurts when they distance themselves and we don’t know what to do or say.

Don’t go away. Do give them privacy. Knock before you enter. Understand they will be moody, they need space, lots of food, and patience.

Don’t hover, as hard as it may be. Let them know you love them and you are there to talk if they need to. One of the best things I did was sit with my son when he played video games or was watching sports (notice how I said sit, not talking). Driving in the car and going to breakfast were ideal times where he would open up. Remember that they don’t know how to navigate all of these changes and an increase in expectations. They won’t tell you, but they are scared to grow up too.

You both will experience growing pains for different reasons.  Let me assure you that he deeply loves you and that he will come back around. I can’t promise you it will be easy but I know that your new relationship will be special in a different way – you will be friends.

One last word – I wanted to share some helpful resources. Talking about puberty with our sons can be, for most of us, awkward and embarrassing. It’s can helpful to have some resources to help and normalize that these conversations. Most of all let your son know that you are there to answer any questions they may have.

Here are some books to help!

Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys (age 8+) by Cara Natterson and Micah Player

American Medical Association Boy’s Guide to Becoming a Teen (ages 9-12) by American Medical Association and Kate Gruenwald Pfeifer

What’s Going on Down There? A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up (age 9+)

The Boy’s Body Book: Fourth Edition: Everything You Need to Know for Growing Up YOU! (ages 9-12)by Kelli Dunham RN BSN

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth

These conversations happen all the time, and we have a lot of questions! Lucky for us we have a great community filled with other moms who have the same questions, and moms who have been there. Join our private online community of Moms of Tweens and Teens and be part of the discussion!

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4 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your insight into puberty in boys. It was very enlightening and humorous!! We have two boys ages 15 and 13. While we experienced puberty with our first born without much knowledge but with some instinct, he seemed to level out so far. Like the individual he is who likes to differ from his brother at times, our youngest dove right in head first!! LOL It’s definitely a roller coaster ride and it’s refreshing to know others are going through it too.

    1. Hi Cassandra – You are so welcome! I’m sorry that I missed your comment! And, I’m so glad that you found it humorous! Best to you with your two boys! And, I hope you will join our Moms of Tweens and Teens Facebook Community. Blessings to you and yours! xoSheryl

  2. But…what’s with all the showers? Single mom here so I’m a bit leery to ask him. Should I assume they’re not about showering? :-/

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