Puberty is a long road for boys

Sunday, August 17, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:15 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 25, 2008

They say that boys are three years behind girls in the maturity bracket, but I think it’s more like 10. Girls start preparing themselves for puberty just months after they’re potty trained.

My granddaughters were smearing lipstick somewhere near their lips before they could brush their teeth. And they’d clomp around my bedroom in my old high heels before they could ride their bikes without training wheels.

Boys, on the other hand, mature like slugs move — verrrrrry slowly. The only way you can gage their age is by counting missing baby teeth. It’s not until the first pit hair appears that you realize that IT’S about to begin. Puberty.

Unlike the females who race to the bathroom to find a razor to remove the unwelcome hair, boys prize their underarm treasure. I remember when one of my sons discovered his first pit hair. He came running into the kitchen with his arm in the air pointing to the tiny fragile thread. Hours later, he discovered its twin under his other arm. For the next several days, I couldn’t get him to wear a shirt — he preferred strutting around the house with both hands behind his head, showing anyone who cared to look the matching virgin hairs sprouting from his armpits.

Early this summer I watched with awe as my oldest grandson performed the very same puberty ritual. And for us in the know, this is the starting bell; it signals that my grandson is going to test his parents’ patience and sanity for the next five years.

The physical changes that take place are astonishing. My short chubby little grandson has lost all of his baby fat and has shot up in height. When my boys were going through these growing spurts, I had a devil of a time keeping them in jeans that didn’t look like capris. Today boys don’t have that problem. They just keep pushing the pants down so that more and more of their underwear shows.

Two weeks ago my grandson came over and showed me yet another sign that he was entering the awkward age. Scattered around his forehead were bright red bumps — what we called pimples in the ice age are now called zits. I watched as he kept pulling his bangs down wishing them to grow long enough to cover them. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that this is just the beginning of the battle. These dastardly bumps will disappear and then reappear in prominent places on his face throughout high school — usually the night before a big date and ALWAYS on the day of school pictures. And unlike girls who attack the blemishes with gusto, squeezing the very life out of them, boys at this age become real pansies. They ignore them until they become small boils about to erupt at any minute.

If all this were not enough, my grandson’s voice is beginning to change. There was a time when both my grandson and granddaughter had the same high-pitched voice, so it was a tossup to figure out to whom I was speaking when I called their house. I guessed wrong several times before I started engaging the child in conversation. Now his voice wavers from high to low (and sometimes both sounds come out together). WARNING: Do not laugh! I learned my lesson the hard way when my oldest son’s voice started to change. He was so mortified that he stopped talking for a week and wrote out responses on a note pad.

Thank goodness he hasn’t progressed to the most disturbing and often destructive part of puberty — the Other Woman. Right now, my grandson and I have a pretty good relationship. I know that one grunt is yes and two means no. But once SHE steps into his life my time with him will be severely limited.

I remember that phase started with a phone call.

“Hello is Dave there?” The smug sexy voice is unnerving.

“His name is David, and he’s studying right now,” I lie.

“Well tell him that Amber called.” (Isn’t that some sort of stone?)

When my son showed up I told him about the call confident that he’d just shrug his shoulders and go to the kitchen to eat a small cow. Instead he raced to the phone, snatched it from its cradle and dashed to his room where he holed up for the next half hour. As I pressed my ear to the door, all I could hear was mumbling and giggling. My nearly 200-pound son was actually giggling. It’s enough to make a mother sick.

I’ve tried to caution my daughter about what lies ahead, but she just laughed and said “Oh it will be years before he is interested in girls.”

I tried to hide my smirk. She’s been warned. And she gets to take it from here.

If you have a comment or want more advice (I’ve got stories that I can’t print), please e-mail me at

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