One of my most favourite experiences as a “fun” Auntie to several fabulous young humans was building puberty supply kits.
The trial run happened without any prompting from me (surprising, given my day job as a sexual health educator!) when my oldest nephew came to stay with me for a hockey tournament. On our way to stock up on snacks of questionable nutritional value, we were catching up on life in Grade 5 when my nephew asked me if I thought he was going to go through puberty soon?
I responded by telling him that, given what I know from my job, he was already in the process.
Did that mean, he asked, if it was time for some “supplies?”
I asked him what he meant by supplies?
“Deodorant. Body Wash. Boxers,” he replied. “Definitely Deodorant. Some of the guys on my team have been using it since last year!”
I suggested that maybe we could build a puberty supply kit together over the weekend.
The kit quickly became our medium for easy and comfortable dialogue about puberty. We spent a considerable amount of time smell-testing deodorant and body wash which enabled a talk about how the “smelly” products do not replace every day showers.
We talked about how going through puberty takes a lot of energy and sleep to keep energy levels up and feelings stable. I tried to give him a heads up that his parents really aren’t out of it when they enforce bedtime, face washing and teeth brushing!
We talked about how to wash changing bodies: genitals don’t require soap on the inside (they’re not dirty!) and just a bit of mild soap on the outside with a gentle pull pack and wipe with a cloth if a penis has foreskin.
We talked about how even when we take good care of our skin, inevitably pimples will happen to most people during puberty and not just on the face but on sometimes on backs, chest and legs—especially if someone’s physically active.
We had a great yet brief discussion about feeling self-conscious about pimples and how we are often way more aware and critical of ourselves than others are! Empathy and grace work with ourselves, too.
We talked about his love of sports and how that helps him physically and emotionally reset and this led us to keeping sports equipment including skates, cleats, and bags clean and aired out and how growing up also means taking responsibility to care for our stuff, for example, not leaving it to others in our families to deal with (insert wishful thinking here!) We laughed about how obvious it is when we’re not airing the equipment out because you can smell the funky socks, running shoes, and gloves long before you see them!
Over the course of the weekend, I encouraged him to trust his body as it practices to be an adult through the process of puberty. Framing puberty through a practice metaphor helped to surface more personal topics like erections and wet dreams, aka nocturnal emissions.
We laughed about how bodies with a penis practice to be adults, in the form of random and awkward erections and wet dreams. We spoke about how to manage the random erections—a) think of something else and b) physically move your body to redirect blood flow—and a firm reminder that erections aren’t always connected to sexual feelings.
There was a brief (less comfortable yet still manageable) exchange about wet dreams and how if there’s a few drops of fluid on the inside of boxers/pyjamas/sheets from your penis in the morning simply put them in the laundry. We debated briefs vs boxers for comfort, preference, and testicular health and how the scrotum needs support during sports but it’s all about the hang loose/airflow at night.
Just as importantly, we talked about the emotional supplies needed during puberty. This is often a conversation that gets most often missed with our male-identifying youth and yet it’s vital to their well-being. What supplies/tools aka coping mechanisms are needed to manage the emotional and social changes ahead; the moments that feel too big, too hard, too frustrating, or too confusing? What tools already work for him? Is it shooting hoops in the driveway when your sister annoys you? Is it going for a rip on your bike because you got a low mark on your socials test? Is it gaming because you feel you need an escape? Is it playing with the dog because you’re anxious? These are the tools that we need to be reminded of as we gather the supplies to practice to be an adult! Did we cover every facet of puberty in two days? Absolutely not but that’s what follow up visits with fun Auntie are for, right?