NEW YORK — Attention boys: You will grow taller, sprout hair, sweat more, develop muscles, fight breakouts, acquire deeper voices and experience changes to your private parts.
And those are just the basics!
Dr. Cara Natterson, the pediatrician and Los Angeles mom who has connected with millions of young girls through her best-selling “Care & Keeping of You” books has now written one specifically for boys. She takes a head-to-toe approach to puberty and adolescence after years of requests from parents for a book boys can claim as their own.
“Boys have very little information in the print world. Our social conversation about puberty has been largely directed at girls,” Natterson said in a recent interview. “We are really good at talking to girls about puberty and body changes and social changes and emotional changes, but we are really bad as a society in talking to boys about it.”
Mixed with all the usual stuff are facts about how genes work and the ups and downs of early bloomers versus late ones. But Natterson goes deeper in her “Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys,” serving up the difference between confident guys and arrogant guys, for instance, and urging boys to not only own their own personal spaces but honor those of others.
Natterson's advice is written in meat-and-potatoes language with a touch of boy-friendly sass and lighthearted illustrations covering all contingencies, such as how to care for greasy hair and dandruff. As for ears, keep 'em clean, guys, Natterson counsels, while also dispensing advice on such things as caring for piercings and the dangers of blasting music directly into one's head via earbuds and headphones.
She does the same for eyes (”Seriously, don't stare into bright lights”) and for the mouth (she extols the virtues of flossing). Natterson takes on more embarrassing stuff, too, like boxers versus briefs.
As for the face, she does some myth busting: “Shaving doesn't make your hair grow back thicker, but it might look that way,” she writes. “That's because when you shave, you cut the hair straight across, and the blunt end looks bigger than the narrow, tapered end of uncut hair.”
Good to know, especially for the 9- to-12-year-old set Natterson hopes to reach, along with older boys who may read the book.
Much of the more general information is valuable for girls, too, with similar tips in the three books Natterson wrote for them. In addition, she has put out companion volumes for moms and daughters to share, with how-to scripts and a joint blank journal that includes writing prompts — all intended to start potentially sensitive conversations.
Natterson and American Girl Publishing put out the first book for girls, “The Care & Keeping of You,” in 1998, later updating it and splitting it into two volumes, one for younger girls and one for older girls. In all, Natterson's books for girls have sold nearly 6 million copies and remain favorites among educators, doctors and parents, said Natterson, who has two kids, a 12-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl.
She acknowledges her work isn't the only resource in book form, but she said she worked hard to make her information accessible and direct.
“When you give kids information written directly to them, and parents read these books as well, then there's a common language and a common starting place where you can begin to have conversations. The entire goal of this series, and now for boys as well, is to start conversations between kids and trusted adults before puberty,” she said.
When those conversations don't or can't happen, Natterson urges kids to consult credible sources of information — rather than random searches of the internet, including image searches that lack all context.
As for a black hole of prepubescent boy specific resources offline, Natterson points to several things that may contribute: “Boy puberty changes that happen initially are less obvious than girls. Girls get curves. Boys don't. Girls have their growth spurts earlier than boys. ... Meanwhile, when you look at the science, the boys are really not that far behind. It's just their changes are a little more silent in the beginning.”
Natterson also takes on emotions, with a chapter on moods and how to manage them once puberty comes knocking. She breaks boy moodiness into two general categories — quiet and withdrawn, or angry, impulsive or aggressive — but she makes it clear that not all guys may experience puberty that way.
Some, she writes, may “stay pretty even-keel,” adding: “Of course, many guys do more than just retreat into themselves or act out. Some will act silly or whiny or flustered. Some will be super dramatic. Emotions look different on different people. Simple as that.”