Thank God Puberty Blues is almost over!

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I am a mum of three daughters…one of them is just over 3 years off being a teenager. So when I heard that Michelle Mitchell, who is the sister of a friend from school, wrote a book called ‘What Teenage Girls Don’t Tell their Parents’, I shuddered at the thought that my baby girl, was going to become secretive and not tell me her most inner thoughts and plans, when she hit the teenage years.

And then the show ‘Puberty Blues’ started. The ads were very explicit about the issue of teen girls, lying, sex, and basically being a royal ratbag. I was very quick to find myself changing the channel when the ads came on.

I am protective of my kids, I see my role as a mum is to protect my children’s innocence for as long as I possibly can.

I have been wanting to write something about the show ‘Puberty Blues’ from a mothers point of view. I have seen bits and pieces of the show, in fact, I have probably seen half of one episode. I know that some girls do live their lives just like the girls on the show…but my hope and my prayer is that my girls see themselves as good girls and their desire is to do well at school, have safe fun with good friends, get work and grow up into quality people, without going down the track of sex, smoking, drugs, experimenting with anything bad and ultimately dishonouring themselves.

After looking at Michelle Mitchell’s blog, I found that she had written a brilliant piece about ‘Puberty Blues’. She has given anyone permission to use the article, so I have copied it here into my blog so that you can read it and hear her heart and love for young women going through adolescents. Michelle works as a youth worker in Brisbane.

So, let me know what you think. Over to Michelle.

If you haven’t caught the confronting new show Puberty Blues on Channel 10 you would be one of the few. Some tell me they flick between it and Criminal Minds simply because they find a “zoomed in” picture of a teenage girl having sex for the first time a bit too much to swallow. My own husband walked into the lounge room during Sue’s first sexual encounter and shouted at me, “What on earth are you watching! Turn that off. Seriously how old is that kid?”

But most parents I meet aren’t turning off, they are hooked. I get the feeling that a small amount of parents are reliving their childhood memories through the show. For most however, it’s an eye opener to the reality of teenage relationships. It’s educating them and they are going as far as using it as a sex educator for their teenagers. Some of them are even recording the show to “discuss it” with their kids at a later time. Awkward according to their teenager!

The show has been so popular that I am regularly asked the question, “Have you seen Puberty Blues? What do you think of it? Isn’t it confronting?” To which I must agree, “Yes. It’s definitely confronting.” The conflict between what teenage girls and boys want out of relationships is strikingly confronting. For me that’s been the biggest eye opened in the whole show – male chauvinism meeting the fragile female self esteem.

Answering the question, what do I think about the hot new show, is complex. If Puberty Blues is making you think that teenage sex is a normal part of growing up I hate it with a passion. BUT if it’s making you feel protective of your daughter or son, then keep watching! AND if it’s making you think twice about where you let your kids go and who you let them go with, I’ll buy you the series.

I do understand that basic biology drives a lot of sexual experimentation, but I also know that there is more to sex that biology. It is the values and attitudes that underpin sex that make it work in real life. These values minimise the risk of your son or daughter psychologically damaged through the experience. They make sex safer in real life (and not just on a TV screen) and take time to fully develop.

When teenagers have sex before they are ready, or before they have developed these values, it can be devastating for them. I see it every day and that’s possibly what makes me so passionate about this subject. This week…

1. I’ve supported a girl who had an abortion at 14. Her baby was due this Friday. That’s been sad to watch, especially since her boyfriend who she moved in with has cheated on her three times in the past few months.

2. I’ve seen a girl who had unprotected sex with a boyfriend (of two weeks) who dumped her the morning after to go out with another girl. Her mother drove her to her boyfriend’s house to hang out because she thought he was a nice guy and now wonders what she was thinking trusting that her daughter knew now to take care of herself.

3. I’ve seen a girl whose boyfriend hooked up with another girl at a party leaving her to complete her all important QCS exam in buckets of tears. Hope it doesn’t impact on her alibility to get into university.

These are normal kids who all have families who care about them. When their daughters’ hurt, they hurt.

So, here’s where I want to cut the chit chat and get straight to the point. I want to spell it out really clearly. Teenage relationships are often focussed on high pressure sexual experimentation, like you will see in Puberty Blues. The words of Debbie basically summed it up perfectly, “If he can’t root you what’s the point?”

The reason I have felt the need to spell it out so clearly is because I know many mothers out there are still thinking teenage relationships are about friendships and innocent fun. The truth is the good old days where boys kissed girls on the cheek are over. Dead and gone. The days where girls give boys blow jobs on the beach, in the back of a car, in their bedroom or at the movies – they are alive and well.

What I want to challenge is parent’s accommodation of boyfriends (and girlfriends) at startling young ages, which in turn leads to sexual experimentation and risky and sexual behaviour before teenagers are ready for it. Parents sometimes have a romantic ideal about their daughter having a boyfriend at 13. Romantic relationships are not some pass into adulthood and they aren’t all hunky dory. They usually end in heartache and that’s why I won’t support them. I wouldn’t leave my daughter unsupervised in the hands of many males at 13, certainly not a Dani or Bruce.

Your good looking daughter needs a few more years to mature until she knows what she wants out of life. She needs to know how to say “no” and mean it, especially under pressure. She needs to learn to nurture herself. Once she knows how to respect and cherish herself she will be ready to nurture someone else.

The saddest bit it is when parents think their daughters are strong enough to handle a romantic relationship and they find out that they aren’t, after the fact. They think they have taught their daughter self respect but later find out she has buckled under pressure. Don’t be under any misconception – peer pressure is real and so is regret sex. This generation of girls may not be “surfie molls” but they may be under just as much pressure to please those around them.

I recall the third episode of Puberty Blues when Sue and Debbie walked passed Freda, lying in the back of a van. She was poised ready for a boy to climb on top of her and “do his thing”. The look in her eye was helpless, yet compliant. Her mind read, “This is what I have to do to fit in. This is what boys want,” rather than, “This is what I want”. Sue and Debbie’s eyes locked for a moment. There was mutual understanding, a brief moment of sisterhood, before their concern was swallowed up by their boyfriend’s attention again.
My plea to parents is this. Don’t let your desire to protect your daughter get lost in the notion of romance. Girls give sex for romance and acceptance, according to both Puberty Blues and my understanding of teenage girls. Let’s not encourage them to get into romantic relationships before they understand themselves. Let’s not ignore the reality that sexual experimentation goes hand in hand with teenage relationships.

According to the Sexual Health and Secondary Students Survey (Australia 2008) it introduces 78% of teenagers to sexual activity, many before they are ready to handle it. I’d rather my kids stick to chocolate and caramel (or rather caramel and chocolate) milkshakes until they have formed a strong sense of who they are. My guess is that will take about the same time as their high school education.

So tell me what you think?