What shall I do with these desires

Meanwhile, as we have recognized repeatedly, beneath the surface our adolescent is tremendously concerned with his feelings. He is pulling back from them, uncertain. He wants to like himself. He wants others to like him. He doesn't want to show or do what he believes is "bad." And yet the urges in him are strong.

Inside him expectation is warring with hesitance and hope is arguing with fear.

In some way, somehow, his body feelings must be managed.

He would like to ask: What can I do with these feelings? How can I control them without crushing them out? Please, can't you help me find some way that's safe and lets me feel I'm all right?

If we are to help him, we must keep in mind what we know well at this point--that even though the strength of his urgency is stepped up, the sex feelings themselves are not new.

Far earlier, in all probability, he found a way of gratifying the body feelings through touching himself.

With the unfolding interest in sex and the fresh wave of feelings accompanying physical development, the boy or girl usually starts masturbating once again or continues it with a stronger and more irresistible urge. Then, if old feelings of shame and guilt persist, as they many times do, the increased urgency makes for greater conflict.

He tries to stop.

He can't.

He struggles in vain. Inside himself he suffers untold agonies. He feels himself a horrible failure. He can't like himself. How can anyone like him?

The misery of self-condemnation makes fear heavier in him. It makes him feel more than ever that he is "bad." He deserves to be punished or hurt.

And so he is all set to believe anew any old "horror" stories about masturbation that reach his ears from the outside or that echo inside from his "forgotten" past.

On a sound scientific basis we can say masturbation in itself does not mar body or mind. We can say that many boys and many girls do it. And that it hurts neither. It does not make a girl frigid. It does not make her less capable of enjoying sex when she marries. Nor does it make a man impotent. It does not drain his sap or waste his seed. There are millions of sperm cells in the testicles and new millions are constantly being generated.

"Like in a factory!" one teen-ager exclaimed in relief.

Asked Carl, another teen-ager, full of worry, "Are you quite certain Pop, it won't make you crazy?"

"No, it won't. That's a stupid old superstition."

The belief arose out of what doctors and attendants noticed in institutions for the mentally ill. People who are insane do often lose inhibitions. They lose their sense of time and place and do many things openly which ordinarily would be confined to privacy. This Carl's father made clear to his son.

Time and time again, a boy or girl feels that others can tell what they have been doing by looking at them.

"Isn't there a certain look about you? Or dark circles? Or a pasty, pimply skin?"

Such things are completely untrue.

So also is another worry that many parents have. "I've heard," said one, "that if a person masturbates, it keeps him solitary. He is apt to find too much satisfaction in it and won't bother then to seek satisfaction in more mature ways."

The person who has within himself emotional conflicts that make him withdraw may use prolonged masturbation well past the time when he could be marrying. If our youngster is a recluse and we know that he masturbates, our concern needs to be directed at removing the solitariness, not at removing the solace. Using the masturbation as solace is the result, not the cause. needs a solace. The more afraid he is, the more he needs it. Fear that he will be hurt by "giving in" to his sex feelings only adds to this need.

Occasionally a parent feels free enough and convinced enough inside himself to say casually, "It doesn't hurt! Not in any way."

Occasionally a parent can even add, "I was unwise to frighten you by silly warnings when you were little. I know now that that was one of the mistakes I made in bringing you up."

At best, masturbation can only be a substitute. Until the sex drive can permissibly lead to mature contacts and the culmination of love and mating, the problem remains of finding some means of temporarily handling sexual feelings.

Parents who know that the sex drive is strong know also that it will in some fashion have to be released. They know that stifling it and trying to keep it under entirely makes it more difficult to control.

"I've heard that when you play football hard enough, it takes care of the sex instincts," says Rod crestfallenly. "I certainly wish it would."

"They say if you keep your mind on higher things and are real, real busy, you won't have time for sexy thoughts," says Rhoda with equal discouragement.

Some adolescents cannot, other adolescents can and do manage to divert sex feelings into nonsexual channels. It's as if the urge to procreate biologically were transferred to the urge to create in some social or intellectual sphere.

Great and zealous devotion to a cause, especially in a group with others who are similarly devoted, may call forth so much

Boy meets girl

No doubt the problem of most concern to most parents during their children's adolescence has to do with boy-girl contacts. There are practical, down-to-earth parts to this. Parts that deal with behavior and conduct--with how a boy or girl ACTS.

There are other parts to it also. Parts that have to do with how a boy or girl FEELS.

Too often we talk about and work with the first part only. For feelings related to the sex drive have long been hard for us to deal with.

As a result, we are inclined to focus on how our children behave in their boy-girl relations. We are inclined to by-pass how they feel. It's as if we were expecting them to handle their feelings automatically by the attention we pay to their acts.

As with other things, however, we do better if we pay attention to both.

At the beginning of the puberal cycle, a small gland--the pituitary gland--located at the base of the brain sends out a secretion called the gonadotrophic hormone. This in its turn sets off growth of the sex glands, the testes in the boy and the ovaries in the girl. It stimulates them to produce sex hormones or endocrines of their own and eventually to manufacture mature sperm cells and egg cells.

The puberal cycle with these internal changes starts long before puberty proper. Though the girl's first menses ordinarily come between twelve and fourteen, the changes inside her body start anywhere from nine to twelve; sometimes even as early as eight. Though boys ordinarily have their first seminal emission around thirteen or fourteen, the internal changes begin between ten and a half and twelve, in some boys even as early as nine.

As the internal changes progress, the outward changes come. These we notice as we observe our teen-ager's growth. They proclaim to the world and to the opposite sex that childhood is being left behind. Here, for all eyes to see, finally stands a woman. There stands a man.

The puberal cycle, however, does not stop with puberty. Internal changes and often external growth continue for several years.

It is probably a combination of the physical changes, the sight of the opposite sex growing into maturity and the perception of one's own development that brings the upsurge of sex feelings and the increased interest in sexual concerns.

When boy meets girl in the early teens, hesitance is usual.

On her part the girl is giggly and coy. She whispers and titters and has secrets with her girl friends. She seemingly shuts boys out. Perhaps this is because she is thrown together in school and elsewhere with boys her own age. These boys seem "babyish" and beneath her, since they are normally slower to develop. Till about fifteen, they are apt to be smaller. Their beards are pinfeathering and their voices quaver.

With disdain, the girl looks down on them. "That Bob! Those boys! They won't dance. They won't do anything!" with a snort. "They don't know a horse from a cow. They don't keep their ears clean. They actually smell!"

But give the same girl a chance at some more mature and noble-looking creature, then her interest crops out. "That Roy! Have you seen him? Let's face it, he's terrific! He's six feet tall if he's an inch. He simply walked away with the class election. I tell you, he rates! Only, do you know? One of the girls said he wanted to kiss her the second time they dated. That's rushing it too much. But still, let's face it, he's cool!"

Nevertheless, if she suddenly finds her Adonis seeking her out, quite unexpectedly she may retreat.

Ruth has been dying and sighing to be asked to the dance in the gym by a boy two grades ahead of her. However, when the invitation actually materializes, Ruth turns it down. "I was crazy to go," she exclaims, "but I couldn't. I'm crushed. I've never had such a bitter disappointment. What happened? Why can't I go? Don't forget there's that tremendous assignment we got in English. Miss Zee's a mean one. If I don't get it done, well, you know . . ." lamely trailing off.

On his part, the boy in his early teens characteristically sneers or teases or turns on his heel at sight of girls. George, who is thirteen, says with contempt, "The girls in my class think they're real cute. They act real conceited and real glamorous. But when you try to talk to them they just ignore you and act so big shot they give you a pain."

Mike can't see his older sister for dust. From his thirteenyear-old viewpoint he belittles her attractiveness and doesn't see why any of the boys want to take her out. But one evening he sticks his head into her room to call her to the telephone and catches her half dressed. In spite of himself, young Mike lets out a whistle. "Oh, boy! Bosoms!" he exultantly exclaims.

Actually both boys and girls are tremendously conscious of the other sex and are reacting with body feelings that frighten them.

The boy, seeing the girl of his own age as more of a woman than he is a man, often unconsciously identifies her with "Mother." The earlier love-rivalry feelings then come rushing. His jeers then serve as self-protection to make himself keep himself away.

Somewhat later when he falls, he usually falls for a girl much older. This still is protection. He knows that "older women" are quite out of sight.

Similarly the girl entering her teens who yearns for an "older man of about seventeen" still holds the picture of an idealized father in mind, so that she is ordinarily her own dictator in insisting for herself that the arm-length policy prevail. She will hang on to the telephone betraying her interest in everlasting conversation about boys at first, and later with them. But she still must keep the distance safely between.

This might be termed the period of avoidance. A pause, as it were, in which to build courage.

Some boys and girls seem to skip this period. Some go through it before they reach their teens. But when it exists with its various incompatibilities of boy wanting older girl and girl wanting older boy and the older ones of both sexes looking down on the younger ones, there are resultant barriers which either bother parents or let them breathe a sigh of relief.

Thirteen-year-old Dave's mother was one of the bothered ones. She was overconcerned with her son's lack of interest in girls. She arranged for him to go to dancing school. She invited girls over. She surprised Dave with a "gorgeous Valentine party," and kept urging Dave to "be nicer to girls."

However, when he crawled inside himself, becoming more morose and truculent, she decided she had better get inside herself for a change, at least for long enough to do some soul searching.

"Yes,"--she came up with a good discovery--"when I was twelve or thirteen, my older brother wouldn't pay the least attention to me. I was utterly crushed. I see I've been identifying myself with the girls Dave neglects; as if I were in their boots, once more being neglected myself. I've been thinking of them and not of how Dave feels at all."

The change that followed in her attitude helped Dave to be franker and more open.

"Girls," he confided to her, "they're just impossible."

"I know." She nodded, feeling with him at last. "I know they make for a lot of problems."

"They sure do for boys."

His mother's mirroring of his feelings was far more helpful than her earlier proddings. It left him freer, when he became ready, to move ahead at his own speed.

In contrast, some parents try to delay things and are pleased if their youngsters are not concerned with the opposite sex. "He's got plenty of time to go with girls!" Or "I'm grateful, believe me, that she doesn't care about boys yet. I'll have enough trouble on that score later."

The age at which boys and girls become outwardly interested in each other does vary. So--be watchful and tolerant. And in early adolescence, don't try either to hold back your child or to push him on in his contacts.

Let your young teenager's INTEREST IN THE OPPOSITE SEX develop at HIS OWN RATE.

About Menstruation

Love affairs start long before seventeen

As boys and girls grow into adolescence, old wishes, fears and imaginings are bound to crop up inside them. Probably the most important of these date back to the first serious love affair which almost every child lives through during his first five or six years. It is the love affair that the little girl fantasies having with Father and that the little boy fantasies having with Mother.

It is a love affair that invariably ends in disappointment. A love affair that inevitably brings frustration. It must.

As it runs its course a child must learn to accept his littleness with its deprivations. At the same time, he needs also to gain a sense of still being worth while and beloved.

"My daddy likes me most," says small, blond Lisa, "because I'm a girl and he's portly to females." Already she holds the conviction that as a woman creature she is acceptable to a man.

"You mean partial," says her older brother amusedly.

"Daddy, yes, maybe. But not Mother. She likes boys the best."

These convictions as to the parents' partiality are not destructive but natural. The girl's wish to be Father's favorite is her first marriage dream. The boy's wish to be Mother's favorite is his.

When there are several boys or girls in the family, they will naturally vie with each other. In their own minds also each vies with the parent of his own sex.

Four-year-old Peter's designs are bold and bloody. "My daddy's leaving on the train tonight . . . The train is going to get wrecked. Then I'll be the daddy around here."

Walt, at nine, has not yet outgrown his rivalry. On his parents' anniversary after they have gone out to celebrate in the evening, he picks a red rose. Carefully he places it on his mother's pillow. Then he gets a ribbon and stretches it down the center of the double bed. At the foot, he prints a sign. "Congratulations! But, Daddy, stay on your own side."

Five-year-old Mabs, her mother reports, is a regular siren. "She flirts with her father from the moment he sets foot in the door. It's 'Rub my back, Daddy.' . . . 'Please, Daddy, smooth my hair.' . . . 'My arm's itchy, Daddy, scratch it gently.' . . . She crawls into bed with him practically every night."

But there came an evening when Mabs gave away the other side of the story. Her father was busy and seemingly ignored her. So she accosted him bitterly. "If you're too busy to pay attention to everybody, you better not pay attention to Mother. She's too old. You better only pay attention to me."

Obviously Mabs had in mind a fantasy of shoving Mother out and of taking her place.

But here grave danger enters. It is one thing to fight against brothers or sisters for supremacy. It is quite another to fight against a mother or father, especially when the child imagines wanting the big rival out of the picture.

The excitement Mabs had felt when she roughhoused with Daddy had been much like the excitement she had discovered in a certain part of her body when she had touched herself, in the same way as most children touch themselves. But Mabs had learned, as have most children, that touching is "bad." In her mind she put the two things together: The feelings you get when you touch are "bad." So the bouncy feelings with Daddy are "bad" . . . Especially since they were connected with the fantasy of getting rid of Mother . . . Mother would come and take Daddy away. She would take away whatever Daddy gave Mabs. And she might also hurt Mabs, injure her, do something nameless to the special place where the excitement registered. Do something fearful to her body . . . The very thought was too terrifying . . .

Mabs, like many other children, finally had herself thoroughly scared by her fantasies. To escape and deny them, she did a rightabout-face. Suddenly she would have nothing more to do with her dad.

"Your whiskers pinch me," she threw at him and shoved him away.

Meanwhile she clung afresh to Mother. She wanted now to climb into bed with her instead of with her father. "When I grow up, Mommie, you and I--we'll get married."

"Why, Mabs, you know girls don't marry ladies."

"But I want to, Mommie. And we won't have any old stickery men around."

Through making her father's whiskers a fence to keep them apart, she hid the fantasies of wanting him as husband. Through claiming excessive love for mother, she hid the mindpicture of shoving her out.

One more thing she did to bring comfort. She began eating constantly. And when she couldn't get things to chew at, she chewed at her nails.

In this Mabs was running back to the more babyish focus on mouth satisfactions to avoid the excitement-pleasure in that part of her body which had scared her too much.

As her father talked with the psychologist about the problem, he discovered many things.

"I see," he said, "I see among others that by tickling Mabs, bouncing with her and taking her into bed at night, I played up the very feelings she feared."

A baby needs physical closeness in the earlier periods of his life, with both father and mother cuddling him plenty. But in this period of love rivalry the body excitement of tickling and poking, of tossing and bouncing and of too much caressing is blown up by the child's wishful imaginings. He becomes stimulated beyond his capacity and becomes mortally afraid of his big rival's vengeance. He is filled with a kind of animal fear beyond all reason that he will be punished and hurt in that part of his body where the excitement has been most intense.

If he has had warnings against masturbation or threats because of it, he is apt to attach such warnings to these similar sensations.

Long before a child reaches adolescence there will then lie inside him several strands linking sex with hurt in his mind: If you touch, you will hurt yourself or hurt will descend on you . . . If you try to rival Mother or Father and shove out the one you are rivaling, hurt will come . . . If you're a girl and have a baby, you'll be hurt; or if you're a boy, you'll cause the hurt and you know well that if you cause hurt, you will bring hurt down on yourself too as punishment.

All children have feelings similar to Mabs'. They have the same urges and the same fears but ordinarily to a lesser degree. The overstimulation Mabs had received simply made her feelings more intense.

With some children still another source of fear may enter. Perhaps they have seen or overheard their parents having sex relations and imagine that Father is hurting Mother.

Or perhaps a child sees animals in the sex act. Says Nina, seven, excited but bothered, "He put his puppy seed into her backside." Like many another child she imagined that the rectum was being used and her mind jumped from animals to men and women and she concluded that with them the same thing occurred. Then disgust added itself to the fear.

If a child can live through the love-rivalry period, admitting the rivalry feelings and having them accepted and understood, he is fortunate. But once more actions and feelings need to be separated. He must have it made clear as crystal that actions which take Father from Mother or Mother from Father are of no avail. But this does not mean that his feelings are "bad." Quite the reverse. They are good and important. They plant a healthy desire to love and be loved later on by someone of the opposite sex.

Says Tad's father gently, "We know, Tad, there are times when you can't stand me, when you'd like me to disappear so you could be the boss around here. That's natural. All boys are that way. They'd sort of like to be their mom's husband and get rid of their dad. But Mom and I couldn't get along very well without each other. When you grow up, you'll be getting a girl of your own . . ."

Stell Smith's mother and father said nothing in particular. But their tolerance and warm interest in Stell's feelings said a lot for them. They were firmly entrenched in each other's affections and this was part of Stell's sex education. Stell's mother accepted her little girl's adoration of her father, and her father took it quietly, responding with kindly warmth but not seeking more numerous or greater displays of affection.

Stell's mother expected her child to be hostile to her out of jealousy for the place she held and which Stell coveted. Stell's father knew his little girl would also have her moments of hostility to him because he could not grant her what she imagined she wished. Both parents took Stell's displays of animosity with easy forbearance. They felt assured that if they permitted her these feelings, she would pass through the loverivalry stage with greater security. She would shortly arrive at the day when she could admire and imitate her mother as a mother and not as a rival, and admire and love her father as a father and not as a longed-for sweetheart who turned her down.

Both smiled out of their own depth of love and understanding when Stell announced one day, "I'm glad I'm a Smith. There are so many Smiths in the world that when I grow up-what do you think? I can get myself a husband with Daddy's name."

During the love-rivalry period and out from the dim, dark infant past, these and other fantasies are universal. During adolescence, when man-woman relations again move to the forefront of the individual's mind and emotions, old desires and fears are apt to be rejuvenated. These may transfer from mother and father to sweetheart and lover.

If they prove too frightening instead of strengthening, the adolescent may hang back, unconsciously loath to take his place as a mature man or woman. He may remain essentially hesitant about sex feelings. He may, as protection, belittle sex because of old fears and shames. Perhaps then he runs back to the mouth pleasure of food and drink as the aim of existence, finding in them somehow a more dependent and dependable safety than in moving forward. Perhaps instead of love he seeks bigger and better productions, turning back the clock to the time when another kind of production gave him claim to fame. Perhaps he shuns contacts with the opposite sex as well as with his family, unconsciously afraid of loving any one person too much, afraid that another person may retaliate with injury and hurt. Or perhaps he goes berserk in sexual exploits trying to show by bravado that no fear exists.

In any case, it may prove comforting to us to know that what we have done is not altogether the cause of whatever problems confront our boys and girls. The thoughts and the fantasies which they invented earlier also play their part.

We can perhaps be more tolerant as we take this into consideration. We can then fulfill our role better in answering what they are after and in steering them safely into man's and woman's estate.