April 6, 2008
Birds, Bees, and Beanies
Last night our 10 year-old son asked us at what age boys begin to produce sperm. We responded that it usually happens somewhere between ages 12 and 16, figuring that was a safe enough ballpark estimate, although admittedly, I hadn’t (nor have I yet) taken the time to check out the “official” stats on any of the parenting/puberty/and whatnot sites. Then, a few moments later, as my wife was tucking him in, I’d heard our son ask her whether the age range we’d given him applied also to haredi (i.e. ultra-Orthodox) boys as well. My first thought was “what the heck is he asking, why would he think it would be any different?” Only once my wife explained to me our son’s logic, did it become clear to me that this was quite an intelligent question. The idea behind his question was his thinking that diminished exposure to the opposite sex might somehow delay the onset of puberty. I don’t specifically recall ever having discussed with him the impact of environmental factors on adolescent development (though perhaps my wife had), so I was quite amazed that he’d independently come up with an idea like that! I haven’t gone ahead and investigated whether such a phenomenon has been scientifically documented, but gee was I impressed that a 10 year-old would make such an inference.