The crisis in these years is a physical one, arising in connection with the functioning of new physical powers. Coincident with this the passions are born, bringing to many lives the severest of temptations. If ever a close intimacy is needed between father and son and mother and daughter, it is at this time of mystery and question, when the life does not understand itself nor the meaning of what God now gives it. The sacred confidence between parent and child is infinitely better than the best intended book upon the subject, which arouses further curiosity and kindles the imagination. When the home fails in nurture at this point, the Sunday School teacher must earnestly consider what of responsibility falls upon him.
The rapid physical growth of these years is often accompanied by awkwardness, due to the fact that the muscles are developing faster than the bones, making delicate adjustment impossible. There is painful sensitiveness over this, especially with boys, as hands and feet must be in the open, and they will easily construe any criticism or ridicule into a desire to be rid of their presence.
" ... And what if their feet, Sent out of houses, sent into the street, Should step round the corner and pause at the door Where other boys’ feet have paused often before; Should pass through the gateway of glittering light, Where jokes that are merry and songs that are bright Ring out a warm welcome with flattering voice, And temptingly say, ‘Here’s a place for the boys!’ Ah, what if they should! What if your boy or mine Should cross o’er the threshold which marks out the line ’Twixt virtue and vice, ’twixt pureness and sin, And leave all his innocent boyhood within? Ah, what if they should, because you and I, While the days and the months and the years hurry by, Are too busy with cares and with life’s fleeting toys To make round our hearthstone a place for the boys.”
There is a sense of pressure and nervous excitement throughout the whole life, for the “invoice of energy” is not exhausted. Athletics afford physical relief, and slang, which is at its height from about thirteen to fifteen, offers somewhat of an emotional safety-valve. Experiences are never commonplace during this period, nor any individual ordinary. The strongest superlatives and most extravagant metaphors will scarcely do a situation adequate justice, but nurture can afford to be patient, for “this, too, will pass,” and of itself, as life grows calmer.
The feverish excitement is not at all to the distaste of the adolescent but, on the contrary, he courts it. The “reading craze” is at its height in this period, and books which give “thrills” are sought by both boys and girls. There is increasing necessity of wise oversight in the choice of reading when the mind is so inflammable and easily led, and the fact that a book is on the shelf of the Sunday School library is unhappily not always a guarantee against the need of further parental inspection.