Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Walking in my children’s shoes May 28, 2018

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A157CC50-42CD-40DC-8B3C-B93DD2FB8DB5Sometimes we get opportunities in life that present themselves, that give us back way more than we expect. I recently took part in the annual “Parent’s rowing regatta”, organized by my teenage daughter’s school. As a mother to rowers, including both the men-children a few years back, and now my daughter (AKA Sister of a Man-Child), I jumped at the chance to learn how to row and get out on the water.

There were a few reasons I was keen to partake:

  • Firstly to actually give it a go – I know if it had been offered at my all girls school many years ago, I would have jumped at the chance. As it turned out, it was introduced just a few years after I finished school – who knew what a massive sport it would turn out to be for girls (and yes like too many things, the boys were already well established in the sport).
  • Secondly, having heard my daughter talk about some of her experiences on the water, the stunning sun rises, the sense of gliding on the water on a crystal clear morning in Melbourne, the view of our city from the river, I wanted to experience that unique point of view for myself.
  • And thirdly, having dropped our kids to so many early morning training sessions over the years (yes 5.30am on the river is very early), I guess part of me was keen to understand just what all the fuss was about.

So off I took myself, with another three willing rowing mums, for our first Parent’s Regatta. We arrived with a sense of excitement, trepidation, anxiety and most of all fun. After a short briefing, and ensuring our colorful wigs were in place (yes the Parent’s Regatta wasn’t limited to making yourself look stupid rowing, you also looked stupid by dressing up), our journey commenced.

We met our coach, a lovely ex school girl and rower, who had volunteered to take on our motley crew for the morning, and our cox, a current student and rower, who admitted, when casually asked, that she had never coxed before, therein introducing a moment of slightly nervous panic by the crew, especially since they are responsible for STEERING the boat people!!!

One of our key questions of the coach/cox and other parents who had participated before, was whether or not it was possible we would end up tipping the boat or falling in the Yarra River. None of us wanted this to happen, firstly out of sheer embarrassment, but also because the Yarra River isn’t exactly the healthiest of water ways to be submerged in. Of course they assured us it wasn’t actually possible to tip the boat (kind of a white lie) and that only those who stood up in the boat were the ones who had fallen in previously. Note to self – DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES STAND UP IN THE BOAT.

So off we went to commence our journey. First things first, grab some oars, and get the boat on the water. Yes, this was the real thing, there wasn’t a boat pre-prepared and waiting for us to daintily step into, ready, for our first foray at rowing, no, we had to do it all ourselves!

And so the learning began. I can tell you, our kids make it look so easy, carrying a rowing scull above their heads, and gently placing it in the water, attaching the oars, all set for rowing. But what I now know is that those bloody boats are HEAVY (especially if it’s an old wooden boat like the one we were using, not a new sleek, light weight fibreglass model) and AWKWARD to carry and hold, and damn near impossible to place delicately into the water. And for we people with short arms, that stretch to attach the oar isn’t an easy task people!

So after much patient instruction by our coach and cox (God, they must have thought we were useless), we finally found ourselves sitting in a real rowing scull, on the river, holding two oars each and praying we wouldn’t tip over and end up very wet (and embarrassed).

Over the next hour, they taught us the basics of rowing. And trust me when I say, the rowing machine at gym does very very little, in fact nothing, to help you know how to row once you are doing the real thing. The rowing machine doesn’t wobble un-nervingly when four women feel slightly off balance, the rowing machine doesn’t have two oars that need to move together, but somehow also overlap, and hit the water at exactly the right angle, and then also lift above the water oh so gracefully (we weren’t even TRYING to feather our oars – that’s a whole other skill). The rowing machine doesn’t need turning, which requires a unique combination of one still oar and one moving oar, akin to tapping your head and patting your stomach. And the rowing machine doesn’t have another three people on it, all rowing at different rates, and accidentally hitting your oars and “catching crabs”.

504A12BF-020C-4511-BD79-5A19C8812F8EYet, with all of the above, do you know what happened? We actually, finally, by some amazing stroke of luck, managed to get our boat moving down the water, with four of us rowing mostly in sync, and actually “rowing” (okay, I will use the term loosely here, but hey, at least we were moving downstream). We had our wonderful coach running beside us on the river bank yelling instructions and encouragement, and our fabulous cox doing the same, whilst also steering the boat and accounting for our very uneven stroke rate and technique.

We had two “races”, if you call a couple of sculls racing each other down the river, over a measly 400 metres, with a very rough start line a “race”, and one win and one loss. But for us, no-one was a loser on the day.

And after a couple of exhausting hours on the water, we finished our session, pulled the boat out of the water, washed it, and put it away, before enjoying a champagne brunch with the other crews (yes it was a PARENTS regatta). 🙂

So after all that, what exactly did I learn?

  • Rowing is hard work. It’s not just the physical rowing part, add to that the boat management before and after, when your muscles are already tired, and you’re lifting a large vessel and it’s a solid few hours of very physical work.
  • Rowing is NOT easy. With a new insight into the technique required to row, all the things you need to think about, and co-ordinate, not just yourself but in sync with the rest of your crew, I am in awe of my three children. They made it look so EASY to keep your back straight, push with your legs, pull with your arms, twist the oars just so every stroke, perfectly dip the blade in the water for maximum impact, then delicately feather the blade above the water on its return. All without catching a crab, smashing the oar handles together, catching them in your ribs, or hitting your team-mates oars.
  • Rowing is a team sport. If you want a lesson in team work, look no further than rowing. To excel in the sport, it takes absolute precision in team work, that I think no other sport can claim. When you have a crew who are rowing at the same stroke rate, with the right technique, with consistency, you have a great rowing crew. And if you don’t have the FULL team, whether that’s a crew of 4 or 8 plus the cox, you can’t row. Simple, end of story. No other sport is so reliant on the contribution of EVERY member of the team in every race, and at every training session to achieve their end goal.
  • Rowing looks good on your CV. Both my boys have had several prospective employers comment about their rowing and the many perceived benefits. Discipline, reliability, sense of team, physical demands, drive, competitiveness. All attributes an employer would look for in a future employee.
  • Rowing is addictive. The feeling of achievement from contributing to the propulsion of a boat down a river is amazing. The view from the seat of a scull, looking up at the banks of the Yarra and beyond on the wonderful city of Melbourne, is fantastic. I can only imaging how serene a still, calm, fresh Melbourne morning must be when you are rowing. Add to that the sense of physical achievement of a job well done, muscles aching from strain, but knowing you have worked your body hard to achieve results, with the subsequent release of endorphins, of course it will make you feel good.
  • Rowing is a community. My daughter has commented about the amazing sense of community that she shares with others, not just her crew and coach but the entire rowing cohort. It’s a very tight-knit community and crosses many year levels, all hugely beneficial in my mind.
  • And lastly rowing is FUN. I had an absolute ball having a go at rowing. Our team had so many laughs on and off the water. We were all very competitive, and determined, but it wasn’t about winning, it was about participating, and achieving something personally and as a team. If time permitted, I would love to do more of it – but fitting it into an already hectic schedule and making the commitment to a team just isn’t possible right now – and that’s hard for me to admit, but hey, sometimes you just have to say no.

So in the interim, I will enjoy being a rowing mum for another few years, continuing to embrace all that rowing means (early morning training drop offs, rowing breakfasts, regattas, extra training sessions), watching with awe and a deeper appreciation as my daughter rows her way downstream, and probably (much to her embarrassment) cheering even louder and harder for her, knowing she is putting it all on the line and that the team are doing an amazing job rowing. 🙂

Any other rowers out there who share my pain and/or joy?

I’ve written about rowing before back when the men-children were rowing.

https://motherofamanchild.com/2012/03/02/hats-off-to-the-my-rowers-theyre-amazing/

https://motherofamanchild.com/2011/04/01/mother-of-a-man-child-row-row-row-your-boat/

 

 

My book is in Readings! April 10, 2018

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readingsIt’s fair to say to I was pretty pleased with myself to finally self-publish my book recently, via Amazon’s publishing services, which offers on demand digital printing.  It’s a very cost effective model for a fledgling author, and very 2018 quite frankly.

I have been overwhelmed by the response to the book to date, and the support and encouragement from family, friends, colleagues, business associates and my extended networks.

I have learned how hard the world of publicity is, but thankfully I have tenacity in spades, so “no” is not really in my vocab.  I now understand that “nagging” is a thing in the world of PR, and can actually be quite successful.  Actually it’s also a skill I honed with the men-children and now their teenage sister, so who knew it would be so useful in later years.

Amongst some great little PR wins along the way, I have to say I just achieved my best result to date – my book is currently being stocked in Readings bookstores in Carlton and Hawthorn.  For anyone who lives in Melbourne, you will know it’s a well known independent retailer of books et al, and a truly iconic Melbourne brand.  It’s more than just a bookshop, it’s a destination, and the fact that they have survived the online disruption of the book industry speaks volumes about their brand.

So if you haven’t yet bought a copy of my book, and you’d like to purchase a copy, I know there are a small number waiting patiently on the shelves in two awesome bookshops in Melbourne!!  Of course, I am hoping there will be a rush to Mother’s Day – what better gift for the Mum in your life?

So here’s to the lovely buyers at Readings, thanks so much for your support.  Here’s a bit of PR right back at you!

Mother of a Man-Child

 

 

Mother of a Man-Child now in print! September 17, 2017

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Book blog postSo, I finally did it!  As I promised to my men-children when they turned 18, I have indeed published the Mother of a Man-Child blog as a printed, actual, fair dinkum 448-page book – how cool is that people!!!

I am pretty pleased with myself I must say, having navigated the complexities of the Amazon self-publishing platform, and actually organised the entire thing myself, from the extraction of the blog content, the creation of a manuscript, the countless hours of editing required for a book, and also a cover design.

Many, many hours later, a few phone calls to the US along the way, several rounds of proofing (thanks Dad) and I finally have my Mother of a Man-Child book.  I have hesitantly sold some copies to friends and colleagues and so far the feedback has been fantastic!!  Which is a seriously huge thrill, and so encouraging that I have now listed the book for sale on Amazon.  Yep, that’s right, a published author on Amazon.

For people who stumble upon my blog here and want to actually purchase the book, you can find order details here: Buy the Book

For me, one of the highlights of publishing the book was in fact feedback from one of the men-children.  He started reading the book, and on night one I got this text message:  “Been reading your book……fascinating and quite funny. Really enjoying it. Well done!!”

And on night two, another text message followed:  “200 pages down in your book!  Most reading I’ve done all year.  It’s really cool to read about my teenage years and see things from your perspective.  Truly amazing and generations will love this book. 🙂 “

So, don’t take my word for it, take those of a 21-year-old former man-child and now wonderful adult male who I am so proud of (ditto his twin brother).  After that wonderful feedback, I am totally happy if I never sell another book (but it would be a bonus if I do).

If you do buy my book, I would love to know what you think.  And if you were kind enough to leave a review on Amazon I would be forever grateful.

Happy reading! 🙂

Mother of a Man-Child.

 

 

 

 

The last word! June 5, 2014

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twins at 18In January 2010, I was inspired to start this blog.  As I stated at the time, it was prompted by a number of events.

  1. I had endured yet another encounter with one of my twin teenage boys (just starting to push the boundaries).
  2. I was in between full-time jobs, and looking for some relief from the relentless grind of job-hunting.
  3. I had a long-held and untapped desire to put pen to paper, to exercise my creative side.
  4. I was interested in social media and “blogging”, so no better way to learn than to do.

Who could have imagined that 4.5 years later, I would still be writing weekly blogs about my “men-children”, having survived their teenage years.

I must apologise for my recent absence, but life has been seriously hectic, and the blog for the first time has been neglected.  It’s most unlike me to let my disciplined approach to blogging wane, but there was another underlying reason which permitted this.

You see, in March of this year, my darling men-children turned 18.  We had a wonderful celebration at home, with family and their Godmothers.  It was a lovely intimate occasion marking their official entry to adulthood, and we delighted in sharing our collective pride in our young men.  It also gave cause for me to reflect on the blog, and the stories of their teenage years, and what we had jointly “survived”.  And although there remain stories untold (some that would make excellent reading I assure you), I decided that the time had come to hang up my man-child blog, and let the boys be.  As “children”, I thought it was quite acceptable to share my stories, albeit “anonymously”.  But as they crossed the threshold to adulthood, I decided that it was no longer appropriate for me to continue to share their stories on their behalf.

To some of you, this sentiment may seem a little misplaced, after airing so much personal information for the last 4.5 years.  But for personal reasons, it just feels right.  So this will be my last post about the men-children (and their sister for now).  Who knows, when Sister of a Man-Child hits her teenage years, the blog make get a second run, but for now, it’s time to rest the keyboard.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a blogger.  I have loved the feedback and comments from my readers.  It has been in equal parts cathartic, reflective, amusing and enlightening.  I hope you have enjoyed reading our stories as much as I have enjoyed penning them.  My final thanks go to my subjects, the men-children, who allowed me (kind of) to share glimpses of their lives with the world (okay, not quite the world, but 24,000 views is pretty cool).

The blog will remain live for the time being, whilst I consider the task of self-publishing the posts into a book for posterity (funny, how I’d still like a tangible “book” isn’t it?), so you can still find it when you wish, as can others who stumble across it on the web.

Signing off for the last time,

Mother of a Man-Child.

 

The call of the car April 11, 2014

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It sat in the driveway, dark and inviting.  Black, sleek and powerful.  Beckoning the two 18-year-old boys who lived in the house to touch it, drive it, and test its boundaries.  But alas, it was not to be.  You see, the Holden Ute (don’t ask me what model, I am female), has sat idly in our driveway for two weeks, driven by no-one.  Man-Child I was dying to get his hands on it, but without a manual licence, that wasn’t happening (you can imagine the argument about insurance, and lack thereof if the man-child is caught driving a manual car with only an automatic licence).  And Man-Child II was dying to get his actual licence, so that he could actually drive it, but took a few goes to actually get it, so the car continued to tempt him on a daily basis.

Still the small issue of a licence didn’t stop the enjoyment of the car (sorry UTE).  No sooner had the car been purchased for the tradie’s use (and fair enough too), he was surfing the net buying accessories for it.  First stop – a new muffler system!  Why you may ask?  Well, what good is a Holden Ute with a standard muffler on it, when you can have a Holden Ute with a slightly illegal muffler on it that makes a much better sound?  One that positively purrs (potentially roars) as you drive it down the street.  One that only boys can appreciate – I swear it’s just nuisance noise to girls.

Holden UteSuffice to say, the roar of the engine, as Man-Child II revved the shit out of it the other night, was enough to attract a number of young Turks to our house.  Within minutes of arriving home to find Man-Child II beneath the ute, several mates of the boys appeared in our driveway, all ogling the black Holden Ute, all sucking up the heady fumes, all wanting it to be revved harder, faster.  OMG, you have never seen anything like it – but then again, maybe you have, if you’ve ever attended the Grand Prix and watched men go nuts over cars.  It was completely amusing to me, and to Father of a Man-Child, completely normal.  Which just goes to show, it’s a boy thing!!  How many girls do you know that stand around ogling a girlfriend’s new car?  Swapping stats about fuel consumption, engine size and RPM?

You could feel the pulse of excitement in the air, the boys’ testosterone levels surging at the sheer thought of driving the car, and the thrill of the independence and freedom that having a licence and a car means for them at 18 years old.  Meanwhile I could feel the dreaded knot in the pit of my stomach, the one that knows the statistics about young males on the road, and the unmistakable facts about the way they tend to drive and what can happen as a result.

But I can’t wrap the boys up in cotton wool, anymore than I can keep them off the road.  They both have their licences, and they both have cars they can drive.   One has his ute for work, the other one is gunning to get a car during year 12 – and we are currently engaged in a battle about whether he “needs” one or not (of course he WANTS one, but that’s not the point).

We can only hope that they will be law-abiding, considerate and safe drivers.  One thing I am pretty certain of is that they won’t be drink drivers – it is so culturally ingrained into today’s youth NOT to do it, it’s brilliant.  So start your engines…….

Long before they had their licence, I was posting on this topic:

Beep Beep Learner Alert

Driving us Crazy

 

 

Changing man-child dynamics March 29, 2014

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twin toddler boysNothing makes a mother happier than hearing her children get along, actually talking like friends, genuinely interested in each other. On occasion I stand at the bottom of the stairs, a silent observer, enjoying listening to the men-children’s conversation. At other times, they hear me arrive at the bottom of the stairs, abruptly stopping their conversation, and asking me if I want something (sprung)!!

Around 18 years ago, funnily enough we did the same thing.  Father of a Man-Child and I used to stand at their bedroom door, listening to them “talk” to each other, in their wonderful baby babble, cooing and gurgling from one cot to another. It was incredibly special to witness and something I will never forget.

Growing up as a twin myself, I realise how fortunate I was to have an in-built playmate.  As a parent of twins, it was similarly wonderful to have two boys to entertain each other constantly.  They rarely fought until their teenage years, when as the arguments escalated (along with their surging hormones), I recall telling them that as much as they “hated” each other at the time, eventually they would be incredibly close and enjoy each other’s company regularly, just as my twin sister and I do now.

We were very similar as teens – growing up in a house of four girls, all close in age, and very different personalities, there were plenty of cat fights.  My twin and I were as opposite as the men-children, which of course always leads to conflict. But over time, as our paths diverged, we naturally seemed to come back together.

I now delight in seeing similar behaviours amongst my own boys.  I think as they have matured, and followed their divergent interests over the last 12 months, the dynamics of their relationship are changing.  I honestly believe they are actually growing to enjoy each other’s company, at the end of their working and school days, discussing common interests (cars does it every time), or common friends and acquaintances.

I was taken by surprise recently when one admitted to me he was actually “jealous” of his brother (and it wasn’t the one I expected to say it).  It told me that for all the bluster, deep down there is mutual admiration and respect, and that they really do care for each other.  Hence my absolute confidence that they will be firm friends during their adult years.

What will be interesting will be to see how their relationships form with their younger sister – the 7 year age gap may have an impact on their adult relationships, but there are many factors that can influence how that evolves.  I hope it is as strong as my relationship with my siblings.

How has your relationship developed with your siblings? Did it improve over time? Do you now have close relationships?

Almost 3 years ago, I saw a glimpse of friendship between them – most likely short-lived at that time of their lives: 
https://motherofamanchild.com/2011/07/15/do-the-men-children-actually-like-each-other/

 

The other side of the adolescent bridge March 7, 2014

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twin boys as toddlersI am now the proud mother of two adults!  No longer “men-children”, my twin boys turned 18 this week, which naturally causes one to reflect on the journey so far, and to be so thankful that we all made it through in one piece, relatively unscathed, but with plenty of stories to tell along the way (the blog thanks you both).

Father of a Man-Child and I, along with their little sister, made quite a fuss on the day (as much as we could when we all had to go to work and school).  Presents, heartfelt cards from each of us, dinner of their choice, birthday cake – it’s not every day you turn 18, and we think they felt special.  Of course the best birthday present anyone could get is their car licence, which one managed to achieve on the day. He was beside himself with excitement when he got to take the car out for a spin with a mate that night.  I am sure we can all remember the giddy sense of independence, freedom and power (and perhaps a few nerves) that goes with that first drive on your own. His brother sits his licence next week, and can’t wait to join the club!

As my Father-in-law commented the other day, we all seem to be in a good place – and he is right.  Our boys have travelled across the adolescent bridge, and made it to the other side.  For those who don’t know Celia Lashlie’s book He’ll Be OK, she describes adolescence as a journey across a bridge, with no mothers allowed! I have done my best to stay off the bridge as much as possible, whilst providing the safety net below, and yelling instructions from either end!  It’s not an easy task to let your children go, but as I reflected the other day, I realised that we had slowly but surely given them more rope, as they inched across the bridge, giving them a bit more freedom over time, until finally they reached the other side.  It happened so organically, we didn’t really notice until we all popped our heads up and presto – they made it.

Whilst tension remains in our house from time to time (we still argue with them, they still fight, we still disagree on some things), they have certainly matured this year in particular.  Perhaps it comes with the beginnings of their adult life, and starting to establish themselves, their identities, their paths towards careers.

One man-child is doing year 12, focussed on working hard, getting good marks and heading to uni next year to do a course of his choosing.  He is also focused on his sport (rowing and footy), showing incredible dedication, and making many sacrifices to be a part of their elite crews and teams.  He deserves all the success he is enjoying, given his work ethic and commitment, and we are incredibly proud of all he has achieved.

His twin brother, having left school to achieve a TAFE qualification in Building & Carpentry, has now secured himself an apprenticeship and we couldn’t be prouder.  He applied for the job online, had an interview, completed a trial (it only took two days for his boss to realise he’d found a winner), and was offered an apprenticeship last week.  He beat 100 other applicants in a tough market, and has thankfully been employed by a genuinely nice bloke, who will treat him well and invest time and energy to teach him further skills.

Beyond their achievements, the most important thing of course is what sort of people we have shaped our men-children into, and we think, from all reports, we have done a reasonable job.  They are both happy and healthy, they have good circles of friends, they are loyal, and reliable.  I know they are polite and charming when they want to be, and know how to behave appropriately in certain circumstances.  Certainly they are not angels all the time, but hey, we all have to have some fun!  They know they are loved by their parents and sister, and extended family, and they know they are lucky to have had opportunities that others may not.  They understand the value of hard work, and the rewards that follow.  In short, I think they are pretty good  kids adults!! 🙂

So to my once beautiful baby boys, who we were so blessed to welcome into the world 18 years ago, so perfect, so gorgeous, bringing us double the joy and double the love, Happy Birthday.  You are a gift we are thankful for every day (just like your sister), and we are incredibly proud of you both and will love you forever.

Read my original post about Celia’s Lashlie’s book He’ll be Okay