Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

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

 

More Life Lessons (or How to get what you deserve!) February 28, 2014

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Seek job huntingFor those who read my last post about the lessons for one of the men-children at the hands of a nasty builder, I am pleased to report several good outcomes from the experience.

Firstly, we managed to get my son paid for the 3 days work he had done during his “trial”, which we brought to an abrupt end rather than have our son work for what could only be described as an “arsehole”.  Not surprisingly, it did take more than a little encouragement, starting with some tactful and carefully drafted text messages from my son, followed by some very pleasant phone calls by me to the builder a week later, enquiring politely as to when he could expect the payment.  By the 3rd week, and on the fourth round of broken promises and following a quite rude text back to me, I decided that the first of several threats was in order (I had several up my sleeve don’t worry).

So when yet again the promised funds didn’t make it into my son’s account on time (or even with another 24 hours grace), one simple text message confirming that we would be filing an application with VCAT the following day was all it took to secure payment.  Mother: 1, Builder: 0.

I suggested to my man-child that he could thank me for ensuring his bank account was back in the black.  He told me that with patience he would have been paid eventually.  I told him he was naive, and that the only way he was going to get paid was with standover tactics, and that’s what mother’s are for!!! 🙂

The other silver lining of our earlier dark cloud, was man-child actually submitting several job applications on Seek on his own (the horse actually drank the water!!!), and getting a call and an interview from a local builder about an apprenticeship.  We were so pleased that he finally got motivated and even more thrilled when he got an interview and an invitation to a trial period with said builder.  Now I don’t want to moz anything, but already, he can see that this builder is completely different in attitude to his predecessor, and actually wants to teach someone, not just hire slave labour.  I am sure it has renewed his faith in builders as employers, and also confirmed that not all builders treat their apprentices badly.

So, I am holding my breath until the end of this trial, and crossing my fingers that all goes well and that our son secures his official apprenticeship next week.  We are already proud of him and would be even more so if he gets this job.

If you missed my last post, you can read it here:  https://motherofamanchild.com/2014/02/14/learning-the-hard-way/

And please tell me, and I the only one who behaves like this?  Have you done similar things to get the outcome your want and think is fair?

 

 

Learning the hard way February 14, 2014

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workmen's tool beltOur role as parents is to guide our children in life.  As they get older, we let them make more and more decisions for themselves, hopefully so that in their adult life they are well equipped to manage independently.  As part of this, experience is a great teacher, and often shapes what we learn and understand about the world.

One of the men-children is job hunting this year.  Having successfully completed a TAFE course last year (much to our delight), he is now looking for an apprenticeship in his chosen trade – carpentry.  It has been interesting to observe his approach to full-time job hunting.  It started with “I need a holiday, it can wait until after January, no-one is working then”, to “You guys know a lot of people, you help me find a job.”  I was suitably unimpressed, and set about educating my son about the various channels he would need to explore to find himself a job.

To be fair to said man-child, he has had a part-time job for several years, so it’s not that he is afraid of work – he just doesn’t LOOK for it willingly, somehow it always finds him!

Anyway, as luck would have it, an opportunity recently fell in his lap to potentially work for a builder, as an apprentice.  It commenced with a few days “trial”, on a large construction site, and required us to drive him across to the other side of town for 3 days at an ungodly hour of the morning, which of course we were very agreeable to (he should have his licence in about 3 weeks we hope).

Naturally I was keen to know how the day went, and was shocked to hear that the guy he worked on site for had been quite nasty – abusing our son, swearing at him, calling him a “moron”, etc.  The mother in me wanted to ring him up and abuse him right back that night, and tell him that workplace bullying was illegal.  However, I took a deep breath, and we decided that perhaps on day two he would be in a better mood and not quite so awful.  My son is amazingly resilient in these situations, seemingly thick skinned, but really just like a lychee – tough on the outside, but soft and gooey in the middle.  So off he went on day two, which improved a little on day one, and our son found a friend in his other young apprentice, who was at pains to assist him to understand what the boss generally “cracked the shits” over.  Again, I was appalled at the thought that these kids worked in such an environment of fear.

At the end of day two, I told my son he didn’t have to work day three if he didn’t want to.  He again elected to return, telling me “maybe this is just how it is Mum”.  I asked him if he thought that the 3 builders he had done work experience for would treat their apprentices the same way, which got him thinking, and I saw the light go on, as he realised it actually wasn’t normal.   Anyway, off he went on day three, after his mother had another sleepless night angry at the employer and worried for my son (yes, I was in protective mother bear mode for 3 days).

I did seek the advice of some colleagues who assured me that yes, sadly, this behaviour on some building sites was pretty normal, and that apprentices were simply a form of cheap labour that allowed them to make margins, and they weren’t really focussed on teaching them – I was quite alarmed it’s fair to say (and clearly naive).

I saw my son briefly at the end of day three, and much to my dismay, heard of more abuse and bullying on site.  To my sons absolute credit, he had actually stood up for himself several times on-site, to explain to this IDIOT that he was the one making mistakes, not my son.  Clearly apologising was not in this man’s nature!   If the man had crossed my path that night, it would not have been pretty.  I apologised to my son for finding him the job (I really wished I hadn’t), and reassured him that not all builders were like this.  He had been left “hanging” for a text message over the weekend, to let him know if any more work would be required the following week.  I asked him if he wanted to work for him, and could see him wavering.  So I told him we would rather he was unemployed than work for an arsehole like this bloke.

It took all my nagging to finally get him to send “Builder of the Year” a text message that weekend, explaining that he wouldn’t be working for him again.  My draft was carefully scripted to say he was going to look elsewhere (read between the lines, I’d rather have no job than work for you pal), but my diplomatic son insisted that saying he had found another job was certainly nicer, and probably meant he might be paid.  As to the latter matter, we also sent a follow up text message about payment for the 3 days work – due this week.  Trust me, if the money doesn’t hit my son’s bank account, rest assured our friend will wish he had never heard of me – as I will pursue him to the end of the earth (and VCAT) to see my son paid for 3 days work.

So what has the above taught us?  It’s taught my son that not everyone is nice to work for, but that doesn’t mean you have to take it.  It’s taught his mother that she must learn to bite her tongue, and not take control,  but be there to offer guidance along the way (and assert her influence very strongly when required).  It’s also taught my son that it’s okay to stand up for yourself, and to walk away if you want to.  And to demand what is rightfully yours.

So where does that leave us?  Back to square one.  I have armed my son with all the information he requires to job hunt, had him send numerous emails to relevant contacts, sought advice from friends about where to look for work and showed him where to find apprenticeship jobs on seek.com.au.  As I explained to him the other day, you are the horse and I have given you the water.  I can’t make you drink it, but if you don’t, then you won’t find a job!!!

So begins the next lesson in life…..I will keep you posted.  And if you should hear of a NICE builder looking for a great young apprentice, who was top of his class, and is most definitely NOT afraid of hard work, please let me know.

Working has been a popular topic for me (yes, I like my children to work):  Here’s one about work experience, and school holiday work, and labouring work.

 

House Rules January 19, 2014

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written house rulesHappy New Year to all – back into the routine with a vengeance (being back at work will do that to you)!  I am the first to admit the almost 3 week break which included the joyous madness that is Christmas was absolutely delightful, and a wonderful way to recharge the batteries after what was an incredibly busy but fruitful year.

We seemed to spend the time doing a lot of all the things one should – sleeping, exercising, eating wonderful food, catching up with friends, lounging on the beach, enjoying fine wine and G&T’s – is there a drink more synonymous with summer holidays?

Whilst some might complain about the weather over the Xmas/new year period, I didn’t mind the mixed bag at all, as it allowed us down time and the opportunity to do other things that we might not have done if it was a heat wave.  The latter was naturally saved for the week we were back home and I was at work, and quite frankly, that wasn’t a bad thing.  There is hot, and then there is OMG, that is so frigging stinking hot I can’t breathe/sleep/eat/walk/think…….

The men-children and their sister all loved their holiday too – not that we saw much of the boys – they were out every day, out every night, busy hanging with their friends and generally having a good time.  We did survive another New Years Eve “pres” (short for pre-party drinks), which interestingly turned into more of a “gathering” in my book, since they were at our place until 11ish, but a year older and wiser, it all seemed to go quite smoothly.   It might have had something to do with the consent form we insisted they all sign upon arrival, confirming parental permission to drink and waiving any responsibility by us for them once they elected to leave our home and go elsewhere.  The next day I was so relieved that we had no major incidents, that I took to playing Mother Theresa and fed them all (or rather their hangovers) with pasta and toasties.

As you would expect, the minute we walked in the door, the boys (rarely together over the holiday break) proceeded to fight as usual upstairs.  How easily they slipped back into their routine, squabbling about whose clothes had been left on the bathroom floor, or foodstuffs on the coffee table, etc.  It made our blood pressure rise instantly, undoing all the good of a relaxing holiday.  And as is my preference, I immediately put pen to paper, in an effort to get them back on track.  They both came home the following day to the sign below on their bedroom doors – a subtle reminder of how we expect them to behave, and to let them know who is boss (okay, stop laughing)!

So there they are, for your amusement, enjoyment, and reference, should you need them at some point in the future.

House rules

  • Please do not leave dirty plates/bowls/cups/rubbish in lounge area for more than 24 hours (consider educating your friends to do the same!).
  • Please do not leave your belongings lying around in the lounge – your bedrooms are the place for your personal effects.
  • Please do not leave your dirty clothes in the bathroom – either put them in your room or better still the washing basket.
  • Please hang up your towels when wet rather than leave them on the floor.
  • If you both want to play loud music and/or watch TV then one should use the headphones, especially if homework is being done.
  • If you want to borrow things from each other please ask first.  And similarly, if you refuse a reasonable request then have a good reason.
  • Please respect each other’s rooms and do not enter bedrooms uninvited.
  • Please let us know where you are going and when you are returning home. We pay for your phones so NO excuses.
  • Please do not help yourselves to things that are not yours without asking.

I’d like to say there has been a marked improvement since the sign went up, but as one has been on a rowing camp for the last week, the issues don’t exist.  We shall see what happens upon his return!

Do you have your own set of “house rules” for your kids? Do you have them posted somewhere?  We could probably have another set in the kitchen now that I think of it. 🙂