Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Mother of a Man-Child: Sometimes a Man-Child will surprise you. June 25, 2010

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Man-Child I and Man-Child II aren’t that surprising.  They do all the usual teenage boy things, push the boundaries, and the friendship, take us for granted, etc.  But sometimes they can surprise and delight when you least expect it.

On two recent occasions I have been pleasantly chuffed at the behaviour of my boys.  On a recent birthday, Man-Child I presented me with a personal letter.  Not a short card but actually a hand written note.  The contents warmed my heart more than you can imagine.  With sentiments like “you are always putting everyone else first”, “I know you are always right”, and “there’s not a mean bone in your body”, I was in Mother heaven.   I lapped up every word, and enjoyed the incredible positive vibes it gave off, knowing that in a heartbeat we could go from such bliss to a screaming match over absolutely nothing.  Such is life with teenagers!

A cynic might say he knew all the right things to say and that actions speak louder than words – and yes he did in fact compile quite a list of wonderful affirmations about me.  But he also knew that to commit it to paper and hand it to his mother meant a lot – a permanent record of his love and devotion, not often worn on his sleeve, but always present, just beneath the surface of his skin.  I’d love to quote every word, but that would be unfair, and somehow de-value the beauty of the often-handled letter that I can’t bring myself to throw out – ever.

Which brings me to Man-Child II, not quite the letter writer of his twin brother, but he has his own way to disarm a grown woman.  Having marked the same birthday with not even a store-bought birthday card, he completely redeemed himself on Mothers Day recently.  I was presented with not just a card, but a gorgeous ruby glass heart-shaped vase. Man-Child II not being much for words, the small but important gift said it all.  He even acknowledged that he had been embarrassed to not even write a card for my birthday – an apology said in a different way.   I was chuffed.   The vase now has pride of place on my dresser, and the card lives next to my favourite letter.  And in case you’re wondering, no his father didn’t put him up to it!

I doubt my boys really know how important these simple things are to their parents, nor how valued they become.  But since becoming a parent and filling fridge doors, walls, draws and cupboards with artwork and letter and cards, I now understand why my father’s desk drawers were full of birthday cards, Fathers Day cards, Mothers Day cards, all collected over the years from four daughters.  He just couldn’t bring himself to throw them out.  That’s the power of love. 🙂


Mother of a man-child: Space for everyone? June 18, 2010

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Like all growing families, we have contemplated the need for more room, to house the needs of a growing family. When our daughter came along, we converted what was an odd-shaped “study” into a quaint little girls bedroom. And in fact it has served her very well, although it’s not large enough to accommodate all her toys, and it’s opposite her brothers bedroom which isn’t ideal when she’s trying to go to bed at night.

Actually to be completely rational, it’s not really about extra space, more about the floor plan that we currently have and the fact it no longer works with teenagers and a 6-year-old girl. In the interests of giving the boys some independence, we have allowed them to take over the formal lounge/study as their own, so they can sit in there with mates on their PS3, play music, chat with friends, watch TV, chat on Facebook (yes all simultaneously) whilst leaving us in peace. It works to a point, but at night when our daughter is trying to go to sleep, the doof doof coming from the room next door is not exactly conducive to slumber.

My husband always used to complain about everyone being in the family room when they were younger. I said yes, that’s the point, family room, where the family congregates. And whilst that’s definitely ideal when they are young, and you want to keep an eye on them, it’s actually less useful as they get older.

So after much deliberation, some thoughts about moving, some depressing attempts to bid on properties we thought were ideal (but clearly beyond our budget) and general agreement that we all love our current location, we’ve decided to go up. Not as many expect with the luxurious parents retreat (however tempting that may be) but actually to put the boys upstairs. Imagine the bliss for them with a large bedroom each upstairs, a shared bathroom and living room, away from the “rents” (that’s parents for those who missed my earlier glossary of terms) and a space they can call their own.

Imagine the bliss for us to have them upstairs, and not have to hear the sounds of their world wrestling antics, doof doof music, or to see the unkempt bedrooms, complete with wet towels on the floor, dirty clothes littering every room, the wet bath mat on the floor permanently (why hang it up?), dirty cups and plates on the floor……

Now I realise we need to consider a few things if the plan is to succeed:

  1. We need to ensure the architect does everything he can to sound proof upstairs
  2. Assuming polished concrete is not possible as a floor substance, then we want the best industrial strength carpet money can buy, in the best colour to hide dirt
  3. I will probably have to pay the cleaners danger money each week to walk upstairs and clean, but that’s better than me doing it
  4. On a quarterly basis we will have the fumigation team in to ensure no bacteria/toxic outbreaks are thriving upstairs
  5. Oh and maybe we should get windows that we can schedule to open on a timer – so a good dose of fresh air regularly rids the area of teenage boy smells…..

If we can achieve all this, I have no doubt both our teenagers and we parents are more likely to survive the next 5 years with our sanity intact. I will draw the line at putting in a hoist that doubles as a laundry chute and food elevator – it’s not a hotel (even though the boys treat it as such often……).

Now to hurry up the council – I want those plans approved so we can all achieve this state of blissful co-habitation as soon as possible.


Mother of a man-child: The self “tattoo-ing” trend June 11, 2010

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In all societies there are cultural mores and traditions, language dialects, dress code and physical markings that can serve to distinguish one culture from another.   And within cultures, there are sub-cultures, again each often distinguishable from other groups through their physical appearances and language.

And so it is with teenagers, with a defined “look” and language marking each type of group, albeit the look is often a “uniform” they wear and so in looking different they all look the same, in order to belong.  Girls in short denim shorts, boys in skin-tight mid-butt jeans, hair just so.  In fact not much has changed from when I was a teenager wearing the same skin-tight jeans funnily enough.

There is however a disturbing trend we recently discovered that is clearly a cultural behaviour, but one that alarmed me so much I contacted the school to alert them (oh yes, you can imagine how popular that made me at home can’t you?).  The trend is a form of tatoo-ing, whereby young boys use cans of deodorant to literally burn themselves, thereby creating a scar on their inner arm.   I first noticed it on Man-Child II, who had two burns, one on his inner arm, and one on the top of his hand. Both very nasty, inflamed and scabbed.  I naturally asked what had happened, and was mortified and gob-smacked to learn a friend of his had encouraged him to do it to himself.  I quote:  “You what???  If (nameless friend) had asked you to jump off the West Gate would you?  What sort of idiot are you?  He’s not to welcome to our house again…….(mother continues ranting for at least another five minutes – you get the picture I am sure).

I have since noticed many of my sons friends that have the same markings.  Each time I make a point of letting them know I have seen the scars, so they know I am well aware of it.  I don’t expect they give two hoots about my view, but I still want them to know that I’m not blind to this behaviour.  I find this sort of self-mutilation quite disturbing amongst young boys and certainly can’t recall any similar activities amongst my peers when I was a teenager.  It makes body piercings seem banal doesn’t it?  My only hope is that this is the worst sort of tattoo they will ever have – the alternative is a lot more permanent.


Mother of a man-child: Pocket Money – it’s never enough is it? June 4, 2010

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The debate about pocket-money has probably raged in households for centuries.  It’s a bit like wages – it seems the more you earn the more you spend, and then the more you need and so the vicious cycle begins, for the balance of our working lives.

In the house of the Man-Child and Teen-Child, pocket-money has been paid for some years now.  We only started paying them pocket-money when they realised what the concept was about, and from an early age encouraged them to spend a little each week and save a little each week, for a rainy day, or for special something.

Based on what our friends pay their kids, we seem to have managed to minimise the pocket-money we pay quite well, always lagging in our generosity (not intentionally I have to say).  Interestingly every time a raise was sought, it was Man-Child who went into negotiation mode, invariably securing himself (and by default) his twin brother a small financial victory and windfall.

Of course when they were little, the point system seemed to work quite well, with scores for chores done, and bonus points/earnings for any extras.  As they got older, and life got busier, their list of chores seems to have diminished (I’m so desperate it’s now enough to make a bed daily and keep a room tidy) but the pressure on the rate of pay remains.

For those who haven’t yet endured the receiving end of a negotiation, here are some key points/techniques that will be used to secure increased parental funding:

  • Peer pressure is often used to good effect, eg. our friends all get WAY more than we do (insert massive number at least double what they “earn”)
  • Friend X just has to ask for money and he always gets some.  One day his Mum drove to school at lunchtime and gave him $50 for tuckshop.  (Note, I find the behaviour of the parent in this case horrifying – what sort of spoilt kids are they bringing up?)
  • We need more money if we have to pay for our mobiles as well (gee, try using the landline and not sending 500 texts a month and the money might last longer)
  • Mum, can I just have $5 for a drink/lunch ‘cos I’m meeting friends.  Response – why don’t you eat/drink for free at home, then meet your friends?  What happened to your pocket-money anyway?
  • Can I have an advance on next weeks pocket-money (hoping next week you’ll forget and pay them again)!
  • And beware the very, very clever ploy of asking ever so sweetly for some money in front of their friends.  I call this being fleeced.  Nothing like public pressure to ensure Mum comes across as the generous, caring type.

My twins are 14 now – at 14 years and 9 months they can get their first legitimate job (Maccas here they come).  In the meantime they rely on the generosity of us, their parents and our irregular need for odd jobs to be done around the house. Which we will happily pay for, when done well of course. 🙂