Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Mother of a Man-Child: Smoking – enjoyed by rebels everywhere! July 30, 2010

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History is littered with rebels – those who do what they shouldn’t do, go where they shouldn’t go, say what they shouldn’t say.  And history and the media have often glorified rebels – to the point of “cool”.  I mean, who wouldn’t think James Dean wasn’t uber cool in Rebel without a Cause?

And why is it that being rebellious and “cool” seems to go so hand in hand with smoking?  One of the most highly addictive and expensive drugs still enjoyed by millions of people around the world, even though they all know it’s bad for them.

As a reformed smoker, married to a heavy smoker (yes shocking I know), I was hopeful that my children would be forever repelled by smoking, and never even contemplate trying them or taking up the habit.  Alas, there’s a rebel born each day, or at least a Man-Child who wants to test the boundaries just a little more as part of his journey through adolescence.

So it was after a recent party, where I had seen many teens smoking outside the party (no, it wasn’t very well supervised – but that’s another story) that I asked Man-Child II if he had been smoking.  Now I couldn’t smell it on him, but something told me if one of mine were to try it, it would be him.  He denied smoking, but when I explained that I would smell his breath when we left the car, he admitted to smoking that night.  I asked why, and he said because an older kid whom he didn’t know offered him one.  “If he asked you to jump off the West Gate Bridge would you?” I exclaimed (sounding very much like my own mother).

I said I was very disappointed, and didn’t want him to smoke.  I gave him all the logical reasons why you shouldn’t smoke, and warned him there would be punishment if he were caught again.  Two days later, during an argument, I caught a whiff of his hands – that same familiar smell of tobacco that I think an ex-smoker can smell even more acutely than a non-smoker.  So he was grounded for the week and missed a party the following Saturday night (I was secretly pleased at this because I didn’t want him to attend it anyway).

We went along for another couple of weeks, until I discovered he’d been smoking again, this time after school with some friends in the park.  So I tried another tack – “How stupid can you be smoking in school uniform?  If you get caught then the school could expel you, particularly if you’ve been in trouble before” (which he has)!!

Two weeks later, yep you guessed it, caught again.  This time though, something switched on in the deep recesses of my brain, a solution so simple that I’d completely forgotten it.  “Okay (Man-Child II), if you don’t smoke until you’re 18 I’ll give you $1,000.”  Well, that was it.  He was rendered almost speechless whilst he took this offer in, before asking me, incredulously, if I was serious.  I said indeed I was, and he promptly accepted!!  He then ran off to tell Man-Child I who quickly came to square the ledger and ask for the same rights – granted of course.

Sweet victory!  I can’t tell you how easy it was.  It’s actually an old family tradition, as my father received £500 for not smoking when he was 18, and we were in turn bribed with $500 for not smoking until we turned 18.  How simple!  Good investment if you ask me.  Now it doesn’t guarantee success I know, but it’s a good feeling knowing that Man-Child II is smoke free for now (but still a little bit rebel). 🙂


Mother of a Man-Child: Uninvited guests after midnight! July 23, 2010

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After Man-Child I’s recent brush with the law, Man-Child II decided it was his turn for trouble – what is it with twins?  Fortunately this incident didn’t involve the law, although some of his friends may think I have recently joined the force, such was my police-like response to the event!

The night unfolded like any other, with my man-child deciding to ask me, no in fact, beg me if three of his mates could stay for a sleepover during the school holidays.  They always seem to leave these requests for the last-minute, which they either do because they think it’s more successful, or because they’re too stupid to consider the impact on anyone else at 14 years old – sadly I suspect it’s the latter.

As it was 6pm, and I had just arrived home from work, and was now faced with the task of feeding an extra three hungry teenage boys, I am not quite sure what possessed me when I said yes.  Perhaps it was the opportunity to do something nice for my son, having been on his back about a few things recently.  A mother’s guilt goes a long way sometimes – little do they know!

At any rate, like a true Masterchef I managed to whip up a perfect gut-filler of carbonara and mounds of garlic bread, that seemed to satisfy the needs of five hungry boys and my daughter.  They then retired to their lounge room for a few hours, where they did all the normal boy things (farting, snacking, joking around, snacking, fighting, snacking, Facebooking, snacking, PS3 etc), before finally taking over the family room at midnight when we retired to bed.

Like all mothers, I remain the world’s lightest sleeper, so I typically hear every noise in the house (unlike my husband who could sleep through a freight train in the middle of our bedroom)!  So it was that at 3am I woke to the sounds of several teenagers…..”Shhhh……Be Quiet…..Shhhh……Giggle…….Be Quiet…..”.  I decided that 3am was late enough, and they really should all be asleep by now, so I promptly opened the door and turned on the light to tell them all so.  What I saw wasn’t quite what I expected – the sight of eight – that’s right – EIGHT bodies all diving under the doona covers in my son’s bedroom.  Eventually my brain took in this fact, and then realized that the extra four bodies were actually FEMALE!  Yes, we had four teenage girl guests in the middle of the night – yikes.

I calmly invited the four girls to join me in the family room, leaving the boys in the bedroom.  After a stern lecture, during which I ascertained that they had each told their parents they were staying at a friend’s house (yep, that old trick), I obtained their names and that of their school.  I then explained that under no circumstances could I allow them back into the dead of night, and that I would need to drop them home to one of their houses, where it was more than likely I would need to wake the parents and let them know what had gone on.

Whilst down the other end of the house doing a quick change (I didn’t think I should drive them home in my pyjamas), and simultaneously briefing my husband who had slept through the excitement to date, I heard the sounds of four screaming girls making a quick get-away down our side path, and quickly realized that my late night visitors had in fact done a runner!   I was so furious that I actually got in my car and tried to find them, unfortunately to no avail.   What we did find was Cinderella’s boots on the back doorstep – so one of them certainly ran home with cold feet.

We then dealt with the teenage boys, delivering yet another stern lecture, and extracting an apology from some (sadly not all).  As the text messages came in thick and fast to Man-Child II’s mobile, I told him that the girls had done an extremely stupid thing bolting, and that I would now make it my business to contact their school and/or their parents to ensure the event didn’t pass un-known.

Over the following days, the tale unfolded even further.  Amazingly I received hand written notes, text messages and phone calls from each of the girls professing their deepest regret at what had happened and assuring me it wouldn’t happen again – yeah right, how dumb do they think I am exactly?  It turns out, not only had they given me the wrong school name, but also used false names, and briefed my son, so when I drilled him he actually knew what names they had used.  Pretty conniving isn’t it?  When one of the girls offered her mothers phone number during her apology (which I did acknowledge was brave of them all) I joyfully accepted.  And that’s when things got even messier.

You see in assuring me of her absolute honesty with her mother, I decided to verify her story.  Alas, the truth had been twisted quite a bit, and the trusting mother had fallen for the very fictional version of events.  Eventually more and more of the story came out, until it was discovered that in fact the boys had all left our house for a midnight jaunt in the park with the girls.  At 3am they had come back to our house because they were all cold – and clearly all thought we would be none the wiser.  I’m not sure how long they were planning on spending in Man-Child II’s room, but the mind does boggle.

Needless to say Man-Child II is having a very quiet quarter, having been grounded for an entire term.  His friend’s parents have chosen their own punishment – that is for them to decide.  Unfortunately the mother of the “honest” girl in question decided it wasn’t her place to alert the parents of her daughter’s friends at all, which does disappoint me, as I think that’s extremely irresponsible on her part, but I can’t live someone else’s life for them.

So the lesson?  Hmmm, I’m not sure there is one, except that what goes around comes around.  Once in my teenage years I crept out of the house in the middle of the night for a party, unbeknown to my parents.  But I was so terrified when I arrived home and had to sneak back into the house, I was sure my heart could be heard pounding three blocks away.  I never did it again because I couldn’t bear the fear.  LOL.


Mother of a Man-Child: Post-Script to An Arresting Story July 21, 2010

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For those who read my latest post, no doubt you’ve all seen the recent news about Xavier College students aged 14-16 years caught shop-lifting in Queenstown on a recent school ski trip.  The NZ police made no arrests, nor issued fines or official cautions to the boys, and were quoted as saying they felt the disgrace the boys had bought to the school and the punishment that would be metered out as a consequence would suffice.

For Man-Child I, the severity of his punishment for attempting to steal $4.90 worth of lollies recently, versus the complete lack of police intervention for $5,000 worth of clothing is somewhat at odds in his view.  I completely understand his point of view, but through the eyes of a parent I can understand why the police acted in the way they did with each incident.  Man-Child I was taught a lesson for life, albeit a rather private one.  The Xavier College boys face public humiliation, along with repercussions that could be far-reaching, including their suspension and possible expulsion from school.  I hope one day that Man-Child I will consider himself lucky, as the lesson he received will stand him in good stead for the next 5 years and more!

Here’s the original post.  “An Arresting Story”.


Mother of a Man-Child: An Arresting Story! July 16, 2010

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Just when you think the “men-children” couldn’t possibly surprise us any further, or provide me with any other great stories for the blog, along comes yet another incident that will be added to the rich and colourful history of their adolescent years.

We have already had the delightful experience of parents who are called to the school to discuss their son’s behaviour.  Whilst initially it was for an incident involving Man-Child I, by the time the meeting came about there had been another separate incident involving Man-Child II, so we had the joy of back-to-back meetings – “in stereo” I called it.   I am quite sure one of the senior teachers who met with us almost felt sympathetic at the fact it was BOTH our charming sons who were in trouble.  He very kindly pointed out that we weren’t the only parents who had made a visit to the school to discuss their sons, but I bet we’re the only ones who managed a twin visit!!!  (Thank goodness I didn’t get triplets).

However Man-Child I did excel in the trouble stakes the other day, when I received a call from an out-of-town country police station whilst we were away on school holidays to say my son was at the local supermarket and had been caught shop-lifting.  Fabulous!  I was then asked to collect him and take him to the police station, where he received an official “Caution”.  Now for those who think that’s a nice kick up the backside and “don’t do it again”, you are mistaken.  The presiding officer decided he needed a lesson that would keep him on the straight and narrow for quite some time.  So Man-Child I was told he now has a police record (not a conviction) and is effectively on a good behaviour bond for the next five years.  He had his mug shot taken (this even alarmed me) and we were also paid a visit by another policeman sporting two guns and several Tasers – totally effective trust me.  In an amazing case of irony the “arresting officer” actually had a son attending the same private school in the same year level as my Men-Children – we naturally assume privacy is assured, but it did add to the impact of the consequences.

The officer was very convincing in ensuring Man-Child I understood the impact on his life in the event he is ever stupid enough to do something that earns him a criminal conviction.  It really can derail someone and totally ruin their life.  I explained to Man-Child I that there was no point punishing him, I figured he had punishment enough for the next 5 years.  I also made him share the experience with his friends and Man-Child II so they all learned from his lesson.  But I did say if I found out they had shared it on Facebook their lives would be short-lived.   I guess only time will tell whether our teenager has heeded the sage advice and life lesson given to him by a well-meaning, and totally savvy policeman.

Read my post-script to this story here.


Mother of a Man-Child: Live in babysitters at last! July 9, 2010

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We have finally reached the point where we will allow our 14-year-old boys to babysit their 6-year-old sister.  For parents of younger kids who have been paying for babysitters for years, this brings a sort of freedom akin to the moment you realise your toddler is toilet-trained and you no longer have to spend half your income on nappies!

Of course we are naturally cautious about when we choose to have them babysit.   Normally it’s when we are at a function very close to home, and not a terribly late night, just in case we need to rush home (yes, still slightly paranoid).  And we seem to have randomly struck upon a financial deal whereby if they are both home we don’t pay them, but if only one is home then we pay him $20 for babysitting services.  Logically, I don’t expect this arrangement will last very long, but it’s financially beneficial whilst it does. 🙂

On the first weekend we left them to babysit, we were actually out two nights running.  All seemed in order when we arrived home each night, and our daughter was safely tucked up in bed.  The fun started the following morning, when my daughter informed me:  “(Insert name of Man-Child II) told me not to tell you, but he had friends over last night”!  What an interesting bit of information.  Of course I enquired exactly how many friends he had over and was a little shocked to hear of 4 visitors.  When I asked Man-Child II about his visitors I was relieved to learn they had not stayed long, and had just detoured via McDonald’s on a Saturday night.  I also pointed out that perhaps next time he might actually ASK for permission to have friends over – I didn’t tell him the answer would probably be “no” in our absence.

The next morning, after our second night out, our in-built lie detector (6-year-old daughter) was again quick to enlighten me with tales of the prior night.  She informed me that “(Insert name of Man-Child I) asked me not to tell you, but he was using your Mac (sexy work computer) last night, and it wasn’t even for something important, he was on Facebook”.  I tried not to laugh, and thanked her for being honest (and the perfect “dobber” in my view).  The boys clearly don’t realise that in asking their sister not to tell us, her radar instantly goes up and she knows they’re doing the wrong thing.  I will not be educating them anytime soon.


Mother of a Man-Child: How late is too late for teenagers? July 2, 2010

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The social life of Man-Child I continues unabated.  This year, the social life of Man-Child II has caught up, and almost leapfrogged his brother.  It’s amazing how quickly one is sucked into the vortex that is teenage parties and “gatherings” (for the un-initiated the two are VERY different), and therefore the associated role of playing taxi and ensuring you know where they are going, when, with whom, what time they will be home, etc etc.

The other night Man-Child II and I had a rather heated debate about a forthcoming party.  As it was for a special friend, he wanted to go to the “after party” at the birthday girl’s house (well in fact his GIRLFRIEND – can you tell I am still in shock?) and was to be dropped home at 1am by a very generous parent.  But the reason for the fight, was that he was asking to be home later!!!!  And five of the boys wanted to stay at someone’s house together, and no doubt be up until 3am in the morning – not on your life.!

I thought we were being very, very generous in allowing him to be out that late given his age (fourteen).  Of the parties my boys have attended, the latest finish time to date has been 11.30pm, plenty late enough in my view.  I was so concerned about the apparent intent of the boys that I contacted a couple of the other mums, just to give them the heads up.  I was relieved to discover that in fact their boys were not even to attend the after party, so relatively we actually looked “slack” for once.

I subsequently confirmed with Man-Child II that some of his mates would in fact not be attending the after party.  I also extracted an apology and he even acknowledged that he was extremely lucky to be allowed out until 1am.   The vision of the irrational, very angry, screaming teenager who “hated” me with such passion will remain, and no doubt repeat itself many times in the coming years.  As will the vision of the parent standing their ground and just saying “no” repeatedly, because they refused to bow to the whims of a teenager who thinks he is an adult.

At this rate I can’t wait until they’re 25 and nice again!