Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Mother of a Man-Child: The Hurdy-Gurdy of Life February 25, 2011

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The only thing guaranteed in my life at the moment is the never-ending ride on an emotional roller-coaster, as we journey the ups and downs of adolescence with our men-children.  You never know quite what you’re in for on any given day – it could be a pleasant conversation where they actually respond to questions civilly (as opposed to the expected grunt) or an early morning screaming match because they’ve decided to start proceedings with an argument about stolen jocks whilst getting ready for school.

Why is it that so often I now think of my own parents, and my own adolescent behaviour as I parent my children?  Life, like history, has a way of repeating itself.  Teenager behaviour, just like toddler behaviour, is fairly predictable after all (give or take a few interesting events that will become family lore in our little part of the world).  So around and around we go, just like a hurdy-gurdy, with life invariably repeating itself over the generations.

We actually have our very own hurdy-gurdy (see pic).  An ancient piece of playground equipment, that I remember fondly as a child, with hours spent spinning wildly around and around with the neighbourhood kids.  I assume it’s called a “hurdy-gurdy” because it resembles the round disc-like version found at playgrounds.  But our hurdy-gurdy is particularly unique, and very much a part of our family history, and a special part of our lives.  We still talk about the time my sister managed to get her finger caught and mangled in the inner workings of the hurdy-gurdy – it wasn’t a pretty sight trust me.  Hence the plastic ice-cream container designed to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself again (low tech but effective).

The hurdy-gurdy spent years sitting out the back of my parent’s house, no doubt awaiting grand-children.  When finally they arrived, it took more than a little convincing for my husband to allow the junk/scrap metal to be bought to it’s new home.  And so began the painstaking process by Mother of a Man-Child to replace the rotted timber wooden seats, a sparkling coat of paint and new rubber handles for grip (not that we ever had anything that fancy).  And yet another generation (my boys) benefited from the joys of the hurdy-gurdy.  On the odd occasion, my adult siblings would climb upon the hurdy-gurdy late on a Christmas Eve, with much hilarity and recklessness, spinning far faster than they could remember it going (you definitely don’t do rides like you used to as you get older do you?).

As the boys grew, the hurdy-gurdy was cast aside again (parked down the side of our house) with occasional requests by my husband to remove it permanently.  Thankfully we didn’t, because along came our daughter, and only recently the hurdy-gurdy is enjoying life yet again, this time accompanied by the squeals and delights of small girls, who all gaze in wonder at this strange toy, and when they finally understand it’s workings have a wonderful time enjoying wind in their hair, and un-abandoned, dizzying freedom.

Now that my younger sister has a baby and a new house with a good backyard, there is talk of handing the hurdy-gurdy on in time for the next generation to enjoy.  By then it will probably need a fresh lick of paint and a nice new set of handles, and be ready to entertain yet again.

The origins of the hurdy-gurdy remain a little unknown.  My 90-year-old grandmother recalls her husband bought it for my mother and her siblings when they were young.  By all accounts he bought it from a bloke who we think might have made it himself – it almost looks like it’s been fashioned from parts of a Hills Hoist.  In our lifetimes none of us has ever seen anything quite like it.

And as for where the hurdy-gurdy will end it’s life?  Provided it doesn’t continue to be passed along to countless generations of our family (spending the odd hiatus parked in the corner of the yard neglected), I have always insisted it be donated to a toy museum, where for future generations people will wonder at the strange toy that children from another era found enjoyment with.  Just imagine the stories the hurdy-gurdy could tell?  What great wisdom would it impart to us?  Likely it would say the only thing guaranteed is that the circle of like completes itself time and time again, with all the reliability of a spinning hurdy-gurdy. 🙂


Mother of a Man-Child: Pocket Money – Blackmail works! February 18, 2011

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You would recall a few weeks back we decided to try a new approach to pocket-money with the men-children.  Rather than giving them money automatically each week, we moved to a user pays model, whereby they have to ASK for money for a set event, and in return do set jobs to actually EARN the money.  Well readers I am delighted to tell you it worked!!!!

Both of the men-children wanted money the other weekend, so tasks were set.  Apart from insisting their bedrooms were tidied, and various dirty dishes were collected from numerous points about the house, both were given jobs.  Naturally their individual responses and approaches to the tasks were chalk and cheese, just like them.

Man-Child I was asked to hang out a load of washing after cleaning up his bedroom.  He accepted the request without fuss, completed it promptly, finished his room, got his money and left.  Job done, no fuss.

Man-Child II on the other hand complained from the minute the requests started.  I decided since I had the upper hand in the situation that no stone would be left unturned.  Every inch of his room was finally cleaned, and his doona cover was finally put on his doona after three weeks of pleading.   Every wayward glass and plate finally found it’s way to the dishwasher.  And the newly purchased school shorts were not left on the floor in a crumpled heap but folded and put in the cupboard.  Such was the effort to get him to complete the most basic jobs he avoided any extra tasks – I honestly couldn’t bear it any longer.  But he finally got paid, and I finally got a clean bedroom.

Interestingly Man-Child I later asked exactly what his brother had done to earn his money beyond tidying his room, and I muttered something about quite a lot (it’s all relative isn’t it?).

The point is, when they want/need money to fund their weekend entertainment, you’ve got them right where you want them.  I am looking forward to clean bedrooms and a little extra help around the house in the future.  It’s amazing how nice it is when you don’t have to hang out every load of washing yourself.

I got so excited about their new-found abilities, that we’ve also decided it’s time for the men-children to learn to cook, and to prepare a meal for the family once a week.  Helping them gain a life skill, and helping Mother of a Man-Child and Father of a Man-Child have one less night at the stove after a day in the office.  I’m sure there’ll be plenty of tales about their culinary skills (or lack thereof) to follow!


Mother of a Man-Child: It’s nice to be wanted. February 11, 2011

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It’s funny how quickly your kids grow up.  One day they desperately need you and think you’re the bees knees, and the next they want you to drop them a long way from the school gate, or better still not be seen ANYWHERE with them.  And forget hugs and kisses – Yuk!

In our house we still have both extremes.  My men-children are only interested in me for two things – money and transport (the latter only when it suits them but not before or after a party)!  Oh and ensuring their clothes are washed, folded, ironed, replaced, etc, bountiful quantities of food are in the fridge, a hot meal is on the table each night, and the dishwasher miraculously fills and empties itself on a daily basis – but they’re all things that happen automatically, aren’t they?  And lest Mother of a Man-Child or Father of a Man-Child should complain, the response – “Well you decided to have children.  So that’s your job!!!”

Thankfully my dismay is tempered by the joy of having Sister of a Man-Child, who is still at the delightful age of complete and utter adoration for her parents.  When we go out she would rather we stay home than leave her with the Men-Children (can’t blame her really), and she loves every opportunity to jump into our bed for cuddles.  The highlight of her year is having Mum on tuck-shop duty (a very, very important event) that requires Mother of a Man-Child to be extremely vigilant to get on the roster, and then costs me at least $20 due to all the sudden best friends Sister of a Man-Child seems to have gained at school on said tuck-shop day.

Being Mother of a Man-Child is doubly hard with my sons as they naturally orient to other males at this age (oh and females of their OWN age).   So one can feel quite left out at times – not easy for someone who likes to be in control and in the middle of everything.  Of course they don’t mean it, it’s just the differences between the sexes becoming apparent.   Yes I know I need to get off the adolescent bridge, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it… (“He’ll be Okay” by Celia Lashlie).

No doubt when Sister of a Man-Child is older, she and I will share “girls stuff” in the same way the boys and their father share “boys stuff”.   But I also hope my daughter will maintain a special relationship with her father, and in time the boys and I will re-establish a special mother-son relationship.  I know my father enjoys great relationships with each of his daughters (he was blessed to have four of us) and we wouldn’t trade them for the world.   🙂

To read more on Man-Child books and the adolescent bridge:


Mother of a Man-Child: The Return of the Mullet? February 4, 2011

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In a somewhat ironic twist, it seems that being “Bogan” is somehow “in” with the very teenagers you would expect would shun this label.  Bogan-style talk and a penchant for the mullet haircut being two good examples amongst my man-child and his friends, along with skinny jeans and flannel shirts.  If they drove cars they’d have dice proudly hanging in the windscreen.

I kid you not, on more than one occasion at home Man-Child I has used language and speech that is positively Bogan – he sounds like a common gutter-mouth with no education and no manners.  His twin brother (Man-Child II) assures me that’s how he often speaks at school with his friends – wonderful!  They obviously think it’s funny and cool, although god only knows why?

Naturally in the presence of REAL Bogans (know as “muzzas” apparently), I expect all mimicking of this behaviour instantly ceases – lest they annoy the Bogans and get a good bollicking from them. 🙂

So our resident Bogan Man-Child I was on holidays recently with mates.  As one of them had hair clippers, for amusement they challenged my son to a dare.  They cut the sides of his hair short, leaving a nice tuft of hair down the middle of his head – yes a MULLET!!  As luck would have it they managed to botch it up completely, and subsequently had to give him a buzz cut to repair the poor styling.  Thank God is all I can say.  Although I would have liked to see a photo for my own amusement.

I have no problems with a buzz cut – it has many benefits including reduced risk of nits (thankfully a thing of the past for the men-children), dragging out the time between haircuts, and keeping Mother of a Man-Child’s hard earned money in her wallet longer.  In fact I’m so glad they like buzz cuts we’re giving them hair clippers for their birthday.  A wise investment so I won’t have to pay for haircuts ever again.  Akin to celebrating the time we had both of them toilet-trained and my 2-3 years of buying nappies and keeping Huggies in record profit was over.

BTW, if any of you are Bogans, my apologies if you are offended by this post.  Funnily it does make me wonder if the Bogans are getting about pretending to be uppity little private school boys with toffee voices and polos with collars standing up.  LOL.