Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Fighting the Technology Tsunami November 25, 2011

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facebookTechnology – can’t live with it, can’t live without!  Smartphones, iPads, laptops, smart TV’s……the digital revolution is amazing and literally engulfing us all like a giant tsunami.  Of course the digital natives don’t know any different.  And even though I work in the digital space every day, I was more than a little surprised when Sister of a Man-Child, now 8 years old, asked me recently for her own email account. She even told me she’s already decided a “name” for Gmail.  I said no, straight away.

No because I didn’t want her having an email account that she could use to email her friends just yet, no because I didn’t want her having a SPAM account, where all those marketers (like me) could send her countless invitations to impart private information and sign up for countless offers.  No because she’s only eight years old, and it just seems wrong.

She signed up for a website recently, created especially for kids, with all the right rules and regulations etc, and you could even pay a monthly fee for premium services.  I gave in eventually when I found out quite a few of her friends were on it, and I was the only tight-arse parent not paying the subscription fee!  Seriously though, it was Facebook for under 10’s!  Totally getting them into online chatting, making friends, “buying” stuff….quite alarming in my view.  Even more so when her friend’s mother rang me to say their 8-year-old daughter had amassed several hundred “friends” on the game and they were closing her account.  Good move!  I happily cancelled my daughter’s account the same week – peer pressure can be used to your advantage sometimes.

Thank goodness Facebook terms and conditions state you have to be 13 to have an account – at least I can use that excuse for the next 5 years.  Already though she’s clued onto Facebook – who wouldn’t be when the rest of your family are constantly on it or talking about it.  To the point that Sister of a Man-Child’s friend was over for a play recently, and mentioned something I had posted on Facebook about my daughter.  Her mother had seen it, and commented on it (it was cute trust me), and then the daughter had seen it, and told my daughter.  So now Sister of a Man-Child regularly prompts me to “put it on Facebook Mum” and asks if people comment or like something about her.  See, she doesn’t even use it and already she’s being sucked into the vortex, the opportunity for two secs of “fame “on a Facebook wall, the opportunity to share the minutiae of her life with friends, friends of friends, and even complete randoms.   I should know, I do it on a daily basis – a Facebook fan from way back.  So much so I’m even paid to do it at work can you believe? 🙂

As for the Men-Children, they’re as obsessed as the rest of them.  They have iPhones (naturally), but they no longer have their own laptops.  We did buy them one each in Year 7 – not that it was mandated by school, but we thought it would be useful for homework (wishful thinking perhaps?).  They’ve both since given up the ghost, the boys haven’t bothered to get them repaired (they only need a new charger/cord), and the boys had made do with mine or my husband’s Mac (we LOVE Mac’s).  However, we’re now down to one Mac (damn it when you have to give back the work Mac) and as I’m on my work laptop (sadly not a Mac) most nights for work, they’ve been forced to share.

So for Christmas, top of the list for one Man-Child is a Mac.  Yes, not just any laptop, which you can buy for $4-500 bucks, but a $1,000 Mac.  Marketed so successfully that they enjoy a premium position and therefore premium price – they NEVER discount – haven’t you noticed damn it?  Apart from the cost (he even offered to make it a combined Xmas/Birthday present – it’s still too expensive), we’re loath to buy them a laptop each.  For the key reason, we don’t want them on them (read Facebook) 24/7.   They still don’t need a computer for homework every night, and we know for a fact that if they’re on the computer, they’re on Facebook, which means they’re NOT doing their homework.  Yes you can search Google and Wikipedia and be on Facebook at the same time, but we all know how easy it is to get distracted by that wall don’t we?  I even found one of the men-children on Facebook at 7am in the morning, before he headed off to rowing.  Just grabbing a quick look before we headed out the door – seriously!!

So tell me, should we get them a laptop for Christmas (even to share – a foreign word to the men-children but nevertheless a valuable lesson)?  Or should we continue to fight the technology tsunami for as long as we can, and overnight earn the title of the world’s meanest, tightest, most horrible parents ever put on the earth?  I’d almost rather live with the abuse than feed the beast!  Crazy I know.  🙂

I’ve talked about technology and Gen Z before.  Read more here.


Teenage Torture Techniques November 18, 2011

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Before you worry that we are monster parents who are torturing our men-children, it’s quite the opposite.  We are regular victims of “Teenage Torture”, a tried and true technique used by adolescents to wear down their parents when a decision is not considered favourable.

We all know that as a parent one of our key responsibilities is to make good decisions on behalf of our children.  This is especially true when they are very young, and are completely dependent on you for everything.  As children get older, there is a slow and eventual shift to their own decision-making, and along the way you hope you have provided them with the right guidance, but also an understanding of how to make decisions that are on the whole the right one, based on considered thought and reasonably sound judgement.

And somewhere along this spectrum is the difficult teenage period, when they think you don’t understand them at all, and that you don’t know anything, (no we’ve never been a teenager have we?) yet somehow you are able to make decisions on their behalf.    A couple of recent cases in point, which have caused a fair amount of discussion/debate/angst in our house:

Pre-drinks on race day:

You would have read recently that we had to be very firm and put our foot down to stop a bunch of teenage boys descending on our home recently ahead of a Melbourne Cup Carnival race meeting.  If they’d been allowed to, they all would have bought along a 6 pack of beers and sculled them before going to the races.  Thankfully we quoted recent legislation that meant we could be fined $7,000 if we gave underage kids alcohol without parental consent so we were saved.  But we had to withstand over a week of pressure from Man-Child I to relent.

Christmas Holidaysfireworks

We recently decided that our planned Christmas holiday was going ahead.  For most, a trip to Sydney to see the sights would be exciting to say the least, especially when it includes such icons as Bondi Beach, and the Coat Hanger bridge.  However, when the said holiday includes New Years Eve then the trouble starts.  The objections list went like this:

  • “What do you mean we’ll be in Sydney for NYE?”  (OMG, my life as I know it is over, I have to spend NYE with my PARENTS)!!!
  • “We have plans already” (about staying up all night and how much we’re going to drink)!
  • “Can’t you just send us home on an earlier flight so we can be with our friends?” (and use the empty house for a great party).
  • “You can call our mobiles whenever you want to find out where we are” (they won’t know we’re not at home when they call).

Now I don’t know about you, but the men-children are 15 (almost 16 and yes going on 25), but we just don’t think it’s a responsible decision to allow them to fly home 3 days before us, and then to allow them to head off somewhere for a NYE party.  It’s not a responsibility we want to pass onto anyone else, and we’re just not prepared to do it.  We did explain our decision to them, and the reasons for it.  The timing of the holiday is driven by my new job, which dictates when we can take the break.  We also explained it may be the last time they want to come with us for a family holiday (unless of course we pick a nice exotic destination), and that there’s plenty more NYE’s to come.  But as I remember all too clearly, at 15 all you want to do is be with your friends, and NYE does seem to take on some ridiculous mantle of excitement and superiority over any other night of the year for some reason.  As we all know, when you get older you can’t even be bothered staying up until midnight sometimes.

Alas, having made the decision and booked the flights (totally committing us) we are now enduring “Teenage Torture”.  At 7am the other morning, just as I had finished making the school lunches, and was wolfing down breakfast, Man-Child II appeared to raise the subject again.  “Why can’t we fly home from Sydney early”…..etc etc (see above).  I don’t expect we’ve heard the last of it.  Likely it will be a common theme running right up to Christmas.  It reminds me of the days of toddlers, and tantrums, and the constant nagging in the hope you would just say “here, have the bloody thing and now shut up would you!”.

Girlfriend Sleepovers

The other great point for debate has been over having the girlfriend to stay over.  And we’re not just wanting her to stay at our house, but in his room and in his bed.  Call me prudish, but that just is NOT happening now.  They are still only 15!! To make matters worse, it seems this is now allowed at her house since they have been officially GF/BF.  Hmmm, not happy to learn about that either.  Both Father of a Man-Child and I are adamant on this, and refuse to give in, at least until he gets a bit older, and if they’ve been going out for longer than two months!  Nevertheless, the Teenage Torture methods are again being employed.  Man-Child II appears at odd times to subtly bring up the conversation yet again.

  • Can she stay over on x night?  Yes sure.
  • Where will she sleep?  Downstairs.
  • Why can’t she stay in my room, with my other mate too?   Because he’ll be on the floor and she’ll be in your bed.  No.
  • Are you serious?  Yes.  Then don’t have her to stay at all.

Teenage Torture is relentless.  It’s constant, always there, ready to test your resolve, looking for a moment of weakness in the event you might just change your mind.  The best remedy is Parental Persistence – just don’t give in once you’ve made up your mind.  It’s exhausting, but sometimes we just know best (don’t we?)!

Please tell me, are we wrong?  Are we being too prudish?  Does it really matter if the GF stays?  Should we lose an occasional battle to win the war?  Or stick to our guns?  Help!!!

In case you missed the related stories:  The Races and Girlfriend Sleepovers


Boozy late night tales November 11, 2011

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horseThere are two things that make it difficult for my sons to get away with much:  one is on the occasions they are impeded by alcohol and therefore their judgement is very impaired, and the other is that I am way smarter than them!!

As most would know we’ve just had the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, which both the men-children attended with friends.  They did look rather dashing in their suits, along with 15 of Man-Child I’s friends who congregated at our house beforehand.  Man-Child I had previously asked me if he could have a handful of friends here for “pres” (that’s pre-event drinks for those not in the know), to which I was delighted to cite the new Victorian laws that make it illegal to allow minors to consume alcohol in a private house without the express permission of all parents.  No matter how much he tried to get around it, he was met with legal red tape and the threat of a $7,000 fine for us.  We declared a small victory on this occasion – just.

Granted on the day as I served chicken sandwiches in the warm afternoon sun I thought a cold beer would be perfect to wash down the said sambos, but the reality was their idea of “pres” was bringing a six-pack each of beers and sculling them in record time before heading off on the train to the racetrack.  As we tried to point out to our boys, if one of them then fell under a train we would be legally culpable.  And trust me, where there’s a will there’s a way – I’m sure they all managed a few drinks that afternoon and later in the night at the after parties (which is exactly where one of ours went)!

As is standard, we ask the boys to be home at a certain time, if they are out at a party.  Normally, the “curfew” is around 11.30pm, or midnight at the latest.  Which would be why at 1.30am last Sunday morning I texted Man-Child I to find out where he was, especially since he had a mate who planned to stay over here.   (Now I know how much worry I caused my parents when I was out later than expected, especially being a girl).   As he had spent the afternoon trackside at the races we were adamant that he come home for the night, thereby ensuring that he had to be in a reasonable state upon arriving home (yes, totally premeditated).

Not surprisingly, we had a quick text exchange:

Me: Where are you?  This is not 12ish!!

M-C: I’m at (friends), waiting for a cab…..

Me: You said (friend) was staying here.  Why are you at his place if you went to a party?

M-C: Can I just stay here? 

Me: Taxis don’t take 1.5 hours

M-C: We got a lift back here.

This is when I pick up the phone for a quick chat.  And then it starts to unravel.

Me:  Why aren’t you home?

M-C:  Can’t I just stay there? (Hmmm, why is he not saying “here” if he’s already there???)

Me:  Put on (friend), I want to talk to him (very trusting aren’t I?)

M-C’s friend:  Hello (Mother of Man-Child)

Me:  Why can I hear a tram?  (Knowing he doesn’t live near one!!).  Put MC back on please.

Me:  If you are waiting for a cab, I will come and pick you up now (oh, very clever). 

M-C:  Stunned silence…..Ah, I’m not there.  I’m waiting for a taxi (yep, sprung).

Me:  Get your arse home, in a taxi now, and then send your friend on his way.  And don’t lie to me next time.

30 minutes later I hear Man-Child at the front door, then back door, then front door again, texting me because he doesn’t have a key.  Given the state he was in, I doubt he could have got the key in the lock anyway.  He seemed to have an unquenchable thirst the next day too for some reason!!  Hmmm, we all know what that’s like don’t we?

The moral for my Men-Children:  don’t lie, I always find out.  And don’t lie when you’ve had a few – you make it too easy!!! 🙂

It’s not our first encounter with alcohol, naturally.  You can read more here: She Knows Everything.


The Holiday from Hell November 4, 2011

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A recent post by my friend and fellow blogger Mother Who Works, about their household battle with an outbreak of gastro, reminded me of a holiday many years ago with the men-children when they were just men-babies.   At the time I penned an article about our travels entitled “The Holiday from Hell” for the Australian Multiple Births Association newsletter.   14 years later I thought it was a rather amusing anecdote to share. 🙂

beachJuly 1997

And so the “M” family planned the perfect holiday.  A week at South Molle Island in the Whitsundays in July.  A direct flight to Hamilton Island (instead of a stopover in Sydney or Brisbane) and 30 minutes by launch to South Molle Island.  All meals catered for (parents and kids alike), a crèche for the kids, babysitting service, golf course, tennis courts, pools, beach, long walks, etc etc.  The perfect break for Mum and Dad after 15 hectic months with twins “C” and “H”.  No supermarket visits at 10pm, no standing in front of the fridge wondering what they (and you) were having for dinner, no hectic morning or evening schedule with Mum and Dad trying to get to work on time (for once) or get the kids to bed after a long day in the office.  Just pure relaxation for everyone, and a chance to spend valuable time with (and occasionally without) H and C!

The flight up was made somewhat easier courtesy of an upgrade to business class.  I guess the Ansett check-in attendant took pity on the parents with bags, twin stroller, and two restless kids waiting in the longest queues ever witnessed at Melbourne airport.  With extra room, H and C could basically trash a much larger area of the plane.  Fortunately, business travellers were limited on our flight, and the hostesses very helpful.  Of course, it’s difficult to enjoy the food, service etc in business class with a bouncing toddler on your knee throwing complimentary pencils everywhere.  Plenty of cheese sticks, tetra bricks, dry biscuits etc kept us in good stead for the first two hours.  However, as expected, the kid’s confinement was a little trying into the third hour of the flight.  Thank God for Vallergan, although it is our misfortunate that is has never worked on H.  He eventually fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion 30 mins from our destination, whilst C managed a one hour sleep.

Great to hit terra firma at Hamilton before a pretty uneventful (although somewhat rough) trip by boat to South Molle Island.  We arrived on a Saturday at about lunchtime and checked in to our home for the next week – the Family rooms at South Molle are more than sufficient with a separate room for the kids, complete with cots, and a veranda with safety gate to stop two particular boys falling straight down the stairs.  With two hungry kids we headed straight to the restaurant for lunch.  The restaurant staff only had to see us heading in before they grabbed the highchairs and had them ready at a table for us.  This exceptional service continued the entire period of our stay.

Not wanting to seem too eager, we immediately checked out the crèche on Saturday afternoon, memorizing the hours available, and effectively booking them in on the spot.  Our kids had been looked after by a nanny since they were five months old, with little time spent in crèche or similar facilities.  Nevertheless, H took to it like a duck to water, and instantly busied himself with the new toys, books etc.  C on the other hand, always the clingier child, was not happy with his new surroundings.  The crèche staff suggested a five minute walk by Mum and Dad, to see if our absence made him settle down.  Unfortunately, we returned to a very upset little boy.  Oh well, perhaps tomorrow it would seem more familiar (it better!).

After an attempt at crèche on Sunday morning, and again on Sunday afternoon, the staff finally won C over and we headed off for an hour long walk to the other side of the island, confident that the boys were having a good time.  Indeed they did.  So much so that we booked them in for Monday morning, so we could enjoy a round of golf on the 9-hole, short par course (basically ideal for amateurs like me).  We picked up two very tired but happy boys and headed to lunch at midday on Monday.  But before we had even ordered a drink to celebrate the start of the holiday we had dreamed about, H projectile vomited across the middle of the restaurant floor!  So much for lunch.  Needless to say H and I went straight to the resident nurse, who couldn’t diagnose anything particular at that stage, and home to bed for a rest.  As he had had no unusual foods on the island, nor come into contact with any sick kids at the crèche, we ruled out any nasty bugs.

We spent a quiet afternoon with H recovering, and planned our activities for the next day.  Dinner in the room was easy to arrange, in view of the sick child, so we had a night in.  At 10.30pm that night, we were woken by the sound of a child throwing up – not H, but C, and yes you guessed it, in his cot.  The same violent projective kind of throwing up as his brother.  (Starting to sound suspicious????)  By the next day (Tuesday), both boys seemed to have recovered, although unfortunately the crèche was out of bounds for 24 hours due to their illness, so we spent the day with them.  An uneventful evening over dinner (they cleverly had a sitting for kids at 5pm and parents from 6-8pm whilst kids are in the crèche), although we were forced to do shift work with dinner because crèche was out.  To cheer ourselves up we arranged for a babysitter to mind the boys on Wednesday evening so we could enjoy the only upmarket restaurant on the island.

By Wednesday morning H was clearly not well.  His general state of lethargy over breakfast was of great concern, and so another visit to the nurse was arranged.  By this stage I was starting to feel unwell myself, and the thought of spending half my day travelling by boat to the mainland to see a doctor was not high on my agenda.  Fortunately a phone conversation with a doctor and a very sympathetic nurse allowed us a course of antibiotics to settle what appeared to be an oncoming ear infection (with a flight looming, who wants an ear infection?).  And so the babysitter arrived that evening, and we left confident that the kids were finally on the mend.  Arrived home to find no problems, and went to bed happy.  Only until I had to make the dreaded dash mid-morning to the loo for you know what!  So there goes Thursday, with still no kids in crèche, me feeling lethargic and miserable, and seriously considering getting on a plane to go home early, although who wants to fly with a gastro bug?

Friday, and with the holiday drawing to a close, we planned our last night out with the babysitter booked again.  By this stage, we were all feeling better, although we sensibly stayed away from the crèche.  Fortunately we were able to borrow backpacks, buckets and spades etc for the kids, so we could get out and about with C and H.  After a great day with the boys we got organised for our “big night out”.  No sooner had Father-of-Twins dressed, than he was looking for the nearest receptacle to throw up in.  Of course we know gastro is catchy but this was ridiculous.  Not wanting to be a party pooper, he cancelled the babysitter, but insisted I go out anyway while he minded the kids (if you call lying prostrate on the bed feeling shithouse minding the kids).  I caught up with another couple, and had a great night, although I was sorry that hubby missed it.

By Saturday we were on the launch and on our way home.  By this stage, it was the only place I wanted to be.  Unfortunately it’s a little difficult to be upgraded on a flight that is fully booked (better luck next time).  And so we joined the “zoo” in economy, indeed fortunate to end up with the only vacant seat on the plane between us.  The kids spent the flight home standing on the meal trays and annoying the shit out of the people in front of us.  Thank God they were a couple of ten year old kids, and quite entertained by H and C.  I have never been happier to get off a plan than that Saturday in July.  Home to the routine, our beds, the kids’ cots and high chairs, my own loo to throw up in when I want, and of course a mound of washing and a visit to the supermarket at 10pm on a Sunday night, to restock the fridge for the coming week.

Of course the faces of my colleagues told a thousand stories at news of our Holiday from Hell on Monday!  In fact Rob’s company were so devastated for us that they insisted on sending us to Sydney for a child-free weekend to recover!! (And enjoy it we did).

And what may you ask did we learn from our well planned holiday?  Never leave mainland Australia with young kids, never fly more than an hour with kids under 10 years of age, give up the notion that a holiday north every year is still possible with kids, and resign yourself to the sensible ways of our parents, who long ago realised that a couple of weeks on the peninsula with the kids was just as much fun, and only an hour from Melbourne if disaster strikes!!!

November 2011

Ironically we just came back from another holiday in the Whitsundays at Hamilton Island – very much enjoyed by all of us this time.  I do recall when we left South Molle Island some hel­pful staff member telling us that it was very common for mainlanders to get gastro on the island due to the poor water source.  You can imagine how thrilled that made me can’t you?