Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

It’s quiet without the Men-Children January 27, 2012

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Australian FlagIt’s been a quiet week on the Man-Child front.  They headed off last week for five nights at a school rowing camp on the Tambo River.  It coincided with the hottest week of our summer so far  – just as well they were on water.  No doubt the next hottest one will be when the kids get back to school next week.  Isn’t that always the way?

I can’t tell you much about it – as is usual you don’t hear from them when they’re away unless you prompt them.  Father of a Man-Child was pretty active with texts and probably got a bit more information out of them.   He wanted to know how they were rowing, and if they were improving their times and winning.  I wanted to know if they were getting sunburnt and wearing hats!  Naturally we were both keen to hear all about it when they came home.

I left an Australia Day BBQ to pick them up on their return, only to drop them off home and head back to the party.  So we only had a quick debrief in the car – they admitted they were stuffed and keen to get home.  They said the camp was good, but hard – the healing blisters on their hands being testament to that!  5.30am starts, 3 rowing sessions a day, typical camp food.   Home to their own beds and a nice home-cooked meal by Mum – what bliss I thought.

By the time we returned from our party the boys were long gone – off to catch up with mates and girlfriends.  So much for tired!!! And so much for wanting a meal….probably hankering after some junk food anyway.   So any good camp stories will have to wait until next week – we should get some out of them over the dinner table tonight.

Sister of a Man-Child thoroughly enjoyed the week without her brothers. It’s probably a nice treat to have Mum and Dad all to yourself.  I expect the main thing she enjoyed was the quietness in the house – no arguing, no fighting, no screaming Mother, and when I bought a packet of hot cross buns they actually lasted the week and not 24 hours (you’ve got to be fast in our place normally).

So a belated Happy Australia Day to all.  We had a wonderful day with friends embracing the true meaning of the public holiday and celebrating our fortune to live in the lucky country.


The Parent-Child Power Struggle January 20, 2012

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There comes a point when you realise that it’s a lost cause. That whatever you say will be ignored, and that you are powerless as a parent to control your child anymore. Now in an ideal world, that would be when they are 18 years old, and fair enough too, since legally they are an adult (not necessarily mentally) and you really can’t stop them from doing what they want.

However, as a parent, I have long maintained a couple of principles:

  • Whilst our children are under 18 years old they are our responsibility and really should do what we say
  • Whilst our children live under our roof, they will abide by or at least respect our rules and our house (and it goes without saying respect us), even after they are 18 years old

So how was it that I found myself in the kitchen on Sunday night, with an almost 16-year-old, about to enter into one of the above mentioned no-win conversations? It transpired because after five days away with mates, bringing back a couple of tired men-children from the beach, I stated that Man-Child II was not to ask to go to his girlfriend’s house the minute we got home, as he was clearly tired and in need of a good night’s sleep in his own bed (you may recall he stays at his girlfriend’s house on occasion, against our wishes, as he sleeps in her room apparently)!!!!

No sooner had we walked in the door, than Man-Child II was in my ear.

  • “Hey Mum, I know you said “no”, but can I go to (insert GF’s name) house?”
  • “No you can’t” I tell him. “Don’t go there, we’ve covered this already.”
  • “But Why?” is the response, and the badgering continues for the next 10 minutes in the kitchen, as I’m trying to prepare dinner and get us all unpacked and ready to head to work the next day, whilst Father of a Man-Child is getting Sister of a Man-Child organised.

Now I could swear I had told him in advance that he should not even ask, but what does he do? He not only asks, he nags. And nags, and nags. As he nags, and I hear “But Why” another 10 times, my blood pressure escalates. Now many parents will know this trick, even those of a toddler throwing a tantrum – he’s trying to get me to declare in frustration “Okay, whatever, do what you want”, thereby allowing him to win, hands down, and get his own way. I am determined this will not be the case, so in my absolute frustration do you know what I did? As I was head in the fridge looking for dinner ingredients, I suddenly yanked a full cask of wine out of the fridge and threw it at him (I know, loads of self-control!!).

The cask actually hit him (no harm done) then sadly ricocheted off his arm, hitting the floor and splitting the bladder wide open, emptying the contents under various pieces of furniture. If you’ve never seen a very angry, very frustrated mother, trust me, it’s not a pretty sight. A few swear words later, and some pointed phrases directed at Man-Child II, and I set about cleaning up the mess I had made. Just Fabulous!!!! The rest of the household ducked for cover pretty quickly. Yes I know, it serves me right, but it was not what I needed. And I’m sure the neighbours didn’t really enjoy the entertainment going on next door – but then again????

Do you know what Man-Child II did? He left anyway. He says after Father of a Man-Child and his Man-Child brother had a crack at him (rightly so for causing the fracas), he’d had enough and so felt it was quite acceptable to leave the house (that’s teenage post-rationalisation for you isn’t it?). A pointed exchange via mobile phone then ensued, with multiple threats made by me and then by Father of a Man-Child. Thereafter, I didn’t speak to him for two days (he didn’t come home anyway) and he was seriously in our bad books. Eventually, we insisted he return home, and I did manage to extract a rather pathetic apology from him.

Father of a Man-Child and I have since agreed he needs a good talking to, so he understands that this approach to running his own life at his age is not acceptable, and not going to work while he lives in our house. My view is simple: if he wants to run his own life, he can leave school, get a job, move out, and then do what he wants. Now that would be interesting wouldn’t it?

I spoke to another parent just recently, who experienced similar challenges with his teenage son. He’s just coming out the other side now, but he said it’s been damn hard, and he provided some valuable tips about how to deal with these situations to avoid the instant blow-ups. Of course, avoiding the instant blow-ups might be easier if Mother of a Man-Child didn’t have such a fiery Irish temper…..will need to work on that clearly.

If you’re wondering why I am sharing this story with you, rather than avoid the embarrassment, I guess I thought you should know that I am really just a normal mother, with normal children, who is a long way from perfect, and feels much better admitting that it probably wasn’t the best behaviour on my part, and no doubt I’ll be laughing about it one day soon.


Post-Script to Home Alone January 13, 2012

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beersOkay, I admit it.  Perhaps the men-children are more mature than I thought?  After leaving them at home alone last weekend, unsupervised for 48 hours, it appears that nothing untoward took place, and our house remains unscathed.  Maybe, just maybe, the boys can be trusted more than I have given them credit for?  Then again, maybe they just know that the price of failing our trust test was just too great, so they chose to toe the line?

Father of a Man-Child made the decision to tell one of the boys of our absence mid afternoon on Friday.  He said we were away Friday night and POSSIBLY Saturday night but we weren’t sure (sneaky I know).  In a twist of fortune quite frankly, his brother didn’t know until about 6pm when we were well on our way to our destination, and far too late for him to organise anything significant. 🙂

Father of a Man-Child also left strict written instructions for them (then they can’t say they didn’t understand what you said can they?):

  • No sleep overs allowed with no parents present
  • No gatherings of more than 5 people (read per man-child)
  • No alcohol permitted with no parents present
  • Curfew of 12.30am for all friends to leave our home

We sent a couple of text messages, just to establish their movements on Friday night – both home, alone, very boring indeed.  On Saturday afternoon, a casual text arrives from one of the boys:  “Are you coming back tonight?” instantly sending one’s imagination into overdrive as you would expect.

We discussed the response options open to us:

  • Yep, we’ll be home later today (thereby killing any party plans, whether or not we actually planned to arrive home)
  • Not sure, we’ll let you know later (ditto above)
  • Why, are you planning something you shouldn’t be? (like he would tell us)
  • No, we are staying another night.  We could bullshit you but instead we are trusting you.  Don’t let us down (that was my actual response)!!

So, we decided to trust them, and we decided to let them have some fun.  We actually rang them late on Saturday night (yep, mid party) to speak to both of them.  One had a few mates over, and one had his usual “harem” of girls over (including his girlfriend of course).  It all sounded under control, with no slurring of their words evident, so at least we didn’t need to panic.  Whilst we had requested that they have no sleepovers in our absence, we also confirmed with both of them that they were indeed having a couple of mates to stay – yep, totally inconsistent, but how exactly were we planning on enforcing it from 3 hours away?  At least that way we knew what was happening.

We arrived home to a relatively normal house.  No signs of it being cleaned to within an inch of it’s life, no breakages, no empties lying about, nothing really out of the ordinary.  Father of a Man-Child says he found a few “rollie” stubs in the backyard – and promptly threw out the evidence before I could do the smell test!!!  He thinks they were smoking tobacco – I am not quite so sure….

Our neighbour dropped by and actually complemented the boys on being well behaved in our absence.  As a father (survivor) of two boys who are both now past their teens, I found that very comforting indeed.

So there you have it.  I know it’s not very exciting blog material is it?  It would make for a much better read if there was a scandalous story about some wild party at our house, with major mishaps thrown in for good measure.  But then again, it’s also a refreshing change, and a sign that perhaps my little darlings are coming of age, slowly but surely, and that there is a small but visible light glowing at the end of the adolescent tunnel. 🙂

In case you missed the pre-cursor to this story, you can read it here:  Men-Children alone in the house for a weekend 


Men-Children alone in the house for a weekend? January 6, 2012

Happy New Year to all my readers.  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  Well the Griswold Family have just returned from a great short holiday in Sydney.  We did all the tourist icons with the kids – Harbour Bridge, Opera House, The Rocks, Darling Harbour, Westfield Eye Tower, Bondi Beach, Manly Beach and Luna Park amongst others.  There’s no doubt being a tourist is hard work – it’s quite an exhausting holiday, but satisfying nevertheless.

Highlights for the Men-Children included doing the bridge climb (highly recommended) and jet-boating on the harbour, and for Sister of a Man-Child it was a photo with Maxy, one of the famous Bondi Rescue surf life savers, Luna Park, and seeing the NYE fireworks over the Harbour Bridge.  Much to the boys’ disappointment their plans for NYE didn’t quite work out as they hoped (they tried trust me), so they spent the night with us and our friends.  It wasn’t all bad as we were harbour-side to watch the Sydney fireworks and it’s not every year you get the chance to do that.  And we did buy them some alcohol so they could share in the festivities (Jim Beam & Cola being their drink of choice – Yuk!).  I have no doubt that will be the last NYE they will ever spend with us – and eventually just like us they will realise it’s a highly over rated night.

Having returned home, we’re all still in holiday mode and planning further escapes during January.  They boys have invitations to go beach-side with friends, and more sport camps so that should keep them occupied until school returns.  When an opportunity came up for a couple of weekends away with Sister of a Man-Child we both jumped at it.  One of the weekends was cleverly co-ordinated to coincide with the boys’ absence.  However, only at the last minute did we realise that heading away this weekend meant leaving the boys home alone.  And we hadn’t really thought about organising an alternative.

A couple of thoughts sprang to mind about how we might approach our absence:

  • Don’t tell them until the last minute, so they can’t plan anything.  (Or maybe don’t mention it at all and see if they call us to find out where we are – a bit of role reversal?)
  • Tell the neighbours to keep an eye on them and let us know if an impromptu party of 200 teenagers eventuates.
  • Threaten death if anything happens to the house.
  • Tell them we’ll be home on Saturday night (when it’s really Sunday night).
  • Ask the aunties to do drive-bys (do you think every hour is overkill?)
  • Panic!

The latter happened when I chatted to my twin sister and we both recalled the first time our parents left us at home for a weekend and “trusted us to do the right thing”.  Well, you can guess what happened can’t you?  Within 2 minutes of them leaving the house, we were on the phone to our mates organising a party.  And a great party it was, followed naturally by us cleaning the house to within an inch of its life.  A sure giveaway don’t you think?

Of course we got sprung – nothing to do with the stench of smoke and alcohol that I am sure permeated the entire house, or the motorbike divets left on the front lawn by someone’s boyfriend (I seem to recall his name was “Moose”).  My father (“hawk-eye”) wondered who had moved the fridge?  For God’s sake, who would have thought?  Naturally it wasn’t something we noticed was it? We blamed Moose – a mammoth of a man, and the only one big enough to do it!   I can’t recall the exact punishment metered out for this particular crime; there were quite a few over our teenage years.  We were probably grounded for a year or two, or perhaps it was the time when our invitation to go skiing with the neighbours to babysit their daughter was declined, much to our immense disappointment (and just quietly to our parents relief I suspect).

So as I post this, we will be on the road to our weekend away, and the boys will be “free” for the weekend.   If you should happen to see anything on Facebook about a party at our place, please let me know urgently (they’re not my friends on FB remember). 🙂