Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Should Man-Child Leave School? May 25, 2012

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rowingThey joys of parenting includes surviving the highs and lows of your children’s school years.  From the excitement of the kinder and primary years (such times of innocence and youthful enthusiasm) to the more serious journey into adulthood that secondary school marks.

Our boys enjoyed wonderful years in their primary school.  They had great teachers, made wonderful friends, and both did well academically and on the sporting field.  Happy times in a school with only 300 kids and a wonderful sense of community.

Then off to “big school” from Year 7, into an all boys’ school, which is well suited to our men-children.  It’s a large school, with great facilities, catering to diverse interests of the school population.  And very well versed in how to care and manage for boys on their journey through adolescence and beyond.

In the last 3.5 years we have certainly enjoyed the fruits of their sporting excellence, but it has to be said neither has excelled academically.  That in itself is not an issue, we can’t all be good at everything.  Our hope is merely that they apply themselves diligently and make the most of every opportunity they are given at school.  What we don’t enjoy is knowing that they are in fact intelligent, but not really making the effort required to excel in their studies.

To be fair, one of the men-children is pretty diligent, and doing okay (not amazingly, but well enough).  Let’s just say ahead of the recent careers night I did advise him bluntly that law and medicine were probably not worth pursuing, unless he’s been hiding the report that shows straight A’s!!   Sadly, our other man-child has really not applied himself well to academia at all.  The parent-teacher interviews have been pretty repetitive over the years – very capable, but not really living up to his potential (read LAZY).   And that attitude has extended to homework (not really bothered to do it if the subject didn’t interest him), and more recently school punctuality (why rush when you can sleep in after mum and dad have gone to work?), resulting in a familiarity with key teachers/staff in the school that we’d rather not have.  This familiarity is the result of countless email exchanges, meetings, and phone calls over the years about our son.

We considered boarding school once for him – ironically his own school wouldn’t take him – he was seen as too disruptive!!!  We also considered shifting schools – perhaps he would be better with a fresh start, away from his twin?  I spoke to a few schools, one of which provided us with amazing advice and guidance about surviving the teenage years at school and recommending that we didn’t shift him at all, because the results would be far worse.   (Then again, maybe he was just trying to discourage us from sending him there – LOL!)

The reality following work experience and a recent careers night is that our son is not an academic and doesn’t thrive in the learning environment typically offered by mainstream schools and universities.  He’s just not interested enough.    He knows he doesn’t want to be office bound, but wants to do some sort of trade, and work outdoors.  He loved his recent work experience stint with a builder, spending the day with tradies, doing physical work, driving utes, etc.  So you can imagine how he finds the regime that is school – NOT!  So we finally bit the bullet and seriously looked into VCAL – the TAFE alternative to Year 11 and/or 12, where they can commence studies in a chosen trade ahead of applying for an apprenticeship.   And to be honest, what we found seems the perfect mix for our man-child.   A blend of hands on learning about a chosen trade, coupled with general Maths and English units, and other life skills to ensure they’re still educated to an acceptable level.   We’d rather he be happy and engaged at “school” than stuck in a system that doesn’t work for him.  Who knows, he might one day decide he wants to do further study, and being his own decision he would probably apply himself.  Countless people before him have done the same and gone on to be very successful.

We have discussed the possibility of him leaving to do VCAL with his current school, and they have been extremely supportive, both about our potential decision to leave the school at year-end, but also about the chance to retain him at the school if he wishes to stay on.  It’s almost a relief to have it on the table (probably for our son as much as us), but also an added incentive for him to complete Year 10 well since it’s a pre-requisite for VCAL.

One large regret for us if he leaves the school is him also leaving the school community and the sporting opportunities that he has so far enjoyed.   But to be honest we’re probably more worried about that than our son.   He can still pursue sport outside his current school – it just won’t have the cache that some of the private schools associate with sporting excellence, and again, maybe that just isn’t important to him?

So it may be a very different year for our boys next year, especially if they both find themselves at different schools.  My prediction is that one will go to trade school, work full-time, buy his longed for ute with his hard-earned money and move out (he wants his independence desperately), whilst his brother will go to uni, and be a poor student for years, living at home with Mum and Dad.  As I’ve said before, they’re very different, and no doubt their lives will head in very diverse directions, but I know they’ll be great mates when they’re older, just like me and my twin sister, and hopefully they’ll both agree that we did everything we could to support them through their school lives and beyond.

You can read about the joys of Parent-Teacher interviews here.  As I said, rarely enjoyable.


My Twins: Definitely Different! May 18, 2012

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boysNot surprisingly, our twin boys are extremely different, especially since they are fraternal (non-identical) twins.  Like me and my twin sister, they really are chalk and cheese.  Yes they are both sporty, excelling at rowing, football and rugby, but that’s where the differences end.  They are both charming young men when they want to be, and personable to anyone they meet, but their personalities are very different and have been from day one.

I am not complaining about this – we like the fact they are different, and have always sought to separate them at school and encourage them to have their own circle of friends and interests.  Aside from personality differences (not readily noticed by someone who may not know them intimately), there are other more tangible differences you can notice immediately.

For starters, they look very different.  Their faces are different (I don’t think they even look like brothers) and where one has always had a typical boys build, the other went through a pudgy stage before his teenage growth spurt.   They are now both well-built, muscly boys, but if you look closely again you can see physical differences in their muscle development and body shape.

They dress differently too – with completely divergent tastes in clothing.  One is very interested in how he looks and what he wears, whilst the other considers clothing to be just that – not a fashion statement but a practical item you wear for modesty, warmth etc.  If his girlfriend had her choice, she’d like his twin brother’s wardrobe on him!

Their differences are also borne out at home.  Take their bedrooms – one is relatively tidy, and generally presentable for a teenage bedroom, the other is a “tip”, full of the detritus of everyday living – three wet towels on the floor, rubbish in the corner (where it’s been for 4 weeks), dirty socks, school shirts, pens, electronic gadgets, food wrappers etc.  The list goes on.  The cleaners recently piled it all into a corner so they could vacuum the carpet – I got really excited he had finally succumbed to his own filth and cleaned the mess up until we found the Mt Everest of teenage life behind the bedroom door.

These habits extend to their general living quarters and cause quite a bit of angst.  Naturally one of the men-children likes to keep the bathroom and lounge area neat and tidy (just like his parents actually).  You can imagine the stress then of living with his twin who drops everything on the bathroom floor (and leaves it there) and uses the coffee table like you would a dishwasher, for a growing pile of dirty glasses, bowls and plates.  Maybe he’d like to be a scientist, since he’s often cultivating penicillin in their lounge room!

It drives one of the men-children absolutely mad (as it does me).  Occasionally I crack it and make my son do a tidy up (trust me it’s excruciating to watch the slowness with which he tackles this chore), but for the most part, I just let them sort it out amongst them.  I guess I consider it one of life’s lessons.  You can’t always choose who you live with, and we’re all different, so they have to learn to get along in the world and live with imperfections or they’ll go crazy.

I do observe this with a sense of sympathy and amusement, having lived in close quarters with my own twin, who it’s fair to say was just like my untidy son.  We however shared our bedroom for 14 years.  It must have been quite amusing for my parents to look into our room and see the perfection and neatness of a spotless room on one side and the dishevelment on the other.  I recall one day putting a line of masking tape down the middle of the room so her detritus could live on her side and not infringe mine.

Their approach to school is what you might expect having read the above.  One man-child is pretty self-motivated and diligent, both in class and at home, so he seems to have his school work reasonably under control and we don’t have to ride him very often.  On the flip side his brother is constantly behind at school, not doing the work, takes forever to finish things (much to his teacher’s frustration and ours) and is just not highly motivated by anything academic related.  Being in year 10 this has led to a number of issues, which have recently come to a head.  More news on that in another post.

So yes they are very different.  Just like many siblings are different.   Does it make it harder when you’re a twin to be different?  Does it make it easier for people to compare you?  Does it make it worse for one twin if any imperfections are amplified?  To be honest Father of a Man-Child and I differ on this.  Strangely he seems to think it’s more of an issue than me (the twin).  I guess I just see two very different children, who happen to be the same age making their journey through adolescence.  Whereas he sees two competitive young men, with successes and/or failures in different things, the latter potentially amplified with a negative effect.

What do you think?  As a sibling or parent?  Is this worse for twins, or is it just part of being a unique individual growing up in a family?

Apologies to my readers who think this story is familiar, I have written about it before:  Living with Man-Child Mess.  It’s clearly a sore point!


Sister of a Man-Child: Here comes the Attitude. May 11, 2012

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OMGIt’s been a while since I wrote about Sister of a Man-Child.  She’s a darling 8-year-old most of the time, and really a very easy going, and thoughtful child.  But sometimes she can take me by surprise, and cause me to reflect on the world around her and just what impact the behaviour of the Men-Children and we as parents have on her, considering she lives in an “adult” world a lot of the time.

Of course, there are other influences in her life also – the media, her friends, her teachers.  I can only guess as to the source of influence for a recent text message I received from her whilst at work:  “I hate my life!”  I kid you not – that’s exactly what she wrote.   I rang home immediately in case she was seriously suicidal, only to find out that a small incident had occurred with her brother/father and she was basically having a sulk.  I am confident she learned to be a drama queen from the countless Foxtel/Disney teenage shows she watches – some saccharine sweet, but clearly some not quite so.  Most of them drive me insane and I regularly demand they be turned off.

I totally blame these shows (and also the Men-Children) for her latest outburst.  Upon learning we were going out for dinner and she would need a babysitter (admittedly we had an unusually busy week and I had been “out” every night at some function or meeting) she declared at the dinner table “Are you serious!”  (insert indignant tone of voice).  I was gobsmacked to say the least, and immediately angry, and said she was NOT to speak to us with that attitude again.  Cue tears – suddenly a small 8-year-old girl not a teenager with attitude!

She also recently started walking around the house, saying to me BTW, blah blah… not “By the way”, but literally “BTW”.  When I asked her why she was talking in abbreviations, she said she liked it.  Hmmm.  Just like teenagers like it.  You may have noticed that “OMG” and  “LOL” are not acronyms any longer, but “words”.   I said please talk to me in proper English and save the text language for the iPod/iPhone thanks.   I really wonder what we’re breeding some days and whether or not our children will be able to write or speak using correct English.   Was I being too mean?  Was she just experimenting with language?  Or am I right to nip this in the bud?

When it comes to her brothers, Sister of Man-Child doesn’t want much from the Men-Children – just their love and a little attention from time to time so she doesn’t feel like an only child.  It’s so rare that they are nice to her, that the other day she came running in to tell me that they had BOTH been really nice to her, and that she was SO happy.  She even asked one of them why he’d been nice to her four days in a row.  I have made a point to let them both know how she feels, so they might begin to realise what impact they have on their sister’s feelings, and how easy it is to earn her adoration and make her feel wonderful.  It takes such a small effort on their part to be nice to her, I hope they think twice about it and change their behaviour towards her.

As I say often to my daughter, just wait until you’re 15 years old.  Your 22-year-old brothers will be VERY interested in you and your girlfriends, and probably fighting to drive you everywhere and even chaperone you to parties.   Bring it on I say!

You can read more about Sister of a Man-Child here:  A Princess Tale


Sometimes you just have to say NO! May 4, 2012

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roadAs you know we now have two learner drivers in the house. The upside – we got “chauffeured” to a school function the other evening – one drove us there, one drove us home. And we didn’t have to worry about nudging 0.05. (Don’t worry, I’m pretty certain you can’t be over the limit if you’re supervising the said learner driver, but you get my point – it’s the difference between relaxing over a glass or two of wine versus drinking water all night because you’re so paranoid you’ll get breathalysed on the way home).

The downside of learner drivers is when one of them asks if he can drive to Queensland with his girlfriend and her older brother in the July school holidays? Yes, the very same Man-Child who has the incredible sum of two hours driving practice currently under his belt (and in his log book). I am not giving any of you points for guessing what the response was, because it was an immediate “absolutely NOT” kind of response that should have ended the conversation right then and there. But alas, it was our Man-Child who won’t ever take NO for an answer. The one who just goes on and on at you in the hope you’ll just give in. But as you know, I’d sooner throw a cask of wine at him than give in. (If you don’t know that story, you can read it here for your own amusement).

Now please don’t get me wrong, we’re not averse to our son having a holiday in Queensland with his girlfriend and the older 30-something brother, but he seemed shocked that we would want ANY detail at all? For example, where in Queensland would you stay? (Last time I checked it’s a mighty large state!) Does the brother work? Will he be on holidays with you or working every day? Who else is going? What does he do for a job? (Okay, maybe a little nosy, but we don’t know him at all, so it’s a fair question). Who does he live with? (I can’t help but have visions of a group of bong smoking, tequila-drinking boys playing cards).

My son was affronted by my questions, and couldn’t understand why I didn’t automatically trust an older brother. Simple I said – because he’s not a PARENT!!! And that changes everything in my book, fairly or not.  And so the conversation went around and around. Can I go by car to Queensland but only as a passenger? NO. Especially since his girlfriend who doesn’t even have her Learner’s permit yet was proposing to test her driving skills (using that term very loosely) on the way to Queensland.

I have done the Queensland drive more than I’d prefer to remember. My scariest memory is leaving the road travelling at 100kmh with a mate (who was driving) and hitting the grass paddock roadside – it could have ended a very different story if there’d been trees trust me. Or with my father driving years ago and the car just missing the semi trailer coming in the opposite direction, who didn’t have his headlights on at dusk as we overtook another car. I think my father nearly had heart failure when he realised what we’d just avoided!!!

So yet again, the wisdom of the parent is lost on the child. I think we’ve made our position clear for now, but we are often getting the “Now I’m 16 I can do what I want” response on a regular basis. How we deal with that is a whole other blog post best left for another time.

So tell me, are we being too tough? Or paranoid? Should we be worried or not about the driving? Or the unknown older brother? I’d love to know what you think.