Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Ever present danger September 28, 2012

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tram tracker appThis week we were reminded about the potential for dangerous situations for our men-children.  Not surprisingly, as teenagers they are often out on weekends, generally hanging with a couple of friends, attending parties or gatherings, and travelling on public transport or by taxi if (their) funds permit, preferably in a group for safety.

We always like to know where they are going, who they will be out with, what time they are coming home, or if they are staying out for the night, etc.  Sometimes this frustrates the hell out of them, but as we explain, if something happens to you and you somehow lose your mobile phone, we really need to have some idea where to start looking for you or tracking you down.

Both of the men-children were out last weekend, having come back from kayaking camp (where they had a fabulous time), showered (I’m sure that felt good) and then headed straight back out the door.  When one of the boys eventually got up the next morning, he was fuming.  He told me about an incident outside a party where two older boys had confronted him and a mate.  They had pinned his mate against a wall, threatened him with a bottle (not broken I’m glad to say), and demanded money.  My son eventually offered them $20 and they took off, thankfully without stealing their mobile phones and any more money.

Over the next few days we had an interesting debate about how to handle a situation like this if it was ever repeated.  I actually think he did the right thing – stay with your friend, handover money (who cares) and stay safe.  I also asked if he knew who the boys were, or what school they attended, as I was more than happy to phone the said school and let them know there was some delightful behaviour going on.  What are the chances it’s not the first time they’ve bullied other boys?

We agreed personal threats to the offenders would get you nowhere, unless you wanted your head beaten in!  In truth, our son even baulked at the thought of us contacting the school, lest it be known he was the “dobber” and there were repercussions.  A discussion then ensued about the rights and wrongs of naming and shaming, so that the collective good defeats the bad seeds of society.  As a teenager, he really didn’t have the same global view of his parents, and frankly, didn’t seem to want to hear it.  Would it surprise you to know one of the boys had apparently been expelled from a very expensive private school?  No wonder!  So the matter was put to bed, there really wasn’t much we could do, but we do hope we gave our son food for thought.

Whilst the above events were unfolding, our other son was also out for the night, at a mates.  Since the men-children had been at camp all week, they were both under strict instructions to come home to sleep, and not stay out.  As is usual however, at 11pm the text messages started (no thought for slumbering parents of course).

“Mum, can I stay at xxx house please?  I’ve missed the last tram.”  “Bullshit.  You have not.  We agreed you would come home.”

He then calls me (most unusual in itself) to explain it’s a long walk to the tram, and that the timetable has changed due to school holidays (yeah sure) and that his Tram Tracker is showing no further trams.  Really I say, that’s frog shit, the tram timetable doesn’t change in school holidays, and they always run up until midnight.  And then I check my own Tram Tracker and see THREE trams coming to our suburb from his friend’s house in the next 50 minutes!!!!!

Suffice to say, I gave up arguing, told him I thought he should come home, but that I really didn’t care what he did, said I looked forward to the screen grab showing his faulty Tram Tracker, and by the way, thanks for waking me up, and would he like me to text and ring him at 6.30am when I got up for a run the next morning?  Of course not!!

Late next morning, up turns man-child #2 looking like he’s been beaten up by the same thugs that our other son encountered.  He’s got a massive bump and cut on his forehead, a cut under his eye some initial bruising, and another cut across his nose.  He can see the alarm on my face, and quickly tells me it’s not what it looks like.  Apparently he got up at his mate’s house in the morning, went to the bathroom, slipped on the wet floor and wacked his face on the vanity.  He’s lucky something isn’t broken.  He then tells me he wishes he came home after all (good) and has spent the morning icing his wounds and worrying how it will look tomorrow for his girlfriend.

Now for those who are thinking we just bought the oldest lie in the book, I have to admit the same thought crossed my mind.  However, having actually spoken to my son, who sounded completely sober the night before, I did believe his story.  Then again, I could shoot holes in it – an unusual call, a last-minute request to stay out, lies about tram timetables (do they think we came down in the last shower?).  Bottom line, he really had no need to lie about it.  Like his brother, I think he would tell us if something worse had happened.

So whilst the events of the weekend could have been far more fraught, it did bring home the ever-present threat of danger for our men-children when they are out at night.  You just have to read the paper and watch the news on any given day to see constant reminders of the randomness of violence on our streets.  And you just have to be a parent (like mine before me) to know the feeling when you lie in bed at night waiting to hear the squeak of the gate, or the sound of the front door opening, letting your children in to the warmth and safety of their home.  I can only hope this is the worst we will ever have to deal with in the lives of our men-children.

Of course, we have encountered the odd spot of trouble over the years:  An Arresting Story (caught shoplifting) and Drug & Alcohol Education (caught smoking dope)!


Seasoned campers? September 21, 2012

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toilet paperIt’s that time of year again – when schools arrange for the kids to head off on various camps, just ahead of the school holidays.  As so little academic work really gets done in the last week of every term (let’s be honest), it makes a lot of sense to me.

So it is that the men-children have headed off on yet another camp.  We have had outdoor education camps, cadet camps, rowing camps, well-being camps and summer camps amongst others.  Each camp challenging, enjoyable, and contributing to the boys’ sense of independence, sense of self and maturity.

This camp is for their selected outdoor activity.  With so many activities on offer, there are a large number of camps throughout the year with small groups of boys.  So out of all the activities and all the camps, my two somehow end up on the same camp of just 12 boys kayaking.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fantastic they are kayaking – it’s a challenging sport, and as rowers they seem to be very well suited to it.  They love the physical challenge of the rapids and of course the camping in the bush.  But how is it that out of 250 boys, the men-children again find themselves thrown together.  When I discovered they were both on the camp together, I did have a chuckle, and asked if they were planning on sharing a tent?  (Trust me, they would rather each endure frostbite than share a tent together).

So apart from establishing that they had organised very quickly their respective tent buddies, they were then left to sort all the gear out themselves.  Being teenage boys, it took several nights of nagging to finally get them to THINK about what they needed and do some advance planning/organising.  Along with several threats of “I won’t be driving around the night before you go, picking up camping gear or shopping for you” (mmm, hold that thought)!

True to form, one was pretty organised, prompting me to go shopping, equipped with his list, booking camping stoves, borrowing gear, etc.  His brother was the exact opposite, having lost his list the day he was given it, and forever after blaming everyone else for “throwing it out”.   My guess is he finally found it buried under the pile of shit that’s been living on his bedroom floor for the last few weeks, and which I insisted he clean up before heading away for four days (under threat that I would otherwise throw every last bit of it out) but he’s not going to admit that is he?

When it was suggested he who lets everyone else worry for him, and organise him, actually pick up the camp stoves after school the day before camp, he made a million excuses.  Suddenly he was very busy with a haircut and even a detention!  Simple answer to that – either you pick up the stoves or don’t bother going on the camp!  Guess what – he managed to leave school early (not happy), suddenly having no detentions, and picked up the stoves.  A minor victory!  Short-lived, as we then endured the morning of departure with him still running around packing last minute items including cutlery and plates (generally useful when camping) and a double bed sheet.  Most people would take a sleeping bag and camp mattress.  No, this man-child convinced the camp leader that he could bring the double mattress from the fold-up couch to place inside the tent for him and his camping buddy – with every intention of living in relative luxury for four days.  Amazing!

As for the food supplies it was the usual boy camp food.  Tinned tuna, tinned chicken, bread, dehydrated pasta and rice meals, cereal and milk powder, along with snacks and a slab of Sunkist.   One was literally happy to live on 2 minute noodles with virtually no protein at all, but I convinced him that wasn’t going to sustain him for long with the physical exercise he was planning during the camp.

So camping they are.  Enjoying the great outdoors, doing without the luxuries of home, no shower for four days, a basic drop toilet, no electricity, no TV, internet, Facebook or mobile phones.  Back to nature, bonding with mates (even one’s twin brother?), learning to kayak the wildest rapids, and having an absolute ball.

Having seen my men-children enjoy their camps so much every year, I wish they had actually attended a school that included at least a term or a year off-campus at a separate rural facility.  I really believe it is good for adolescents to have some time away from home, and to learn basic life skills and self-sufficiency.  Somewhere their mother can’t do everything for them, and molly-coddle them (okay, I admit it).  Speaking of which, I just remembered that I didn’t remind either of them to take loo paper for the drop toilet.  Oh well, they will just have to borrow some or go without!  A good lesson for all of us. 🙂

I have written about the joys of the men-children camping before: A bit on the nose after camp & Freezing on cadet camp.


Men (children) at Work!!! September 14, 2012

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working menSometimes an opportunity presents itself that is just perfect for everyone involved.  My sister (aunt of the men-children) is just undertaking a major landscaping project at her home.  It’s the works – complete gutting of the backyard, removal of all trees, plants, out-buildings, concrete slabs (literally back to dirt), and then starting again, with a new shed/studio, trees, paths, lawn, vegie patch etc.

As she contemplated the enormity of the job they had undertaken recently, which like all good couples they are largely doing themselves (occasionally “assisted” by a 3-year-old of course), it occurred to me that I had two potential workers to offer her.  Who better to employ than the men-children?  Both currently unemployed as you know, just at the end of their AFL and Rugby seasons, and pre rowing season, with spare weekends and a desire for cash.  Perfect!  The upside for my sister – the cheapest labour you can get (at $10/hour plus meat pies and Coke), and non-union to boot!

So off they went last weekend for their first shift of labouring.  Dressed just like a couple of “tradies”, raring to go.  Now if the truth be known I am not sure what my sister and brother-in-law expected, although I suspect they thought they might be a bit soft, and/or slack (in keeping with the “private school boy” image).  The reality was something quite different.  They both jumped straight into the work, and achieved a huge amount over a six-hour period.  It has to be said, which 16-year-old boy wouldn’t enjoy belting the crap out of an old timber floor, wielding an axe, chopping down trees etc.  They did a good enough job to be invited back this weekend.  They were even complimented on their work ethic, and one on his very practical approach on the day, the latter for the aspiring “tradie” who is keen to leave school to pursue a career in building.  I was quietly chuffed to hear this.

So home they came, with their earnings, dirty and sweaty but satisfied.  They were thrilled to have the money to spend that night (I think “Dan” was the recipient of some of it), we were thrilled not to have to fund their social life for a change, and my sister and brother-in-law were thrilled to have broken the back of the clean up stage.  A veritable trifecta of happiness.

This project should see them out to the end of the school holidays, and then we’re back into sporting commitments.  I have already offered their services to another friend who is building a new house, and of course will have a large DIY landscaping job at the end of it.  Enquiries for future work welcome, but if I get them too many gigs I will have to look at taking a commission!!

I have written about each of their previous employment “opportunities”: Pyramid Selling and Burger Joint.


Daring to have “pre’s”! September 7, 2012

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party streamersRecently the boys made a rare request to host a “gathering” at our house. Not a party, but a “gathering”. If you have kept up to date with all my glossaries of teenage speak, you will know this is a small group of adolescents, gathered together for a social occasion, most definitely NOT a party (or so they will have you believe). This particular gathering was even more specific, in so far as it was actually for “pre’s” (again refer the glossary for the definition, but it’s what we knew as pre-party drinks).

The boys have not actually asked to host pre’s before, or even a gathering. I suspect it’s because they have what they would call the “world’s strictest parents”, and they just didn’t feel it was going to be considered, or they were too embarrassed to even have people here? Whatever the reason, it transpired that there was a party on in our neighbourhood that they were both invited to (in itself a rare event given their diverse circles of friends) and it was opportune to stop in for an hour or so for some pre-party drinks.

Now savvy Australian readers of my blog will know that to host a party and serve alcohol to under-age teenagers actually requires parental permission or the risk of a fine. You may well pass judgement on us, but we did allow our boys to host “pre’s” for a couple of hours at our home. For the record it was strictly BYO, we didn’t supply it to them. The party they were going to was also allowing them to all take in alcohol in “limited” quantities. So where would we rather they consume the alcohol? Certainly here is preferable to the local park (sound familiar)? And the advantage of hosting it was offering to supply food to the small number of attendees – there-in filling their stomachs and soaking up some of the alcohol. 🙂

The plan was naturally for Mother of a Man-Child, Father of a Man-Child and Sister of a Man-Child to make themselves extremely scarce, freeing up the family room as party central. One of the men-children not so subtly convinced me that the room needed to be de-cluttered (interpretation – can we remove all of 9-year-old Sister of a Man-Child’s artwork and toys from the room?). I explained that none of his friends would even notice it, but also agreed that we could remove it temporarily – it’s important when you’re a teenager to fit in remember. This stuff counts to some of them. His twin brother, being the exact opposite, was so laid back about the gathering he turned up 30 mins after all his friends and didn’t care where in the house they all gathered!!!

Suffice to say the pre’s were deemed successful. They all seemed to have a great time, and weren’t phased by the occasional presence of us in the kitchen. Sister of a Man-Child was adored by the teenage girls (“she’s so cute”), and Father of a Man-Child couldn’t resist talking to the pretty fillies, dressed up in fancy dress with plenty of bare flesh on display. He seemed to win a few fans himself! I played caterer and taxi driver to ensure they all made it to the party safely. And we notched up yet another milestone with our boys.

So, did we do the wrong thing? Certainly according to the law, we did. But with boys who are now old enough to drive a car, and boys who we know drink alcohol, are we just accepting that they are growing up? I guess it’s each to his own, for both parents and kids. I know some of my friends’ kids have less active social lives than my boys. Lucky them I say – there’s no rush to be an adult. But for us, this felt okay to do, and we made a decision and used our best judgement. And that’s what being a parent is, feeling your way every day, and facing new challenges with the breaking of every dawn. Sometimes it’s nice to see dusk trust me!

For the record, we have said no before, when one asked to host “pre’s” before the Spring Carnival races one year. Not on your nelly was the reply and for very good reason!!!! Read about it here.