Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Committed to their causes October 26, 2012

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It’s not often I wax lyrical about the men-children (it doesn’t make for the usual amusing reading) but from time to time, to be fair to my subjects, it is worth recognising their achievements and acknowledging that where there is ambition and commitment there can also be success.

Two cases in point. As many would know, one of our men-children has indeed made the decision to leave school (with our support), and head to TAFE to undertake a trade course and an apprenticeship. We were naturally delighted that he conducted himself well at the interview and was successful in gaining entry to the course of his choice. He is looking forward to next year, and to focussing on something he really wants to do, with a clear end goal in mind. He is already talking about the opportunity to work on building sites during the course and get valuable experience on the job. I admire his passion and hope it translates into dedication and success.

As we rightly pointed out however, don’t lose focus on finishing year 10 this year, because without it you can’t continue onto the course. Such is the life of parents, why is it we always seem to dampen enthusiasm! Having recently seen the drop out rates for trade apprentices I was momentarily alarmed. However something tells me our man-child will thrive at TAFE and find success in his chosen career.

Our other man-child will of course remain at school, with plans to head to university eventually. As an aside, yes you are right to realise our twin boys are very different, both in personality and aptitude at certain tasks. Hence one is happy to remain at school and most likely head into a business course, and one is off to trade school so he can work outdoors.

blistersNaturally, in remaining at school, one son is continuing rowing, something which they both excelled in last year. Of course this season, it’s a whole new level of intensity, as it’s “open squad” for Year 11 and 12 boys, and now very, very serious. So whilst we thought last year’s training schedule was demanding, this year’s is incredible. Two early mornings a week, two afternoons a week, lunchtime gym sessions 5 days a week, and a 50km row on a Saturday up the Maribyrnong River (and that’s their light training program)! As you can see, the blisters on his hands are just starting to heal, and the skin harden, as they do at the start of each season. Apparently his hands look good compared to some of his friends!

My son knows what he wants to achieve and is working hard to get it. Each seat in the skull is highly prized and sought after. He has his sights set on rowing in the “seconds” this season and hopefully sharing in the ultimate prize of a spot in the “firsts” the following one. With determination and continued development we hope he achieves his goals. But we are already proud of him!

I do take my hats off to the boys that pursue rowing at this level. The demands are enormous, physically and mentally, and totally time-consuming. It impacts their working life (you can almost forget a casual job), their social life (good news is they forego alcohol), and their school life (reduced time for homework) and eats into their holidays with camps and more personal training. In doing so, it also teaches them the importance of the commitment that is required to pursue sport at a high level, and the sacrifices elite sports people make on a regular basis.

So as we head into the end of the school year (and for one his “school” life), we watch our men-children continue to grow, like butterflies emerging from a chrysalis, having left behind their life as hungry little caterpillars. We know they will both be beautiful butterflies in due course, we just don’t know what colour they will be, and what direction they will fly in. All part of the excitement (and worry and stress for parents) of our children growing up. 🙂

I have written about their rowing before: Rowing when they first started out (Row, Row, Row you boat), and their success last year (Hats off to my rowers)


No room for Mums….. October 19, 2012

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bridgeBeing a mother of teenage men-children is an interesting journey. The boys that needed you so much for so many years as their primary carer, no longer look to you first for help and advice with everything. On the contrary, they look to and respect the opinions of their friends and peers first, older boys second, sporting coaches, teachers or other authority figures next, and parents coming in a long way last.

Trust me, 16 year old boys know everything and don’t need parents at all!  Except when they need a lift somewhere, or to know how to open a bank account, get a tax file number, put on a washing machine, fill the dishwasher or hang out some clothes.  And if they want something, they don’t necessarily ask their mother first anymore (especially if they think their father will lend a more sympathetic ear). Even more so if it’s a blokey activity, which I can appreciate and actually think is healthy for boys. You know, that male bonding stuff.

It’s certainly a challenge for one’s ego parenting teenagers, even more so as Mother of a Man-Child. In my mid 40’s, it’s fair to say I am loving life. Great mates, great job, great family, at my healthiest in years, good work/life balance, good network of friends and colleagues. However such is the power of teenagers that in a split second your ego can be inflated by a few simple words (“Mum, you look great” – if only they could say it without surprise in their voices), then instantly deflated with a look from them that needs no words, rendering said mother as “useless”.  If you are having a moment of weakness, these incidents can cut you to the core, leaving you feeling bereft, and almost in mourning for the children you once had, and the adoration they once bestowed upon you.

And God forbid you should attempt to talk to their friends.  Most of them seem very nice to me and happy to chat upon arrival in our home. Yet one of my men-children in particular (and to be fair not his brother) practically drags his friends out of the room, so quick is he to escape our presence.  I can only assume it’s embarrassment on his part – perhaps we are not up to his standards?  They say the grass is always greener on the other side – does the same extend to parents?  Are everyone else’s parents somehow cooler than your own?  No doubt.

Thankfully I still have Sister of a Man-child, who still wants and needs her mother. Me and my ego soak that up every day, knowing too well it is a temporary state.  Fortunately, as Celia Lashlie’s book “He’ll be OK” showed, I also have confidence the men-children will return to me in due course, and be the nice young men we are bringing them up to be, who love and appreciate their Mum (and of course their Dad and sister). 🙂

I have written about the journey across the adolescent bridge before:  It’s a Man’s world


A valuable lesson October 12, 2012

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laptopOne of the men-children learned a valuable lesson the other day about the working world and the importance of commitment.  I hope it is a lesson he will remember for a lifetime.  As luck (along with his Mother’s  persistence) would have it, he was able to spend a couple of days in my office over the school holidays helping out with filing and various other tasks, and earning some longed for income to support his entertainment needs and shopping habits.  Less lucky for him was the fact that the two days were right at the tail end of his holidays, which is when he least preferred the work – but hey, beggars can’t be choosers can they?

So it transpired that on day two, as I was on my way to an early appointment before work, I received a text message from said man-child informing me that he was suffering a head cold, sore throat, and general tiredness and did he really need to work that day?  I am serious!!!  Oh and he had been out the night before too.  I yelled upstairs on my way out the door that he should be ready in 30 mins to go to work.  The text messages continued unabated during my appointment, and I arrived home to find him still in bed, and openly admitting that he didn’t want to go to work because it was the last day of the holidays.  One word people – TOUGH!!

The next 15 mins were a battle of wills and wits.  Him insisting he wasn’t going anywhere, and me arguing the opposite.  Quite apart from the fact that it was MY employee that he was going to stand up, it was the underlying principle associated with believing you could just decide not to turn up if you didn’t want to that had Father of a Man-Child and me up in arms and fuming. In the end an outright threat was what got him over the line.  And I quote:  “If you don’t come to my office today, not only will you not get paid for yesterday’s work, but you will never work for my company again, and we will not give you another cent of pocket-money between now and Christmas!”  From the expletives that followed and the sounds of stuff being thrown around his room I was pretty sure I had him cornered.  So down he stomped and off to work we went!!!

Naturally I delivered him a lecture during the trip (nothing like a captive audience in the car) about the importance of commitment in life, in sport, in jobs, etc.   I asked him if he would leave seven of his rowing crew in the boat waiting for him – of course not.  I said if it was a permanent job at Coles or Woolies, you wouldn’t ring up at the last-minute and say you had a party to attend so sorry, can’t come in on Friday night, unless of course you wanted the sack.  And I said it was doubly worse that I had gone out on a limb to get him work, and this was the thanks he gave to me, my boss, and my employer!!!  Thankfully by the time we arrived at the office my anger had subsided and I was able to breathe.

On the way home that night, I asked if he had learned anything that day (actually referring to some newly acquired Photoshop skills) and he mentioned the importance of commitment and going to work when you say you will.  Silent fist pump!  Therein ending another life lesson for one man-child, and another chapter of stress and torment for Mother of a Man-Child.

Anyone else got any good stories of not giving in to the demands of their children or insisting they do the right thing?  Whether it’s a toddler or a teenager, it’s damn hard work I tell you.

Read about their first taste of work experience, and the lessons they learned earlier this year:  Gaining life experience from work experience



A tribute to an extra-ordinary man-child October 5, 2012

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heartsThis week a beautiful man-child that I had known for the 18 years of his short life, passed away whilst on a road trip across America with his family. Whilst this young man had been unwell for the latter years of his life, his death was still a shock and absolutely devastating for his family and everyone that knew him.

I have often thought of GG as we will call him, as I wrote about my own men-children every week. Whilst I typically make light of my boys and their escapades (good and bad), my thoughts over the years have often turned to GG, whose body progressively failed him until it could cope no more. So as I wrote about the hardships of 6 am rowing starts, the thrill of white water kayaking trips, the freezing conditions endured on cadet camps, the fun of gatherings on Saturday nights, and the arrival of first girlfriends, in the back of my mind was our friend GG, who didn’t have the chance to row, or kayak, or drive a car, or head out on the tram with all his mates to the races.

I also frequently thought about how lucky and blessed I am to have three healthy children, and how fortunate are my men-children and sister of a man-child, that they have their whole lives ahead of them to take on the world and all its challenges and opportunities.

That is not to take away from GG, or the things he did accomplish, both alone and with his family. I don’t for a minute want anyone to feel sorry for GG, as certainly he and his family didn’t feel sorry for themselves, or dwell on the cruel twist of fate that meant both GG and his darling younger sister suffered from a shocking childhood illness that would make their stay on this earth all too short.

Instead, they tackled the challenges head on, with more enthusiasm and energy than you could ever imagine, and ensured that their children lived life to the full. They made their kids lives as normal as they possibly could, whilst simultaneously ensuring they didn’t miss out on anything. They crammed more experiences and adventures into the short lives of their sick children, and their surviving daughters, than mine will probably ever have even if they live to 80. They are a truly remarkable, humble and amazing family.

And as to GG, and his sister, Angel J, they were both absolutely inspiring. They lived with their illness every day, they kept going, against all odds and setbacks as they became less well, they somehow retained a sense of humour, and were happy, optimistic, stoic and in short, quite heroic, making the most of every opportunity they were given. If I could bottle this determination and enthusiasm for my own children, just imagine what they could achieve?

We will all miss the beautifully handsome GG, just as we do his sister Angel J, none more so than his wonderful parents and sisters. For my part, it has been a privilege to have known such a special man-child, for the 18 years of his life, and I hope that it gives my own men-children pause to reflect on just how lucky they both are.

For those who are moved by this story and would like to recognise my friend GG and his sister Angel J in some small way, feel free to make a donation to Glenallen, a special school that they both attended for many years, where they continue to do a brilliant job catering to the needs of the most special children.