Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Online dangers lurking March 22, 2013

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danger signDuring the week I was reminded about the ever-present threat that the online environment presents with young children.  As you may know sister of a man-child once set up her own Facebook account, at the age of eight, without my permission – trust me it wasn’t around for long!

Earlier this week we received an alert notice from the school, which had been circulated by police, about online paedophiles.  Some young girls had been using a social networking site, and had been encouraged to share inappropriate photos of themselves with an older male who had befriended them.  The girls were the same age as my daughter and living in the area – quite frankly a terrifying thought, and far too close to home for my liking.  The site if you are interested in ensuring your children are NOT using it is (KIK messenger) and the incident was reported because a mother wondered why her daughter was taking naked photos of herself.

As the notice advised, with the increasing availability of WIFI in homes and numerous devices children can use that include a camera, their access to the internet is easy and obviously needs to be monitored closely.  Whilst you can block certain sites, you can’t block ones you don’t even know about!

My daughter had actually set up an Instagram account recently (photo sharing site), telling me about it after the fact.  I checked whom she had befriended and her settings and said it was okay for the minute, although I would have preferred she didn’t have it.  They were sharing photos of cute bunnies and cats, nothing abnormal, and nothing to worry about.  Naturally, at any time I can access her iPod and see what messages are being sent between her and her friends, whether by text or Instagram etc.

However, after receiving the above message from the school, I explained to sister of a Man-child that unfortunately for now we were going to delete her account.  It’s not that I don’t trust her, but seeing she had befriended some older siblings of her own friends, I was a bit concerned that in time she might be exposed to content I didn’t think was appropriate.  As you know when you have a lot of friends on social networks, it’s not always easy to remember who the audience is watching your posts.

She understood (the kids were all aware about the recent police alert to the school), although I don’t think she was very happy about it.  But so be it.  As I explained, my job as a mother is to protect her, and sometimes I will make decisions that I think are right for her, even if she doesn’t like it.  (Oh if only that still worked on her brothers!!)

We have a similar scenario regarding walking to school.  At the age of nine she would love to walk the two blocks to school each morning.  As much as we would love her to do it, we just can’t bring ourselves to allow it.  I did check my own paranoia with a few friends at the time, who were all so quick to say “No”, that I thought I had been too liberal to even consider it for a minute.  Whilst you don’t want to make your children worry, you also need them to understand they are vulnerable.   From memory we allowed the men-children to walk to school at the age of 10, but as they were twins they walked together every day.  As they say, safety in numbers.

Sorry for the serious tone of the post this week, but I think it’s good to share this sort of intel with other parents.  What do you do to block access to the internet by your kids or to monitor their usage?  Are you allowing them to use social network sites and at what age?

Of course technology and the online world has been a popular topic of mine.  Click the links to read the posts:

The technology invasion,

My 8 year old has a Facebook account

Fighting the technology tsunami



Turning 17 – The Cusp of Adulthood March 15, 2013

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fireworksThe men-children turned 17 the other day.  Yes, I am actually prepared to admit that I am the mother of 17 year old children, even though it automatically “ages” me.  Not that I am being vain, but if I only talk about my 9 year old, it’s possible people MIGHT think I am a little younger than when I talk about my 17 year olds (I live in hope, or more likely denial!)

The funny thing was the excitement of one of the boys at turning 17 recently, because he was only one year off turning 18 and a whole host of possibilities that opened up to him.  I looked at him blankly and said, quite seriously, “I am not sure what you’re so excited about?  Apart from driving the car LEGALLY on your own, you’ve pretty much done everything else.  Sex, drinking, partying….I’m not sure what’s left”.

It’s not like they “save” themselves for anything these days is it?  Then again, perhaps it’s the emotional hurdle, the absolute sense of adulthood and freedom from your parents that is what excites them about turning 18 (except of course while they’re still living under our roof).

It was only a year ago I reflected on their birth, as they turned 16 years old.  I wonder if the time is flying for them as fast as it is for me?

I now observe some of my friends with their 14 year olds, just as they enter the heady and challenging years of the hormonal adolescent.  It’s a whole new world when you first venture into it, and with hindsight and experience, that much more easy to navigate.  I am hoping my newly acquired skills will stand me in good stead with a certain teenage sister of a man-child in due course.  In the meantime, I can laugh at my friends’ expense (with total empathy of course), and enjoy the sense of déjà vu.   Perhaps my next step as a blogger is to become the agony aunt for troubled parents of early teens?   Topics and questions welcome.  Chances are I can point you to one of my posts over the last 3 years and we’ll have it covered! 


Man-Child Truth Serum March 8, 2013

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hawaiian leiFunny thing about twins, when it comes to getting in trouble.  You see, to a point they will protect each other – I am sure there are secrets they both have and constantly threaten each other with – “I’ll tell Mum & Dad about (insert scandalous incident)”.   Basically they both have each other over a barrel, so it’s a bit of a Mexican standoff.

But as we recently discovered, if one should implicate the other, then it’s game on.  All downside for the men-children, all upside for the parents!  Some of you would recall my earlier post about the boys being caught driving their father’s car unlicensed (read about it here).  As it turned out, in denying driving the car in the first instance, and then being outed by the neighbour who told us who she saw behind the wheel, one of the boys accidentally dobbed in his twin, so they were both caught doing the wrong thing.

As you may recall, we quickly moved to find suitably serious punishment.  One of our sons had an invite to a party down the coast – he had been looking forward to it for some weeks.   So you can imagine what his punishment was can’t you?  Yep, no party.  He wasn’t surprised we picked that, but did carry on and plead with his father to be allowed to go (guess who’s the softy?), but we held our ground.  As we said, it’s gonna hurt.

His brother meanwhile lay in wait for his punishment.  Luckily for him the Big Day Out concert had just been and gone, so he avoided missing that.  But we told him we would wait for a suitable event that he desperately wanted to go to and he would be told he was grounded for the night (oh, we are SO awful aren’t we?).

A recent conversation with the latter man-child lead to an interesting revelation.  He could see we fully intended to carry out the punishment, to square up the ledger so to speak, in due course.  Like an animal with his back against the wall, he then went into survival mode.  And the following conversation ensued:

Man-Child (MC):  “You know you didn’t punish (Man-Child I)?”
Mother of a Man-Child (MOMC):  “Yes we did, he didn’t go to the party at (insert up market coastal destination naturally).”
MC:  “You know he went to the party don’t you?”
MOMC:  “No, he didn’t.  He wasn’t allowed.  How would he get there and stay overnight?”
MC:  “They had a bus.  I’ve seen the pictures on Facebook!”
MOMC:  “What!  You better be sure of this.  Can you prove it?”
MC:  “Yep.  Remember the Hawaiian shirt.  That’s what he wore.”

Slowly but surely the pieces of the puzzle then fell into place.  Man-Child II did indeed show me the Facebook photos of his brother having a great time on the bus.  And I did recall the strange Hawaiian shirt that appeared in the wash, and which I had asked about at the time.  I also remembered specifically asking Man-Child I if the party had been and gone (just to rub it in, knowing he missed it).  And yes, he told me some of them had stayed afterwards, but some had been on a bus to and from the party (at this point we didn’t know HE had been on it too).

So then we waited for Man-Child II to come home, and to drop the bomb shell on him.  “Sprung bad” as they say.  He was quite frankly arrogant about it, and then of course turned on his brother with the usual vitriol he reserves for him (it’s quite horrid actually).  As Man-Child II told me, “I have nothing to lose Mum, you know all the stuff I’ve done, so there are no more secrets he can dob me in for now.”

So that leaves us with two men-children that are still both to be punished for their earlier misdemeanour.  We are saving it up, because when we least expect it the most wonderful occasion will present itself and we will pounce.

In the meantime, I am quietly pleased that the truth has revealed itself in this way – who would have thought we could rely on them so often to dob themselves in.  It’s brilliant! 🙂

My twin sister got me (actually us) in trouble once (big, big trouble).  It’s a scandal too horrid to write about here, but suffice to say I won’t forget it for a long, long time, nor the punishment that we received for it.   I did however quickly forgive her stupidity at getting us caught.  Shit happens as they say.

For the most part the small punishments handed out by parents over their lifetime rarely stay in the minds of their children (although at the time they cause so much grief).  But we continue to play our role, and they continue to play theirs.  Ah, the joys of parenting!!!

I wrote about the driving escapades here:  Joy-Riding Men-Children: Not Happy!


Diverse paths March 1, 2013

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headphonesSomeone asked me the other day if the men-children are getting along better now that they are spending more time apart.  It was a good question, and my initial response was to say yes.  But on reflection, it probably hasn’t made much difference to them.

As they are so, so different (just as my twin sister and I were) they really haven’t spent much time together in recent years, except when they both trained and rowed in the same crew last summer (ironically even sitting next to each other in the scull).  The fact is they played different winter sports (footy vs rugby), they were in different sport houses and classes at school, they never travelled to school or home together, and didn’t spend time on the weekends together as they have different circles of friends.

This year of course one has left school to pursue a trade, whilst the other is doing VCE with plans to attend university, which will no doubt send them on even more diverse paths over the next few years.

Again, it is pause for reflection on my part as to how my twin sister and me were at their age.  We shared a bedroom for at least 15 years (god forbid the men-children should have to do that), and I don’t ever recall asking her about her friends, or her hairdressing course, or her job.  Are we all so self-absorbed as teenagers to not even care?  I can only assume so based on my own behaviour and that of my sons.

On the home front, some things certainly haven’t changed between the boys.  The arguments over jocks and socks, the fights over food supplies, or missing drink bottles or clothing, or the state of their shared bathroom or sitting room (one likes tidy, one comfortably lives with mess – a repeat of my sister and me ironically).

Just last night we enjoyed a raging argument between them over the TV.  One wanted to watch TV, one wanted to listen to music in his bedroom. Even with closed doors, it was impossible for the music not to drown out the TV.  I can vouch for that, as we regularly complain about the doof doof sound effects that come from one’s bedroom above to the family room below.  Even with extra insulation put in when we built upstairs (for that exact reason), the heavy sound of the bass penetrates the floor.

We looked for a solution last night – put in earphones (“I don’t have any”) or turn down or off the music – of course not!  So the argument continued between them, with shouting eventually over-taking the music and TV!  Thank goodness for the door at the bottom of the stairs. 🙂

I found my own solution today – their birthday is around the corner, so I have bought wireless headphones for the TV and/or computer.  That way one of them can listen to the TV or music without annoying the other one.  I wonder if we’ll go back and buy a second pair at some stage to stop them fighting over the single pair of headphones, or so that we don’t have to listen to either of them being entertained?

Or will Father of a Man-Child decide that with the in-built noise reduction he is going to claim them as his own and listen to Fox Sport in bliss for the rest of his life, without the sounds of all of us in the background?  Now that is a very big possibility.

Are we alone with fights over TV and music?  What do you do to manage it, and who wins in your house, if anyone?