Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

The Narcissistic Teenager April 26, 2013

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individualLast weekend I read an article in The Age – “Is this the most narcissistic generation we’ve ever seen?”.  It struck such a chord with me that I immediately sent the link to Father of a Man-Child asking him if it was familiar.  Not surprisingly he agreed it was in fact too close for comfort.  It was such an interesting read, that it’s prompted me to write a blog post about it.

Here’s the original post for reference.

In a nutshell the author presents an argument that today’s teenagers are so narcissistic, that some of them are in fact suffering from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)!!  Now my personal view is that the “disorder” bit might be a bit extreme, however when I read the article, there were definite signs in my men-children of said narcissism.  And for me this came back to an often-touted view of mine (and countless parents before me) that teenagers are so focused on their own world, they are virtually oblivious to the rest of it.   We have daily reminders of this in our household at the moment.

Just think about their lives.  With everything at their fingertips, how are they learning patience?  You want to know something, Google it.  You want to chat to friends – text them, or call them 24/7.  You want food – don’t wait for the meal that your parents have slaved over, just eat on the spot, and then skip dinner (we are fighting a losing battle during school holidays around this).  You want money (immediately), just demand it from your parents – the mobile ATM, even when they are at work and expected to drop everything to do said internet transfer.  You want a lift somewhere, just ask, and be completely flabbergasted when you are told that the tram is still running and you can use it.  You want to be picked up from school – don’t then send a message reversing the request when said parent has battled through traffic to get half way there.

We even had a recent case where we were told that yes it would be nice to go on a holiday to escape the Melbourne winter, but could this particular narcissistic man-child fly independently and be with us for a shorter time period, because he didn’t want to spend 10 days of his precious holidays with the family, when he could be at home alone spending it with friends.  Never mind the implications of the decision, the inconvenience, the arrangements required, or just the sheer cheek and ungratefulness.  Part of us wanted to tell him we would gladly leave him home alone, and the other part wanted to make him endure 10 days on a family holiday.  We picked the latter by the way.  It’s our last year to “enjoy” family holidays with the boys, and we are confident they will actually have a good time themselves once there.  It also means they will be forced to recharge their batteries, slow down, eat well, drink less, and generally have a proper holiday (not one spent burning the candle and over indulging in the things 17 year olds like to do).

So who do we blame for the narcissistic tendencies our own teenagers show (or those even more extreme in the article)?  I actually think it’s two-fold.  Part of it is the world they are growing up in, and part of it is the role we as parents play.  Even when it feels like a losing battle, we need to impart our values and beliefs, and behave in the way we want them to behave in (easier said than done), and teach them to understand how the wider world works and the part they play in it.  We need to stand tall, and set an example, in the knowledge that somehow, via osmosis almost, those values will over time manage to seep into the sub-conscious of our children and they will in turn adopt the same standards.

I particularly liked the reference in the article to gratitude: “One of the best ways to combat entitlement is to be grateful for what you already have…….Gratitude is the opposite of entitlement. You think about what you already have, instead of what you deserve to have but don’t.”   I think we have some work to do on this front with one of our men-children in particular.

I must ask my father if he recalls the same narcissistic attitude when we were teenagers?  I expect he would.  I also think he would confidently tell me that we didn’t all turn into completely narcissistic adults so it was after all just a phase.   Let’s hope so, for my sake and the men-children’s!  🙂

Would love to hear your thoughts.  Do you agree with the article?  Do you think they’re worse this generation than ever before?


Observations and Ironies April 12, 2013

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observingMen-children are an interesting species.  As you know I have been a keen observer over the last three years of my own boys, as they journey through adolescence.  Here are some random observations and ironies from that time.

  • Men-children (and for the most part all teenagers) are totally self-absorbed.  They are virtually incapable of thinking beyond their own immediate needs.  So when they ask for money (because they have no job and rely on you for handouts), they are always surprised if you do not have wads of cash in your wallet, or cannot drop everything at the office to do a cash transfer for them.
  • Men-children are not always logical.  How do I know this?  They are only motivated to help with the laundry if there is something in there they want or need.  And if something isn’t clean, well then it’s obviously YOUR fault for not doing the washing.  And definitely not THEIR fault for finally filling the washing basket with their dirty clothes after you’ve already done three loads on the weekend.
  • Men-children are pretty useless in the kitchen – well at least mine are.  I think the only thing mine can cook is bacon and eggs, two-minute noodles and Latina pasta.  Great catches they’ll be won’t they?  I am prepared to wear the blame for this.  I tried some years back to start showing them how to cook basic meals, but their interest waned pretty quickly.  Time was probably our greatest enemy – on weekends they’re not exactly sitting around wanting to spend time in the kitchen with you, and on a week night it’s always a rush to get a meal on the table when you get home from work (and yes, imagine if the boys who got home from school could start meal prep!!!).  I am assuming that necessity in time will make them learn to cook – although if they move out later in life, it could be embarrassing for them.
  • Men-children’s stomachs think ahead of their brains.  Over the school holidays, which we don’t all get to have off, we continue to cook a family meal 6 nights a week (Friday night is no cooking night).  It’s almost rare for them to be at the table for a family meal during holidays (much to our annoyance, as it’s always a last-minute “Oh, I am going out…..”), but somehow on a Friday night one in particular often asks “What’s for dinner, I am starving”.   If you ever want to see the death-stare, just pop over on a Friday night at around 6.30pm.
  • Men-children see what they want to see.  I am sure other mothers of teenagers will relate to this claim.  “There is no food in the house/nothing in the fridge!!!”.  Now last time I checked, we have a pantry practically bursting with all the essential ingredients to make a meal, not to mention a freezer full of meat for cooking, and even if one looks hard enough, pre-prepared home cooked meals also in the freezer.  The translation of the above claim is in fact “There are no leftovers in the fridge staring me in the face that I can either shove straight in my gob or into the microwave to reheat in order to fulfil my immediate hunger”.
  • Men-children are useful with new technology.  With a new car, Father of a Man-Child, already a little technically challenged, definitely has his hands full.  I think he’s still surprised that the phone answers automatically via blue tooth.  So you can imagine getting the GPS or sound system to work properly, let alone the DVD player, is not really coming automatically to him.  The solution is simple.  Being a male, he is NEVER going to read the instruction manual is he?  Nope, instead, he is going to let loose two men-children in the car who will figure out how it all works in less than 10 minutes, and then show him in two minutes which buttons to press, or arrange to pre-set everything for him.  Perfect.  That’s a win-win for everyone really.
  • Men-children still fight with each other, even at 17.  My twin sister made an interesting observation the other day.  She was surprised that at 17 years old the boys are STILL fighting (not just arguing, but physical “punch-ons”, seriously it’s a freak show at our place some nights).  Her recollection (quite accurately) was that by that age we had both given up fighting with each other, having taken our own paths and developed our own friendships and basically grown up a bit.  But sadly the boys still haven’t.  It could be a maturity thing, it could be just a boy thing – that latent need to burn up testosterone when they have been holed up in the house for a day or two during the holidays, and are just looking for someone or something to poke!
  • Men-children love their friends and having a good time.  Some things don’t change.  Teenagers love to spend time with their friends.  The peer group is the most important thing in their life.  Moving in packs is what they love to do, not being alone.  There is nothing wrong with all wearing exactly the same clothing – it’s a badge, a way of fitting in, of “conforming”, and they don’t even notice it.  Youth is on their side and the heady responsibilities of life are barely upon them.  Life is good, and they definitely should enjoy it (within limits say their parents, forever the hand-brakes). 🙂

So there you have it.  What started as a short post of observations grew quite quickly.  Perhaps I will make this a regular post – so as not to fill too many pages in one go.  The teenage years are certainly full of many things – angst, learning, experimentation, boundary pushing, love, hope, fear – on both sides of the fence trust me.  As we near the end of their teenage years, there is more time for reflection about the journey, and what we have all learnt during the men-children era.

I’d love to hear your own observations and ironies.  There must be so many of them, not just applicable to teenagers, but to all kids, and of course husbands (sorry, this assumes many of my readers are women)!


Mum’s the Word April 5, 2013

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Easter BunnyHappy Easter to everyone!  Chocoholics rejoice.  For many, Easter this year marked the start of the school hols, and therein the end of the school lunchbox routine for a few weeks, and the start of entertaining the kids 24/7.  But it was also Easter for employees, a short break for we full-time workers that was a welcome respite from the five-day grind.  Do you think we would enjoy it so much if we didn’t work full-time?  Probably not, after all it is absence that makes the heart grow fonder.

We made the decision to head to the Gold Coast with sister of a man-child (leveraging a work trip to good effect it has to be said), leaving the men-children at home for Easter.  At 17 years old, we debated whether or not we could trust them at home, and decided the time had come that we could.  However, we also importantly decided not to tell them our plans until we were virtually walking out the door.  We all know how quickly they can organise a party these days, so why give them any further advantage?  We also ensured the car keys were hidden, lest they indulge in joy-riding again!! (You can read about that here).

Credit to sister of a man-child, as she maintained the secrecy around our holiday for a few weeks.  If truth be known, I think she actually liked having one up on her brothers for a change.  However, at the last-minute our secrecy almost back fired on us.  “The deck” (now officially christened by the boys and proving to be a successful venue for small gatherings), was planned to be the scene for “pres” for an end of season rowing party that had been in the diary for quite some time.  The idea was sprung on us at the last-minute, and we were actually very reluctant for him to hold it, especially since it was the day we left and we knew we weren’t going to be here to supervise.   So we dug in our heels with countless reasons to not host it, and finally luck delivered us the solution we needed.  The official party was cancelled, there-in ending the need for any “pres” at all.  Trust me that was close!

The following night we learned that one of the boys was invited away for Easter, leaving only one at home.  Even better – they tend to be more trustworthy alone in my view.  As it transpired we told one of them our plans late the night before we left (actually as a reward for his behaviour and attitude), and the other literally an hour we before we walked out the door (yes, he had been a right little shit and we were punishing him in our own small way).  And the response?  They were a little surprised, but didn’t have much choice did they?  One asked how long we had known and kept it to ourselves?  We nonchalantly replied “Oh, about a week” (or two). 🙂

So how did it go?  Well actually pretty well.  There were definitely a few gatherings in our absence (all made public to us not secret), and we came home to a thoroughly clean house, including a washed deck.  At least one man-child understands the need to reinstate the house to its normal order.  The biggest issue was the other man-child whose only job was to put out the rubbish bins before he went away – and yes, just like the other time, he didn’t do it – aaarrrgh!  Seriously annoying.

Our house-sitting man-child was even good enough to fill in the answers to the questions his sister had left for the Easter Bunny.  Now that’s a nice thing for a big brother to do isn’t it?

So tell me, at what age did your parents let you stay home alone?  And for how long?  Do you think we are being too trusting?

The first time we left them home alone, we were mega worried.  But the end result was actually okay.  You can read more about that here: