Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

The meaning of Christmas December 20, 2013

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Santa sackChristmas means different things to different people.  For some, it’s a time of year to celebrate everything special about family and kids.  For others, it’s about surviving insane relatives for a few days, and trying not to drag family secrets out of the closet.  For still others, it’s a time of year that serves to amplify their loneliness, especially if they are away from family or wanting their own.  For many of us, Christmas is a marker of time, a reminder to us of the loss of someone close to us as we mourn another year without them.

And for my children, Christmas has different meanings too.  For Sister of a Man-Child, the excitement about Christmas started early, begging to put up our tree well before December.  I know the shops couldn’t wait to put the decorations out, but we drew the line at December 1 for our tree at home.  Likewise, her Christmas list was written quite a while ago – just as well for Santa who has to put in special orders before the rush amid the threat of popular toys disappearing off the shelves (she of course just imagines he is busy making as many as are required)!

For one of the Men-Children, he seems completely disinterested in Christmas.  He doesn’t seem worried about having no presents for Xmas Day, otherwise he would have organised to go shopping with his mother for the clothing he wants.  And he has been given plenty of notice that his mother WILL NOT be anywhere near a retail store on the 24th of December, so I guess it will have to wait (and not for the Boxing Day sales either).  C’est la vie.

Conversely, the other man-child jumped at the first chance to go shopping for Christmas presents.   How is it that we half completed my list, but managed to complete his? We walked from one end of the shopping centre to the other until we had found what he wanted – man on a mission (and after my own heart I must admit).   I did draw the line at him then deciding to wear said present the next time he went out, and then another of his gifts the following day (not even from us, but relatives).  I went completely nuts at him, and said at least he could wait to be given the gifts before wearing them.  I am completely over the RFN mentality of Gen Y, who can’t wait for anything.  They expect instant gratification, and have no sense of earning or saving for anything (at least in the case of one of my men-children).  Not to mention maintaining the spirit of Xmas for his sister.

I actually contacted several charity organisations about doing some volunteer work with the boys before Christmas (they couldn’t contain their excitement at my suggestion – NOT!) I explained I thought they could both benefit from a lesson in giving rather than receiving!  Sister of a man-child was naturally very keen to join us, unlike her brothers.  Unfortunately for all of us, although surely a great sign for the charities, we struggled to find somewhere we could help after contacting several organisations.  Apparently there are WAITING lists for volunteer work, although probably more so at Christmas time due to seasonal people like me.

I have also asked (okay, perhaps insisted?) that the boys come to mass with us on Christmas Eve.  It’s a wonderful celebration of all that is Christmas, with lots of families from our school community, full of the joy of the occasion, reminding us all of the real meaning of Christmas, and a chance to join the chorus of wonderful Christmas carols and hymns (I love it)!!!

So as we count down the final days to Christmas, and look forward to a wonderful day spent with my children, Father of a Man-Child, and our families, I wish all my readers the joy of the festive season.  I hope you enjoy the day, along with all the madness that precedes it and the chance to relax that follows it.   Happy holidays – I’ll be back with the Men-Children in 2014. 🙂

I’ve blogged about Christmas a few times before:  2012, 2013

 

 

The Christmas Rush! December 13, 2013

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Christmas chocolate barkPardon my absence, it’s been a busy time in Man-Child world, and to be honest, not much super exciting has been happening (or I don’t feel I can share specifics of certain events just now)!!  As I literally hurl myself towards the end of the year, with an almost 3 week break in sight (love those public holidays that stretch things out), it’s a crazy time for working parents.

To name just a few of the things on my plate:

  • The rush to the end of the work year – why do we all decide everything has to be done BEFORE Christmas?  Some of it is self-imposed deadlines and some the demands of seasonal businesses that kick off again in January.
  • When I worked in ad agencies years ago, why did so many clients call new business pitches the week before Christmas?  Because they are either complete bastards or couldn’t wait to get it off their desk and onto someone else’s for the break.  Plus with a performance review coming they could declare they had pitched the business before the year was out!!!
  • The end of the school year – in our case, TAFE course ending (help son with job-hunting), end of year 11, start of the rowing season (rowing cocktail parties and season opening events), primary school concerts and family picnics, dance concerts, basketball season break ups – the list goes on.
  • Christmas shopping – in our house, it seems Mother Claus bears the bulk of the workload, whilst Father Claus is relegated to ensuring a good supply of alcohol throughout the entire festive season!  The co-ordination of presents, including those from Santa, group presents, work presents, family presents, KK presents and teacher’s presents (don’t forget the cleaner) is EXHAUSTING, requiring a constantly evolving list of suggestions, additions and revisions.
  • Teacher’s presents – coming home from a long day at work to create the wonderful hand-made sweet treats for the teachers (sports teacher, class teacher, language teacher, piano teacher), with lovely hand-made cards by Sister of a Man-Child.
  • Santa videos – grabbing a spare 30 mins at night to create the wonderful, unique and mega-exciting message from Santa for your 10 year old who still believes! Truly magical to behold.
  • Christmas parties – being an all or nothing girl, these are either fully embraced or completely avoided (resulting in an acceptable list of outings on the calendar).
  • Friends’ catch-ups – the first hint of Christmas renders us all momentarily insane, and we suddenly decide that the friends that we somehow haven’t had a chance to catch up with all year we must finally see in the few remaining weeks to the end of the year.  And ex-colleague reunions are also the perfect annual event, best held at Christmas when everyone flies in for the summer holidays.
  • Just to ensure all working mothers are tipped completely over the edge, the inbox overflows with festive messages from every blog or website you have ever visited in your life, not to mention the daily 12 days of Christmas emails from every online retail site you have ever even thought about (I swear, Google is now so clever, you don’t need to type anything, they actually KNOW what you are thinking of searching for)!!
  • Add to that social media (which I admit I love), with more channels and more messages and more Christmas insanity and more fun than you can poke a stick at, and I think I’m as full as a TURDUCKEN*!! (If you don’t know what a Turducken is, just Google it peeps).

So, with less than two weeks to go, I am attempting to breathe deeply (not hyperventilate) and get across the line in one piece.  As I learned at a recent “stress” workshop (or rather how to avoid it), they told us it’s not “something” or “someone” that causes us stress, it’s actually we that choose to take it on.  Hold that thought – just as I am trying to!  Do you think practice will make perfect?

Promise another post before Christmas.

Here’s my previous musings from last year about the JOY of Christmas (seriously).  https://motherofamanchild.com/2012/11/30/christmas-is-coming/

 

Gold at the end of the rainbow….. November 23, 2013

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It’s been a good week in the man-child household – we are on the up.  Headlines of the week:

 

Man-child cleans room after threat from Mother!

clean room

You would have seen last week that I had reached the end of my tether.  Finally the dust and debris littering man-child’s room was too much for me.  Under threat of ME cleaning his room (and finding who knows what) he actually stayed home over the weekend and cleaned his room.  OMG!!!  There was actually enough carpet visible that I was able to run the vacuum over the floor.  I wanted to show him how nice the room could look with a small amount of effort.

I also had three loads of washing to do as a result of his room cleaning efforts – I told you there was a lot to clean up, not to mention the nice sheets that had been on his bed for a few months (yes, totally gross).

Now that we can see the floor, he has another task to tackle – his desk!  Such are the organisational instincts of our man-child, that he has everything on his desk and NOTHING in his desk drawers!!  Hasn’t he worked out the easiest way to “clean” is to shove it all in the draw or cupboard? 🙂

messy desk

 

Man-child actually has a paying job!

In another exciting development last weekend, my other man-child actually did some paid employment.  A bit of lateral thinking by mother of a man-child secured a short term gig mowing lawns for a school family.  Also this week, another job in the pipeline came off, with some garden maintenance work he can do during the Dec school hols (the latter through his initiative I am delighted to say).

He is clearly happy to have work, and enjoys manual labour and working outdoors like his twin brother.  He is also excited about the prospect of banking some money before the Christmas holidays.  Not nearly as excited as me!!!  He even needs to get a tax file number – all good as far as I am concerned – welcome to the real world.

So all in all a good week on the home front.  Small but important steps for the boys.  And a small step towards sanity for Mother of a man-child.  Now that’s a good job!

Here’s last weeks post: https://motherofamanchild.com/2013/11/15/clean-your-room-part-ii/

And my previous musings and about job prospecting: https://motherofamanchild.com/2012/06/08/man-child-has-a-job-sort-of/

 

Clean Your Room – Part II November 15, 2013

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vacuumA few months ago, I wrote with some excitement about the initial efforts of one of the men-children to clean his room.  So full of stuff was it, that two garbage bags of clothing barely made a dent to the mess on the floor.  But I was excited nevertheless, that we had made a small step towards cleanliness.

Now that said man-child is on “holidays” whilst he finds a full-time job, I mentioned the other day that it was the perfect opportunity to continue to clean his room.  My request was met with compliance and complete agreement from my man-child – with one caveat – he refused to commit to a time frame.  I realised this as each day passed with yet another excuse.

“Give me a break, I’m just on holidays”

“Mum, it’s the weekend, I’ll do it next week”

Q: “When are you doing it?” A: “Dunno”

And finally last week’s response – “you just don’t encourage me or motivate me do you” to which I explained that the first few requests were in fact quite pleasant, but by the time I had asked TEN TIMES I was no longer being nice about it!!!!

We reached a tipping point recently when I was in his room and noticed the layers of dust in the corner – and that was only what I could see readily.  Now to be fair, I wasn’t overly surprised by this, as I have instructed the cleaners to only vacuum carpet that has nothing on it – that’s about one square inch each week.

To top things off, his sheets went unchanged for about 2 months (yes, totally gross, but I absolutely refuse to do this for almost 18-year-old boys) and after he eventually stripped his bed and threw the dirty linen on the floor way back when, rather than make his bed he then slept with a blanket on his mattress, and just the doona (no cover) for another 2-3 months.  Ewwwww!  I tried to explain the benefits of fresh linen, and the wonderful collection of bugs etc that thrive on the human body and live in our mattresses and doonas if we let them, but to no avail.  The other day I explained that I had shared his delightful habits with a friend who was absolutely appalled, and surprise, surprise, that night, he actually changed his sheets.  I must have embarrassed him into doing it (the irony of further sharing his revolting habits with an even wider audience is not lost on me).

As to his room, I have now delivered him an ultimatum – either clean your room by Saturday night or I will clean it myself on Sunday.  Now that caused him to think about his options:

  1. Let Mum do it and find stuff I don’t want her to in my room (who knows what treasures I might find)…..
  2. Let Mum do it and throw out whatever she wants (I will file a lot of “rubbish” in the bin)…..
  3. Do it myself!

I will report next week as to the outcomes of my threat and/or efforts to clean his room.  In case you are wondering, no his twin brother is not like him (thankfully) and does keep his room reasonably tidy and change his sheets regularly.

You can read about my earlier excitement here: 

https://motherofamanchild.com/2013/08/30/breaking-news-man-child-cleans-his-room/

 

The World at his Feet November 4, 2013

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BulldozerA few days ago, one of my sons finished his course (and in effect his school life), and is now ready to enter the workforce.  He literally has the world at his feet, and the future of his career in his hands.  It’s an exciting, but also scary time.

For those who know our men-children, we made the decision over 12 months ago to let one of our sons leave school at the end of Year 10 and undertake a VCAL/Pre-apprenticeship course.  The academic life wasn’t for him (no matter how bright he is) and life as a “tradie” was begging.  He has spent the last 9 months at TAFE, doing a building course and to his credit thoroughly enjoying it (that’s the practical side of things, it’s fair to say he still didn’t love the academic requirements, no matter how basic).

In that time of “adult learning” they have taught them all manner of skills, both building related and not, and undertaken a vast range of modules, including green bowling (I kid you not), and community oriented activities such as teaching kids in schools.  I think our son has learned things about himself, and also about others.  He has certainly been exposed to a life outside of his sheltered private school upbringing (always a good thing) and probably has a new sense of appreciation for how fortunate he is.   This particular man-child has always been pragmatic and pretty down to earth, so I don’t think he’s been too far outside his comfort zone.  I have to say though, I’d like to send his twin brother along to TAFE for a short time – it might open his eyes a bit more!!!

So where to from here for our future “tradie”?  He has a part-time job he will continue, whilst he looks for an apprenticeship.  We have encouraged him to contact everyone he knows to make them aware he is job hunting, and also to seek recommendations from his lecturers.  I have also ensured that he realises it’s a tough employment market, and it might take a while to find an apprenticeship – not wanting to dull his enthusiasm – quite the opposite, to create a sense of urgency.

To the credit of our man-child, I am not at all concerned about him.  I know he has found his “thing” (how fortunate at 17 years old) and I have confidence he will do well in his chosen field.  I know he is not afraid of hard work, and therefore will be rewarded with success in due course.  He has also come to the realisation that his desire to leave home as soon as possible might be thwarted in the short-term, now that he has learned exactly how little the hourly rate is for an apprentice!!   As I said, if you want the ute, and have to pay for petrol, there won’t be much left for anything else (secretly of course I am happy about the chance to keep him at home a little longer – REALLY!!)

I told him the other day that we are extremely proud of him for completing his course and following his heart – I hope it confirms how much we believe in him, no matter how often we disagree about mundane details in our daily lives.

So onto the next chapter – whatever that brings.  I can’t help but share in the excitement of what might be around the corner for him…..I will worry when I need to, but just not now.

Our decision to let him leave school early wasn’t easy, but we survived the journey.   Read more below:

https://motherofamanchild.com/2012/05/25/should-man-child-leave-school/

https://motherofamanchild.com/2013/02/22/new-adventures-so-far-so-good/

 

 

 

Driving us crazy October 18, 2013

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mini cooper, carAs the boys 18th birthday inches closer the frequency of our discussions about first cars escalates. Naturally, having twin boys, our discussions are made more complex, particularly because their current situations are so different, so we don’t even really have the option of them sharing an old bomb (god forbid!!!).

One, set to be an apprentice carpenter very soon, has his heart set on a Ute from day one, and to be honest, this seems like a practical option, as he will likely need to drive to be on-site every day, so helping him buy a car is not out of the question – especially since he will be earning money.

His twin brother on the other hand, still at school, with another year to go, also thinks he should have a car – to drive himself to school!!!!  Well, you can imagine how that conversation went down recently.  As we drove somewhere, he casually asked if I might hand over my almost 10 year old (but very good) car recently, and buy myself a new one – no reason, except so that he could have mine.  Hmmm, the conversation went something like this, quickly deteriorating:

Man-Child (MC): Can you give me this car, and buy a new one?

Mother of Man-Child (MoM): What, I don’t need a new car.  No, you’re not getting this one, it’s worth too much money for a first car.  And it’s still under lease anyway.

MC: Well, I will need a car when I turn 18.  Don’t ruin my life by not giving me one! (Insert hideous sense of entitlement by very spoiled brat).

MoM: Hmmm, so he who has NO casual job, earns no money, and lives off his parents generosity, somehow expects us to GIVE him a car, and to then PAY to fill the petrol tank each week?  Do you know how much a tank of petrol actually costs?  What about that registration sticker on the windscreen?

MC:  (Mini rant follows with various reasons why he should receive a car). You have no idea….things have changed……all my friends have cars…..I NEED a car to get to school, and home from rowing or footy……you can afford it……..I will speak to Dad.

MoM: Son, you need to understand, we are trying to teach you the value of money.  GIVING you a car teaches you nothing. We all earned money and bought our own shit heaps, not a $10-20K first car.  And we will not be giving you a car to drive to school – you can keep getting the tram next year.  Of course, you are free to drive our cars on the weekend, provided we don’t need them.

MC: Deadly silence now in car, smoke coming out his ears. Hatred for mother, who is far too pragmatic and reasonable, and tight with her money.

MoM: (As we arrive at his mate’s place and pull up behind a car with P-plates)  Is that car there the “farm-car” your friend got when he turned 18?  (Shock in voice and on face as I look at a very new looking twin cab ute and think his friend is very very lucky).

MC: Yeah, what’s wrong with that?  See, he got a good car (and of course that totally justifies why MC should also get one).

Now don’t get me wrong.  I would love to give our boys a car for their 18th birthday.  Even a car each.  But I just don’t think it will teach them much about money and how you earn it to get what you want in life.  The perfect scenario for me (not them) would be someone’s grandparent with a great old car stuck in a garage that they want $2K for, with a gazillion miles on the clock and a reliable engine.  Nothing too fancy, even better if it can’t go over 80 KMH. 🙂

So, what was the upshot of my discussions with MC you ask?  Well apparently he has spoken to Father of a Man-Child, and they have brokered a deal.  From what I can gather (having been told it’s NONE of my business), I think he’s been told he will have free access to his Father’s brand new car, thereby satisfying some of his wants and desires (and ego).  The reality is, he doesn’t need it at school, and he doesn’t need it on weekends when they are out drinking, so I’m not sure when he really will use it, but since we seem to have some peace on the car front I am not complaining.

So what are your thoughts?  Am I being a horrible parent, not buying my son/s a car when they turn 18?  Or am I right to make them understand they need to pay for it, and fund it’s running costs and maintenance?

Over the years, I have written about them driving before, including when they first got their L-Plates, and also when they decided to try joy riding!!!  Read on.

https://motherofamanchild.com/2013/02/01/joy-riding-men-children-not-happy/

https://motherofamanchild.com/2012/03/23/are-we-breeding-spoilt-teenagers/

https://motherofamanchild.com/2012/03/16/beep-beep-get-off-the-road/

 

Showtime! October 4, 2013

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ferris wheel, carnival rideEvery child in Melbourne would know about “the show” in September. For those not in Melbourne or Australia that’s the Royal Melbourne Show, held at the Melbourne Showgrounds of course, originally a showcase of agricultural livestock and produce, where “city families” could get a taste of country life. Most major cities and some country towns have their own version of the show, be it the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, or the Bendigo or Shepparton Show.

A peculiarly Australian tradition is the showbag, initially containing samples from various exhibiting companies, and now the mainstay of any visit to the show. Everyone would know the famous Bertie Beetle showbag for a measly $2 (it’s still available for $2 but only has about 3 Bertie Beetles in it). Now you can pick from 380 showbags ranging in price from $2 to $35+. That’s a lot of showbags!

My childhood favourite was always the Lucky Boy showbag, which probably cost $1 in my day – it was full of licorice. I am not sure my parents ever took us to the show – as they had four children, they just couldn’t afford the expense, so they would cleverly find someone who was going and ask them to buy four showbags – and we were ecstatic just with that. I know I eventually went myself with a friend in my teens, riding the famous Mad Mouse, and probably buying a showbag or two.

So why am I wandering down memory lane? Well as it transpires, Sister of a Man-Child innocently asked me about “the show” and whether or not she could go. I immediately explained a few “facts” about the show:

  1. It’s ridiculously expensive, not just to get in but for the rides ($10 a pop) and the showbags
  2. It’s very crowded being the school holidays and full of bogans with stacks of whining kids and a pram overladen with scores of showbags
  3. I have no plans in my immediate future to take you there, perhaps someone will invite you one day

I chatted to a friend shortly afterwards, who said if she took her kids one year she’d invite my daughter along – I honestly think she felt sorry for her. A few days later, my guilt kicked in. What sort of a mother deprives her child of a once in a lifetime visit to the show? How mean could I be? It’s not like we couldn’t afford it. Then, a flash of brilliance. Father of a Man-Child was taking a few days off over the holidays – perhaps he could take our daughter and a friend to the show? After carefully broaching the subject, he agreed he would happily do that, and the plans were complete, and the iphone app downloaded.

Off went Father of a Man-Child with the two girls and a backpack full of supplies to keep them watered and fed and provide the energy to traipse around the kilometres of pavilions at the showgrounds. Suffice to say the day was a huge success and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it. As my husband explained, you forget how excited kids are and see the joy of the show through their eyes, not the cynical memories of their parents.

The kids loved every minute of it – the tram and train ride to the showgrounds., the farm animals – cattle the size of a family car, the baby animals – too cute rabbits and lambs, and ducklings, the Masterchef kitchen, the rides – yes expensive and some too scary for a couple of 9 year olds, the working sheepdog displays, and of course the showbags!

Apparently they thought very hard about the number of rides they would go on, versus the number of showbags they would buy. Initially my daughter, knowing me too well, had said that she was close to picking THE showbag she would buy, having studied them on the website in glorious detail. That was when I explained that she could actually have two or three – as long as they weren’t all lollies. OMG, the excitement!

So the five hour excursion to the show was a huge success. We made the day (and the school holidays) for two exhausted little girls, who now have the wonderful childhood memories of a visit to the show. My daughter has taken me personally through the exact contents of each showbag, and relived the day with me with the excited narrative only a child’s eyes can provide.

Hat tip to Father of a Man-Child for taking the girls along and dropping a couple of hundred bucks in a day! Ditto to my nanny 10 years ago who took the Men-Children to the show – I recall it cost me about the same then – plus the cost of employing her. No flies on me. 🙂

What is your favourite memory of the show? Have you taken your kids yet? Are my perceptions of the show incorrect?