Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Independent (sort of) June 21, 2013

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alone childThe men-children are starting to carve their own paths in life. They are developing clearer ideas of what they want in life, where their career prospects lay, who their friends are, what they like and what they don’t. Naturally, they are fiercely independent, and to varying degrees among our twin boys, think they know absolutely everything (and conversely that we know nothing).

Now I know you will think I am self-indulgent, but part of me loves it when the so-called know-it-all who didn’t want my help, involvement, or meddling suddenly demands assistance. I secretly smile, and offer my help willingly, knowing that one day they will not even consider asking me for help (old, grey and useless?)!

Here’s a few examples for you (okay, yes, I am gloating):

  • Version A: I know how to catch public transport. Of course I can get there on my own.
  • Version B: Which bus is it I should catch? Where did you find that timetable?
  • Version A: I can fill in the form myself. It’s a waste of time anyway.
  • Version B: What does this mean? What should I fill in here?
  • Version A: I don’t need a myki/concession card. I can save you hundreds this year – I will just grab a ticket when the inspector gets on.
  • Version B: Can you pay my fine for me (twice)!!
  • Version A: I can sell stuff on eBay and make money myself.
  • Version B: Can you post this for me at the post office? What do I do about someone that won’t pay for the goods?

And then there’s my regular favourites, proving they still need a mother (okay slave):

  • Can I have some lunch money?
  • Can I have a lift?
  • Can you wash my clothes?
  • What can I eat?
  • What can I put in my sandwich?
  • Can you sew on a button?
  • Does this look good?
  • Which shirt looks better?

Soon enough, they won’t need my help at all. Their peers, house-mates, partners will provide them with all the support and advice they need. But the door will always be open – after all, we never stop being parents do we?

Sister of a Man-Child will be an interesting future case, already showing her independence. She often asks me for advice (“what should I wear today Mama?”) and then proceeds to pick the exact opposite. Hmm, challenging times ahead. 🙂

Here’s a similar theme albeit a few years back: Bereft of Brain Cells?


Gaining life experience from work experience April 27, 2012

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work toolsThe men-children recently completed work experience as part of their school curriculum.  In Year 10, they set aside a week for all the boys to complete a week “working” – for some their first real taste of life outside school in an adult working environment.

Not surprisingly, the experiences were as varied as the 250 boys in the year level, ranging from a week spent with the Melbourne Rebels (cool) to a week spent at the Melbourne Zoo (also cool).   Even our boys selected very diverse options.  One spent the week with a sports management company (largely office based as it turned out), and one spent the week with a builder (largely outdoor based naturally).

I think each of the boys learned a lot about working, and the ups and/or downs of the particular companies they worked for.  The man-child who elected for the sports management job probably thought it would be a lot more glamorous than it was.  He did get one outing at an AFL football club, but the rest of the time was largely spent talking with staff to understand their jobs (basically project management), or helping the girls in the office with the database (the alternative to “filing”).  As I explained to him when he told me about having to spend a few hours “cutting and pasting” one day:  “I also have to do shit like that, and I’m paid a lot more than $10 a day”.  Everyone has grunt stuff to do as part of their job, so for me it was a great lesson about starting at the bottom, and being prepared to roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty.  I was also at pains to point out that it really is quite difficult to find a meaningful job for someone on work experience for a week, and that he could rest assured when he gets a real job there will be set tasks for him to do and he’ll feel a sense of purpose.

I agreed to drop him off one day and we were chatting about what he’d learned.  He mentioned a discussion by management about the cost for “the cloud”, and then quickly asked me – BTW, what exactly is “the cloud”?  Firstly a very good marketing term, but basically just a bunch of servers where you store all your stuff and pay someone else to worry about its retention, security, retrieval etc.  I was glad he asked, as that’s exactly how you learn.   I also had to laugh the day he rang me from the supermarket to tell me he’d been sent down to buy chips and dips for Friday night drinks (a VERY important job) and to ask me which dips he should choose!  I said you can’t go wrong with Hummus and Tzatziki (and quietly delighted in the fact that he had called his mother to ask). 🙂

In complete contrast to his office-bound brother, our other man-child went off “labouring” with a builder friend.   His turned out to be a great experience, with opportunities to work with multiple “tradies” during the week, coupled with the chance to drive a quad bike and a ute on the large property they were working at.  Teenage heaven!  He also spent a few nights out at the property, and I think really enjoyed the manual work (although he was pretty stuffed by it).  Of course it’s much easier to give someone stuff to carry, dig, cart, etc in this environment, so I have no doubt he felt very “useful” compared to his brother.  However I did also point out to our “labourer” that it wasn’t quite as glamorous as he might think.  I said the “chippies” do the same thing day in, day out.  They don’t get to be a landscaper one day and a carpenter the next.  It’s 365 days a year of hammering timber.

He was also very fortunate to be given advice by said builder about his future career choices.  I was thrilled to learn this and hope our son takes on board the wise counsel of our friend.  He’s very lucky to have someone who cares enough to help.

Post work experience, we learned that next term the boys need to make subject choices for Year 11 (and ultimately Year 12).  WHAT!!  Naturally our thoughts and discussions turned to the challenge this presents, and how hard it is to guide our children in a world that moves so fast, and is a long way from our school leaving some 30 odd years ago.  As someone said, the jobs they may have when they’re 20 probably don’t even exist yet.  And we know they may well have 3 or 4 different career paths in their lifetime.  So we jumped at the chance for any guidance that “experts” can provide our sons and us during this decision process.  We want to be sure they make the best possible choices for themselves, with the knowledge of all the opportunities that are available to them.  And the objectivity that a 3rd party provides when they think their parents don’t know anything can’t hurt either!!!

So hands up who is doing now what they started when they left school?  Have you changed careers, by choice, or by circumstance?  Did you end up doing what you said you wanted to do when you were younger (doctor, nurse, vet)?  Or do you have any tips for us or the boys?   I’d love to hear from you.

PS.  We just endured another round of Parent-Teacher interviews.  It can be a trying experience, especially with one of the men-children.  The Joys (or not) of Parent-Teacher Interviews.


Mother of a Man-Child: Sage Advice from a Man-Child Expert September 24, 2010

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As a parent, I am one of those who reads child-rearing books, openly shares issues with other parents for support, and/or sympathy and to compare notes (hence the blog I suppose), and seeks objective advice from relevant professionals when appropriate – my logic being the more help I can get the better my chances for success.

I am fortunate enough to be the niece of a very experienced child-rearer; although not a “parent” himself in the literal sense, over 40+ years my uncle has been a boarding house master, teacher and school principal in all-boys’ schools as well as working with delinquent youths in a well-known boys home, amongst other roles. He’s the best “surrogate” parent I know.

So who better to provide me with occasional wisdom and advice regarding the issues I face with Man-Child I and II.   He probably also has the odd laugh to see that my own children are putting me through what I put my own parents through in my adolescence.

Following some recent issues with Man-Child II, he did offer some great advice for which I am extremely grateful.  I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing his words of wisdom with you, gained over the years through experiences with hundreds if not thousands of adolescent boys.  You may not be in agreement with each of these, but for me they were objective tips sprinkled liberally with pertinent quotes, which provided me with another viewpoint to consider.

  • “The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook” (Edmund Burke). Maybe you have to overlook more than you really think you want to overlook.  A good question to ask yourself is ‘What will it matter in a hundred years, or even ten?’
  • “A wise man (woman) sees as much as he/she ought, not as much as he/she can” (Montaigne). My uncle never lied to his father because he was sensible enough not to look too closely or push him too hard into a corner (and I’m sure being the fourth child made this more likely too).
  • My uncle never liked ‘grounding’ or what the boarders called ‘gating’. It made kids resent what you really wanted them to enjoy – being at school. He did everything possible to find positive alternatives, something you could withdraw temporarily – a sanction rather than a punishment.
  • His golden rule about punishments was to keep them as short as possible rather than locking yourself into a long battle. Same day punishment is ideal with a fresh start tomorrow – and certainly seeing the funny side of misbehaviour. (So much for my term-long grounding of Man-Child II recently)!
  • Lastly, some advice a colleague and close friend of my uncle gave the carers of very challenging boys – “Enjoy the kids”, even with their unusual behaviour.

So there you have it.  Sage advice indeed from a Man-Child expert.  I wonder if he’d consider a book?  I’m sure I’d find plenty of buyers.