Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Happy Family Holidays July 19, 2013

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Port DouglasExcuse the absence from my blog, but a family holiday in lovely Far North Queensland was in order.  Now as some of you will know, it was with great reluctance that one of our men-children attended the holiday with us.  He would have much preferred to have stayed home alone (never!) and gone out every night of the holidays with his mates, completely running himself into the ground, and doing all the wrong things before returning to studies.  I was almost expecting that he would be conveniently absent on the day we left for the airport, thereby missing the flight and the holiday, but thankfully not.

We were motivated to have a family holiday for a few reasons – one to escape the cold Melbourne winter.  The other to enjoy a family holiday with just our kids and us whilst we still can (at 17 I think the appeal will diminish in coming years), and to ensure that the boys had a decent break and rest.

So was it successful?  I am delighted to say it was.  And how do I measure the success?  As we left Port Douglas and drove towards the airport, I asked a few simple questions:

  1. So did you like Port Douglas? A resounding yes by all 3 kids.
  2. Would you come back to Port Douglas?  Another yes by all 3 kids.
  3. Would you come back to the house, or rather stay closer to the main street?  Loved the house, and the location.

Yay, music to our ears.  A couple of things worked in our favour.  Staying in a great Bali style house, with our own pool and plenty of room for the boys (love the QLD lifestyle).  Walking distance to the beach, bike paths nearby for a quick ride into town, some school mates staying close by whom they spent countless hours playing 500 with, and a night life (significantly safer than Bali) where they met even more Melbourne friends for regular nights out.

There were a few other indicators of success for me (call them soft measures) –  the boys rarely fought with each other (an all too common occurrence at home), or their sister for that matter.  In fact, they got along quite well, talking to each other (instead of taunting each other), a habit which happily seems to have been maintained at home.   Whilst they remain very different in their interests and friendship groups, it seems they have found some common ground finally.

We had some nice dinners out as a family and did some sight-seeing together – all just pleasant things to do.  We even captured some happy snaps.  For Mother of a Man-child these simple things give me so much joy, perhaps because I know it won’t last forever.  That said, I was pleased to catch up with friends from Melbourne who had all four kids with them on holidays – the oldest 21.  So perhaps there’s still a few years of fun remaining?

So here’s to the next family holiday with the kids over summer, and many more to follow.

We have had some other good holidays with the boys – it takes planning though, trust me!  Hamilton Island (“Best Holiday Ever”) and Sorrento (“Surviving New Years”).


Schoolies Week! November 23, 2012

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schooliesSchool’s out for the VCE students of 2012 and this week is the beginning of “schoolies”.  For those who are not aware of this Aussie tradition, “schoolies” involves thousands of excited Year 12/VCE students who have just finished their final exams, travelling to selected destinations en masse for a couple of weeks of partying and celebrations.

Sadly as this post was being written news had been released of the tragic death on the Gold Coast of a 17-year-old girl falling from her balcony – most certainly every parents worst nightmare, and a shocking end for some schoolies to their celebrations.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive entry on schoolies week, including the history – did you know it actually started on the Gold Coast in QLD in 1979?  It certainly wasn’t an Australia-wide trend when I finished school in 1982, although I imagine we would have loved the idea (alas my parents probably wouldn’t have).  Wikipedia also provides further useful information:  “Toolies” refers to older revelers who participate in Schoolies week but are not high-school graduates. “Foolies” or “pre-schoolies” refers to younger adolescents, who participate in Schoolies week but have not yet graduated from high school.

There are a couple of key destinations for schoolies, including Byron Bay, the Gold Coast, and of course Bali.  My men-children were chatting with a family friend just recently, who was heading off to Byron Bay for 10 days of partying.  I commented that only one of my boys would attend schoolies in two years time, as his twin brother, set to leave school at the end of this year, won’t actually be “graduating” with all his current friends.  Oh no he assured me, he would be at “schoolies” with all his mates regardless, making him a “Clayton’s schoolie” me thinks?

I learnt during this conversation that they will need to be booking accommodation as early as mid next year for schoolies, yes that’s right, a full 18 months ahead of the end of their VCE.  The dilemma of course will be selecting the destination, agreeing who you will stay with, and I suppose hoping you are still friends by the time the holiday comes around.

I can’t help but wonder if our “tradie” man-child will have outgrown some of his school friends by then, and if he’s working full time as an apprentice not be the slightest bit interested in schoolies?  One thing is for sure, if they both want to go to any Australian destination, I will be agreeing (although I would prefer if it’s not in a high rise apartment on the GC for obvious reasons).  The alternative (mainly Bali) does not impress me due to the open trade in drugs and inherent danger, and quite frankly I would rather they weren’t over there.  Of course, as the men-children will be 18 years of age by then, I won’t be able to stop them, but the early booking might just work in our favour and I have no intention of reminding them of their impending legal age and associated rights.

As it happened, I travelled to the Gold Coast this week for business (please note NOT as a “toolie”), and was interested to hear what the locals had to say about the influx of some 18,000 reported students to the Gold Coast area.  I learned from the local news about the behaviour of some idiots – yes the media just LOVE to highlight the stupidity and drunken pranks of teenagers.  But I also learned that there is zero tolerance of bad behaviour, with evictions of schoolies if necessary from their accommodation (no second chances) and very controlled party environments.  One taxi driver (a veritable wealth of knowledge) said most of the GC residents who are anywhere near the middle of Surfers Paradise evacuate for the entire period (much like the Grand Prix in Melbourne for some residents).  He also figured the government was more than happy to entertain schoolies, as it’s a huge injection of cash for the economy (definitely “liquid” gold).  Another taxi driver said he’d had quite a few schoolies as passengers and they were just great young Aussie kids having fun.  He did also admit that he only drives his taxi during the day so no doubt he sees the best side of them!!!

I also heard quite a lot of discussion on the radio this week also about whether parents would allow their kids to go to schoolies.  Not surprisingly, there was the full spectrum of views and attitudes amongst parents, from controlling gate-keepers to trusting (naive?) parents.  With the men-children, I am probably less concerned about them going away than I would be if it was my daughter.  For some reason, I feel that girls are far more vulnerable than boys in these situations, especially if you read about some of the “toolies” preying on young girls.  I also know you can’t wrap your kids in cotton wool forever (especially once an adult) so all you can do is your best to teach them not to be too stupid in these environments.  As we know from recent news, even young footballers in their 20’s can still do very stupid things and have fatal accidents.

So what do you think of schoolies?  Did you attend celebrations when you left school?  Would you let your kids go, in Australia, or Bali? Certainly the tragic death of a young schoolie will have other parents questioning whether they should let their kids go at all, and protect their children from possible harm and even worse accidental death.  There are no winners in this situation.

If you’d like to read the full reference:


We actually did miss the men-children! August 3, 2012

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Regular readers will know we recently ventured on a holiday without the men-children.  Our first taste of life without the boys for an extended period and also Sister of a Man-Child’s first taste of a holiday as an only child.  Let’s face it, it’s likely to happen more frequently not less in years to come.

It’s fair to say we all enjoyed the break, yes even the boys left at home and school.  We enjoyed a very relaxing holiday with only the demands of one child (and a pretty undemanding one at that) to satisfy.  Our daughter lapped up the undivided attention, although occasionally wished her brothers were in the pool playing with her (how quickly she forgets their tormenting).  And our sons enjoyed the company of their favourite “cool” uncle and aunt, the ones with no kids, who treat them like adults, and have taken them on fab holidays over the years.

I will admit to missing the boys – you always think of your kids when you’re travelling, enjoying something new or indulgent and thinking how much they would also enjoy it.  I know they would have loved the villa and the pool, and the cooked breakfast each morning.   As compensation, my daughter and I made a special trip to find the t-shirts they wanted (very, very particular brands for 16-year-old boys), with strict instructions about colours/stripes etc.  Thankfully my daughter seemed to be an excellent barometer of what the boys would and wouldn’t like.  She saved me from buying all the wonderful new bright colours in polos for summer that they would have absolutely hated.  As it was even with their guidelines, I still didn’t get it 100% right.

paul smith t-shirt When the first man-child walked in the door to find us at home, I was greeted with a hug and kiss and “how was the trip”.  OMG, I know, a lovely son greeting his mother. 🙂  Typically, he then dove into the bag to check the presents we had bought for him, and declared that half the expensive (by Bali standards) t-shirts were “gay” and what was I thinking!!!

Well, not surprisingly, I told him exactly what I was thinking.  Firstly, that he could put the t-shirts where the sun didn’t shine.  Secondly, that I wished we hadn’t bothered to spend so much time stressing about what t-shirts to get him at several different shops, and thirdly, that they actually met his brief.  I then declared that I would give them away to someone else and stormed off quite angry and upset.  It’s a bit like giving someone a lovely Xmas gift you’ve invested a lot of time buying, only to be told they think it’s horrid and can they take it back?  Only Bali’s a bit too far to go to exchange the colours isn’t it?  I received a similarly delightful greeting from his twin brother when he came home, thankfully without the carry on about the t-shirts.  He’s less fussy and his brief was far better!

I caught up with my twin sister who declared the boys had been absolutely delightful in our absence.  She struggled to even remember if they had fought.  She had helped them out with homework, and even been reasonable when she found one intentionally “late” so he would miss his English class.  The cool, calm head of a temporary (but excellent) parent.  She even commented about what lovely young men they were growing into, as exhibited at several family dinners in our absence.  Why are they always better for someone else?  Nevertheless, that is just what every parent wants to hear.  Naturally, within an hour of her departure both boys were fighting and we could hear the slamming of bodies upstairs as the household returned to its natural rhythm.  I swear, every night after we got home they seemed to fight, just to make us realise how nice our little break was!

So onto the next holiday, which will be WITH the boys.  It was nice to have the break, it was nice to miss them, and it was nice to come home, even to a fight or two.

PS. The “gay” t-shirts ended up in the cupboard – maybe not so bad after all? 

If you think we’re horrible, here’s the earlier discussion around our holiday plans and why we decided to leave the boys at home.  The Challenge of Happy Holidays for Everyone.  


The Challenge of Happy Holidays for Everyone? April 13, 2012

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As the men-children get older, holidays become increasingly challenging.  Not surprisingly, their idea of a good time is not one or two weeks spent with Mum and Dad and their younger sister.   Of course the incentive of an exotic destination can hold a fair bit of sway naturally!

As we planned out our holidays this year, a couple of key considerations came into play:

  • The men-children are now in Year 10.  Gone are the days you can take them out of school to travel in off-peak times, something we regularly did when they were in primary school.  Their younger sister on the other hand is only in Grade 3.
  • The men-children want to spend NYE with friends this year.  You would recall our decision last year to have the boys in Sydney over New Years for a family holiday – I don’t think we were too popular, but hey, shit happens.
  • The holiday destination of choice for the boys is the Victorian coast over summer.  That part of the coast that is the most expensive beach side real estate in Australia, and that seemingly 4 million Melburnians flock to in order to queue for coffee, the newspaper, car spaces etc.  Aaargh!
  • A family trip flying anywhere on the East Coast of Australia remains relatively cheap, but contemplate the West, or outside Australia, and the airfares alone set us back at least $6,000 and that’s before we’ve even set foot in another country.
  • Both boys had a week in Perth for the rowing national championships recently (part holiday, part sport), and one just returned from the Tiwi islands following a school footy trip (again part holiday, part sport).   They haven’t exactly missed out on much have they?

baliSo as we set about planning, a few realisations planted some seeds that led to a possible solution.  Father of a Man-Child and I travelled to Bali a few years back for his 50th.  We had a week there (without children) and it was quite frankly a brilliant holiday.  We’d love to take the kids back to Bali, but one look at the cost of airfares during the school holidays (a mere 250% increase on the “off-peak” fares) and that idea was out.

We also looked at the cost of renting a house in said popular beach destination, and discovered that we would pay at least $3,500 per week for a house in the area we wanted that could accommodate us and a few extras.  That’s $7,000 to be an hour from Melbourne, and spend your holiday with a gazillion other people.  Yikes!  I had to laugh, as one of the Men-Children also did some of his own web surfing to find some suitable properties.  He found a stunning place, with pool, divine deck, great house, and a good price he thought.  Yes, that is a good price – $2,000.  PER NIGHT!!!!  Like I said, we’re not talking cheap here.

So the solution you ask?  Well we presented it to the boys the other night.  We explained the options, the cost considerations, and the proposed approach.   And they agreed.  We would take Sister of a Man-Child to Bali with us for a week, during school term.  A short break for us during the depths of winter, at an affordable price (me trying desperately not to get too excited in front of them).  And yes we will do plenty of shopping for them – we all love a good fake!  Then two weeks at the beach over summer, in a house large enough to cater to their friends staying also, and over NYE (I shudder at the thought) so they can be where it’s all happening.  Fair enough we thought.  We get one holiday designed for us, they get one holiday designed for them.

Now please don’t get me wrong, I would love to take the boys to Bali, but the cost is just prohibitive, we can’t afford to do it all, and they need to understand that money does not grow on trees, and that you can’t have everything you want when you want it.  So tell me, is that fair?  Have we done the right thing?  I know it will only be two years before they are 18 and they can travel where they want, but I guarantee a free holiday (especially overseas) will still hold appeal to a cash-strapped student so who knows what we might plan or afford in the next few years?

In the meantime, I can plan our little Bali trip with glee, and then start looking for a bargain holiday house.   Maybe the boys will learn what the words “beach shack” actually mean?  LOL.  Or there’s always the caravan park, but one year when I mentioned that as an option, the look of utter disbelief from one of them was enough to make my hair curl.  Yep, spoilt!

We did survive our trip to Sydney last year with the boys over New Years – but not without some angst, as you can read here in Teenage Torture Techniques.

You can also read about the “Best Holiday Ever” with the boys at Hamilton Island last year, proving you can still have fun with teenagers.