Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

A step back in time November 16, 2012

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typewriterThis week for no particular reason other than the boys didn’t provide me with anything really inspiring to write about (a rare event indeed), I decided to share a few of my favourite posts.

Here’s my latest Ten Good Reads for you to enjoy:

  1. The Holiday from Hell – a ruined holiday with toddler twin boys
  2. Hygiene – over-rated by teenage boys
  3. Calm Down – two words no angry mother wants to hear
  4. Sage Advice – learn from an experienced teacher
  5. Too late – pushing the boundaries always
  6. Trouble on school camp – there’s always one isn’t there?
  7. Hurdy Gurdy – a family heirloom in our backyard
  8. Nice to be wanted – thank goodness for Sister of a Man-Child
  9. Testosterone – naturally my boys have loads
  10. Mother’s day musings – a good time to reflect

Enjoy them, share them, and let me know your thoughts.  It always makes me feel more normal when I hear from my readers.

 

 

No room for Mums….. October 19, 2012

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bridgeBeing a mother of teenage men-children is an interesting journey. The boys that needed you so much for so many years as their primary carer, no longer look to you first for help and advice with everything. On the contrary, they look to and respect the opinions of their friends and peers first, older boys second, sporting coaches, teachers or other authority figures next, and parents coming in a long way last.

Trust me, 16 year old boys know everything and don’t need parents at all!  Except when they need a lift somewhere, or to know how to open a bank account, get a tax file number, put on a washing machine, fill the dishwasher or hang out some clothes.  And if they want something, they don’t necessarily ask their mother first anymore (especially if they think their father will lend a more sympathetic ear). Even more so if it’s a blokey activity, which I can appreciate and actually think is healthy for boys. You know, that male bonding stuff.

It’s certainly a challenge for one’s ego parenting teenagers, even more so as Mother of a Man-Child. In my mid 40’s, it’s fair to say I am loving life. Great mates, great job, great family, at my healthiest in years, good work/life balance, good network of friends and colleagues. However such is the power of teenagers that in a split second your ego can be inflated by a few simple words (“Mum, you look great” – if only they could say it without surprise in their voices), then instantly deflated with a look from them that needs no words, rendering said mother as “useless”.  If you are having a moment of weakness, these incidents can cut you to the core, leaving you feeling bereft, and almost in mourning for the children you once had, and the adoration they once bestowed upon you.

And God forbid you should attempt to talk to their friends.  Most of them seem very nice to me and happy to chat upon arrival in our home. Yet one of my men-children in particular (and to be fair not his brother) practically drags his friends out of the room, so quick is he to escape our presence.  I can only assume it’s embarrassment on his part – perhaps we are not up to his standards?  They say the grass is always greener on the other side – does the same extend to parents?  Are everyone else’s parents somehow cooler than your own?  No doubt.

Thankfully I still have Sister of a Man-child, who still wants and needs her mother. Me and my ego soak that up every day, knowing too well it is a temporary state.  Fortunately, as Celia Lashlie’s book “He’ll be OK” showed, I also have confidence the men-children will return to me in due course, and be the nice young men we are bringing them up to be, who love and appreciate their Mum (and of course their Dad and sister). 🙂

I have written about the journey across the adolescent bridge before:  It’s a Man’s world

 

25 Rules for Mums with Boys April 20, 2012

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This week’s post is for my friends and readers who have sons.  Such is the wonderful world of blogging that I came across this post via another WordPress blogger http://aspellbindingexistence.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/24-rules-for-moms-with-sons/ and then made my way to the original source and blogger http://studerteam.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/25-rules-for-mothers-of-sons.html.  As a mother of two sons, I loved both versions of “rules” and felt compelled to share them with you.

Enjoy.  I know I did.  It gave me cause to pause and think about the wonderful role we have as mothers in the lives of our sons (even though they don’t always show their appreciation).

I have reposted the original blog post below.

© Tabitha Studer http://www.studerteam.blogspot.com Nov.2011
25 Rules for Moms with Sons
November 2011

After a mostly fruitless search for “rules” for mothers with sons (and a particularly hard momma day), I was inspired to write my own list to remind myself of what’s important, especially during those days that being a mom to an ever-squirming, ever-curious boy is both challenging and exhausting. Granted, my list will not be conclusive and may not be entirely uncontroversial. So agree, or disagree, or take with a grain of salt – but I hope to inspire other moms who are loving, and struggling, and tired, and proud, and eager to support the boys in their lives. You are the most important woman in his life, his first teacher, and the one he will look to for permission for the rest of his life. From “Can I go play with them?” to “Should I ask her to marry me?” It’s a big job, but as the mumma, we’re up for it.

1. Teach him the words for how he feels.
Your son will scream out of frustration and hide out of embarrassment. He’ll cry from fear and bite out of excitement. Let his body move by the emotion, but also explain to him what the emotion is and the appropriate response to that emotion for future reference. Point out other people who are feeling the same thing and compare how they are showing that emotion. Talk him through your emotions so that someday when he is grown, he will know the difference between angry and embarrassed; between disappointment and grief.

2. Be a cheerleader for his life
There is no doubt that you are the loudest person in the stands at his t-ball games. There is no doubt that he will tell you to “stop, mom” when you sing along to his garage band’s lyrics. There is no doubt that he will get red-faced when you show his prom date his pictures from boy scouts. There is no doubt that he is not telling his prom date about your blog where you’ve been bragging about his life from his first time on the potty to the citizenship award he won in ninth grade. He will tell you to stop. He will say he’s embarrassed. But he will know that there is at least one person that is always rooting for him.

3. Teach him how to do laundry
..and load the dishwasher, and iron a shirt. He may not always choose to do it. He may not ever have to do it. But someday his wife will thank you.

4. Read to him and read with him.
Emilie Buchwald said, “Children become readers on the laps of their parents.” Offer your son the opportunity to learn new things, believe in pretend places, and imagine bigger possibilities through books. Let him see you reading…reading the paper, reading novels, reading magazine articles. Help him understand that writing words down is a way to be present forever. Writers are the transcribers of history and memories. They keep a record of how we lived at that time; what we thought was interesting; how we spoke to each other; what was important. And Readers help preserve and pass along those memories.

5. Encourage him to dance.
Dance, rhythm, and music are cultural universals. No matter where you go, no matter who you meet – they have some form of the three. It doesn’t have to be good. Just encourage your son that when he feels it, it’s perfectly fine to go ahead and bust a move.

6. Make sure he has examples of good men who are powerful because of their brains, their determination, and their integrity.
The examples of men with big muscles and a uniform (like Batman and LaMarr Woodley) will surround your son from birth. But make sure he also knows about men who kick a$s because of their brains (Albert Einstein), and their pen (Mark Twain), and their words (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), and their determination (Team Hoyt), and their ideas (The Wright Brothers), and their integrity (Officer Frank Shankwitz), and fearlessness (Neil Armstrong), and their ability to keep their mouths closed when everyone else is screaming (Jackie Robinson).

7. Make sure he has examples of women who are beautiful because of their brains, their determination, and their integrity
The examples of traditionally beautiful women (like Daphne Blake, Princess Jasmine, and Britney Spears) will surround your son from birth. But make sure he knows about women who are beautiful from the inside out because of their brains (Madame Marie Curie), and their pen (Harper Lee), and their words (Eleanor Roosevelt), and their determination (Anne Sullivan), and their ideas (Oprah Winfrey), and their integrity (Miep Gies), and fearlessness (Ameila Earhart), and their ability to open their mouths and take a stand when everyone else is silent (Aung San Suu Kyi).

8. Be an example of a beautiful woman with brains, determination, and integrity.
You already are all of those things. If you ever fear that you are somehow incapable of doing anything – remember this: If you have done any of the following: a) grew life b) impossibly and inconceivably got it out of your body c) taken care of a newborn d) made a pain go away with a kiss e) taught someone to read f) taught a toddler to eat with a utensil g) cleaned up diarrhea without gagging h) loved a child enough to be willing to give your life for them (regardless if they are your own) or i) found a way to be strong when that child is suffering…you are a superhero. do not doubt yourself for one second. Seriously.

9. Teach him to have manners
because it’s nice. and it will make the world a little better of a place.

10. Give him something to believe in
Because someday he will be afraid, or nervous, or heartbroken, or lost, or just need you, and you won’t be able to be there. Give him something to turn to when it feels like he is alone, so that he knows that he will never be alone; never, never, never.

11. Teach him that there are times when you need to be gentle
like with babies, and flowers, and animals, and other people’s feelings.

12. Let him ruin his clothes
Resolve to be cool about dirty and ruined clothes. You’ll be fighting a losing battle if you get upset every time he ruins another piece of clothing. Don’t waste your energy being angry about something inevitable. Boys tend to learn by destroying, jumping, spilling, falling, and making impossible messes. Dirty, ruined clothes are just par for the course.

13. Learn how to throw a football
or how to use a hockey stick, or read music, or draw panda bears (or in my case alpacas), or the names of different train engines, or learn to speak Elvish, or recognize the difference between Gryffindor and Slytherin, or the lyrics to his favorite song. Be in his life, not as an observer but as an active participant.

14. Go outside with him
turn off the television, unplug the video games, put your cellphone on the charger, even put your camera away. Just go outside and follow him around. Watch his face, explore his world, and let him ask questions. It’s like magic.

15. Let him lose
Losing sucks. Everybody isn’t always a winner. Even if you want to say, “You’re a winner because you tried,” don’t. He doesn’t feel like a winner, he feels sad and crappy and disappointed. And that’s a good thing, because sometimes life also sucks, no matter how hard (as moms) we try to make it not suck for our kids. This practice will do him good later when he loses again (and again, and again, and again, and again…..) Instead make sure he understands that – sometimes you win – sometimes you lose. But that doesn’t mean you ever give up.

16. Give him opportunities to help others
There is a big difference in giving someone the opportunity to help and forcing someone to help. Giving the opportunity lights a flame in the heart and once the help is done the flame shines brighter and asks for more opportunities. Be an example of helping others in your own actions and the way your family helps each other and helps others together.

17. Remind him that practice makes perfect.
This doesn’t just apply to performance-based activities (like sports and music) but also applies to everything in life. You become a better writer by writing. You become a better listener by listening. You become better speaker by speaking. Show your son this when he is just young enough to understand (that means from birth, folks – they are making sense of the world as soon as they arrive), practice trick-or-treating at your own front door before the real thing. Practice how you will walk through airport security before a trip. Practice how you order your own food from the fast food cashier. Practice, practice, practice.

18. Answer him when he asks, “Why?”
Answer him, or search for the answer together. Show him the places to look for the answers (like his dad, or grandparents, or his aunts/uncles, or his books, or valid internet searches). Pose the question to him so he can begin thinking about answers himself. Someday, when he needs to ask questions he’s too embarrassed to ask you – he’ll know where to go to find the right answers.

19. Always carry band-aids and wipes on you.
especially the wipes.

20. Let his dad teach him how to do things
…without interrupting about how to do it the ‘right way.’ If you let his dad show and teach and discover with your son while he is growing up, someday down the road (after a short period of your son believing his dad knows nothing), he will come to the realization that his dad knows everything. You will always be his mother, but in his grown-up man heart and mind, his dad will know the answers. And this will be how, when your son is too busy with life to call and chat with his mom, you will stay connected to what is happening in his life. Because he will call his dad for answers, and his dad will secretly come and ask you.

21. Give him something to release his energy
drums, a pen, a punching bag, wide open space, water, a dog. Give him something to go crazy with – or he will use your stuff. and then you’ll be sorry.

22. Build him forts
Forts have the ability to make every day normal stuff into magic. Throw the couch cushions, a couple of blankets, and some clothespins and you can transform your living room into the cave of wonders. For the rest of his life, he’ll be grateful to know that everyday normal stuff has the potential to be magical.

23. Take him to new places
Because it will make his brain and his heart open up wider, and the ideas and questions and memories will rush in.

24. Kiss him
Any mother of sons will tell you that little boys are so loving and sweet. They can be harsh and wild and destructive during most of the day. But there are these moments when they are so kind and sensitive and tender. So much so that it can cause you to look around at the inward, reserved grown men in your life and think, ‘what happens in between that made you lose that?’ Let’s try to stop the cycle by kissing them when they’re loving and kissing them even more when they’re wild. Kissing them when they’re 2 months and kissing them when they’re 16 years old. You’re the mom – you can go ahead and kiss him no matter how big he gets – and make sure he knows it. p.s. (this one is just as important for dad’s too).

25. Be home base
You are home to him. When he learns to walk, he will wobble a few feet away from you and then come back, then wobble away a little farther and then come back. When he tries something new, he will look for your proud smile. When he learns to read, he will repeat the same book to you twenty times in a row, because you’re the only one who will listen that many times. When he plays his sport, he will search for your face in the stands. When he is sick, he will call you. When he really messes up, he will call you. When he is grown and strong and tough and big and he feels like crying, he will come to you; because a man can cry in front of his mother without feeling self-conscious. Even when he grows up and has a new woman in his life and gets a new home, you are still his mother; home base, the ever constant, like the sun. Know that in your heart and everything else will fall into place.

So there you have it.  25 rules (give or take a few).  I think these apply equally well to young boys as well as my own teenagers, but perhaps I should write 25 Rules for Mothers of Men-Children?  Although Celia Lashlie did a great job already.  I wrote about her book some time ago.  He’ll be okay.

Let me know what you think about the above?  Do the rules resonate with you?  Do you have your own to add?  Now go and give your son a huge hug and tell him you love him! 🙂

 

We survived another school year (not without incident) December 2, 2011

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school booksFor all parents, the end of the school year is looming.  In no time the kids will all be on holidays for about two months (we workers can only wish), wondering what to do with themselves, and bleeding the parental ATM dry.

We survived the end of year exams, although the results are not in yet.  But that in itself is a major triumph, especially since we were at the school only a few weeks ago for a meeting to discuss one of the men-children and basically to receive a warning that his results would not be good.  (I really hope they’re wrong and we’re pleasantly surprised – is that naive or just optimistic?).  They basically told us that whilst they couldn’t fault our son’s commitment to sport at school, he needed to show similar commitment to academic subjects.  They, like most other mainstream schools, make no apologies for being an academic school first, with a multitude of other “opportunities” second.  It seemed a little late to be telling us this to be honest, although it didn’t come as a complete surprise.  You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink!  (Ditto homework).

Following our “meeting” we tried to ensure the men-children made the most of weekend study time.  That basically meant curtailing their social lives for two weekends and not allowing them out on a Saturday night.  As they still had serious sporting commitments, this wasn’t actually a bad idea in our minds.  However, in the eyes of men-children, spending a Saturday night at home with your parents is about the worst thing you can do.  Honestly, you should have heard the carry on.  You would have thought we’d asked them to walk naked down Glenferrie Road after school.

We also received some interesting correspondence from the school during the year about an “incident” involving both our men-children.  I can’t help but love the tone of carefully crafted letters to parents that are so politically correct in describing an event.  So the “serious incident” that involved a number of boys (including ours), followed “ongoing negative interactions” and “verbal interplay”, resulting in a “physical interaction” breaking out between some boys.  In other words a bunch of testosterone-laden boys who had been egging each other on all year finally had a shit fight and tried to punch the crap out of each other.  Thankfully both of our boys were deemed to be fringe dwellers only, and one was even credited with helping break up the fight. He later admitted that he’d actually managed to land a great punch, and even accidentally slugged one of his mates (LOL).  All part of being boys especially at an all boy’s school.  Of course I completely understand the school’s need to write a letter to all involved, and I’m thankful that ours didn’t do anything too bad.

As for how they’ll amuse themselves over the holidays – thankfully we love camps, and so do they!  Especially the summer camps and sporting camps that the school offer.  They will both be away before Christmas and again in late January.  We think it’s great for them to get away with mates on camp, and also to have time away from us.  We (that’s Father of a Man-Child, Sister of a Man-Child and myself) also enjoy the unusual dynamic that a house with a single child brings.  It’s incredibly quiet and we seem to enjoy spontaneous outings more frequently!!!

So onto the end of Year 9 and exam results next week.  You may recall the bribe we handed to the boys earlier this year – $100 for every B grade or better in their exams.  I suspect one will have a windfall shortly, and the other will be looking for lots of odd jobs he can do over the holidays. 🙂

Read about the bribery here.

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Boys will be Boys on Camp January 21, 2011

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Over the summer holidays the Men-Children attended camp for a week.  It was actually run by their school.  As surprising as this may seem during the two-month long holidays that private schools enjoy, clearly someone wiser than myself understands the need for Men-Children and their parents to have a break from each other over this extended period.

The boys had wanted to attend this camp last year (at the end of Year 7).  As the camp fell in the first week of January, right when most families have their annual summer holiday together, I was adamant they should not go.  My husband agreed.  And so they didn’t.  Clearly these were signs of a mother desperate to retain a sense of control, and to hang onto the last remnants of family holidays as they slowly dissipated before her eyes.

This year the boys ended up on camp almost by mistake.  When we initially signed the paperwork it was for the senior camp in December, which I thought was a great idea as they have the entire month to do not much in my view.  A great way to fill in time and keep them off the streets quite frankly.  I much preferred primary school when they finished four days before Christmas.

The school contacted Mother of a Man-Child to confirm their attendance and the dates – yes in the first week of January.  Right in the middle of a holiday with their cousin from interstate and their grandfather, during our last stay at the family beach house (now sold).  Whilst my immediate response was “absolutely not”, I then gave consideration to the reasons we might let them go (apart from the fact that they wanted to).  In the end, common sense prevailed.  I figured that after a week with us at the beach, complaining that “it’s BORING, why can’t we have a house at Portsea, NONE of our friends are here, blah, blah” we would be more than happy to see them head off for five days and enjoy some respite from them.  Obviously there’s no doubt the feeling was reciprocal!!!

And yes for those who are thinking what spoilt children, even having a beach house to go to during summer, when it costs most families an arm and a leg to rent a beach house from the orthodontist you’ve made rich during the year whilst paying for Man-Childs teeth to be perfect, I agree.  And certainly they don’t appreciate our little sleepy hollow, complete with dirt roads and a general store, and no pub at all to attract feral young adults or Bogans.  It’s parent heaven – but clearly not teen heaven.

So off they went to camp, with much excitement and anticipation.  My excitement at five days of peace, theirs at five days of no nagging mother, being with mates, access to every water sport imaginable, and not one scrap of hygiene to worry about during the time.  Alas no amount of reminding Man-Child II to take his toothbrush worked.  He didn’t!  As he said “Who cares if you don’t brush your teeth or shower for five days – that’s what we do on every school camp.”  I’ll tell you who cares – me, and the orthodontist, that’s who.  Gross!

The upshot – my Men-Children had a great time at camp.  They came back tanned (with the mandatory sun burnt noses), looked like they’d grown two inches whilst away and developed yet more manly muscles, and were bursting with tales of what went on.  Not surprisingly most of these they were keen to share with their father not me (yep, I am getting used to this idea, very, very slowly).

They had been water-skiing, sailing, donut-ing, surfing, swimming and everything in between.  As the camp was run by Year 12 boys, and the attending boys are heading into Year 9, it also served as an “initiation” rite of sorts, with lots of boys pranks naturally.  Man-Child I was involved in one where he and a mate had to walk through the local supermarket dressed as girls.   Man-Child II proudly showed a video on his phone of the destruction of the camp mascot (a frog), to much hilarity.   (No live animals were harmed).

For my boys, this was just the sort of boisterous, boys-to-men stuff they like.  And probably just what they needed after living with their “psycho” mother all year.   No doubt it will be a unanimous decision to attend camp again next year. 🙂

 

Mother of a Man-Child: The Masters of Low Maintenance October 10, 2010

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As the mother of two teenage boys I find it interesting to observe their “practical” approach to all things related to clothing.  It’s definitely the low maintenance variety for my two.  Unlike my young daughter who already changes her outfits several times a day on the weekends, boys are more likely to wear the same thing for several days – until it walks itself to the laundry!

Some examples:

  • They only wash clothing if you ask them to clean their rooms or literally collect items off the floor.   Otherwise they would leave them there indefinitely – I kid you not!
  • In Man-Child II’s case, if you don’t wash it in time he will happily retrieve it from the dirty clothes’ basket, for another wear or five.  What’s a little bit of dirt anyway?  Doesn’t deodorant cover up everything?
  • Man-Child I recently added his school jumper to the washing basket.  When I asked if it was actually dirty after only three days of wear in term four, he explained it was “ages” since it had been washed.  Yes, you guessed it, the recent three-week school holiday wasn’t a good time to have it laundered!  It obviously spent that time in his bag, probably alongside some moldy sandwiches – gross!
  • I noticed an unfamiliar pair of runners at home this week.  It seems the common practice at school is if someone leaves something unattended, it’s finder/keepers.  So Man-Child I is the temporary owner of a pair of second-hand runners (hence we bought him some new ones today).  When I asked if this happens often, they assured me only if you left stuff lying around at school (no doubt the evolutionist Darwin would think it was perfectly normal behaviour).
  • We also seem to have an odd assortment of spare jocks at our house, destined never to be returned to their owners.  I am constantly assured that they were “gifts” – I certainly hope new and not second-hand.
  • And I am regularly washing other boys jumpers that my men-children have borrowed.  On the average weekend they leave home ill prepared for Melbourne’s four seasons in one day so invariably return with additional belongings.  What annoys me most is when I wash them ready for returning to their rightful owner only to see my son wearing it again.  Grrrr.

You may be thinking, don’t sweat the small stuff.  What does it matter – I don’t have to wear their dirty clothing?  And if it’s not washed because it hasn’t made it to the laundry, it’s not my problem is it – they’ll soon learn where the laundry is?  And if random clothing enters our house – again, not for me to worry about.

My problem is I like clean – clean boys, clean clothes and clean bedroom floors.  It goes with my clean house.  Ask anyone who knows me – I don’t like mess, I like my orderly, organized life.  Oh well – we can’t all be perfect can we.  🙂

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Travelling Light Teenager Style September 10, 2010

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Have you ever watched a teenager pack to go away?  Girls being girls they pack everything except the kitchen sink.  I mean you can never have too many pairs of shoes can you?  Boys on the other hand are in the minimalist camp – why take something just in case – that’s excess baggage!

Typically as a mother I always worry about what my Men-Children pack to go away.  If it’s a school camp, I insist they take absolutely everything on the list provided (yes, I was always very obedient).  If we’re going on holidays, I like to have a list so we don’t forget anything.  They on the other hand are always aiming for light and lean – why take long johns on a winter camp to the foot of the snow ranges – it won’t be cold Mum.   Clearly they didn’t attend the Boy Scouts (motto “Be prepared”).

My favourite is overnight stays.  That takes packing light to another dimension.  Basically, my boys pack nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  They go in the clothes they have on their back, and come home in the same clothes.  They don’t take a change of jocks, or a toothbrush, or deodorant.  I thought it was only my two but when their mate turned up at the door the other night to stay, I was greeted by a boy with the same approach.  His mother didn’t seem phased by it, and surprisingly nor was I – I was actually amused and quietly relieved that I don’t have the only unhygienic children in Melbourne.

The funniest was Man-Child II who recently travelled to Tasmania to play rugby.  As they were representing school they had to travel in their school uniforms (yes they were not impressed) and appear in them each day, before the match.  Both my son and another boy who were billeted out decided the only sensible thing to do was to sleep in their school uniforms!  That meant they didn’t have to change from boxers into school uniform into rugby uniform twice a day.  I guess it’s efficient, but not what I call normal.  I can only hope their hosts assumed they were eager to get dressed each morning, and didn’t realise they had actually slept in their school suits.  Just as well I wasn’t there to see my son looking decidedly dishevelled in his uniform each day! 🙂