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).


Season’s Greetings December 27, 2012

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christmas tree
Season’s Greetings to all. Christmas has come and gone, and so too has Santa for another year. The presents have been opened, the lashings of food devoured, the wine savoured, all shared joyously with family and friends.

Now the real wind down begins, in the great Australian tradition, with a beach-side holiday. No doubt there will be a few stories to tell of the boys New Year’s Eve adventures, but for now dear readers I am taking a short break, as I hope you are, and recharging the batteries. That means time away from the laptop (and other devices), and therefore my blog.

Thank you for your continued readership of my blog during 2012, and I look forward to entertaining you with more man-child tales in 2013.


Christmas is coming! November 30, 2012

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The joy of Christmas is less than a month away and so preparations have begun in earnest in our household.  As Sister of a Man-Child is still a firm believer (yes at 9 years old) it just adds to the excitement and delight of Christmas.

As the retailers filled their stores with Christmas decorations, and the TV advertising cranked up, my daughter had all the reminders she needed about this magical event.  First stop the Christmas tree – she begged me to put it up last weekend, which we did, but not until the end of Sunday due to other commitments.  We did have to endure quite a few sulking moments along the way, but as I said to her, I refuse to be rushed doing the annual Christmas tree decoration.

So here is our very eclectic Christmas tree.  Yes years ago I had the “designer” Christmas tree, with every last bow (or whatever was in fashion at the time) placed just so, completely colour co-ordinated, not a branch out of place.  As the men-children came along, so too did the home-made decorations, which were proudly added to the tree or used as centrepieces for the table (it’s amazing how good a couple of wreaths made from dried pasta and spray painted gold looked).

Now it is my daughter’s home made decorations that grace the tree, along with a special collection of ornaments, including Father of a Man-Child’s childhood decorations (rescued from the beach house), and personalised, named baubles of family members.  Having some history on the tree only adds to the sense of family and tradition that we so love.

The other thing we lap up of course is the joy of a child that still believes in Santa (even the men-children enjoy it).  I love the unwavering belief and innocence of children every Christmas and Easter.  She is so excited, she asked if she could sleep on the couch on Christmas Eve so she could see him!

After the tree all attention turned to her letter to Santa.  It is so gorgeous I have republished it for you to read here (just click on this link): Letter to Santa.  I was especially pleased she mentioned both Jesus as well as a gift for her rabbits.  I intend to keep a copy for her, to give to her one day, along with the countless letters to the tooth fairy of course!! 

Anticipation is also growing for her video from Santa.  Last year she received a video from the North Pole, with Santa talking directly to her by name, and amazingly talking about the EXACT present she wanted.  HOW did he know her name, or what she wanted?  I mean, he MUST be real! 🙂  Santa is so clever he even arranged to send her a video for her birthday recently to say he knew she’d been pretty good so far this year.

Amidst all the excitement there is however stress.  One thing tops her Christmas list, a Fijit Friend (don’t worry I had never heard of one either), which just happens to be the Toy of the Year in Australia.  What that means for any Mrs Santa Claus’s out there is that there is now widespread panic-buying across Melbourne and Australia, and every Fijit is about to be completely sold out before the end of November!!!!!  Santa doesn’t explain on video what happens if his elves can’t make enough of the ridiculously popular (and ridiculously expensive) toy.  But I have managed to secure one!  PS.  If you want to know what they are, take a look here:  Fijit Friends

So how is Christmas stacking up in your house?  What wonderful things do your children do to prepare for the visit from the great man?  And how long did they believe for?

You can read more about the tooth fairy here, and also what happened when we finally broke the news to the men-children about Santa. A Princess Tale.


The results are in! December 9, 2011

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studyExams are done.  School is out.  By the time this post is published the men-children will have completed Year 9 and the school reports will be in an envelope on their way home to us.  Time for a stiff drink!

Actually following the exam results, which we received earlier this week, it has to be said the receipt of the school report is somewhat of an anti-climax.  Especially the end-of-year report, when discussions of improvements that can be made are based on the year 2012, which to men-children about to embark on two months of holidays must seem an eternity away.  Nevertheless, we always diligently note the marks, and read the comments, as the latter are by far the most telling indicator of real performance and application in my view.  As we have long maintained, it’s not the marks but the effort that we are interested in.

As an aside, do you remember when you were a kid how LONG it seemed for Christmas to arrive each year, and the long hot summer holidays that seemed to go forever?  Perhaps it was my idyllic childhood, growing up in a suburban street full of kids, allowed to roam all day, coming and going from house to house just to quench our thirst or satisfy our hunger, before we headed back down to the “creek” to feed horses, or climb trees, or ride our bikes (yep, Doncaster was almost the “Greenfields” back then).  No fear of strangers, or need for mobile phones which our parents could contact us on – just the simple freedoms that kids should enjoy as part of an innocent and healthy childhood.

Anyway, back to the men-children.  For those who are wondering about the exams results, and their impact on our bank balance (you may recall we openly BRIBED them earlier this year), we are currently $400 poorer.  That equates to four “B” results on the exams at $100 each.  And you may wonder how the money was earned – well, in fact one man-child earned $400 and one earned $0.  C’est la vie!  Both are smart enough to have had equal opportunity to earn the money (up to $600 each was at stake).  However, one is not the best student (read lazy, and/or disengaged with the academic learning approach) so not surprisingly he didn’t do very well.  As I said to them, you both got the marks (and the money) you deserved.  I was somewhat bemused by the man-child who even convinced a teacher to give him an extra ½ mark so he would achieve the B grade, thereby earning himself an extra $100!!!  I think he’ll go a long way somehow. :}

You might ask if we’re surprised at the results?  I suppose not, especially following a meeting at school to warn us to expect bad results for one man-child.  We’re probably more disappointed that he didn’t achieve his best, and is wasting the opportunities he has at school.  (We won’t be the first or the last parent to think that about their child!!)  And we did actually want to give them the money, as it’s a nice way to end the year and start the holidays.  The man-child with $0 earnings was smart enough to pick up some work with a mate’s dad, so at least he’ll earn some beer money in the run up to Christmas.  Don’t feign shock I called it “beer” money will you – we’ve all been teenagers!

So there you have it – Year 9 gone, just like that.  The Men-Children are now closer to 16 than 15, a fact that scares me every day.  I hope they enjoy the break, and I hope they look back on their summer holidays with the same fondness I did in years to come.


Fighting the Technology Tsunami November 25, 2011

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facebookTechnology – can’t live with it, can’t live without!  Smartphones, iPads, laptops, smart TV’s……the digital revolution is amazing and literally engulfing us all like a giant tsunami.  Of course the digital natives don’t know any different.  And even though I work in the digital space every day, I was more than a little surprised when Sister of a Man-Child, now 8 years old, asked me recently for her own email account. She even told me she’s already decided a “name” for Gmail.  I said no, straight away.

No because I didn’t want her having an email account that she could use to email her friends just yet, no because I didn’t want her having a SPAM account, where all those marketers (like me) could send her countless invitations to impart private information and sign up for countless offers.  No because she’s only eight years old, and it just seems wrong.

She signed up for a website recently, created especially for kids, with all the right rules and regulations etc, and you could even pay a monthly fee for premium services.  I gave in eventually when I found out quite a few of her friends were on it, and I was the only tight-arse parent not paying the subscription fee!  Seriously though, it was Facebook for under 10’s!  Totally getting them into online chatting, making friends, “buying” stuff….quite alarming in my view.  Even more so when her friend’s mother rang me to say their 8-year-old daughter had amassed several hundred “friends” on the game and they were closing her account.  Good move!  I happily cancelled my daughter’s account the same week – peer pressure can be used to your advantage sometimes.

Thank goodness Facebook terms and conditions state you have to be 13 to have an account – at least I can use that excuse for the next 5 years.  Already though she’s clued onto Facebook – who wouldn’t be when the rest of your family are constantly on it or talking about it.  To the point that Sister of a Man-Child’s friend was over for a play recently, and mentioned something I had posted on Facebook about my daughter.  Her mother had seen it, and commented on it (it was cute trust me), and then the daughter had seen it, and told my daughter.  So now Sister of a Man-Child regularly prompts me to “put it on Facebook Mum” and asks if people comment or like something about her.  See, she doesn’t even use it and already she’s being sucked into the vortex, the opportunity for two secs of “fame “on a Facebook wall, the opportunity to share the minutiae of her life with friends, friends of friends, and even complete randoms.   I should know, I do it on a daily basis – a Facebook fan from way back.  So much so I’m even paid to do it at work can you believe? 🙂

As for the Men-Children, they’re as obsessed as the rest of them.  They have iPhones (naturally), but they no longer have their own laptops.  We did buy them one each in Year 7 – not that it was mandated by school, but we thought it would be useful for homework (wishful thinking perhaps?).  They’ve both since given up the ghost, the boys haven’t bothered to get them repaired (they only need a new charger/cord), and the boys had made do with mine or my husband’s Mac (we LOVE Mac’s).  However, we’re now down to one Mac (damn it when you have to give back the work Mac) and as I’m on my work laptop (sadly not a Mac) most nights for work, they’ve been forced to share.

So for Christmas, top of the list for one Man-Child is a Mac.  Yes, not just any laptop, which you can buy for $4-500 bucks, but a $1,000 Mac.  Marketed so successfully that they enjoy a premium position and therefore premium price – they NEVER discount – haven’t you noticed damn it?  Apart from the cost (he even offered to make it a combined Xmas/Birthday present – it’s still too expensive), we’re loath to buy them a laptop each.  For the key reason, we don’t want them on them (read Facebook) 24/7.   They still don’t need a computer for homework every night, and we know for a fact that if they’re on the computer, they’re on Facebook, which means they’re NOT doing their homework.  Yes you can search Google and Wikipedia and be on Facebook at the same time, but we all know how easy it is to get distracted by that wall don’t we?  I even found one of the men-children on Facebook at 7am in the morning, before he headed off to rowing.  Just grabbing a quick look before we headed out the door – seriously!!

So tell me, should we get them a laptop for Christmas (even to share – a foreign word to the men-children but nevertheless a valuable lesson)?  Or should we continue to fight the technology tsunami for as long as we can, and overnight earn the title of the world’s meanest, tightest, most horrible parents ever put on the earth?  I’d almost rather live with the abuse than feed the beast!  Crazy I know.  🙂

I’ve talked about technology and Gen Z before.  Read more here.