Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Life lessons July 27, 2013

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In the last few weeks several tragedies have exposed the men-children to the loss of life.  In two separate events, both boys had friends that were plunged into the depths of grief, under terrible and unexpected circumstances.  You never want your children to experience grief before they need to, but sadly it’s part of the circle of life and inevitable at some stage.

Apart from sharing in the boys shock and sadness as a result of both tragic deaths, we also ensured that they had any support they needed and knew how to reach out to their friends.  Both were in contact with their friends by text and phone (their preferred mode of communication), to offer their support.  One of the boys also spent time with his friend – leaving school for the day with my permission.  I agreed immediately, as peer support is so important under these circumstances.

In the days since, we have talked about the events that unfolded and ensured that if there are lessons to learn that the boys indeed do – using these horrid events to drive home messages about depression (it’s important to seek help from people), and drink-driving (just don’t do it).

What they have now been exposed to directly is the impact such events have on children, parents, spouses, families and friends, the terrible deaths having a far-reaching effect across so many people.  I hope they have learned to be even more thankful for what they have, and to think about the decisions they make in life every day.  I know it has caused them to reflect on the fragility of life and to understand it can happen to someone you know.

As we get older, is it just me that feels grief more intensely?  Is it as adults that we understand the terrible loss and sadness more deeply, or is it through our own experience that it all comes flooding back?   Upon learning about the death of this young man in a car accident, I was instantly transported back 28 years ago to the life changing events of my own sister’s death in a car accident.  I knew at once the grief my son’s friends would feel at the loss of their sibling, and the support they would draw from their closest friends.   And as a parent, I understood even more inherently how my own parents must have felt at the loss of their child, and the feelings of disbelief, intense and heart-breaking grief, and the completely surreal nature as the world around you continued on, even as your own life seemed to stop temporarily.

So what did I tell my children?  That I had been down the path of their friends before, losing both a sibling and a parent.  That I knew how they would be feeling, and that they should just be there for their friends.  Be available to talk, or to text, or to do nothing but be a friend.

I hope my children don’t experience too many of these life lessons in their early years – there is plenty of time as we get older, and inevitably mourn the loss of our parents and friends.  But along the way, we deal with what life throws at us, and ensure our kids have the support and guidance they need to overcome life’s hurdles and challenges, and to be empathetic, supportive, caring human beings.


In memory of my Mum May 10, 2013

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rosesAs Mother’s Day approaches for another year, I had cause to reflect on my own mother, and the massive gap that she left in my life (and that of my sisters and father) when she died more than 20 years ago.

Like all mothers, she was of course an amazing woman.  And like all children, I developed a whole new appreciation of both of my parents as I became an adult and eventually a parent myself.   My mother, like many of her generation, had countless home-making skills, including knitting, sewing, crocheting, painting/drawing, ceramics, cooking, music (piano and guitar), in addition to excellent parenting skills of course, and juggling the demands of four young daughters, and managing the household on a tight budget.

There wasn’t much she couldn’t do, and do well.  I fondly recall my stunning strapless taffeta debutante gown made so expertly by my own Mum – it was more professionally finished than one you could buy in any boutique.

As if bringing up kids wasn’t enough, whilst Dad worked six days a week, she went back to university to do “finishing” (Year 12) when we were still at school, then went on to university as a mature age student.  I remember very clearly her enjoyment of certain subjects, especially the “feminist” ones like Women’s Studies!   She went on to have a successful teaching career and eventually worked in a not-for-profit organisation before becoming ill.

Over the years, I haven’t spent a lot of time regretting not having my mother around.  More importantly, I have spent my energy living my life to the full and making sure that I follow in her footsteps, by making the most of every opportunity in life, and hoping she would be proud of the person I am (although, I think she was probably better on the parenting teenagers bit).

If I have regrets it is for all the things she has missed out on – the birth of my twin boys, and daughter, the marriages of my two sisters, and the birth of my niece.  And regret for the pain that she endured, like the tragic death of an 18-year-old daughter, and the treatment for breast cancer and then secondary cancer some years later.   And regret for her death at just 50 years old, so missing half of her lifetime, and with it the opportunity to enjoy retirement, travelling and the twilight years with my Father.  But the world continues, and we all keep living, and good things continue to happen.

I know she would love her grandchildren, and be immensely proud of her daughters and their partners.  I know she would still be grey (thanks for not sharing that gene Mum), and still have wonderful laugh lines (yes, I definitely got that one).  I know she would still be active and busy cramming life into every day, and spending time entertaining family and friends.  I wish she was still here – but in a way she is – in me!

So Happy Mothers Day Mum.  I will miss you and love you forever. xo

Here’s another take on Mothers Day a few years back – Man-Child style!!   Mother’s Day Musings


A tribute to an extra-ordinary man-child October 5, 2012

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heartsThis week a beautiful man-child that I had known for the 18 years of his short life, passed away whilst on a road trip across America with his family. Whilst this young man had been unwell for the latter years of his life, his death was still a shock and absolutely devastating for his family and everyone that knew him.

I have often thought of GG as we will call him, as I wrote about my own men-children every week. Whilst I typically make light of my boys and their escapades (good and bad), my thoughts over the years have often turned to GG, whose body progressively failed him until it could cope no more. So as I wrote about the hardships of 6 am rowing starts, the thrill of white water kayaking trips, the freezing conditions endured on cadet camps, the fun of gatherings on Saturday nights, and the arrival of first girlfriends, in the back of my mind was our friend GG, who didn’t have the chance to row, or kayak, or drive a car, or head out on the tram with all his mates to the races.

I also frequently thought about how lucky and blessed I am to have three healthy children, and how fortunate are my men-children and sister of a man-child, that they have their whole lives ahead of them to take on the world and all its challenges and opportunities.

That is not to take away from GG, or the things he did accomplish, both alone and with his family. I don’t for a minute want anyone to feel sorry for GG, as certainly he and his family didn’t feel sorry for themselves, or dwell on the cruel twist of fate that meant both GG and his darling younger sister suffered from a shocking childhood illness that would make their stay on this earth all too short.

Instead, they tackled the challenges head on, with more enthusiasm and energy than you could ever imagine, and ensured that their children lived life to the full. They made their kids lives as normal as they possibly could, whilst simultaneously ensuring they didn’t miss out on anything. They crammed more experiences and adventures into the short lives of their sick children, and their surviving daughters, than mine will probably ever have even if they live to 80. They are a truly remarkable, humble and amazing family.

And as to GG, and his sister, Angel J, they were both absolutely inspiring. They lived with their illness every day, they kept going, against all odds and setbacks as they became less well, they somehow retained a sense of humour, and were happy, optimistic, stoic and in short, quite heroic, making the most of every opportunity they were given. If I could bottle this determination and enthusiasm for my own children, just imagine what they could achieve?

We will all miss the beautifully handsome GG, just as we do his sister Angel J, none more so than his wonderful parents and sisters. For my part, it has been a privilege to have known such a special man-child, for the 18 years of his life, and I hope that it gives my own men-children pause to reflect on just how lucky they both are.

For those who are moved by this story and would like to recognise my friend GG and his sister Angel J in some small way, feel free to make a donation to Glenallen, a special school that they both attended for many years, where they continue to do a brilliant job catering to the needs of the most special children.