Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Diverse paths March 1, 2013

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headphonesSomeone asked me the other day if the men-children are getting along better now that they are spending more time apart.  It was a good question, and my initial response was to say yes.  But on reflection, it probably hasn’t made much difference to them.

As they are so, so different (just as my twin sister and I were) they really haven’t spent much time together in recent years, except when they both trained and rowed in the same crew last summer (ironically even sitting next to each other in the scull).  The fact is they played different winter sports (footy vs rugby), they were in different sport houses and classes at school, they never travelled to school or home together, and didn’t spend time on the weekends together as they have different circles of friends.

This year of course one has left school to pursue a trade, whilst the other is doing VCE with plans to attend university, which will no doubt send them on even more diverse paths over the next few years.

Again, it is pause for reflection on my part as to how my twin sister and me were at their age.  We shared a bedroom for at least 15 years (god forbid the men-children should have to do that), and I don’t ever recall asking her about her friends, or her hairdressing course, or her job.  Are we all so self-absorbed as teenagers to not even care?  I can only assume so based on my own behaviour and that of my sons.

On the home front, some things certainly haven’t changed between the boys.  The arguments over jocks and socks, the fights over food supplies, or missing drink bottles or clothing, or the state of their shared bathroom or sitting room (one likes tidy, one comfortably lives with mess – a repeat of my sister and me ironically).

Just last night we enjoyed a raging argument between them over the TV.  One wanted to watch TV, one wanted to listen to music in his bedroom. Even with closed doors, it was impossible for the music not to drown out the TV.  I can vouch for that, as we regularly complain about the doof doof sound effects that come from one’s bedroom above to the family room below.  Even with extra insulation put in when we built upstairs (for that exact reason), the heavy sound of the bass penetrates the floor.

We looked for a solution last night – put in earphones (“I don’t have any”) or turn down or off the music – of course not!  So the argument continued between them, with shouting eventually over-taking the music and TV!  Thank goodness for the door at the bottom of the stairs. 🙂

I found my own solution today – their birthday is around the corner, so I have bought wireless headphones for the TV and/or computer.  That way one of them can listen to the TV or music without annoying the other one.  I wonder if we’ll go back and buy a second pair at some stage to stop them fighting over the single pair of headphones, or so that we don’t have to listen to either of them being entertained?

Or will Father of a Man-Child decide that with the in-built noise reduction he is going to claim them as his own and listen to Fox Sport in bliss for the rest of his life, without the sounds of all of us in the background?  Now that is a very big possibility.

Are we alone with fights over TV and music?  What do you do to manage it, and who wins in your house, if anyone?

 

Mother of a Man-Child: A space to call their own! March 18, 2011

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renovationWell it’s been almost seven months in the making but the boys finally have their space upstairs and our renovation is almost complete.  Since one of the men-children has officially relocated upstairs I couldn’t wait to share the news. 🙂

It’s become clear to me that renovations are a bit like childbirth – over time you forget how painful, disruptive, expensive, and time-consuming it can be (a renovation not a child), and next thing you know you’ve jumped right back in and suddenly find your house turned upside down.  Our last reno was 13 years ago, so we’ve had quite some time to forget the original trauma.

Once the builders moved from working upstairs in the roof cavity, which was relatively painless I must admit, to downstairs IN the house, we very quickly got sick of the dust, dirt and constant stream of tradies through the house.   Not to mention living with one small bathroom between five of us, having the new bathroom fittings and accessories living in our hallway for a couple of months, my daughters temporary bedroom (in the study) hosting hoards of teenagers on the PS3 every weekend, a port-a-loo in the driveway for the builders (yes I know the alternative is far worse), bathtubs and scaffolding in the backyard (very attractive) and a laundry chock-a-block with furniture overflow.

Add to that a couple of hiccups with delays in delivery of orders (the custom windows took two months to arrive), and our two new bathrooms look great, but we’re still waiting for the cabinets and basins (so bad luck if you want to wash your hands), and a few other things that just didn’t go my way.

Like making it to IKEA to order the new Queen size beds for the men-children (an earlier promise for our growing boys), only to find they were out of stock of one mattress (of course I need two, they’re not sharing a bed!).  So having queued at the checkout, then queued at the merchandise pick up counter, then queued at the home delivery counter, I have to go back and do it all again this week for the second mattress!!

Or having the electrician drop something on his foot the day he was supposed to come and do all the power, air-con etc, which meant the boys having moved upstairs anyway had extension cords running up the stairs with more power boards than Bunning’s.  I was sure we were going to short-circuit the entire house with the set up they had.   Naturally it was one of the few hot weekends in Melbourne, so no air-con and broken blinds (don’t ask) made it just a little toasty for them!

But all of the above aside, I’m delighted to say the results are fantastic and we are all thrilled with the new space.  The boys love their bedrooms, bathroom and sitting room.  They have Foxtel, their new flat screen TV, and PS3 upstairs.  The only thing they want is a bar fridge (yes you heard right) and they think they’ll be set forever!!  Oh and a dumb-waiter so we can send meals up and they can send their dirty dishes and clothes down – SURE!  Thank goodness we got a solid door at the foot of the stairs – they took it off temporarily and I was shocked at the noise travelling down the stairwell.  No more doof doof music and wrestling SFX for us – bliss.

Even the younger sister of the men-children loves her new bedroom (her brother’s old one), with so much more space for everything.  Just as well because the other day she ventured upstairs and the boys positively freaked out that she was “in our space”.   She wasn’t even allowed to sit on the new bed!  Naturally I’ve promised the boys the novelty will wear off for their younger sister, but I’ve also explained that they don’t OWN the space and told my daughter that whenever they’re not at home she can use it as much as she wants.  Peacekeeping skills also being a requirement of Mother of a Man-Child.

We’ve just christened the bath (as big as a small plunge pool – I promise in all other ways we’re water savers), and we’re still trying to fill the fantastic under stair storage area (okay, cheap thrills I know).   I’m hoping the shutters will only be six weeks on a slow boat from China, or the boys better get used to early morning starts once daylight savings ends. 🙂

So if anyone is taking the plunge and wants some reno tips, let me know.  Sadly I’ve developed some amazing project management skills in the absence of those promised by the builder, so I could be of use to you.

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Quality Nylon Carpet – Perfect! December 10, 2010

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As you may recall, we are in the midst of a renovation to house our men-children upstairs (yes, far, far away from the rest of the household).  Anticipation is growing as progress is made, with constant inspections by all to see how the plans are unfolding in real life.  Bedrooms have been claimed, and a spot for the flat screen TV, Foxtel and PS3 determined (very important assets of men-children).

From my point of view, there are other more important decisions to be made.  Yes we will have the extra heavy-duty insulation for sound-proofing so that their doof doof music will not be heard by us downstairs or the entire street we live in (pity our poor neighbours – I fear they may call the police one day over noise pollution).

The other important decision is paint, carpet and furnishings.  Whilst I contemplated blackboard paint for one minute (shows no dirt does it and they can graffiti all they like) I decided it was best not to encourage this type of behaviour in teenage boys, so white and more white it will be – and of course that makes the space look larger anyway.

We will have carpet throughout upstairs, again because it is better for noise absorption, and also nicer underfoot.  This will ensure that the angry stomping up and down stairs is not so noticeable (when mother of a man-child denies them their latest request), nor the tiger cubs throwing each other against walls or floors during a play fight.

So off I went to the carpet shop with a very clear brief.  I definitely want dark brown carpet – it hides a thousand sins.  But what type of carpet would they recommend for teenage boys in an upstairs retreat?

You could see the look of recognition cross his face – he knew EXACTLY what I was talking about, and why I had asked.  His reply:  “Madam I recommend a quality nylon carpet (I know, surely those two words don’t go together).  Whilst we sell a lot of quality wool carpets from this store, you will find nylon is far more forgiving for spills if you get to them quickly”.

Both he and I then fill in the blanks, thinking about food, soft drinks, alcohol and various other bodily fluids that the poor nylon carpet will probably see in its lifetime upstairs at our house.   And both knowing that I’m unlikely to ever get to the spills quickly, and that the boys will just rub whatever it is directly in to the carpet, but at least we’re making the best possible decision with the information we have.

I am delighted with his recommendation, and could almost hug him for his understanding and wisdom.  Of course I then discover that “quality” nylon costs about the same as “quality” wool – probably because of where I live, but so be it.  I don’t have time to shop around at a thousand carpet stores to find a better price.  And he also recommends a good quality, heavy-duty underlay – again, it helps the carpet survive, and is also good for noise – he SO knows what my life with men-children is like!

I have already picked some new doona covers and towels for upstairs.  Again, my only thought was colours or patterns that will hide a thousand sins.  I learnt my lesson about white towels some time ago.

Read that story here:  https://motherofamanchild.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/argue-this-logic/

So quality nylon it is.  You can all thank me for this lesson in how to select a quality carpet one day when you are catering to your own men-children.  🙂

 

Mother of a man-child: The art of discipline May 16, 2010

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One of the key challenges for parents of a man-child, or two in our case, who are now bigger than me and almost as tall as their father, is how to discipline them.  When once a good whack might have served to deliver the required response (OMG – what sort of parent am I?), it’s a little difficult now.

So we have found other means, that seem to satisfy the fury of a parent, and rile Man-Child I and Man-Child II sufficiently to make them realise we are 1) very angry, and 2) not going to take it any more.  Ooh, them’s fighting words aren’t they!

For your general amusement, and perhaps inspiration, here is a handy list of disciplinary actions we have taken on occasion:

  • Slam laptop shut and whisk it away mid Facebook chat or update (and don’t return it for the rest of the night)
  • Eject PS3 game without any warning, or turn it off at the powerpoint
  • Confiscate the PS3 games or laptops for a week – that WILL hurt them, trust me
  • Disconnect the cables from the sound system, thereby rendering it useless but reducing the doof doof noise substantially
  • Throw them out the front door, or back door, in whatever they’re wearing (I don’t care if it’s boxers on a 5 degree night!)
  • Send them to their rooms, or to bed – yep, early night, don’t care what time it is
  • Tell them they’re grounded for a month, or 2 months, or even a year (yep, you’re sure to follow through with that one)
  • Cancel their pocket money for the same period of time (again, yep highly likely to follow through)

Okay, so we’re not perfect, far from it.  But it does feel good when you slam that computer shut.  Any other thoughts or successful tactics welcome.