Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

The call of the car April 11, 2014

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It sat in the driveway, dark and inviting.  Black, sleek and powerful.  Beckoning the two 18-year-old boys who lived in the house to touch it, drive it, and test its boundaries.  But alas, it was not to be.  You see, the Holden Ute (don’t ask me what model, I am female), has sat idly in our driveway for two weeks, driven by no-one.  Man-Child I was dying to get his hands on it, but without a manual licence, that wasn’t happening (you can imagine the argument about insurance, and lack thereof if the man-child is caught driving a manual car with only an automatic licence).  And Man-Child II was dying to get his actual licence, so that he could actually drive it, but took a few goes to actually get it, so the car continued to tempt him on a daily basis.

Still the small issue of a licence didn’t stop the enjoyment of the car (sorry UTE).  No sooner had the car been purchased for the tradie’s use (and fair enough too), he was surfing the net buying accessories for it.  First stop – a new muffler system!  Why you may ask?  Well, what good is a Holden Ute with a standard muffler on it, when you can have a Holden Ute with a slightly illegal muffler on it that makes a much better sound?  One that positively purrs (potentially roars) as you drive it down the street.  One that only boys can appreciate – I swear it’s just nuisance noise to girls.

Holden UteSuffice to say, the roar of the engine, as Man-Child II revved the shit out of it the other night, was enough to attract a number of young Turks to our house.  Within minutes of arriving home to find Man-Child II beneath the ute, several mates of the boys appeared in our driveway, all ogling the black Holden Ute, all sucking up the heady fumes, all wanting it to be revved harder, faster.  OMG, you have never seen anything like it – but then again, maybe you have, if you’ve ever attended the Grand Prix and watched men go nuts over cars.  It was completely amusing to me, and to Father of a Man-Child, completely normal.  Which just goes to show, it’s a boy thing!!  How many girls do you know that stand around ogling a girlfriend’s new car?  Swapping stats about fuel consumption, engine size and RPM?

You could feel the pulse of excitement in the air, the boys’ testosterone levels surging at the sheer thought of driving the car, and the thrill of the independence and freedom that having a licence and a car means for them at 18 years old.  Meanwhile I could feel the dreaded knot in the pit of my stomach, the one that knows the statistics about young males on the road, and the unmistakable facts about the way they tend to drive and what can happen as a result.

But I can’t wrap the boys up in cotton wool, anymore than I can keep them off the road.  They both have their licences, and they both have cars they can drive.   One has his ute for work, the other one is gunning to get a car during year 12 – and we are currently engaged in a battle about whether he “needs” one or not (of course he WANTS one, but that’s not the point).

We can only hope that they will be law-abiding, considerate and safe drivers.  One thing I am pretty certain of is that they won’t be drink drivers – it is so culturally ingrained into today’s youth NOT to do it, it’s brilliant.  So start your engines…….

Long before they had their licence, I was posting on this topic:

Beep Beep Learner Alert

Driving us Crazy



The other side of the adolescent bridge March 7, 2014

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twin boys as toddlersI am now the proud mother of two adults!  No longer “men-children”, my twin boys turned 18 this week, which naturally causes one to reflect on the journey so far, and to be so thankful that we all made it through in one piece, relatively unscathed, but with plenty of stories to tell along the way (the blog thanks you both).

Father of a Man-Child and I, along with their little sister, made quite a fuss on the day (as much as we could when we all had to go to work and school).  Presents, heartfelt cards from each of us, dinner of their choice, birthday cake – it’s not every day you turn 18, and we think they felt special.  Of course the best birthday present anyone could get is their car licence, which one managed to achieve on the day. He was beside himself with excitement when he got to take the car out for a spin with a mate that night.  I am sure we can all remember the giddy sense of independence, freedom and power (and perhaps a few nerves) that goes with that first drive on your own. His brother sits his licence next week, and can’t wait to join the club!

As my Father-in-law commented the other day, we all seem to be in a good place – and he is right.  Our boys have travelled across the adolescent bridge, and made it to the other side.  For those who don’t know Celia Lashlie’s book He’ll Be OK, she describes adolescence as a journey across a bridge, with no mothers allowed! I have done my best to stay off the bridge as much as possible, whilst providing the safety net below, and yelling instructions from either end!  It’s not an easy task to let your children go, but as I reflected the other day, I realised that we had slowly but surely given them more rope, as they inched across the bridge, giving them a bit more freedom over time, until finally they reached the other side.  It happened so organically, we didn’t really notice until we all popped our heads up and presto – they made it.

Whilst tension remains in our house from time to time (we still argue with them, they still fight, we still disagree on some things), they have certainly matured this year in particular.  Perhaps it comes with the beginnings of their adult life, and starting to establish themselves, their identities, their paths towards careers.

One man-child is doing year 12, focussed on working hard, getting good marks and heading to uni next year to do a course of his choosing.  He is also focused on his sport (rowing and footy), showing incredible dedication, and making many sacrifices to be a part of their elite crews and teams.  He deserves all the success he is enjoying, given his work ethic and commitment, and we are incredibly proud of all he has achieved.

His twin brother, having left school to achieve a TAFE qualification in Building & Carpentry, has now secured himself an apprenticeship and we couldn’t be prouder.  He applied for the job online, had an interview, completed a trial (it only took two days for his boss to realise he’d found a winner), and was offered an apprenticeship last week.  He beat 100 other applicants in a tough market, and has thankfully been employed by a genuinely nice bloke, who will treat him well and invest time and energy to teach him further skills.

Beyond their achievements, the most important thing of course is what sort of people we have shaped our men-children into, and we think, from all reports, we have done a reasonable job.  They are both happy and healthy, they have good circles of friends, they are loyal, and reliable.  I know they are polite and charming when they want to be, and know how to behave appropriately in certain circumstances.  Certainly they are not angels all the time, but hey, we all have to have some fun!  They know they are loved by their parents and sister, and extended family, and they know they are lucky to have had opportunities that others may not.  They understand the value of hard work, and the rewards that follow.  In short, I think they are pretty good  kids adults!! 🙂

So to my once beautiful baby boys, who we were so blessed to welcome into the world 18 years ago, so perfect, so gorgeous, bringing us double the joy and double the love, Happy Birthday.  You are a gift we are thankful for every day (just like your sister), and we are incredibly proud of you both and will love you forever.

Read my original post about Celia’s Lashlie’s book He’ll be Okay


Driving us crazy October 18, 2013

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mini cooper, carAs the boys 18th birthday inches closer the frequency of our discussions about first cars escalates. Naturally, having twin boys, our discussions are made more complex, particularly because their current situations are so different, so we don’t even really have the option of them sharing an old bomb (god forbid!!!).

One, set to be an apprentice carpenter very soon, has his heart set on a Ute from day one, and to be honest, this seems like a practical option, as he will likely need to drive to be on-site every day, so helping him buy a car is not out of the question – especially since he will be earning money.

His twin brother on the other hand, still at school, with another year to go, also thinks he should have a car – to drive himself to school!!!!  Well, you can imagine how that conversation went down recently.  As we drove somewhere, he casually asked if I might hand over my almost 10 year old (but very good) car recently, and buy myself a new one – no reason, except so that he could have mine.  Hmmm, the conversation went something like this, quickly deteriorating:

Man-Child (MC): Can you give me this car, and buy a new one?

Mother of Man-Child (MoM): What, I don’t need a new car.  No, you’re not getting this one, it’s worth too much money for a first car.  And it’s still under lease anyway.

MC: Well, I will need a car when I turn 18.  Don’t ruin my life by not giving me one! (Insert hideous sense of entitlement by very spoiled brat).

MoM: Hmmm, so he who has NO casual job, earns no money, and lives off his parents generosity, somehow expects us to GIVE him a car, and to then PAY to fill the petrol tank each week?  Do you know how much a tank of petrol actually costs?  What about that registration sticker on the windscreen?

MC:  (Mini rant follows with various reasons why he should receive a car). You have no idea….things have changed……all my friends have cars…..I NEED a car to get to school, and home from rowing or footy……you can afford it……..I will speak to Dad.

MoM: Son, you need to understand, we are trying to teach you the value of money.  GIVING you a car teaches you nothing. We all earned money and bought our own shit heaps, not a $10-20K first car.  And we will not be giving you a car to drive to school – you can keep getting the tram next year.  Of course, you are free to drive our cars on the weekend, provided we don’t need them.

MC: Deadly silence now in car, smoke coming out his ears. Hatred for mother, who is far too pragmatic and reasonable, and tight with her money.

MoM: (As we arrive at his mate’s place and pull up behind a car with P-plates)  Is that car there the “farm-car” your friend got when he turned 18?  (Shock in voice and on face as I look at a very new looking twin cab ute and think his friend is very very lucky).

MC: Yeah, what’s wrong with that?  See, he got a good car (and of course that totally justifies why MC should also get one).

Now don’t get me wrong.  I would love to give our boys a car for their 18th birthday.  Even a car each.  But I just don’t think it will teach them much about money and how you earn it to get what you want in life.  The perfect scenario for me (not them) would be someone’s grandparent with a great old car stuck in a garage that they want $2K for, with a gazillion miles on the clock and a reliable engine.  Nothing too fancy, even better if it can’t go over 80 KMH. 🙂

So, what was the upshot of my discussions with MC you ask?  Well apparently he has spoken to Father of a Man-Child, and they have brokered a deal.  From what I can gather (having been told it’s NONE of my business), I think he’s been told he will have free access to his Father’s brand new car, thereby satisfying some of his wants and desires (and ego).  The reality is, he doesn’t need it at school, and he doesn’t need it on weekends when they are out drinking, so I’m not sure when he really will use it, but since we seem to have some peace on the car front I am not complaining.

So what are your thoughts?  Am I being a horrible parent, not buying my son/s a car when they turn 18?  Or am I right to make them understand they need to pay for it, and fund it’s running costs and maintenance?

Over the years, I have written about them driving before, including when they first got their L-Plates, and also when they decided to try joy riding!!!  Read on.


Joy Riding Men-Children? Not Happy! February 1, 2013

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As you know, we have two Learner drivers in the house.  Almost a year on, so far so good.  They are learning to drive.  They are putting in the hours to reach the required experience milestone (not quite as fast as their friends since there are two of them to share the driving opportunities).  And to date, we have had no bingles or near misses (although perhaps a few more grey hairs for their parents)!

However, not all is as it seems.  Father of a Man-Child was recently made aware by a neighbour that she had seen one of our sons behind the wheel of his car – alone!  Yes, an UNLICENSED 16 year old driving a car!!!!!  We have since deduced it was during our holiday last year when we left the boys in Melbourne with my sister for a week.  Hmmm, next time we won’t be leaving the car keys will we?

Suffice to say a bit of investigation led us to discovering that in fact BOTH of the men-children have driven their father’s car without an accompanying parent in the car.  (One accidentally dobbed the other one in – that went down well as you can imagine).  Almost as well as the knowledge of their offence.  At this point in time they are both probably thinking it would have been preferable to be caught by police and given a warning than to be caught by us.

As they deserved, we went absolutely nuts when we found out and spelt out for them just SOME of the potential consequences of their incredibly STUPID behaviour (which from discussions with friends appears to be solely a male trait, not a female one).

  • For starters, if they have an accident, the car is not insured, nor is any other damage to property covered.
  • Even worse, should they injure a person in an accident, they could be convicted of a criminal offence (there goes your future), and also sued for damages (their goes our house/future etc).
  • Of course, the likelihood of ever getting their precious license if they are caught driving unlicensed diminishes somewhat doesn’t it?  Great for the tradie who wants to be an apprentice driving a ute in about a year’s time.  That might be a career limiting move?
  • Plain common sense (not common in teenage boys as we know) is that they are still learning to drive, hence the reason experienced adult drivers accompany them.  Accidents DO happen, and not just in Dandenong!  So whilst they think they are good drivers (with only one hand on the wheel), adults know they are not.

What made us feel even worse was their defence of their behaviour – we know how to drive, all our friends do it, blah blah.  The fact that this behaviour is rampant amongst their friends makes me furious.  I could understand (even expected) that at some stage they would take our car without permission one day, once they got their licence, and drive somewhere they shouldn’t, but we certainly didn’t expect they would do it whilst Learners.

1982 Toyota CelicaI must confess to taking my mother’s super shiny, new and very cool Toyota Celica sports car (with sunroof) in the early 80’s to Portsea for the day without my parents’ permission.  Naturally (as my friends came to expect), I got caught!  Two simple things gave me away:  a very sunburnt forehead (the downside of a sunroof), and a speedo with an extra 200kms on the clock – yep, my father was way too smart for me! 🙂

As for our boys, they have been warned about EVER thinking about driving unlicensed again.  And of course, they will be punished for their stupidity.  One is still trying to negotiate his way out of his punishment (not on your life), and the other is still awaiting his – it has to hurt so we have to wait for the right opportunity.  I know it sounds pretty mean, but they just have to understand it cannot happen.  And sadly, it also means that we cannot trust them and so can’t leave any car keys in the house again.

It is not often we think our boys are stupid, but in this instance, common sense has certainly been absent.  It is when you realise that the feelings of being invincible, and knowing everything, and having your whole life before you is the stuff of naive youth (and our men-children), and that one day they will look back and know how wrong their behaviour was, and realise just how right their parents were.  In the meantime, we will just wait for the next hurdle to leap over in the steeplechase of adolescence.

I have written before about our Learner drivers:  read more here and here.


Sometimes you just have to say NO! May 4, 2012

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roadAs you know we now have two learner drivers in the house. The upside – we got “chauffeured” to a school function the other evening – one drove us there, one drove us home. And we didn’t have to worry about nudging 0.05. (Don’t worry, I’m pretty certain you can’t be over the limit if you’re supervising the said learner driver, but you get my point – it’s the difference between relaxing over a glass or two of wine versus drinking water all night because you’re so paranoid you’ll get breathalysed on the way home).

The downside of learner drivers is when one of them asks if he can drive to Queensland with his girlfriend and her older brother in the July school holidays? Yes, the very same Man-Child who has the incredible sum of two hours driving practice currently under his belt (and in his log book). I am not giving any of you points for guessing what the response was, because it was an immediate “absolutely NOT” kind of response that should have ended the conversation right then and there. But alas, it was our Man-Child who won’t ever take NO for an answer. The one who just goes on and on at you in the hope you’ll just give in. But as you know, I’d sooner throw a cask of wine at him than give in. (If you don’t know that story, you can read it here for your own amusement).

Now please don’t get me wrong, we’re not averse to our son having a holiday in Queensland with his girlfriend and the older 30-something brother, but he seemed shocked that we would want ANY detail at all? For example, where in Queensland would you stay? (Last time I checked it’s a mighty large state!) Does the brother work? Will he be on holidays with you or working every day? Who else is going? What does he do for a job? (Okay, maybe a little nosy, but we don’t know him at all, so it’s a fair question). Who does he live with? (I can’t help but have visions of a group of bong smoking, tequila-drinking boys playing cards).

My son was affronted by my questions, and couldn’t understand why I didn’t automatically trust an older brother. Simple I said – because he’s not a PARENT!!! And that changes everything in my book, fairly or not.  And so the conversation went around and around. Can I go by car to Queensland but only as a passenger? NO. Especially since his girlfriend who doesn’t even have her Learner’s permit yet was proposing to test her driving skills (using that term very loosely) on the way to Queensland.

I have done the Queensland drive more than I’d prefer to remember. My scariest memory is leaving the road travelling at 100kmh with a mate (who was driving) and hitting the grass paddock roadside – it could have ended a very different story if there’d been trees trust me. Or with my father driving years ago and the car just missing the semi trailer coming in the opposite direction, who didn’t have his headlights on at dusk as we overtook another car. I think my father nearly had heart failure when he realised what we’d just avoided!!!

So yet again, the wisdom of the parent is lost on the child. I think we’ve made our position clear for now, but we are often getting the “Now I’m 16 I can do what I want” response on a regular basis. How we deal with that is a whole other blog post best left for another time.

So tell me, are we being too tough? Or paranoid? Should we be worried or not about the driving? Or the unknown older brother? I’d love to know what you think.


Men-Children in Motor Cars–Yikes! August 5, 2011

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FerrariAs the boys approach their 16th birthday early next year, conversations at the dinner table have turned to their next rite of passage – the driver’s license.  Surely for a boy one of the most prized of possessions, second only to the car they both hope to own of course.

Man-Child I for years talked about the Ferrari he would own as his first car.  I for years told him I hoped that he’d be that successful one-day, but it was unlikely to be his first car.  Was that mean of me to quash his dreams and give him a dose of reality?  I didn’t do it when he was very small I promise.  At any rate hoon laws would presumably prevent it anyway.

So over the years they’ve adjusted their sights to all manner of beastly boy cars, including Holden Utes, Commodores, Subaru’s – basically any high performance car!   On occasions we have been in the car and they’ve both let out a WHAAAAWWWW in such a way I thought we were about to have an accident.  But no, it was just admiration for some passing hoon car. 🙂

The downside of being a twin, is that both will need to clock up their L-plate hours at the same time.  As I understand it, you need 120 hours practice for an automatic license, and 180 hours for a manual license.  This puts them at a distinct disadvantage to non-twins, as they can’t both drive the family car on outings simultaneously.  As an added complication, it seems Man-Child II has decided he wants his manual license (Man-Child I is happy with an auto), and somehow convinced Father of a Man-Child that buying a cheap $5,000 Jeep would be the perfect car to practice driving in!!!   Of course it could be that Father of a Man-Child was also thinking about the fun he could have over summer getting around in a Jeep (mid life crisis anyone?).

Mother of a Man-Child being the practical one of the family, said, hmmm, so you think the family are going to go out in a busted $5,000 Jeep just so you can drive us around and clock up your hours?   No probs he said, Dad and me will just do a few drives to Kangaroo Island and back (about 11 hours one way).  You do the maths – that’s QUITE A FEW drives to KI and it’s not going to happen.  His other solution was that everywhere we go we’ll take two cars – Man-Child I chauffeuring me in the much-loved automatic family wagon, Man-Child II chauffeuring his father in the manual Jeep.   Oh yeah, we’re getting even more practical now aren’t we?

I remember getting my own license.  We were very lucky to have a close family friend who offered to take me for driving practice regularly.  Do you think he knew that the worst teacher for children is their own parent when it comes to driving?  The child hates being told what they’re doing wrong, the parent is shitting themselves and seeing their life pass in front of their eyes at every intersection.  A recipe for disaster surely?  Maybe Father of a Man-Child can help them clock up the early kms, he’s less of a stress head than me.  I’ll take over when they’ve got some mileage under their belts and are more practiced.

Of course, deep down I live in fear of the day they have their license at all (as you all should!).  I am a firm believer that testosterone loaded boys should not be allowed behind the wheel of any car until they are at least 21 years old.  The statistics show I’m right.  That’s not to say my boys won’t be careful, and thankfully the laws are now so stringent I think they are inclined to be much more cautious about drink driving etc, yet the numbers still show this group are over-represented in deaths on the road.  (Sorry I’ll get off my soapbox now).

I have always maintained that I will send my boys (and in time daughter) to one of those safe driver courses once they have their license – if they’re on the road, then at least equip them with all the skills you can.  Added insurance.

So time will tell whether or not we end up with a 3rd car in the driveway.  As Man-Child II pointed out quite matter-of-factly, eventually there’ll be five cars out the front Mum, so get over it.  Good lord, Sister of a Man-Child is only seven years old – does that mean they’ll be here for another 11 years?  Just as well we went up isn’t it?