Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Man-Child Truth Serum March 8, 2013

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hawaiian leiFunny thing about twins, when it comes to getting in trouble.  You see, to a point they will protect each other – I am sure there are secrets they both have and constantly threaten each other with – “I’ll tell Mum & Dad about (insert scandalous incident)”.   Basically they both have each other over a barrel, so it’s a bit of a Mexican standoff.

But as we recently discovered, if one should implicate the other, then it’s game on.  All downside for the men-children, all upside for the parents!  Some of you would recall my earlier post about the boys being caught driving their father’s car unlicensed (read about it here).  As it turned out, in denying driving the car in the first instance, and then being outed by the neighbour who told us who she saw behind the wheel, one of the boys accidentally dobbed in his twin, so they were both caught doing the wrong thing.

As you may recall, we quickly moved to find suitably serious punishment.  One of our sons had an invite to a party down the coast – he had been looking forward to it for some weeks.   So you can imagine what his punishment was can’t you?  Yep, no party.  He wasn’t surprised we picked that, but did carry on and plead with his father to be allowed to go (guess who’s the softy?), but we held our ground.  As we said, it’s gonna hurt.

His brother meanwhile lay in wait for his punishment.  Luckily for him the Big Day Out concert had just been and gone, so he avoided missing that.  But we told him we would wait for a suitable event that he desperately wanted to go to and he would be told he was grounded for the night (oh, we are SO awful aren’t we?).

A recent conversation with the latter man-child lead to an interesting revelation.  He could see we fully intended to carry out the punishment, to square up the ledger so to speak, in due course.  Like an animal with his back against the wall, he then went into survival mode.  And the following conversation ensued:

Man-Child (MC):  “You know you didn’t punish (Man-Child I)?”
Mother of a Man-Child (MOMC):  “Yes we did, he didn’t go to the party at (insert up market coastal destination naturally).”
MC:  “You know he went to the party don’t you?”
MOMC:  “No, he didn’t.  He wasn’t allowed.  How would he get there and stay overnight?”
MC:  “They had a bus.  I’ve seen the pictures on Facebook!”
MOMC:  “What!  You better be sure of this.  Can you prove it?”
MC:  “Yep.  Remember the Hawaiian shirt.  That’s what he wore.”

Slowly but surely the pieces of the puzzle then fell into place.  Man-Child II did indeed show me the Facebook photos of his brother having a great time on the bus.  And I did recall the strange Hawaiian shirt that appeared in the wash, and which I had asked about at the time.  I also remembered specifically asking Man-Child I if the party had been and gone (just to rub it in, knowing he missed it).  And yes, he told me some of them had stayed afterwards, but some had been on a bus to and from the party (at this point we didn’t know HE had been on it too).

So then we waited for Man-Child II to come home, and to drop the bomb shell on him.  “Sprung bad” as they say.  He was quite frankly arrogant about it, and then of course turned on his brother with the usual vitriol he reserves for him (it’s quite horrid actually).  As Man-Child II told me, “I have nothing to lose Mum, you know all the stuff I’ve done, so there are no more secrets he can dob me in for now.”

So that leaves us with two men-children that are still both to be punished for their earlier misdemeanour.  We are saving it up, because when we least expect it the most wonderful occasion will present itself and we will pounce.

In the meantime, I am quietly pleased that the truth has revealed itself in this way – who would have thought we could rely on them so often to dob themselves in.  It’s brilliant! 🙂

My twin sister got me (actually us) in trouble once (big, big trouble).  It’s a scandal too horrid to write about here, but suffice to say I won’t forget it for a long, long time, nor the punishment that we received for it.   I did however quickly forgive her stupidity at getting us caught.  Shit happens as they say.

For the most part the small punishments handed out by parents over their lifetime rarely stay in the minds of their children (although at the time they cause so much grief).  But we continue to play our role, and they continue to play theirs.  Ah, the joys of parenting!!!

I wrote about the driving escapades here:  Joy-Riding Men-Children: Not Happy!

 

School memories (30 years on) August 17, 2012

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sacre coeur bannerAs you know, the men-children are fast approaching the “pointy end” of their education. They are on the cusp of making decisions that will shape their future study and career paths, including one of the boys potentially leaving school at the end of Year 10 to pursue trade studies at TAFE and an apprenticeship.

My own recent school reunion gives me occasion to reflect on how the boys will feel about their time at school in years to come? Will they remember school fondly? Will they keep some school friends for life? Will they willingly return when the school organises functions for old boys? Or will they have regrets and/or fears and choose to stay away?

Last weekend I was delighted to join 46 of my school friends for a reunion to mark 30 years since we departed the hallowed halls of our all girls’ school. Whilst I loved the fact that we were holding yet another reunion (our year level seems to have maintained the tradition very well), I admit some reluctance to tell everyone it was THIRTY years since I actually left school!!! Yes, it was 1982, and yes that would mean I am in my “mid” 40’s (please, I can’t say “late” 40’s just yet).

After much stalking on Facebook, and chasing via old postal and/or email addresses, and using every connection we had, we were absolutely thrilled to have 47 girls attend out of approx. 60 girls from our year level. We even had a couple of international guests fly in, and many interstaters also, which only served to heighten the success of the event and make it even more memorable.

One of the great initiatives for this reunion was using Facebook in the lead up to the event, with an ever-expanding circle of girls all reconnecting over the last six months. Stories were shared, photos were posted, laughs were had, news was spread, all before we even got to the event. The excitement was palpable within the group as the big day arrived. For those who couldn’t attend, Facebook provided them with the opportunity to connect to the group and share in the catch-ups, albeit remotely. And since the event, the group has expanded further, so we can stay in touch with each other in years to come.

Someone asked me if Facebook was the key to the success of the reunion? We had expected 30 girls to attend, with any more considered a bonus. The fact that we got 47 to the event was wonderful, and I think more a testimony to the wonderful memories we all had from school, and the chance to reminisce and share it all once more. I also think in our 40’s that most of us are pretty settled and happy with our lives, and the insecurities one might have when you are younger are diminished somewhat. And there was definitely a feeling that it was timely to come together too. We had sadly had two of our friends pass away in the last 12 months, which made it even more important to get together and celebrate our friendships.

It must be said the evening was a huge success, from the moment the girls arrived at the school to the last drinks at the pub (and then some)!! There were a few very nervous attendees, who were quickly embraced by all and promptly handed a glass of champagne, and a few almost unrecognisable faces, although not for long. Above all else, we were the same bunch of school girls all grown into wonderful, strong, amazing women, with an incredible sense of school spirit and self-worth. The tour of the school bought back floods of memories for all of us, enveloping us with warmth and comfort just like a favourite jumper.

I will admit I absolutely loved my years at school, and I have loved every school reunion since then (perhaps that’s also why I love helping to organise them). I hope my men-children and their sister have the same fond memories of school in the years to come, and enjoy returning to their respective schools for their reunions. Above all, I hope they are lucky enough to be blessed as I am, with a handful of school friends still counted in my closest circle of friends, some 37 years after we first met, and a wider group of school friends that I still see on a regular basis.

I have no doubt the spirits of the nuns that founded our school would have delighted in the sounds of joy and friendship that echoed throughout the school on that recent evening, knowing that the legacy of Cor Unum (one heart) was as strong as ever.

Have you attended a school reunion?  Did you love it?  Or swear you’d never attend another?

 

My 8 year old has a Facebook account! July 13, 2012

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facebook logoYes, the headline is true, to a point.  She HAD a Facebook account, until I found out and shut it down faster than you can say “Sometimes I hate the internet and all it allows”.  The problem unfolded when I received a call from another Mum, letting me know that her daughter had mentioned Sister of a Man-Child now had a Facebook account.  Thankfully the Mum called me and let me know, as she was concerned that she would even have one, and rightfully so.  She also explained she’d expect me to do the same if the situation was reversed – and she was absolutely right.

To be honest I was pretty surprised to hear that our daughter had a Facebook account.  I actually think for the most part she’s a very mature young girl, and also highly trustworthy, so I was genuinely shocked to learn what I did.  So what happened next you ask?    Angry, scary Mummy walked right in to where she was on the computer (again) and asked her “Who set up your Facebook account?”   “Me” she said, looking absolutely terrified.  I immediately asked her for her access details and “deactivated” the account on the spot, with a very teary Sister of a Man-Child beside me.  She got even more upset when the damn password wouldn’t work and we had trouble even getting into the account and I got madder and madder at her and Facebook.  Interesting, they only “deactivate” you, and tell you they’ll be waiting patiently should you decide to come back.  You never get to really “delete” the thing, of course.  So there’s her “signature” already on Facebook just waiting for her when she’s actually old enough to use it.

I asked her how she got around the age issue, and she told me she just lied about it. Now this is where the situation needs further explanation, and where I hold myself to blame.  You remember our problem with her iTunes account, and my fortune (insert extreme sarcasm) in seeing (and hearing) every iMessage she sends to her friends on my iPhone.  We finally managed a work around, which I admit did involve creating an email account for her with perhaps a little white lie about her age so we could have the account in the first place, and then another little while lie about her age to get the iTunes account.  Problem finally solved, however, behaviour also easily mimicked by an 8-year-old.  If she’s seen her mother and brother do it, then it must be okay!  Damn.

I naturally also asked why she wanted a Facebook account in the first place.  She told me she’d been jealous of her friend and how many “things” she had in an online game, and when she saw that she could earn more “things” herself if she simply logged in to Facebook she did just that, creating the account along the way.  Aaaarrrgggh.  They don’t call it “the web” for nothing, it’s a web of intrigue and danger and invitations that little minds just fall in love with.  We then had a discussion about what she’d learned at school about the internet, and all the things she knew NOT to do, and that setting up this account was totally against the rules (both at school and home).  As only an innocent 8-year-old could, she explained through more tears and half breaths (yep, very, very upset) that she had been on school holidays for a few weeks and forgotten about all the school rules.  We had hugs and made up (angry Mummy now forgiving Mummy) and agreed that it would never happen again, and that she could be trusted not to make another error of judgement like that.

We also agreed that she has no more computer access until we go away, and the iPod has also been confiscated for an indefinite period.  I am disappointed in myself to think that our behaviour wouldn’t be copied by my daughter, and I’m also annoyed with myself that I got so angry about it and with her.  Father of a Man-Child would have been much calmer about it (he always is).  He’s definitely the Yin to my Yang and where I am generally the yelling parent he is generally the talking parent (anyone who knows us both will not be surprised by that at all).  At the end of the day I should have been angry with the internet, and the social networks that allow us all (including our children) to so easily create fake accounts and personas, whether for a good cause or not.

So, that’s our Facebook drama.  What do you do to stop the hideous infiltration of the world-wide-web into your children’s lives?   Do you have rules about using the internet, and other devices?  Should I have handled things differently?

It does seem Sister of a Man-Child is getting quite a look in on the blog these days.  Perhaps one day I’ll have to rename it?  And what of the Men-Children you ask?  Well being school holidays, I’d love to tell you how they are, but we’ve seen them so infrequently I barely know.  I think we’ve had ONE meal together as a family in the whole school holidays.  Yep, at 16 it’s just not where they want to be.

As we’re off on a little holiday with Sister of a Man-Child, you may not hear from me for a week, unless there is exciting breaking news about the Men-Children whilst we’re away!  And no, we are not leaving them home alone – what do you think we are?  Crazy?

I have written about the joys of Facebook before.  Can you be Facebook friends with your kids?

 

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.

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Can you be Facebook friends with your kids? June 3, 2011

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I love Facebook.  Those of my friends on Facebook know I’m pretty active and I like to share various things with my connections, whether that’s a strongly held point of view, a cute something my daughter said or did, or even my blog posts (clearly since I write this blog I am probably what some would call an “over-sharer”.)

I like sharing, and I like my friends sharing with me.  Whether it’s the minutiae of their life, or a significant life event, it’s a great way to stay in touch with lots of my friends, family and past colleagues that I wouldn’t otherwise catch up with, whether they live around the corner, interstate or overseas.

My men-children have been on Facebook for a few years now.  Naturally they have amassed a huge number of “friends”.  One has almost 500 friends and one over 900 friends.  Now obviously the term friend is used pretty loosely when it comes to Facebook.  I mean really, how many of them are real friends as opposed to loose acquaintances who just happen to be on Facebook.  And let’s face it (like that pun?), Facebook are doing a very diligent job of late trying to “supersize” us all by shoving every random, vague friend connection down our throats!!!  I too could amass a vast number of friends if I really wanted to.  Just like on twitter (a load of twat I hear you say?).  I mean how many followers is too many – 8000, 20,000?

What is always interesting for me is whom my men-children choose as friends and more importantly whom they don’t.  I know my boys are friends with their cousins and even some aunts.  But they wouldn’t dream of being friends with me, or their father for that matter.  I’ve noticed one or two of my friends who are actually Facebook friends with their teenage kids, but that’s the exception not the rule (they are obviously VERY cool parents!!!)

So it was with some amusement that a couple of my son’s friends sent me a request to be their friend on Facebook last night.  At exactly the same time! Hmmm.  I immediately thought they were having a joke at my expense (they probably were).  And then I thought okay, why not?  Then at least I can see what they write on their walls and what my men-children write back.

So I accepted their friend request.  An hour later my son came downstairs to tell me I had to “un-accept” their friendship on Facebook.   “You can’t be their friends, you’ll see what we talk about” he protested.  Yep!  So he accessed my account and organized for our short Facebook friendships to end – but not before I’d had a quick look at the walls and checked out the minutiae of the men-children’s lives – it’s dead boring really!

Assuming that Facebook is still around when they’re “adults”, I am confident I will eventually win true Facebook friend status with my sons.  For those who can’t imagine life without it, just think of MySpace (Mywho???).

I’d love to hear from you about your experiences on Facebook?  Am I alone in having children who couldn’t possibly befriend their mother on Facebook?  Are you friends with your children, or nieces and nephews?  What would you do if you saw something inappropriate?  Stay silent, tell their parents, or comment on their wall?  I know it would take all my discipline not to say something if I was friends on Facebook with my men-children, so maybe it’s for the best. 🙂

PS.  A chance conversation with father of a man-child just alerted me to the fact that he is in fact friends with one of our men-children.  What!  How did I not know this?  I have a lot to catch up on……who knows what stories and secrets lay hidden in the pages of Facebook?  LOL.

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Whoops! May 27, 2011

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iphoneA funny thing happened the other day.  I discovered a heap of unknown contacts in my iPhone.  What the?  Where did these come from?  And who are these people anyway?  And then it dawned on me – they were my son’s contacts!  GOLD!!!

Man-Child I was recently the recipient of his first ever iPhone.  A hand me down I might add, and he stays on the $30 plan, so forget surfing the net or racking up hefty data charges – he quickly realized how fast his credit was getting chewed by one of the telco monsters.

In order to get his iPhone up and running, we seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time updating everyone’s phones one night.  Father of a man-child needed all his contacts copied over to his new iPhone (and somehow ended up with them in triplicate)!  Man-Child I wanted all his contacts copied over to the old iPhone and his fathers deleted.  Plus all my apps and games copied onto his iPhone from mine – not that easy trust me.

In typical fashion Man-Child I went like a bull at a gate (who needs instructions I’m a male) and nearly stuffed up the entire thing.  The head of technology in our house (that’s me, Mother of a Man-Child) then used forums and Google to determine how we should best go about this and saved the day.  Well sort of…

Two days later I’m at work when I notice I have a stack of new contacts in my phone.  And they’re not mine.  Moreover they’re not Father of a Man-Child’s.  That was when I realized I had Man-Child I’s contacts in my phone.  I suddenly had access to all his friends mobile numbers, email addresses etc, thankfully in addition to my own contacts.

So I naturally sent a text to let him know.  I’m sure he felt positively ill about it.  He couldn’t get home fast enough to delete them from my iPhone and off my computer.  Not that I was going to talk to any of them, but it was funny knowing I could.  It would be a bit like having my son friend me on Facebook and suddenly having access to all his mates – like that’s ever going to happen!!!

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Instant Gratification November 9, 2010

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What is it with Gen Z, the Millennial Generation – they want everything NOW.  Take my men-children.  Last night they asked if they could buy the latest PS3 COD (Call of Duty) game (“Black Ops”), apparently due for release today.  My first response was a simple “no”.  This was followed shortly afterwards by “Put it on your Christmas list”.  They thought I was joking – I wasn’t.

Now let me explain my problems with this request.  Firstly, the current COD game (Modern Warfare 2) is in my mind quite repulsive.  It’s rated MA15+, as it should be, and is a modern war game with explicit violence.  So lots of shooting, guns, soldiers, artillery, etc, but the piece de resistance is the blood splatters on the inside of the TV screen each time the player is shot.  Gross.

My second problem is the compulsion amongst today’s teenagers to have everything ASAP.  They are constantly seeking gratification – instantly.  They can’t wait for anything.  Unlike their parents (or more realistically their grandparents) they SAVE for nothing – they want to buy right now, with my money of course.  Give them a few years and they’ll buy everything on credit, or worse still on an “interest free” deal with hideous interest charges hidden in the contract.  Harvey Norman stands to make a fortune on them in years to come!

Of course in some ways they are a product of their environment – with the internet, they wait for nothing.  Information is at their fingertips, their friends are en masse via social media, news and gossip is instantaneously communicated via Twitter, Facebook, or worse still published for posterity on Youtube.  No wonder the thought of waiting for anything is ridiculous to them.

I asked the boys if any of their friends got the game today – yes it seems.  One of them (also 14 years old) was apparently allowed to go and queue at a store from midnight last night.  Another’s Mother dropped him at a store this morning at 5am to queue to get his order.  I’m not sure what they were thinking, but their priorities and mine don’t match.

And with Year 8 exams just around the corner the last thing mine need is another mind-numbing PS3 game to play 24/7.  In fact I’ve just unplugged the wireless modem to ensure there’s no internet for the rest of the month, and therefore no Facebook, but plenty of time for practice exams and revision.  I kid you not after 15 minutes sans internet both my boys are wondering around looking completely at a loss as to what to do, and searching for ways to avoid homework.  Clearly we should have done this sooner!