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



Mother of a Man-Child: Griswold Family Holiday Anyone? April 21, 2011

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beachAs the men-children get older, so too does the challenge of finding a holiday to satisfy the whole family. This becomes increasingly important as their needs change, and also as the number of family holidays we are likely to have in the future with them diminishes rapidly. Although I have no doubt any offer to take them overseas will ensure an instant family holiday – no questions asked!!

That’s not to say that every family holiday should centre on the men-children, but more that we ideally want everyone to enjoy their time together. Mother of a Man-Child and Father of a Man-Child invariably want a relaxing holiday, having worked hard to ensure we can afford them in the first place; Sister of a Man-Child just wants to have fun playing with her parents and brothers and receiving bucket loads of undivided attention (fair enough when you’re seven), and the Men-Children want either access to loads of cool stuff or their mates on tap 24/7.

Both of these present challenges. Firstly, in order to satisfy the mate requirement, you either organise a family holiday with another family (no easy feat to co-ordinate in the modern world), or invite a couple of extra kids along on the trip (if you think you can cope or afford it), or stay where their friends stay. Having two men-children with different circles of friends makes the latter challenging to say the least. Especially when one of them thinks that Portsea at Christmas time is THE place to be (as I did at his age!!!). Apologies to my friends who have lovely beach houses down there, but I can’t bring myself to pay $’000’s of dollars over summer to rent a house there and queue for bread every day, or battle for a parking spot, only to bump into all my Melbourne acquaintances. Now of course if I had a lovely, large beach house I could hide in for summer that might be different. 🙂

So the alternative is finding somewhere that has cool stuff for men-children to do, to keep them entertained on occasion, and a place that also provides the opportunity for us to relax and unwind whilst entertaining a sometimes demanding seven-year old! Invariably we seem drawn to the beach for holidays (although we have done the odd snow vacation but frankly I find it anything but relaxing – I need a double espresso laced with Scotch by the time I hit the first run at 9am having got everyone out the door in all the requisite gear). There’s nothing quite like the warmth of the sun and the heady combination of sand and surf in Australia; we’ve been to some wonderful beach spots over the years with the kids, including Kangaroo Island, Merimbula, Sunshine Coast, Phillip Island, Gold Coast, Wilsons Promontory, Mission Beach, South Molle Island, Apollo Bay and of course Somers.

The beach is always the perfect antidote to Melbourne’s winter, and summer just isn’t the same without a spell beachside. And what’s a holiday in Australia without the mandatory road trip (we’ve done a few of them too) with the back of the car or trailer filled to the brim and the family resembling the Griswolds off on their next vacation!

But increasingly the boys are no longer happy to just be at the beach for days on end (certainly not in the company of their parents). God I hope this is normal and not just a reflection of how disliked we are by them? Like all good teenagers they seem intent on spending as much time as possible lying in bed, and then arising to feed, then swim, then feed and loll about again. Hence we look for a mixture of adventure and indulgence.

So we’re going to Hamilton Island in September, with lots of water activities and day trips for us and/or them to partake in whilst mother and daughter lie poolside, and hopefully some other teenagers they can hook up with day and/or night. And we’re considering Sydney in January. We figure there’s plenty for men-children and us to see and do in Sydney (bridge climbs, harbour jet boating, ferries, opera house, Sydney tower etc), and if all else fails, we’ll just spend days at Bondi beach watching the world-famous lifeguards rescue stupid international tourists from the many rips whilst they swim outside the flags – doh!!

BTW, I know it must seem ridiculous for me to be talking about holidays in January already, but as anyone with kids knows, you need to get in early if you are to be organised and find decent accommodation options for a family of five. So it’s never too early to float ideas with the family over dinner to see what sounds like a viable option. Any thoughts or suggestions welcome, especially if you’ve found a great spot that satisfies everyone.


Mother of a Man-Child: The Hurdy-Gurdy of Life February 25, 2011

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The only thing guaranteed in my life at the moment is the never-ending ride on an emotional roller-coaster, as we journey the ups and downs of adolescence with our men-children.  You never know quite what you’re in for on any given day – it could be a pleasant conversation where they actually respond to questions civilly (as opposed to the expected grunt) or an early morning screaming match because they’ve decided to start proceedings with an argument about stolen jocks whilst getting ready for school.

Why is it that so often I now think of my own parents, and my own adolescent behaviour as I parent my children?  Life, like history, has a way of repeating itself.  Teenager behaviour, just like toddler behaviour, is fairly predictable after all (give or take a few interesting events that will become family lore in our little part of the world).  So around and around we go, just like a hurdy-gurdy, with life invariably repeating itself over the generations.

We actually have our very own hurdy-gurdy (see pic).  An ancient piece of playground equipment, that I remember fondly as a child, with hours spent spinning wildly around and around with the neighbourhood kids.  I assume it’s called a “hurdy-gurdy” because it resembles the round disc-like version found at playgrounds.  But our hurdy-gurdy is particularly unique, and very much a part of our family history, and a special part of our lives.  We still talk about the time my sister managed to get her finger caught and mangled in the inner workings of the hurdy-gurdy – it wasn’t a pretty sight trust me.  Hence the plastic ice-cream container designed to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself again (low tech but effective).

The hurdy-gurdy spent years sitting out the back of my parent’s house, no doubt awaiting grand-children.  When finally they arrived, it took more than a little convincing for my husband to allow the junk/scrap metal to be bought to it’s new home.  And so began the painstaking process by Mother of a Man-Child to replace the rotted timber wooden seats, a sparkling coat of paint and new rubber handles for grip (not that we ever had anything that fancy).  And yet another generation (my boys) benefited from the joys of the hurdy-gurdy.  On the odd occasion, my adult siblings would climb upon the hurdy-gurdy late on a Christmas Eve, with much hilarity and recklessness, spinning far faster than they could remember it going (you definitely don’t do rides like you used to as you get older do you?).

As the boys grew, the hurdy-gurdy was cast aside again (parked down the side of our house) with occasional requests by my husband to remove it permanently.  Thankfully we didn’t, because along came our daughter, and only recently the hurdy-gurdy is enjoying life yet again, this time accompanied by the squeals and delights of small girls, who all gaze in wonder at this strange toy, and when they finally understand it’s workings have a wonderful time enjoying wind in their hair, and un-abandoned, dizzying freedom.

Now that my younger sister has a baby and a new house with a good backyard, there is talk of handing the hurdy-gurdy on in time for the next generation to enjoy.  By then it will probably need a fresh lick of paint and a nice new set of handles, and be ready to entertain yet again.

The origins of the hurdy-gurdy remain a little unknown.  My 90-year-old grandmother recalls her husband bought it for my mother and her siblings when they were young.  By all accounts he bought it from a bloke who we think might have made it himself – it almost looks like it’s been fashioned from parts of a Hills Hoist.  In our lifetimes none of us has ever seen anything quite like it.

And as for where the hurdy-gurdy will end it’s life?  Provided it doesn’t continue to be passed along to countless generations of our family (spending the odd hiatus parked in the corner of the yard neglected), I have always insisted it be donated to a toy museum, where for future generations people will wonder at the strange toy that children from another era found enjoyment with.  Just imagine the stories the hurdy-gurdy could tell?  What great wisdom would it impart to us?  Likely it would say the only thing guaranteed is that the circle of like completes itself time and time again, with all the reliability of a spinning hurdy-gurdy. 🙂