Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

The joys of single parenting December 7, 2012

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I recently spent a full week playing single parent, whilst Father of a Man-Child was off at “boot camp”.  I have to say, when you work full-time and have 3 kids and a household to manage, it’s pretty hard work.  I did a fair bit of travel a few years back for work (including some great overseas trips), leaving Father of a Man-Child in charge.  I realise now I owe him a medal for his efforts.  It’s Herculean just to make sure they don’t starve each day, with school lunches and daily dinners to prepare, let alone squeezing in all the other stuff you need to do, like gym, feeding rabbits and keeping the washing pile under control, whilst also ensuring you are at work on time and never late for aftercare pick up.  Oh, and then being on top of your game at work – it’s not where you spend the day having coffee and chilling is it?  All in all an exhausting week.

Nevertheless I would do it again in a heartbeat for the same results.  We recently packed Father of a Man-Child off to boot camp for a week to kick-start a healthy lifestyle.  At our age, the bad habits of a lifetime can really start to catch up with you, and let’s just say that Father of a Man-Child had done an excellent job in developing a long list of really bad ones, that all needed addressing.  A not so subtle threat finally convinced him to consider a couple of venues for his incarceration, and to his credit, he opted for the hardest of them all – as in the one most like hell on earth for someone with bad habits.

red applesSo how did he fare with 7 long days and nights not smoking, or drinking alcohol or caffeine, deprived of red meat, bread, dairy foods, full cream milk, and expected to sustain himself on fresh fruit, salads, fish, more salad, vegetables, more salad, soup, did I mention salad?  And to add to his woes, no TV (that means no sport to watch), no internet, or mobile phone?

You may be surprised to know that he managed it very well.  Whilst he didn’t exactly enjoy it (by day two he told me in a rare phone call from “prison” that he was hanging out for a hamburger and a packet of cigarettes), he did arrive at the end of his term with a whole new attitude, and understanding for the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.  Now for those of you who know Father of a Man-Child, I am sure you would be very surprised to hear him talking about the benefits of Tai Chi, or all the bad stuff in mayonnaise (“not for me thanks”), or sipping black tea in the morning in lieu of his regulation coffee and cigarette to start the day.

We are all thrilled at the conversion of Father of a Man-Child in such a short time.  Already, he’s a candidate for the BUPA ad, you know the one where they show the healthy you versus the unhealthy you.  In seven short days, putting in good stuff, and no bad stuff, exercising, and getting some sun has him positively glowing with health.  The one short-term set back is that in embracing the opportunity to exercise daily he suffered an apparently common injury at boot camp, arriving home with a badly torn tendon in his foot.  Once he is back walking normally, he aims to keep the long walks and exercise up.

So hat tip to Father of a Man-Child, and all our encouragement to keep up the good habits you have learnt.  Mother of a Man-Child thanks you for having the courage to do it, and the Men-Children and Sister of a Man-Child thank you for extending your life and staying around a whole lot longer to watch them grow up!!!!

For those who are curious to know where he went, it was Golden Door, in the hinterlands behind Brisbane, Queensland.  Highly recommended by Mother of a Man-Child. 🙂

 

The Men-Children Really Do Love Me! February 24, 2012

birthday cardI celebrated a birthday recently.  The best bit about the day wasn’t the presents (which I’d shouted myself anyway), or turning a year older (definitely NOT a highlight), or the warmth of birthday wishes from friends and colleagues (you’ve got to love Facebook for reminding them all don’t you), it was the birthday cards that my family gave me.

  • The always-thoughtful card from Father of a Man-Child.  I swear he missed his calling – he should have worked for Hallmark.  Every card he writes for me (or someone else for that matter) always seems to say just the right thing, injected with genuine warmth and emotion that brings a tear to your eye, and words that cause you to stop and reflect on your life.
  • The gorgeous home-made card from Sister of a Man-Child, whose excitement was palpable, even days before.   “Mum, what’s your favourite colour?  Is it green, and yellow?”.  Of course I told her knowingly.  And on the eve of my birthday, almost bursting with pride: “Can I PLEASE just show you the front cover of your birthday card Mum”.  Patience won!
  • The wonderful card from Man-Child I , “long” by his standards (although he’s an amazing writer, I don’t think he enjoys the very personal stuff much), telling me I’m the best Mum he could have, and thanking me for everything that I do for him.  Perfect!  In a moment you forgive everything of a child when they say this.
  • And last but not least the surprisingly mature card from Man-Child II, talking about his own attitude as he grows up, and the fact that he is enjoying the company of his parents more and more, and doesn’t mind spending time with us.  And of course loves his mother, and all that she is.  This attitude change is a turning point for an adolescent, and really does represent a shift in the parent/child dynamic, an indication that we’re on the way to “coming out the other side” with at least one of the boys.

I know, you’re thinking gee, what will Mother of a Man-Child write about if they turn into nice people?  Don’t worry, they’re still adolescents.  One beautiful card doesn’t mean the trouble is over……

My wonderful day ended as it should with a simple dinner out with our children.  Pizza and pasta provided the perfect opportunity for the boys to carb up ahead of yet another rowing regatta, and Sister of a Man-Child was in gelati heaven, just proving that you don’t need a fancy restaurant to enjoy a night out and the simplest things in life can bring you much happiness.

Here’s to the next birthday – I can’t wait to relive the joy and love I felt on that day in another year’s time.

 

 

Post-Script to Home Alone January 13, 2012

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beersOkay, I admit it.  Perhaps the men-children are more mature than I thought?  After leaving them at home alone last weekend, unsupervised for 48 hours, it appears that nothing untoward took place, and our house remains unscathed.  Maybe, just maybe, the boys can be trusted more than I have given them credit for?  Then again, maybe they just know that the price of failing our trust test was just too great, so they chose to toe the line?

Father of a Man-Child made the decision to tell one of the boys of our absence mid afternoon on Friday.  He said we were away Friday night and POSSIBLY Saturday night but we weren’t sure (sneaky I know).  In a twist of fortune quite frankly, his brother didn’t know until about 6pm when we were well on our way to our destination, and far too late for him to organise anything significant. 🙂

Father of a Man-Child also left strict written instructions for them (then they can’t say they didn’t understand what you said can they?):

  • No sleep overs allowed with no parents present
  • No gatherings of more than 5 people (read per man-child)
  • No alcohol permitted with no parents present
  • Curfew of 12.30am for all friends to leave our home

We sent a couple of text messages, just to establish their movements on Friday night – both home, alone, very boring indeed.  On Saturday afternoon, a casual text arrives from one of the boys:  “Are you coming back tonight?” instantly sending one’s imagination into overdrive as you would expect.

We discussed the response options open to us:

  • Yep, we’ll be home later today (thereby killing any party plans, whether or not we actually planned to arrive home)
  • Not sure, we’ll let you know later (ditto above)
  • Why, are you planning something you shouldn’t be? (like he would tell us)
  • No, we are staying another night.  We could bullshit you but instead we are trusting you.  Don’t let us down (that was my actual response)!!

So, we decided to trust them, and we decided to let them have some fun.  We actually rang them late on Saturday night (yep, mid party) to speak to both of them.  One had a few mates over, and one had his usual “harem” of girls over (including his girlfriend of course).  It all sounded under control, with no slurring of their words evident, so at least we didn’t need to panic.  Whilst we had requested that they have no sleepovers in our absence, we also confirmed with both of them that they were indeed having a couple of mates to stay – yep, totally inconsistent, but how exactly were we planning on enforcing it from 3 hours away?  At least that way we knew what was happening.

We arrived home to a relatively normal house.  No signs of it being cleaned to within an inch of it’s life, no breakages, no empties lying about, nothing really out of the ordinary.  Father of a Man-Child says he found a few “rollie” stubs in the backyard – and promptly threw out the evidence before I could do the smell test!!!  He thinks they were smoking tobacco – I am not quite so sure….

Our neighbour dropped by and actually complemented the boys on being well behaved in our absence.  As a father (survivor) of two boys who are both now past their teens, I found that very comforting indeed.

So there you have it.  I know it’s not very exciting blog material is it?  It would make for a much better read if there was a scandalous story about some wild party at our house, with major mishaps thrown in for good measure.  But then again, it’s also a refreshing change, and a sign that perhaps my little darlings are coming of age, slowly but surely, and that there is a small but visible light glowing at the end of the adolescent tunnel. 🙂

In case you missed the pre-cursor to this story, you can read it here:  Men-Children alone in the house for a weekend 

 

From Boys to Bogans? December 16, 2011

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rats tail hairIn what can only be described as a worrying trend, I think my men-children are showing Bogan tendencies.  The only comfort I can take in this is that they are not alone.  In fact they are joining a growing number of their school friends with body piercings and a “ratty” hairstyle which seems to be the current trend.

For those of us old enough to remember, the “ratty” style harks from the disgusting “rats tail” trend that was worn by Bogans in the 80’s.  They would cut their hair short, with the exception of a long piece of hair that was left at the nape of the neck.  It was often plaited for effect (and not any prettier trust me), and sadly was a trans-gender style worn by Bogan men and women alike!!  If I am honest I may have had a VERY SMALL ratty myself which was very tasteful of course at the height of this trend. 🙂

One of the men-children recently had his brother use the clippers to cut his hair, leaving a delightful “ratty” at the back.  Fortunately, it’s not quite as long as the original version, more a short stumpy version, but nevertheless quite ridiculous.  Apparently it’s all the rage at school, and most likely they are emulating many of the young footballers, who all sport similar styles.  Now I think of it, most of them are Bogans at heart aren’t they?

Our other man-child has recently renewed his requests (read badgering) to be allowed an eyebrow piercing.  The last time he asked, we did suggest he could have one if he chose to have his private parts pierced simultaneously.  This time, he started quoting the fact that at 16 years old he could do as he pleased in relation to body piercing (a fact I must check).  Father of a Man-Child, for reasons completely unfathomable to all of us, seems to think a tattoo is a much better idea???  Even the man-child couldn’t understand this logic, and I don’t think his father was using reverse psychology.   Let’s face it, at least you can take out the stud from your eyebrow, but the tattoo on your arm or leg is slightly more permanent!  And whilst the school should BAN all visible piercings in my view, it seems they will allow a clear stud in one’s eyebrow whilst in uniform.  We did try to encourage piercing the earlobe over the eyebrow, but he seems adamant on the latter.

I do recall my nephews now in their mid-20’s both had piercings in their eyebrows shortly after they left school, a fact that their Mother and Grandfather were both appalled by.  God only knows how that same Grandfather will respond to the almost 16 year old man-child having one when he attends the same school his Grandfather did, and where the latter currently enjoys a well-earned reputation.  Oh dear.

So it seems I have a couple of Bogan men-children.  Given the odd hair styles I have seen created by their friends at our house, I have no doubt my boys are not alone in pursuing their “individual” styles, which are really just designed to ensure they conform with all their teenage friends, and demonstrate some anti-establishment, rebellious behaviour like we all did a few decades ago.

I promise to share photos if and when the eyebrow finally gets pierced!

Read our last discussion about eyebrow piercings here.

 

Living With Teenage Hormones October 28, 2011

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apeIt’s a known fact – part of the joy(?) of living with teenagers is co-habitating with a million hormones.  And we’re not just talking any hormones here, but the most temperamental and unpredictable hormones you’ve ever met.  One minute as nice as pie, sweet and almost human, the next minute positively acerbic, and extremely unpleasant.

Those same hormones will want to sleep during daylight hours and relish the darkened room with only the light of a television as company for hours on end, or conversely be out expending energy in search of a post-adrenal hit, or otherwise standing at the fridge looking for anything they can shove in their gobs to satisfy an insatiable appetite, driven by said exercise.

Such is our life with the men-children.  Sometimes it’s like living with a schizophrenic I imagine, you’re just never sure what you’ll encounter on any given day.  The odd thing with Man-Child I and Man-Child II is that they seem to operate on a tag-team basis.

So for a few weeks (or even months sometimes) one of them will be quite civil, almost friendly to the rest of the household, generally having their shit together, not needing to be nagged constantly, and being an agreeable member of the family.  This seems to be the cue for the other one to turn into an absolute monster – a grumpy, disagreeable, rude and obnoxious beast who snaps at everyone and just can’t be pleasant at all.   Couple these hormones with tiredness due to simply being a teenager and running on empty often and you’ve got a weapon of mass destruction right in your living room.

I don’t really know if it’s a twin thing, or just a sibling thing?  Are we all like this in our moods?  Does this dynamic happen in your house with children or even adults?  I’m thinking it’s more a teenage thing, and totally blame the hormones.  Mind you in our household they’d probably tell you I must be constantly hormonal then because I’m always grumpy!! (Nothing to do with working full-time, and running a busy household, coping with more child-related paperwork than you can poke a stick at, finding time to go to gym, and co-ordinating the taxi service with Father of a Man-Child to ensure three children are where they need to be 24/7 – no, that relentless pace wouldn’t make anyone grumpy would it?).

So teenage hormones – what are your experiences?  Do you remember being the above-described teenager?  Or have you lived with similar?  I know we’ll come out the other end with the men-children, but the rollercoaster ride can be tiring some days.

 

A Celebration Of Boys Through Sport August 26, 2011

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I attended a function at the men-children’s school recently (yes, we had three events in seven days) and it gave me reason to reflect as the Mother-of-a-Man Child on the journey of my sons from boys to adolescents to adults.

The event I attended was the Rugby Presentation night.  As the team manager for one of the men-children’s teams (ironic since I know virtually nothing about rugby no matter how hard I try to learn the rules – apparently the prerequisite was being good at email communication), I decided that this year I would like to attend the evening.

Father-of-a-Man-child and I tend to play tag team at these events anyway, mainly because we have the much younger Sister-of-a-Man-Child at home, and it’s just too big an impost to all go to everything, especially on a school night.  Hubby had been to the AFL presentation night just a few nights earlier, so it seemed fair to share the load.

The night was really like any sporting presentation night.  A great compilation video to open the night, followed by Coaches awards for each year level (best player, most improved, etc), gifts presented to coaches, recognition for the all important 1st team (this is predominantly made up of year 12’s and other boys who excel in the sport), and special awards.

No doubt since I hadn’t attended one before I probably enjoyed it more than many.  I doubt the format changes year in, year out.  As some of you would know, the end of year primary school concert, as gorgeous as it is, loses some of it’s joy by the time you’ve attended four or five of them, and you know you’ve got another 10 to go with your daughter following your sons through the school!!!

But we digress – back to the rugby evening.  My overwhelming sense of the night was that it really was a true celebration of boys.  Collectively they represented a wonderful display of teamwork, mateship, determination, and dedication by both coaches and students alike.  Many of the coaches referred to watching the boys progress over the year as they grew into young men, witness to the ever-changing physical and emotional rollercoaster that is adolescence.  Some were very frank about the challenges of coaching the boys, particularly at certain ages when they are more anti-authoritarian, but even then, you could tell they enjoyed the challenge and delighted in the development of the boys and what they had achieved throughout the season.

Above all, I also got an amazing sense of the bond they all shared through their love of the game of rugby.  It was quite a contagious feeling, and made me pleased to be playing even a very minor part in the sport.  It also gave me an insight into Father-of-a-man-child’s passion for the local AFL footy club of which he is President.  It takes up way too much of his time, but now I think I can understand why he just can’t get enough of the club.

For us, we love that both of our men-children are active in sport.  Be it AFL, Rugby or Rowing, what became clear for me is the importance for them to be part of a team, to do their best, to enjoy the pursuit of sporting excellence, to put in the effort to get the reward, and to have fun whatever the result.  And above all, to just be boys, becoming young men, playing sport, with all the stuff that goes with it. 🙂

Read more about being a Mother in a Man’s world here, reflecting on the book “He’ll be OK, by Celia Lashlie”.

 

Living with Man-Child Mess July 22, 2011

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dirty bedroomAs you know we have finished the upstairs addition to the house, so the men-children have their own space.  We foresaw the upside of this was that their area would be self-contained, and their mess would be out of sight, out of mind.  I know I said I wouldn’t care, but actually I do.

Both Father of a Man-Child and I are quite neat – it’s pretty effortless for us to keep the place tidy (to the point that he has been known to put the newspaper in the recycle bin before I’ve even had a chance to read it!).  Man-Child I is actually a chip off the old block – he keeps his room quite tidy too, for a boy.  But Man-Child II is in complete contrast.  What we make up for in neatness he makes up for in complete mess, as the pictures reveal.

Man-Child II will literally wait for it to pile up, until such time as the threat of death or no pocket-money finally motivates him.  Yes I know I should just leave it there for him, but quite frankly, I just can’t stand it.  It’s even worse for Man-Child I because he lives with it upstairs.  The constant stream of dirty dishes, clothes and towels on the bathroom floor drives him nuts too!  Although to be fair he does make a good contribution to the growing pile of dishes on occasion.

dirty dishesOne day I counted six coat-hangers on the floor of Man-Child II’s bedroom amongst the flotsam and jetsam of clothing, sports gear, bags etc – I think he was looking to open a dry cleaning shop!  The gear from his recent cadet trip spent the entire school holidays on the floor before I cracked it recently and forced him to put it away.

So what should I do?  Just close the door and let him work it out for himself?  Or let Man-Child I continue putting the dirty dishes in Man-Child II’s bedroom – which means listening to arguments every second day?  Ah the joys of family life!

Read more about dealing with the messy lives of my men-children here: Pocket Money – Blackmail Works!