Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Observations and Ironies April 12, 2013

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observingMen-children are an interesting species.  As you know I have been a keen observer over the last three years of my own boys, as they journey through adolescence.  Here are some random observations and ironies from that time.

  • Men-children (and for the most part all teenagers) are totally self-absorbed.  They are virtually incapable of thinking beyond their own immediate needs.  So when they ask for money (because they have no job and rely on you for handouts), they are always surprised if you do not have wads of cash in your wallet, or cannot drop everything at the office to do a cash transfer for them.
  • Men-children are not always logical.  How do I know this?  They are only motivated to help with the laundry if there is something in there they want or need.  And if something isn’t clean, well then it’s obviously YOUR fault for not doing the washing.  And definitely not THEIR fault for finally filling the washing basket with their dirty clothes after you’ve already done three loads on the weekend.
  • Men-children are pretty useless in the kitchen – well at least mine are.  I think the only thing mine can cook is bacon and eggs, two-minute noodles and Latina pasta.  Great catches they’ll be won’t they?  I am prepared to wear the blame for this.  I tried some years back to start showing them how to cook basic meals, but their interest waned pretty quickly.  Time was probably our greatest enemy – on weekends they’re not exactly sitting around wanting to spend time in the kitchen with you, and on a week night it’s always a rush to get a meal on the table when you get home from work (and yes, imagine if the boys who got home from school could start meal prep!!!).  I am assuming that necessity in time will make them learn to cook – although if they move out later in life, it could be embarrassing for them.
  • Men-children’s stomachs think ahead of their brains.  Over the school holidays, which we don’t all get to have off, we continue to cook a family meal 6 nights a week (Friday night is no cooking night).  It’s almost rare for them to be at the table for a family meal during holidays (much to our annoyance, as it’s always a last-minute “Oh, I am going out…..”), but somehow on a Friday night one in particular often asks “What’s for dinner, I am starving”.   If you ever want to see the death-stare, just pop over on a Friday night at around 6.30pm.
  • Men-children see what they want to see.  I am sure other mothers of teenagers will relate to this claim.  “There is no food in the house/nothing in the fridge!!!”.  Now last time I checked, we have a pantry practically bursting with all the essential ingredients to make a meal, not to mention a freezer full of meat for cooking, and even if one looks hard enough, pre-prepared home cooked meals also in the freezer.  The translation of the above claim is in fact “There are no leftovers in the fridge staring me in the face that I can either shove straight in my gob or into the microwave to reheat in order to fulfil my immediate hunger”.
  • Men-children are useful with new technology.  With a new car, Father of a Man-Child, already a little technically challenged, definitely has his hands full.  I think he’s still surprised that the phone answers automatically via blue tooth.  So you can imagine getting the GPS or sound system to work properly, let alone the DVD player, is not really coming automatically to him.  The solution is simple.  Being a male, he is NEVER going to read the instruction manual is he?  Nope, instead, he is going to let loose two men-children in the car who will figure out how it all works in less than 10 minutes, and then show him in two minutes which buttons to press, or arrange to pre-set everything for him.  Perfect.  That’s a win-win for everyone really.
  • Men-children still fight with each other, even at 17.  My twin sister made an interesting observation the other day.  She was surprised that at 17 years old the boys are STILL fighting (not just arguing, but physical “punch-ons”, seriously it’s a freak show at our place some nights).  Her recollection (quite accurately) was that by that age we had both given up fighting with each other, having taken our own paths and developed our own friendships and basically grown up a bit.  But sadly the boys still haven’t.  It could be a maturity thing, it could be just a boy thing – that latent need to burn up testosterone when they have been holed up in the house for a day or two during the holidays, and are just looking for someone or something to poke!
  • Men-children love their friends and having a good time.  Some things don’t change.  Teenagers love to spend time with their friends.  The peer group is the most important thing in their life.  Moving in packs is what they love to do, not being alone.  There is nothing wrong with all wearing exactly the same clothing – it’s a badge, a way of fitting in, of “conforming”, and they don’t even notice it.  Youth is on their side and the heady responsibilities of life are barely upon them.  Life is good, and they definitely should enjoy it (within limits say their parents, forever the hand-brakes). 🙂

So there you have it.  What started as a short post of observations grew quite quickly.  Perhaps I will make this a regular post – so as not to fill too many pages in one go.  The teenage years are certainly full of many things – angst, learning, experimentation, boundary pushing, love, hope, fear – on both sides of the fence trust me.  As we near the end of their teenage years, there is more time for reflection about the journey, and what we have all learnt during the men-children era.

I’d love to hear your own observations and ironies.  There must be so many of them, not just applicable to teenagers, but to all kids, and of course husbands (sorry, this assumes many of my readers are women)!


Teenager starving in Kew! February 8, 2013

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plateAny mother of a teenage boy will be familiar with the relentless appetite of an adolescent, especially one that plays sport.  The “hollow legs” that just cannot be filled, the starvation that overtakes them 10 minutes before dinner, and sees them consumer several toasties before then sitting down to a full meal.

So the other morning, it was no surprise, although somewhat annoying, to hear man-child standing in the pantry complaining “there’s no food”!  Of course that’s not quite accurate, I am a dedicated mother who does ensure that we have food in our house – as I pointed out to him, you’re not exactly starving like some poor child in Ethiopia, they would be amazed at the variety and abundance of food in our home.  To be more precise and translate, it was not the sort of food he wanted!!

I mentioned that I had recently bought enough hot cross buns to feed the remaining Catholic population in Australia, along with other food for school lunches, and that I didn’t really think there was “no food” at all in the house.

Naturally the conversation continued (he would call it a lecture) as we got into the car for the drive to school for the 6am rowing start (yes, I repeat dedicated mother), that if there was some particular food items he wanted, perhaps he could go down the street and get them himself, or at least leave a list so the next supermarket visit could be spent buying his lordship the required supplies.

He told me he was busy with school, then rowing after school, then doing homework, and couldn’t possibly do it himself.  I told him I was busy getting up at 5am to make school lunches, fresh fruit salad, before going to gym and then to my own full time job before coming home to do domestic duties and late night work and would he like to swap!!!!

So the solution you ask?  Apart from sending him to Ethiopia for his next work experience project, I have suggested we finally venture to Costco.  He loved this idea, having heard about the vast packs of frozen pizza and various other items you can buy.  So I’ve got my membership, and recruited the entire family for a visit on Sunday.  Even sister-of-a-man child is excited about the treasures she might discover at Costco.  It seems there is no end to the “useful” things we might find in the sky high aisles that await us.  Do you think one trolley will be enough?

Anyway, I’ll let you know how our trip to Costco goes.  If it’s anything like Bunnings and Ikea, already I know I won’t leave empty handed. 🙂

I have written about their appetites before (The Locust Plague) and about how good they have it (Hotel Kew – Room for Rent)



Sometimes they surprise me April 6, 2012

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It is possible for the men-children to surprise me sometimes.  I am never surprised at the mess they can leave in their bedrooms, or their bathroom.  I am never surprised at the amount of food they can consume and an hour later still eat dinner, and I am never surprised when they argue and whine and throw a tantrum when they don’t get their way.

But just occasionally, when you least expect it, they can surprise you in the most unsuspecting way.  As you know we now have two new rabbits, Hazel and Squeak.  We haven’t yet managed to freeze them on a cold night, or starve them, or frighten them to death, so I guess we’re doing something right.  Sister of a Man-Child is naturally loving having them, and provides them with lots of attention every morning and evening.  And I’m pretty sure the men-children sneak out there on a regular basis to see them too.  The girlfriend of Man-Child II adores them.  Even a friend of the boys the other day was interested in them, but I think he held back because he didn’t want to be a 16-year-old boy fussing over rabbits.  I am going to make a point of encouraging all of them to play with the rabbits – it’s good for them and a bonus for the rabbits.  It’s funny how we stop doing things because we don’t think we can behave like a child anymore isn’t it?

carrotsThe other night Sister of a Man-Child and I were late home, which means Hazel and Squeak’s dinner was late!  When I arrived home, one of the boys was already home.  He casually yelled down the stairs that he had fed the rabbits, given them water and also some cabbage.  WOW!  He actually did something for someone else!  He was actually motivated to do something for another person (or in this case animal) that wasn’t directly for his benefit.  I thanked him graciously, and thought to myself it’s true – having a pet does teach children about the responsibility of caring for someone else.  I can only assume that he went out to visit them, and noticed their empty bowls and took it upon himself to feed them.  Hooray.  I wonder if I put the rabbits in his bedroom would he tidy it up?

Mind you, the same man-child doesn’t notice everything?  He asked me the other day where his father and brother were – I said away.  Blank look, followed by “I didn’t know they were going anywhere”.  To which I smugly replied “Well if you were ever at home or joined us for dinner occasionally then you’d know what was going on wouldn’t you!”  He seriously asked for that one!

Anyway, bring on more pleasant surprises.  I hope he continues to feed the rabbits when needed.  Somehow I’m doubtful I’ll convince him to clean out their cage on a weekly basis – although he might if I offer to pay!!



High Expectations? February 17, 2012

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salad rollA teenagers needs are pretty basic.  Feed me, clothe me, drive me, fund me, and leave me alone!  Simple really.  Oh and read my mind constantly.

So unfolded a conversation with one of the men-children on Monday morning at 6.30am that is pretty indicative of how “adolescent” they can sometimes be.

The first thing that popped out of his mouth:  “Did you make the sandwiches I asked for?”  Actually he asked his father for a certain variety, not me.  So no, I didn’t make them, because I didn’t know, and by the way he was pretty lucky that a Year 10 boy was still having his sandwiches made for him.  What are we, a tuckshop?  No we’re just parents with boys who are rowers who recognise how important their food requirements are.

“That roll is small!” This immediately followed the last comment.  Oh sorry, it’s only half a baguette, and yes it’s not the same size as the ones I’ve bought previously.  But it’s better than a sandwich isn’t it?  Sorry I bothered I am thinking to myself by now.  See previous point about rowing men-children – it’s all about fuel!

Within 60 seconds, man-child was heard from the laundry:  “Where’s my zoot suit?”.  (For the uninitiated, this is the all-in-one fitted suits that rowers wear – very “gay” when you’re in year 7/8/9 but somehow more “manly” when you’re in year 10.  Go figure.)  Now, since I had VERY KINDLY trawled through both their bedrooms late on Saturday for dirty clothes to wash, only because they were both rowing all day and I felt sorry for them, I knew the zoot suits had indeed made it into the washing machine, onto the line, and into the folded pile of teenage clothes that seems to live permanently in the laundry.  So you can imagine my response – silence! (Actually you could call it fuming, because I was).  He eventually found it, but not before he’d told me that the only one he found was his brothers, not his, and therefore that’s why he couldn’t find a zoot suit.  Yes, they still fight over clothes regularly.  And no they don’t put their names on them to stop said fighting.

It got better.  A minute later we had the same thing over the rowing t-shirt, which he promptly produced for me saying “You didn’t wash my shirt”!  Well no, I clearly didn’t wash your shirt – as any blind man can see because it’s filthy.  It obviously wasn’t on the floor, and so I didn’t pick it up when I was VERY KINDLY looking for 4 weeks of washing on your bedroom floor, you know the floor that the cleaners no longer vacuum because they can’t find the carpet!!  “Well it was in my backpack!”  Oh sorry, I didn’t go through every bag in your room looking for errant dirty clothes.  On another day this would be called an invasion of privacy wouldn’t it?  Clearly ESP and XRAY vision are two skills I need to add to my mother of a man-child collection.

Ah the simple joys of motherhood.  Slavery would have been a better option for some.  I can’t recall the last time they voluntarily thanked us for a nice meal, or for driving them at 5.45am every second day to school for rowing, or to a party, or for washing piles of clothing.  One of the men-children (yes the one above) sees it in very simple terms – well you chose to have children so it’s your job to do all this stuff.  Stop complaining.  I can’t wait to be laughing if and when I’m a grandmother to his children and he tells me how ungrateful they are.  The joys of parenting. 🙂

I do recall a similar conversation with the other man-child a few years back: Argue this Logic


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:

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.  🙂


The Locust Plague February 9, 2010

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Any mother of teenage boys will be all too familiar with the species that enters one’s kitchen once they’ve launched into the massive growth phase that is adolescence.  I kid you not there are times I can literally see my boys physically growing.  To fuel this massive growth, they of course need food.  And more food.  And more food.  We seemed to go from feeding two adults and three kids to feeding four adults and one kid overnight.  Needless to say Aldi is now a regular haunt in addition to Safeway/Coles in a vain attempt to keep the grocery bill down.

I look on with jealousy at their ability to eat full hot breakfasts of bacon and eggs on a regular basis, followed by massive lunches and dinners. And when they eat anything, it’s not just one, it’s several of everything, inhaled with the strength of a Hoover.  So if there’s anything that’s a special ingredient for that dinner party you’re having, or you need to make something specific, you best label it before the plague of locusts gets to it.  Or better still hide it – very well.  Mine seem to have an innate food sensor that means they can find almost any special treat I ferret away.  I’m sure they inherited that ability from their father – sometimes referred to as the “rat” of the house, given what goes missing late in the night (he calls it supper).

Of course the worst insult to a mother is when you put a home cooked meal on the table, only to be told that they’re not really hungry.  Gee, I wonder if that could have anything to do with the cold pizza they had after school, followed by a bowl of cereal, banana smoothie and three pieces of toast.    Just the other night Man-Child declared he just couldn’t fit any more dinner in – conveniently he had left some veggies but somehow managed to swallow his portion of the family meat pie.  I insisted he eat the veg or no dessert (now there’s a familiar threat).  His response – a simple “NO”.   Thereafter followed the familiar Mexican stand-off with Mum declaring he could stay at the table until he had finished his meal, all night if need be, and Man-Child declaring he’d happily sit there until 1am and he bet I wouldn’t still be up to watch him. 

The only solution – I told him I’m not playing this game with you.  Eat the food and leave the table.  For some bizarre reason it worked – I’m a little surprised I got away with it – and to be honest I’m not sure how much longer I will wield that power.   In the meantime I try to watch what they’re eating and when, so if the pre-dinner munchies hit you can stop them mid-mouthful and ask them to remember a man size meal is to follow shortly.  Of course you have to endure the darkest of looks when you choose to come between a man and his food.

Bon Appetit!