Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Suspended from school! May 24, 2013

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schoolIt’s been an interesting week with the suspension of one man-child from school!  No doubt you will be just as shocked as I was when I first heard, but the circumstances themselves are cause for interesting discussion and reflection.

I was more than a little shocked to find out he was suspended one morning, when I routinely asked why he wasn’t out of bed getting ready for school. That was when Father of a Man-Child informed me he had been suspended and wouldn’t be attending school that day.  You can imagine my response, which went something like this:

“WHAT!  What do you mean he’s been suspended?  What for?  Why didn’t you tell me yesterday?  Don’t you know they invented mobile phones so husbands can call wives in an emergency?”

So you may ask, what was he suspended for exactly?  Well as it turns out it was over racist comments he made on the football field in a recent game.  And as the incident was reported, the school moved very swiftly to act.

But first some context, which sheds some further light on the incident.  During the game, an opposition player apparently hit an already seriously injured player on the field, in an entirely unprovoked attack.  This was witnessed by the team, including my son, who were all pretty angry at his action.  As it transpires my son was manning this very player on the field, hence the heated exchange that followed, with my son throwing some choice racist remarks at the opposing player.

The incident was subsequently reported to the umpire, and we assume by the opposition team via more formal channels, which left my son’s school with no choice than to act.  He will miss the school football game this weekend (which definitely hurts) and was also suspended from school for one day (you can’t tell me that hurts any kid).  There were appointments with the Vice-Principal for my son, and with the Principal for him and my husband (what a lovely way to meet the head of the school!!).  Whilst I think the school suspension is a little extreme, I have to say that I applaud the school’s zero tolerance on racial vilification.  The fact is, it needs to be nipped in the bud in schools, before it escalates to other football or sporting fields and into other more senior codes.  One wonders if all schools abide by similar codes – you would hope so!  Although based on the behaviour of AFL players in recent years (just to mention one code), it’s probably not yet common practice, or still early days in the education process.

So what did the man-child make of it?  He learned a valuable lesson about racism, even if he didn’t think what he said was particularly racist (trust me it was).   And he learned that the best response is absolute honesty and copping the punishment on the chin.  So the matter is closed – no more will be heard about it from the school, and we all move on, with yet another life lesson for our boys.

What do you think?  Did the punishment fit the crime?  Or was it too extreme?

We’ve had issues with the school before – but it was the other man-child: Trouble on school camp!


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”.


Mother of a Man-Child: Tough Love – does it work? April 8, 2011

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heartI am a firm believer in Tough Love.  As defined by Wikipedia, “tough love” is an expression used when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run.   Of course tough love is infinitely more palatable when sprinkled with doses of good old-fashioned TLC.  A good mix is probably the ideal.

On reflection I would say I was brought up with a mixture of both.  I certainly have wonderfully happy memories of my childhood, but I also recall being brought up by pretty strict disciplinarians, and tough love when required.  It was a case of “you do the crime you pay the time” in our household and if you stuffed up then there were always serious consequences – pretty devastating ones when you’re a teenager and your social life is curtailed!!

The other day Man-Child II left his lunch at home.  We knew that because we found it sitting on the bench, and shortly afterwards he sent me a text message: “I forgot my lunch” (NO, really?).   Father of a Man-Child, being far more sympathetic and kinder than Mother of a Man-Child, instantly offered to take it to school for him.  “Absolutely NOT” I replied, he can go without.  And then I proceeded to text back man-child “Tough shit.  Buy your own or go hungry.”

On a roll, I added a few more messages about the mess left upstairs, no pocket-money being paid, etc as my usual frustrations set in.  Just what you need to start the morning off isn’t it?  Now before you think I am a very mean Mother, the reason he forgot his lunch is that he turned on the TV whilst waiting for his school shorts to dry (yep, I admit due to a rare backlog of washing) rather than packing his bag, making his bed, picking up a bathmat and towel off the floor etc.  So then in the ensuing rush to get out the door, he forgets lunch.

I think Tough Love teaches him that we won’t come running after a 15-year-old every time he forgets something, and hopefully he’ll be sure to remember it next time.  In the same way telling me 5 minutes before the first footy match of the season that his footy socks don’t fit drew very little sympathy.  I said “Oh well, we can’t buy them now.  You’ll just have to wear those and buy some new ones next week”.  Emphasis clearly on him, not me, to organize it.  If he can’t manage to get there after school one day, then bad luck I say.

And tough love extends past home on occasion.  Man-Child II also refused point-blank to wear white footy shorts last week for the “away” game.  No amount of insistence by me would convince him why he should, nor reasoning about rules, regulations, respect for team mates, the club etc.  And so he didn’t and he got away with it.  Apparently he never has worn them (no idea why).  Well tough love is telling his footy coach that next time he decides to flaunt the rules, he doesn’t go on the ground.  He doesn’t play by the rules, he doesn’t play period!

To be fair to Man-Child II, I’ve let him know that we’ve asked his coach to enforce this.  And when he came home from school on the day he forgot lunch, I did say I was sorry about being so angry, but did he understand that I was annoyed because he was disorganized yet again.  That’s when he admitted to turning on the TV.

So there you have it.  Tough Love.  I’m sure people who know me won’t be surprised that I endorse it.  It’s not always easy to do, but I’m convinced it’s worthwhile.  And hopefully deep down our men-children understand our motivation, if not now, then one day in the future.

Do you think I’m too tough?  Or not tough enough?  I promise I can take a stern talking to. 🙂