Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Changing man-child dynamics March 29, 2014

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twin toddler boysNothing makes a mother happier than hearing her children get along, actually talking like friends, genuinely interested in each other. On occasion I stand at the bottom of the stairs, a silent observer, enjoying listening to the men-children’s conversation. At other times, they hear me arrive at the bottom of the stairs, abruptly stopping their conversation, and asking me if I want something (sprung)!!

Around 18 years ago, funnily enough we did the same thing.  Father of a Man-Child and I used to stand at their bedroom door, listening to them “talk” to each other, in their wonderful baby babble, cooing and gurgling from one cot to another. It was incredibly special to witness and something I will never forget.

Growing up as a twin myself, I realise how fortunate I was to have an in-built playmate.  As a parent of twins, it was similarly wonderful to have two boys to entertain each other constantly.  They rarely fought until their teenage years, when as the arguments escalated (along with their surging hormones), I recall telling them that as much as they “hated” each other at the time, eventually they would be incredibly close and enjoy each other’s company regularly, just as my twin sister and I do now.

We were very similar as teens – growing up in a house of four girls, all close in age, and very different personalities, there were plenty of cat fights.  My twin and I were as opposite as the men-children, which of course always leads to conflict. But over time, as our paths diverged, we naturally seemed to come back together.

I now delight in seeing similar behaviours amongst my own boys.  I think as they have matured, and followed their divergent interests over the last 12 months, the dynamics of their relationship are changing.  I honestly believe they are actually growing to enjoy each other’s company, at the end of their working and school days, discussing common interests (cars does it every time), or common friends and acquaintances.

I was taken by surprise recently when one admitted to me he was actually “jealous” of his brother (and it wasn’t the one I expected to say it).  It told me that for all the bluster, deep down there is mutual admiration and respect, and that they really do care for each other.  Hence my absolute confidence that they will be firm friends during their adult years.

What will be interesting will be to see how their relationships form with their younger sister – the 7 year age gap may have an impact on their adult relationships, but there are many factors that can influence how that evolves.  I hope it is as strong as my relationship with my siblings.

How has your relationship developed with your siblings? Did it improve over time? Do you now have close relationships?

Almost 3 years ago, I saw a glimpse of friendship between them – most likely short-lived at that time of their lives: 
https://motherofamanchild.com/2011/07/15/do-the-men-children-actually-like-each-other/

 

Letter to a Man-Child June 28, 2013

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letterDear Men-Children

I know it’s hard to believe, but I have been a teenager before.  I well remember thinking my parents were the world’s strictest on the earth, and in fact my friends would probably tell you they were.  I also remember thinking that I knew an awful lot, and could take care of myself, and that they didn’t really understand what it was like being a teenager, especially since they were soooo old (in fact my parents were a lot younger than many of my friends parents), but guess what, they were teenagers once too!

I know you want your independence and that at almost 18 you think you should be allowed to do whatever you want, but as you live under our roof, it goes without saying that you really are obliged to do what we say, play by our rules and RESPECT our decisions.  It may be that you can’t wait to leave home, and sometimes part of me can’t wait either, especially when you are being quite revolting towards me and rebellious and won’t take no for an answer, but you need to know you are very much loved and there is always a place for you at home.

You need to know that our job as parents is not to be your best friend.  I have always maintained if I am mistakenly doing that during your teenage years then I’m probably not being a very good parent.  I am not interested in being “popular”, I’m interested in your welfare and well-being.  So if we actively discourage you from doing certain things, or making the wrong choices, it’s because we’ve either learned from our own experience or as outside observers are concerned about what is going on.  I know some things you just need to experience and learn from yourself, but sometimes parents will and should step in, and as you know, we aren’t afraid to do that from time to time.

I will nag you along the way, especially if I need you to do something.  Why?  Because you need to understand your place in the world, and your part in it.  Sometimes it’s necessary to conform or co-operate, even if it goes against your nature.  If you are to succeed later in life, you need to be able to adapt to the environment and make appropriate decisions.  That starts in the small world called home, and extends to the school world, and eventually to the working world   Our job as parents is to guide you and give you lessons in life, in the same way your teachers do.

I do like your friends (even if I can’t remember all of their names), I enjoy a house full of young people, I like to see you spending time with them and they are always welcome in our home (and to our food – but not our grog)!  I am always happy for small gatherings, provided you are honest about how many are coming, and when, and for how long.  And I am excited about an 18th birthday party (for each of you naturally), if you would like one.  It’s a milestone to celebrate – and we promise we won’t embarrass you at your own party (will we Father of a Man-Child?).

I do like to know about your day, and how you spent it.  You might think it’s boring, but I want to know what you did at work, or at school, or on the sporting field – the more detail the better.  You are our children – hence our biased view and hunger for information about your lives.   Perhaps take a leaf out of your younger sister’s book – she recounts everything in so much detail you could write a small book – but at least we know exactly what she thinks and feels. 🙂

I like you coming on holidays with us, and spending time as a family, and I honestly think that you enjoy it too (although one of you is seriously borderline).  I know sometimes the thought of spending your holidays with your PARENTS is not your idea of fun, particularly if it means missing out on something special with your friends, or a big event, but perhaps you should be grateful for the wonderful holidays we have, and the places you have seen, and the number of times you have holidays each year.  Many people are not nearly as fortunate as you.   When you are 18, and working, you can go on holidays wherever you like.  But we’ll still invite you on our holidays and again, you will always be welcome to join us.

Lastly, I know you don’t really like each other much at the moment.  I am not sure why you haven’t really grown out of this phase.  Of course you are both very different (something we love), but I think it’s time to put your differences aside (even celebrate them), and start getting along.  We’re pretty tired of the constant fighting and arguing amongst you – it’s really unpleasant for all of us, and imagine how your sister feels with you both yelling and then us (parents) both yelling?  Madhouse or what?  I am sorry if you learnt how to yell from me – I wish I could change it, but I can’t take it back.  But we can all try to yell a little less.

I know you have heard all of this before, but sometimes it’s better to write something down than to say it (again).  It doesn’t involve any yelling and you have to listen!  A bit like text messages. 🙂

All my love

Mother of a Man-Child

 

No room for Mums….. October 19, 2012

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bridgeBeing a mother of teenage men-children is an interesting journey. The boys that needed you so much for so many years as their primary carer, no longer look to you first for help and advice with everything. On the contrary, they look to and respect the opinions of their friends and peers first, older boys second, sporting coaches, teachers or other authority figures next, and parents coming in a long way last.

Trust me, 16 year old boys know everything and don’t need parents at all!  Except when they need a lift somewhere, or to know how to open a bank account, get a tax file number, put on a washing machine, fill the dishwasher or hang out some clothes.  And if they want something, they don’t necessarily ask their mother first anymore (especially if they think their father will lend a more sympathetic ear). Even more so if it’s a blokey activity, which I can appreciate and actually think is healthy for boys. You know, that male bonding stuff.

It’s certainly a challenge for one’s ego parenting teenagers, even more so as Mother of a Man-Child. In my mid 40’s, it’s fair to say I am loving life. Great mates, great job, great family, at my healthiest in years, good work/life balance, good network of friends and colleagues. However such is the power of teenagers that in a split second your ego can be inflated by a few simple words (“Mum, you look great” – if only they could say it without surprise in their voices), then instantly deflated with a look from them that needs no words, rendering said mother as “useless”.  If you are having a moment of weakness, these incidents can cut you to the core, leaving you feeling bereft, and almost in mourning for the children you once had, and the adoration they once bestowed upon you.

And God forbid you should attempt to talk to their friends.  Most of them seem very nice to me and happy to chat upon arrival in our home. Yet one of my men-children in particular (and to be fair not his brother) practically drags his friends out of the room, so quick is he to escape our presence.  I can only assume it’s embarrassment on his part – perhaps we are not up to his standards?  They say the grass is always greener on the other side – does the same extend to parents?  Are everyone else’s parents somehow cooler than your own?  No doubt.

Thankfully I still have Sister of a Man-child, who still wants and needs her mother. Me and my ego soak that up every day, knowing too well it is a temporary state.  Fortunately, as Celia Lashlie’s book “He’ll be OK” showed, I also have confidence the men-children will return to me in due course, and be the nice young men we are bringing them up to be, who love and appreciate their Mum (and of course their Dad and sister). 🙂

I have written about the journey across the adolescent bridge before:  It’s a Man’s world

 

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?

 

Do The Men-Children Actually LIKE Each Other? July 15, 2011

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yin and yangAs those who know my men-children will tell you, they are extremely different.  Not just in looks but also in personality.  They have different friends, are quite opposite in their natural strengths, have diverse interests (except playing sport), have completely different fashion approaches, and like all siblings they fight a lot.

This year a couple of their individual friends moved to a different school together.  Not surprisingly new allegiances have been formed amongst these boys, thrown together in a new environment, and as a result new relationships have developed with my men-children.  One day I seemed to have one man-child talking about a mate regularly that plays in the same sports team, the next week he’s here with my other man-child and moreover now seems to be a permanent fixture with the latter.

The big surprise came when Man-Child II asked if he could stay over at a friend’s – who just happened to be the BFF (“Best Friends Forever”) of Man-Child I – go figure!  I was so taken aback I said he could stay as long as he told his brother first – I thought that was at least fair.  Man-Child I didn’t seem to mind at all.  And went so far as to lend his twin brother a jumper – yet another first in our household.  Trust me normally there’s a complete shit fight over the Bonds jocks, school shirts, footy shorts, Skins, and socks every morning – they just don’t do the sharing thing well at all.

So whilst my boys show disdain for each other often, at least at home, obviously their friends find them both good guys, and maybe not so different after all?  Or they enjoy their differences and uniqueness, just as they do with all their friends.

So is this a sign of things to come?  A new era of loving, sharing, caring men-children?  Based on the fighting going on upstairs at the moment and the charming language filtering down the stairs whilst I write this post, I very much doubt it.  But hey, mother of a man-child is always open to surprises. 🙂

Read more about the boys “play-fighting” here:  Testosterone Power Surge in Melbourne Suburb

 

 

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: Fond Farewells October 16, 2010

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Like most teenagers, my men-children spend their weekends out and about with friends, in preference to being at home (especially if the “rents” (parents) are about!).   We are lucky if we even find out when they are leaving the house, let alone where they might be going, with whom, and when they’ll return (normally for dinner – after all a bloke’s gotta eat right?).

Their logic would no doubt be “got a mobile, you want to find me, call it” or some such pragmatic but utterly unthinking response.  And on school mornings it’s much the same – out the door they go.  It’s only good fortune if they happen to pass you and grunt a farewell as they make their exit.  I of course always make a point of loudly saying “Bye (insert name)” so they get the message – subtle aren’t I?

So on a recent trip interstate for four nights, it was interesting to observe the different farewells afforded to me.  Man-Child I headed off with friends on the weekend, and was apparently reminded to say goodbye to me before he left by his father.  As I was on the phone myself I got a cursory wave from my son as he talked into his mobile – yep, CYA!  Wow, impressive huh?  More than a little underwhelming, and actually a little surprising from him.

Man-Child II headed out the door a few hours later.  As he saw me he muttered “CYA” as normal.  Then I reminded him I was going away for four nights and to “be good for dad and kind to your sister”.  My heart positively leapt as he walked back in the door and gave me an awkward hug, and said sweetly “Bye Mum, have a good trip”.  OMG, he actually hugged me, voluntarily, and wished me luck.  WOW!  There should be more of it – definitely.  It warms the cockles of the heart.

I rang Man-Child I later on his mobile just before I headed off to the airport.  When I commented on his earlier farewell, he admitted he’d only thought about my extended absence when he got to the tram – that was when he realized what his father had been banging on about!  Clearly one needs to be very specific with teenage boys – they just don’t connect the dots sometimes do they (or is that a bloke thing also)?  Anyway, he then wished me a great trip and assured me he’d be good.

So I left Melbourne feeling like I would be missed just a little, and confident they would all survive my absence (a couple of freezer meals ensured they wouldn’t starve at least).  Of course my darling daughter gave me 500 hugs before I left, because at seven years old they still believe you are the most clever, important, wonderful person in the whole world.  🙂