Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Sometimes you just have to say NO! May 4, 2012

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roadAs you know we now have two learner drivers in the house. The upside – we got “chauffeured” to a school function the other evening – one drove us there, one drove us home. And we didn’t have to worry about nudging 0.05. (Don’t worry, I’m pretty certain you can’t be over the limit if you’re supervising the said learner driver, but you get my point – it’s the difference between relaxing over a glass or two of wine versus drinking water all night because you’re so paranoid you’ll get breathalysed on the way home).

The downside of learner drivers is when one of them asks if he can drive to Queensland with his girlfriend and her older brother in the July school holidays? Yes, the very same Man-Child who has the incredible sum of two hours driving practice currently under his belt (and in his log book). I am not giving any of you points for guessing what the response was, because it was an immediate “absolutely NOT” kind of response that should have ended the conversation right then and there. But alas, it was our Man-Child who won’t ever take NO for an answer. The one who just goes on and on at you in the hope you’ll just give in. But as you know, I’d sooner throw a cask of wine at him than give in. (If you don’t know that story, you can read it here for your own amusement).

Now please don’t get me wrong, we’re not averse to our son having a holiday in Queensland with his girlfriend and the older 30-something brother, but he seemed shocked that we would want ANY detail at all? For example, where in Queensland would you stay? (Last time I checked it’s a mighty large state!) Does the brother work? Will he be on holidays with you or working every day? Who else is going? What does he do for a job? (Okay, maybe a little nosy, but we don’t know him at all, so it’s a fair question). Who does he live with? (I can’t help but have visions of a group of bong smoking, tequila-drinking boys playing cards).

My son was affronted by my questions, and couldn’t understand why I didn’t automatically trust an older brother. Simple I said – because he’s not a PARENT!!! And that changes everything in my book, fairly or not.  And so the conversation went around and around. Can I go by car to Queensland but only as a passenger? NO. Especially since his girlfriend who doesn’t even have her Learner’s permit yet was proposing to test her driving skills (using that term very loosely) on the way to Queensland.

I have done the Queensland drive more than I’d prefer to remember. My scariest memory is leaving the road travelling at 100kmh with a mate (who was driving) and hitting the grass paddock roadside – it could have ended a very different story if there’d been trees trust me. Or with my father driving years ago and the car just missing the semi trailer coming in the opposite direction, who didn’t have his headlights on at dusk as we overtook another car. I think my father nearly had heart failure when he realised what we’d just avoided!!!

So yet again, the wisdom of the parent is lost on the child. I think we’ve made our position clear for now, but we are often getting the “Now I’m 16 I can do what I want” response on a regular basis. How we deal with that is a whole other blog post best left for another time.

So tell me, are we being too tough? Or paranoid? Should we be worried or not about the driving? Or the unknown older brother? I’d love to know what you think.

 

Teenage Torture Techniques November 18, 2011

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Before you worry that we are monster parents who are torturing our men-children, it’s quite the opposite.  We are regular victims of “Teenage Torture”, a tried and true technique used by adolescents to wear down their parents when a decision is not considered favourable.

We all know that as a parent one of our key responsibilities is to make good decisions on behalf of our children.  This is especially true when they are very young, and are completely dependent on you for everything.  As children get older, there is a slow and eventual shift to their own decision-making, and along the way you hope you have provided them with the right guidance, but also an understanding of how to make decisions that are on the whole the right one, based on considered thought and reasonably sound judgement.

And somewhere along this spectrum is the difficult teenage period, when they think you don’t understand them at all, and that you don’t know anything, (no we’ve never been a teenager have we?) yet somehow you are able to make decisions on their behalf.    A couple of recent cases in point, which have caused a fair amount of discussion/debate/angst in our house:

Pre-drinks on race day:

You would have read recently that we had to be very firm and put our foot down to stop a bunch of teenage boys descending on our home recently ahead of a Melbourne Cup Carnival race meeting.  If they’d been allowed to, they all would have bought along a 6 pack of beers and sculled them before going to the races.  Thankfully we quoted recent legislation that meant we could be fined $7,000 if we gave underage kids alcohol without parental consent so we were saved.  But we had to withstand over a week of pressure from Man-Child I to relent.

Christmas Holidaysfireworks

We recently decided that our planned Christmas holiday was going ahead.  For most, a trip to Sydney to see the sights would be exciting to say the least, especially when it includes such icons as Bondi Beach, and the Coat Hanger bridge.  However, when the said holiday includes New Years Eve then the trouble starts.  The objections list went like this:

  • “What do you mean we’ll be in Sydney for NYE?”  (OMG, my life as I know it is over, I have to spend NYE with my PARENTS)!!!
  • “We have plans already” (about staying up all night and how much we’re going to drink)!
  • “Can’t you just send us home on an earlier flight so we can be with our friends?” (and use the empty house for a great party).
  • “You can call our mobiles whenever you want to find out where we are” (they won’t know we’re not at home when they call).

Now I don’t know about you, but the men-children are 15 (almost 16 and yes going on 25), but we just don’t think it’s a responsible decision to allow them to fly home 3 days before us, and then to allow them to head off somewhere for a NYE party.  It’s not a responsibility we want to pass onto anyone else, and we’re just not prepared to do it.  We did explain our decision to them, and the reasons for it.  The timing of the holiday is driven by my new job, which dictates when we can take the break.  We also explained it may be the last time they want to come with us for a family holiday (unless of course we pick a nice exotic destination), and that there’s plenty more NYE’s to come.  But as I remember all too clearly, at 15 all you want to do is be with your friends, and NYE does seem to take on some ridiculous mantle of excitement and superiority over any other night of the year for some reason.  As we all know, when you get older you can’t even be bothered staying up until midnight sometimes.

Alas, having made the decision and booked the flights (totally committing us) we are now enduring “Teenage Torture”.  At 7am the other morning, just as I had finished making the school lunches, and was wolfing down breakfast, Man-Child II appeared to raise the subject again.  “Why can’t we fly home from Sydney early”…..etc etc (see above).  I don’t expect we’ve heard the last of it.  Likely it will be a common theme running right up to Christmas.  It reminds me of the days of toddlers, and tantrums, and the constant nagging in the hope you would just say “here, have the bloody thing and now shut up would you!”.

Girlfriend Sleepovers

The other great point for debate has been over having the girlfriend to stay over.  And we’re not just wanting her to stay at our house, but in his room and in his bed.  Call me prudish, but that just is NOT happening now.  They are still only 15!! To make matters worse, it seems this is now allowed at her house since they have been officially GF/BF.  Hmmm, not happy to learn about that either.  Both Father of a Man-Child and I are adamant on this, and refuse to give in, at least until he gets a bit older, and if they’ve been going out for longer than two months!  Nevertheless, the Teenage Torture methods are again being employed.  Man-Child II appears at odd times to subtly bring up the conversation yet again.

  • Can she stay over on x night?  Yes sure.
  • Where will she sleep?  Downstairs.
  • Why can’t she stay in my room, with my other mate too?   Because he’ll be on the floor and she’ll be in your bed.  No.
  • Are you serious?  Yes.  Then don’t have her to stay at all.

Teenage Torture is relentless.  It’s constant, always there, ready to test your resolve, looking for a moment of weakness in the event you might just change your mind.  The best remedy is Parental Persistence – just don’t give in once you’ve made up your mind.  It’s exhausting, but sometimes we just know best (don’t we?)!

Please tell me, are we wrong?  Are we being too prudish?  Does it really matter if the GF stays?  Should we lose an occasional battle to win the war?  Or stick to our guns?  Help!!!

In case you missed the related stories:  The Races and Girlfriend Sleepovers

 

Girlfriends for sleepovers? October 14, 2011

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kiss“Mum, I have a girlfriend.”  “Do you darling, that’s nice”.  “Can she stay over, in my room?”  “Of course she can, no problems, and I’ll bring you both breakfast in bed the next morning.”  Okay, that’s NOT how the conversation went.  But imagine if that’s what I had said to my 15-year-old Man-Child.  He definitely would have thought I’d completely lost my mind – he knows I’m not that liberated.

Seriously though, we did have the conversation recently, whilst on holidays.  Man-Child II innocently lobbed this fact over the dinner table to me whilst out a restaurant (I think he was using a public place to ensure I didn’t completely lose it given how the questions unfolded).  I told him I thought he already had a girlfriend, but now it seems it’s “official”.  It is a girl I have met.  In fact it’s the girl who lied to my face a few months back…..no wonder she’s kept a low profile.  Anyway, I can move on!

I was initially thrilled that he had chosen to share this with me, however as the conversation progressed, it became clear why.  It was so he could quite seriously ask if it would be alright if she stayed over some time.  But not just stayed over as a friend would, but stayed over in his room, in his queen size bed, with the bedroom door closed.  (I’m hyperventilating now just thinking about it again).

As I mentioned, we were in a restaurant, so I couldn’t lose it.  I didn’t want to give him an outright no and appear totally unreasonable (just yet), so I asked a few more questions whilst I tried to collect my inner thoughts.  One of which was “Are you having sex”!!!!  His answer was no – and I have no way of knowing if that’s the truth or not, but I am happy to believe him.   I also asked what her parents thought of her staying the night – they hadn’t been asked.  Hmmm.  I suspect they were optimistically going for the “Man-Child’s mum thinks it’s okay, so do you too”?

I know my son has stayed at her place before, but with a whole host of boys and girls, and he assures me he slept on the couch.  I recall speaking to the mother at the time who told me the girls and boys were well separated and her bedroom was in between – excellent arrangement!

Of course I grew up with fairly strict Catholic parents, who didn’t allow my boyfriends to EVER sleep at our house.  And my parents-in-law finally let me and Father of a Man-Child share a room at the beach house once we were engaged (oh and I was allowed to call them by their first names then too – yep, a tad old-fashioned and conservative).

So back to the decision.  I told him I wasn’t really keen to have girlfriends staying in his room just now, mainly because I didn’t want to condone sex amongst teenagers who aren’t even 16.  (No probs if she was to stay in the spare room downstairs).  He went to his father for an opinion, who was for once even more assertive than me and gave him a very flat NO!  Yay.  Man-Child continued to badger us for a couple of hours that night, reminding us that at 16 he will be able to do what he wants, but we haven’t heard about it again since.  I did sound like my parents when I said “It’s our house, and while you live in it, you abide by our rules”.

I’m sure at some stage we’ll agree to a girlfriend staying over in his room, but for now, it’s not on.  I even asked about his mates – he assured me half of them hadn’t even kissed a girl, so they’re years behind our man-child.   Great, we get the early developer!!

So what do you think?  Are we right?  Or are we too prudish for our own good?  When do you think it’s okay to have “sleepovers” of this kind?

Read about the lying incident here: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Liar, Liar Pants on Fire April 15, 2011

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Maybe it was the fact that I’d caught Man-Child II wagging at home on said day, that my lie detector radar was more finely tuned than normal.  Either that, or just having two 15-year-old men-children has enhanced my skills in this area.  That and having been a 15-year-old myself of course (a fact most adolescents can’t actually believe about their parents).

So after Man-Child II had eventually made it to school for the last day of term (following countless threats from Mother of a Man-Child), he and a few mates planned to go out.  He casually saunters in to mention that he’s staying at his “girlfriends” house (I use inverted commas because I call her that but he might only say she’s a close friend).  I instantly suggest he re-phrase the question and he responds:  “Okay, Mum is it alright if I stay at GF’s house tonight?”  Sorry to seem anal, but in my book 15 year olds still ask permission, they don’t just tell.

Now he had actually stayed there before with a large number of people, and I’d spoken to the mother to ensure everything was kosher.  So I said I guessed it was okay, but could I just have the mother’s number again to ensure it was fine.  “Sure, I’ll text it to you later” (meaning I’ll never bother to).  “No, GF is standing right here, please just give me the number for your mother.”

Following a swift glance between my son and GF (which I couldn’t help but notice and which made even more sense later), she tells me the number, but has to consult her mobile phone because it’s new apparently.  Okay, no problems.  So off they head to Maccas apparently on the way to GF’s house.

So I ring the mother on her mobile.  I’ve spoken to her before, but wouldn’t recognize her voice to be honest.  Pleasant chit-chat ensues…..”Hi it’s Man-Child II’s mother, just wanting to make sure it’s okay if he stays over etc….” Then I can’t help but say to her “Gee, you sound very young, in fact almost too young to be GF’s mother.  Obviously that’s a compliment I say” feeling like I’m treading where I shouldn’t go.  And then I have the conviction of my instincts and casually say “Look sorry, I’ll have to call you back, can you give me your home phone”.  And suddenly, I am met with silence on the end of the phone.  The deathly silence of someone who has been caught out – BINGO!!!

And the voice that now sounds even younger on the end of the phone says “I don’t know the number”.  “Oh really I say, so this isn’t GF’s mother is it?”.  “No”.  “Then who am I talking to?”  She tells me.  And so I say simply ”(name), next time your friend asks you to lie for her, and to lie to me, I’d strongly recommend you say No!  And obviously, you won’t be seeing Man-Child II at the party tonight!”

Father of a Man-Child is standing beside me laughing, in total awe of my detective skills.  He’s always known I don’t miss much (or really anything) but this is taking my expertise to new levels.

My next call is to Man-Child II, killing the romantic dinner at Maccas, cancelling the joy of the night to come, and telling him he has 15 minutes to get his lying arse home or there will be even more trouble.

Turns out he wasn’t planning on staying at the GF’s house, but somewhere else, and the parent wasn’t home until late, and since he knew I’d say no he came up with another story.  And so we had a discussion about trust, and telling the truth, and the need to try us out occasionally and just maybe we’d let him go.  And over time, eventually we’d let him go without asking any questions or calling any parents because we knew we could trust him.

I also said, here’s another way to look at it Man-Child II – next time, tell me both the lie and then the truth – you might find I prefer the truth and say yes !!  I realize this could backfire big time, but he got what I meant – honestly!! 🙂

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Sleeping over at a GIRL’S house! November 5, 2010

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At the risk of sounding prudish, let me declare up front – I don’t think my 14-year-old son should be allowed to sleep at his girlfriend’s house!  There, I’ve said it.  If you don’t agree with me, that’s perfectly fine.  You are entitled to your opinion, and me mine.  Am I the product of my parents?  Absolutely!  I’m a positive mini-me of them, right down to the fact that my men-children get away with not much, and I am “extremely strict” according to my boys.

But back to the sleepover.  As is his devious way, Man-Child II called me all sweet and innocent to ask if he could stay over at his girlfriend’s house one evening.  For once, he actually rang me in the middle of the day, rather than at 6pm at night – forewarned is forearmed as they say.  This particular girlfriend (yes his second one – I’m still recovering from him having the first one), actually has a twin brother that attends school with him – oh good, I hear you think, safety in numbers.

Now I really try not to be a prudish mother stuck in the 18th century, so rather than a blanket “no” I asked if I could have the parents number and chat with them first, and then I would make a decision – not before!  Buying me time, and him the opportunity that for some reason maybe it would be kosher after all.

But as is typical in Man-Child land, of course nothing went to plan.  At 6pm that evening I called my son to ask why I hadn’t received the parent’s mobile number yet?  Some bullshit story about flat mobile phone batteries followed, and him being separated from his girlfriend so he couldn’t possibly text me the number followed.  “But Mum can I please stay there?  Is it okay?  I promise I’ll get you the number…..”  And so yet again, under pressure, exhausted at the end of the working week, worn down by the relentlessness that is a teenager, I said yes.  But I still want that number.

As it transpires, I was on my way to meet colleagues for a few drinks, so it was 8pm before I called home to check if my husband had heard from Man-Child II.   Of course not!  So I ring my son and ask some more questions.  By now alarm bells had started to ring – Mum and Dad divorced (so of course they pick Dad’s house), twin brother nowhere to be seen, hmm, sounding more and more suspicious now isn’t it?   So once at home (and still no phone call from the parent) Mother of a Man-Child goes into overdrive.  There is nothing scarier than a woman whose son is trying to get away with something.  So I called his girlfriend’s house – “Dad’s not here, he’s just out for dinner and won’t be far away, but he’d said Man-Child II could stay” – oh sure, and I’m the Queen of England!  Thanks, I’ll just have Dad’s mobile number right now.  When she told me she didn’t know it, I told her bullshit and said try again.  Strangely enough that had the desired effect and suddenly she remembered it.

So I call his mobile – no answer.  So I call back and demand the mother’s mobile – and don’t even think about telling me you don’t know that!  So two parents that I have never met have messages from a complete stranger (but the boyfriend of their daughter) pleading for them to please call me as I’d just like to confirm that my son can stay for a SLEEPOVER (not that they’ll be getting any sleep)!!!

Eventually the father returns my call, and (not very reassuringly) tells me it’s fine if Man-Child II stays.  And incidentally lets me know that he only found out very late (what a surprise).  I explain to him that yet again I feel like I’ve been duped, by my son and his daughter, and that for the record his daughter wouldn’t be allowed to stay at my house for a sleepover (read between the lines – I’m sure you all get my hidden message).   Subtle is not really in my vocabulary.

The best part – the next day his girlfriend’s mother returned my call, delighted at the chance to chat and exchange notes.  I was so pleased to discover she and I are on EXACTLY the same page.  She had already told her daughter no sleepovers with my son were allowed, and had even told my son off one night when apparently he let her daughter go home on the tram alone in the dark – music to my ears, a sensible parent not afraid to lay down the law.  I’m not sure where I was because I certainly wouldn’t have allowed that either.  And her relationship with her daughter sounded just like mine – full of teenage desire and parental rules – a recipe for fireworks every time.

So Mother of a Man-Child was duped again yes, but I did feel better knowing that I wasn’t the only parent in the entire universe that had some moral standards.  And we both agreed parents must unite in the war against our rebellious teenagers – it’s what keeps us all sane, and certain we are on the right path after all.

 

Mother of a Man-Child: How late is too late for teenagers? July 2, 2010

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The social life of Man-Child I continues unabated.  This year, the social life of Man-Child II has caught up, and almost leapfrogged his brother.  It’s amazing how quickly one is sucked into the vortex that is teenage parties and “gatherings” (for the un-initiated the two are VERY different), and therefore the associated role of playing taxi and ensuring you know where they are going, when, with whom, what time they will be home, etc etc.

The other night Man-Child II and I had a rather heated debate about a forthcoming party.  As it was for a special friend, he wanted to go to the “after party” at the birthday girl’s house (well in fact his GIRLFRIEND – can you tell I am still in shock?) and was to be dropped home at 1am by a very generous parent.  But the reason for the fight, was that he was asking to be home later!!!!  And five of the boys wanted to stay at someone’s house together, and no doubt be up until 3am in the morning – not on your life.!

I thought we were being very, very generous in allowing him to be out that late given his age (fourteen).  Of the parties my boys have attended, the latest finish time to date has been 11.30pm, plenty late enough in my view.  I was so concerned about the apparent intent of the boys that I contacted a couple of the other mums, just to give them the heads up.  I was relieved to discover that in fact their boys were not even to attend the after party, so relatively we actually looked “slack” for once.

I subsequently confirmed with Man-Child II that some of his mates would in fact not be attending the after party.  I also extracted an apology and he even acknowledged that he was extremely lucky to be allowed out until 1am.   The vision of the irrational, very angry, screaming teenager who “hated” me with such passion will remain, and no doubt repeat itself many times in the coming years.  As will the vision of the parent standing their ground and just saying “no” repeatedly, because they refused to bow to the whims of a teenager who thinks he is an adult.

At this rate I can’t wait until they’re 25 and nice again!