Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Surviving New Years Eve January 18, 2013

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Happy New Year to all!  Back after a three week break feeling very refreshed, although no doubt a week back at work will undo all the relaxation. Nevertheless, it was a very successful holiday with the kids, especially the men-children.  Testimony to this was the last night of our holiday away, when we asked if they would like to return to the same destination, and the same house next year, and the response was a resounding yes.

Initially we were somewhat concerned at the absence of the boys every day and night during our holiday– they were so quick to find their mates and things to do, father of a man-child felt we had wasted our money hiring a house that catered to the boys with their own sleeping and living area.  However we then reconsidered our position and agreed that a holiday where they were out having a good time, and we were having a good time with our daughter and friends and family was great for all.  A win-win so to speak.

Sister of a Man-Child wasn’t quite so enamoured with her holiday.  I suspect two things were a factor – one she loves having playmates, especially at the beach, so we need to ensure we catch up with friends and other kids (in the absence of her brothers).  And two, she did have a small accident that probably marred her holiday a bit.  Walking into the path of a cyclist doing almost 30kmh and being knocked violently to the road is bound to hurt.  So much so that we needed an ambulance to attend and a trip to the local hospital for some stiches and patching up of various grazes from top to toe.  Thankfully no broken bones so it didn’t completely ruin the second half of her holiday.

beer bottlesThe run up to NYE was interesting in itself.  We had kindly agreed that one of our men-children could have some friends to stay for the night, as most of his friends weren’t “local” to our holiday destination.  Of course, the pressure continued from him (or really his friends) to have more and more to stay.  I stood my ground to ensure we weren’t completely overrun with teenagers and successfully capped the number of bodies on spare mattresses on the actual night.  I also insisted that the girls that were attending (and not well known to me) either have their mothers call me or I would call them.  I wanted to be sure that firstly they had actually told their parents exactly what they were doing on the night, (yes, I have been a teenage girl before), ie. drinking alcohol, partying at the beach, then walking back to our home, and that also their parents understood that with our own friends to entertain, we weren’t going to be available to chase teenagers all over the place at midnight.

Controlling the sleep over was one thing, controlling “pre’s” (that’s short for pre-party drinks) quite another.  Naturally once the address was known, it seemed there were a few extras who decided they could come to our place early on New Years Eve (a bit stressful initially).  It gave me some insight into how quickly a party could get out of control and how strict you need to be with “invitations”.   So we had about 10 friends of one man-child, and suddenly the other man-child decided he too wanted to get into the act, so next thing he’s invited “the bois” (sic) and we have another half dozen teenagers.  To be fair he did ask permission first, and we did request names so we knew exactly who was attending (and all of them were known to us).

So what did we learn hosting a small gathering of teenagers for approx. four hours of “pre’s”:

  1. Make sure you feed them (helps line their stomachs and soak up the alcohol).  Keep it simple – snags, chicken wings and potato gems (I kid you not) proved very popular.
  2. Find countless excuses to “mingle” regularly.  Between several adults we did this, whilst also watching them from a balcony above at any rate.
  3. Don’t be afraid to interfere or take control, especially since it’s your house.  When we saw the shot glasses come out, they were quickly confiscated and the kids told “no shots on my watch thanks”.
  4. Expect the unexpected.  Like the girl whose mother dropped her off with a “thanks for having her to stay” and left me standing their gob-smacked thinking hang on a sec, that name wasn’t on the list.  I told the daughter I didn’t know where she planned to stay, but it wasn’t at our house and she knew that, and so did my son.
  5. Don’t be surprised to see just about every teenager smoking as well as drinking.  I really couldn’t believe they all smoked cigarettes – I thought in the last 30 years maybe things had changed in terms of attitudes to smoking.  Sadly, it seems it has not.
  6. Be thankful you are having “pre’s”.  It’s way less messy than what follows.

And what did my boys learn from the night:

  1. As parents we are “okay” sometimes, since we actually let them have “pre’s” and friends to stay.
  2. However, as parents we also call the shots and stick to our guns.
  3. We do like their friends, except the ones who lie to our faces.
  4. And lastly, that NYE is highly over-rated.  Naturally, once they hit the beach, where alcohol was prohibited (good), the party atmosphere died off pretty quickly and they were all home by about 12.30pm.  Even better.

There was a minor fuss the following day, when I learned that a few of them had been “rescued” from the beach late at night, having told another parent that we wouldn’t allow them to stay, and offered a bed at their house.  Instead of the REAL truth which was they were never INVITED to stay at our place in the first place.  And then they had the gall to turn up to our house the following morning to be collected by Mum.  You can imagine my views of the offending girls and how welcome they will be at my place in future can’t you?

So that was New Years for 2012/13.   We all survived it, and we all enjoyed it.  Will we do it again in 12 months time?  We shall see. 🙂

 

Not always the perfect parent June 1, 2012

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bookBeing a mother is a lot of things – joyful, fearful, enlightening, loving, exhausting, rewarding, hilarious, chaotic, spontaneous and so the list goes on.  And being a mother, we naturally wear many hats – teacher, cleaner, mentor, dishwasher, driver, cook, diplomat, doctor, psychologist (oh and wife, friend, daughter, sister as well).   When you sign up for the parenting gig, there’s no going back – it’s 365 days a year, 24/7.  As my father-in-law once said – you’re a parent for life.  You never really stop worrying about your kids – right until the day you leave the earth.

I think he’s 100% right, but quite frankly sometimes the relentlessness of parenting just wears you down.  I have no doubt that I am not the perfect parent.  Certainly I am not in the eyes of my men-children – oh no.  The perfect parent doesn’t make you do homework, but lets you go out whenever you want, doesn’t make you tidy your room, or nag you to take off your filthy footy boots rather than wear them through the house, and gives you an unending supply of cash to fund everything your heart desires.  The perfect parent has a great relationship with their teenager, and somehow always knows what to say to them when they’re angry or hurt, or annoyed, or worried (and don’t want to tell you).  The imperfect parent (guilty) just seems to spend a lot of time yelling at them to do the stuff they need to do, or wondering how it is they are so disrespectful towards me and how did I not manage to teach them that they can’t speak to their mother like that?  Worse still as the imperfect parent swears at them, should she be surprised when they choose to do it back?  (yep, guilty).

The perfect parent knows to count to ten, and not lose her cool, and not make idle threats, and not say things she shouldn’t.  Sadly, I have never been good at counting to ten – it’s not in my nature!

I’m not sure I am the perfect parent even in the eyes of Sister of a Man-Child.  When you hear “It’s okay mum, I know you’re too busy to help me/play with me/talk to me”, the feelings of failure are immense.  Is my life so damn packed full of stuff I have to do that even my youngest child is missing out on the love and attention she deserves from her parents?  Are we just so driven to do everything we have to do that we don’t stop for the very important things (but somehow not a deadline driven task) such as reading a book to our child, or listening to what they need to tell us?

That’s when being a working mother can take its toll on you emotionally.  When you almost feel like you are juggling so many balls in the air that you’re in danger of dropping them all.  Along the way you feel like you are half doing everything.   So you’re running out of time to answer all those emails at night, you’re a stressed wife with too much to do and barely time to exchange words, let alone have a nice conversation with your husband, you’re a useless class rep who’s not really doing what good class reps do, or you’re thinking about the sport commitments for the weekend and which child you will miss seeing play yet again?  And while we do all this, we have the iPhone, or iPad, or laptop within easy reach, all trying to grab our attention and distract us further.

I recently had the chance to head away for 4 days for a “work trip” (okay, so there wasn’t any work at all), a short break from the madness of life in general.  The absolute bonus when I got there was that none of my devices worked, so I was effectively disconnected from the world back home.  Can I tell you it was liberating.  I switched off completely, indulged in reading books (my child-free holidays are often spent devouring a good novel), and just spent time doing nothing.  It was soooooo good.  Did I miss home?  Nope, not in only four days.  I just lapped up the fact that I didn’t have to wash or cook for anyone else, that I could drink champagne for breakfast if I chose (I didn’t), go for a walk if I chose, go to bed early if I chose, or just lie by the pool and let time drift by.

Did it help me be a better parent?  Probably not.  But it did restore some balance in my life, some me-time, some think time, some free time.  As for parenting, I really wouldn’t give it (or them) up for the world (but it was nice to for four short days).  Sometimes it’s okay to be selfish. 🙂

So hands up, who else is a perfect parent?  I’ll feel much better if someone would tell me I’m normal!!

Of course it’s not all bad, as this post shows.   The Men-Children really do love me. 

 

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.

 

Mother of a Man-Child’s Top 10 Posts December 23, 2011

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As I post this week, I am celebrating a small milestone – 100 posts by Mother of a Man-Child.  Every Friday, for almost two years now, I have shared a little story about our life with the Men-Children (and not to be forgotten Sister of a Man-Child).

It all began with this story (All In Good Taste), which was really the inspiration for my blog in the first place.  I was so outraged at the behaviour of my teenage son, and no doubt the lack of control that I was facing, that it suddenly occurred to me to write about my experience, in order to vent my frustration, and for my own amusement.

I have had almost 6,000 views of my blog in that time, from a small but growing audience.  I have rarely been short of material, thanks solely to the Men-Children who are a constant source of inspiration for my writing.  I have also thoroughly enjoyed the comments from you, my readers, and the regular feedback.  It’s always nice to know people enjoy reading my stories. 🙂

To celebrate my little milestone, here’s 10 of my favourite posts.  The ones that caught my eye as I recalled what we’ve endured and/or survived over the last two years.  As it’s Christmas and we’re off on another Griswald Family Holiday, I’ll be having a short break from Mother of a Man-Child, but I’ll return early in 2012, no doubt with some more news of the Men-Children’s adventures from our next holiday!  Enjoy.

  1. Argue this logic (boys are NOT on the same wave-length as their Mother)
  2. Uninvited guests after midnight (what happens when you find four strange girls in your home at 3am)
  3. An arresting story (a close call for a shop-lifting man-child)
  4. The self-tattooing trend (sometimes teenagers are idiots)
  5. New Years Eve at Portsea (like Mother like Son, the attraction remains)
  6. A Princess Tale (a story about Sister of a Man-Child, in sharp contrast to the Men-Children)
  7. Sleeping over at a GIRL’S house (at 14 not my ideal scenario)
  8. Freezing on Cadet camp (a lesson learned for our stubborn man-child)
  9. Plains, Trains and Automobiles (what happens when your man-child is stuck in Adelaide for a week)
  10. Drug and Alcohol Education (our first experience with a dope-smoking son)

As always, feel free to share my posts with friends or relatives (or a publisher if you know one!).

Wishing you all a safe and happy Christmas and a wonderful start to 2012.

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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: Boys will be Boys on Camp January 21, 2011

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Over the summer holidays the Men-Children attended camp for a week.  It was actually run by their school.  As surprising as this may seem during the two-month long holidays that private schools enjoy, clearly someone wiser than myself understands the need for Men-Children and their parents to have a break from each other over this extended period.

The boys had wanted to attend this camp last year (at the end of Year 7).  As the camp fell in the first week of January, right when most families have their annual summer holiday together, I was adamant they should not go.  My husband agreed.  And so they didn’t.  Clearly these were signs of a mother desperate to retain a sense of control, and to hang onto the last remnants of family holidays as they slowly dissipated before her eyes.

This year the boys ended up on camp almost by mistake.  When we initially signed the paperwork it was for the senior camp in December, which I thought was a great idea as they have the entire month to do not much in my view.  A great way to fill in time and keep them off the streets quite frankly.  I much preferred primary school when they finished four days before Christmas.

The school contacted Mother of a Man-Child to confirm their attendance and the dates – yes in the first week of January.  Right in the middle of a holiday with their cousin from interstate and their grandfather, during our last stay at the family beach house (now sold).  Whilst my immediate response was “absolutely not”, I then gave consideration to the reasons we might let them go (apart from the fact that they wanted to).  In the end, common sense prevailed.  I figured that after a week with us at the beach, complaining that “it’s BORING, why can’t we have a house at Portsea, NONE of our friends are here, blah, blah” we would be more than happy to see them head off for five days and enjoy some respite from them.  Obviously there’s no doubt the feeling was reciprocal!!!

And yes for those who are thinking what spoilt children, even having a beach house to go to during summer, when it costs most families an arm and a leg to rent a beach house from the orthodontist you’ve made rich during the year whilst paying for Man-Childs teeth to be perfect, I agree.  And certainly they don’t appreciate our little sleepy hollow, complete with dirt roads and a general store, and no pub at all to attract feral young adults or Bogans.  It’s parent heaven – but clearly not teen heaven.

So off they went to camp, with much excitement and anticipation.  My excitement at five days of peace, theirs at five days of no nagging mother, being with mates, access to every water sport imaginable, and not one scrap of hygiene to worry about during the time.  Alas no amount of reminding Man-Child II to take his toothbrush worked.  He didn’t!  As he said “Who cares if you don’t brush your teeth or shower for five days – that’s what we do on every school camp.”  I’ll tell you who cares – me, and the orthodontist, that’s who.  Gross!

The upshot – my Men-Children had a great time at camp.  They came back tanned (with the mandatory sun burnt noses), looked like they’d grown two inches whilst away and developed yet more manly muscles, and were bursting with tales of what went on.  Not surprisingly most of these they were keen to share with their father not me (yep, I am getting used to this idea, very, very slowly).

They had been water-skiing, sailing, donut-ing, surfing, swimming and everything in between.  As the camp was run by Year 12 boys, and the attending boys are heading into Year 9, it also served as an “initiation” rite of sorts, with lots of boys pranks naturally.  Man-Child I was involved in one where he and a mate had to walk through the local supermarket dressed as girls.   Man-Child II proudly showed a video on his phone of the destruction of the camp mascot (a frog), to much hilarity.   (No live animals were harmed).

For my boys, this was just the sort of boisterous, boys-to-men stuff they like.  And probably just what they needed after living with their “psycho” mother all year.   No doubt it will be a unanimous decision to attend camp again next year. 🙂

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Be Alert But Not Alarmed! December 3, 2010

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Sometimes my men-children will share some random piece of information with me.  At the time, I typically think nothing of it, said information being fairly innocuous, but some days later, it’s more than likely that small but important piece of data will be linked to an event, and all the pieces will fall into place!

Here’s a recent example of the plotting and under-handedness of my men-children.  As is the practice in private schools, as we all know, the more you pay, the less time they attend.  So as we approach the end of their school term and the year, exams have been finished (that was a painful period trust me) and they are preparing for two months holiday (geez, I’ll be lucky to ever see long service leave and they get this every year).

Man-Child I casually mentioned to me the other day that his teacher had told them:  “Off the record boys, as next week is the last week of school, it doesn’t really matter if you come to school or not on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, but make sure you’re here for Monday (results day) and Friday (last day).”

My first thought – well, that’s a fabulous attitude to have in a school with fees the size of the national debt of Greece!  My second thought –  hell no, I want to reduce their school holidays, not increase them.

So my response to my son:  “You are going to school next week.  Every day.  I think that’s the wrong attitude for your teacher and the school to have.  Blah, Blah…….”  No doubt I ranted for a few minutes, as I tend to do, and no doubt Man-Child I stopped listening after the first 5 seconds.  But really, the message was pretty simple.  Go. To. School.

Hence you can imagine my surprise earlier this week when I received a call from Man-Child II.  He was at a school, but apparently his brother was not.  Upon the Head of Middle School noticing this, he asked my son where his twin brother was.  And realizing he had not attended school, simply said “Ring your Mother”.    Now for those who are wondering, the Head of Middle School happens to know us and our sons particularly well, having had several visits to his office during the year.  And clearly he knows who the boss is in our place – good call!

So I ring Father of a Man-Child first, to check what he knows about this situation.  He assures me that he told him to go to school, having found him lolling about in bed well after he should have headed to school.

Next I ring Man-Child I, who naturally doesn’t pick up the home phone or mobile.  So I text him:  “Get your arse to school.  You don’t have permission to stay home.  Call me ASAP”.  Reply:  “I’m at (Aunt’s) house, doing work for her.  I told Dad that.  And my form teacher even said it’s up to you and you parents if you come to school, ‘cause today we don’t do anything.”

So here’s the thing.  I obviously didn’t approve and had made my intentions pretty clear last week.  Father of a Man-Child didn’t approve, but clearly didn’t put his foot down quite strongly enough, and so Man-Child I takes the usual liberty and decides for himself that he now has tacit approval from said parent not to attend school.  Grrrr.

The up-shot of all this.  I eventually spoke to Man-Child I on the phone, and told him to get to school (insert very colourful language by mother at this point of the conversation).  He finished the job he was doing, and headed home only to discover himself locked out of the house.  Naturally he had left his house key and brain cells at home earlier that morning.  So he never made it to school.

Mother of a Man-Child:  0.  Man-Child I:  1.  Damn, I so hate to lose.  And am now giving Father of a Man-Child lessons in how to be much a much more hard-nosed parent – problem being he’s always been a softy, so it’s a bit of a stretch.  Hence it invariably falls to me “Gina” (the hard-faced-bitch) every time.

PS.  In case you’re wondering, no that is not a picture of me in the photo – I look far younger!!!   LOL!