Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

House Rules January 19, 2014

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written house rulesHappy New Year to all – back into the routine with a vengeance (being back at work will do that to you)!  I am the first to admit the almost 3 week break which included the joyous madness that is Christmas was absolutely delightful, and a wonderful way to recharge the batteries after what was an incredibly busy but fruitful year.

We seemed to spend the time doing a lot of all the things one should – sleeping, exercising, eating wonderful food, catching up with friends, lounging on the beach, enjoying fine wine and G&T’s – is there a drink more synonymous with summer holidays?

Whilst some might complain about the weather over the Xmas/new year period, I didn’t mind the mixed bag at all, as it allowed us down time and the opportunity to do other things that we might not have done if it was a heat wave.  The latter was naturally saved for the week we were back home and I was at work, and quite frankly, that wasn’t a bad thing.  There is hot, and then there is OMG, that is so frigging stinking hot I can’t breathe/sleep/eat/walk/think…….

The men-children and their sister all loved their holiday too – not that we saw much of the boys – they were out every day, out every night, busy hanging with their friends and generally having a good time.  We did survive another New Years Eve “pres” (short for pre-party drinks), which interestingly turned into more of a “gathering” in my book, since they were at our place until 11ish, but a year older and wiser, it all seemed to go quite smoothly.   It might have had something to do with the consent form we insisted they all sign upon arrival, confirming parental permission to drink and waiving any responsibility by us for them once they elected to leave our home and go elsewhere.  The next day I was so relieved that we had no major incidents, that I took to playing Mother Theresa and fed them all (or rather their hangovers) with pasta and toasties.

As you would expect, the minute we walked in the door, the boys (rarely together over the holiday break) proceeded to fight as usual upstairs.  How easily they slipped back into their routine, squabbling about whose clothes had been left on the bathroom floor, or foodstuffs on the coffee table, etc.  It made our blood pressure rise instantly, undoing all the good of a relaxing holiday.  And as is my preference, I immediately put pen to paper, in an effort to get them back on track.  They both came home the following day to the sign below on their bedroom doors – a subtle reminder of how we expect them to behave, and to let them know who is boss (okay, stop laughing)!

So there they are, for your amusement, enjoyment, and reference, should you need them at some point in the future.

House rules

  • Please do not leave dirty plates/bowls/cups/rubbish in lounge area for more than 24 hours (consider educating your friends to do the same!).
  • Please do not leave your belongings lying around in the lounge – your bedrooms are the place for your personal effects.
  • Please do not leave your dirty clothes in the bathroom – either put them in your room or better still the washing basket.
  • Please hang up your towels when wet rather than leave them on the floor.
  • If you both want to play loud music and/or watch TV then one should use the headphones, especially if homework is being done.
  • If you want to borrow things from each other please ask first.  And similarly, if you refuse a reasonable request then have a good reason.
  • Please respect each other’s rooms and do not enter bedrooms uninvited.
  • Please let us know where you are going and when you are returning home. We pay for your phones so NO excuses.
  • Please do not help yourselves to things that are not yours without asking.

I’d like to say there has been a marked improvement since the sign went up, but as one has been on a rowing camp for the last week, the issues don’t exist.  We shall see what happens upon his return!

Do you have your own set of “house rules” for your kids? Do you have them posted somewhere?  We could probably have another set in the kitchen now that I think of it. 🙂

 

The meaning of Christmas December 20, 2013

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Santa sackChristmas means different things to different people.  For some, it’s a time of year to celebrate everything special about family and kids.  For others, it’s about surviving insane relatives for a few days, and trying not to drag family secrets out of the closet.  For still others, it’s a time of year that serves to amplify their loneliness, especially if they are away from family or wanting their own.  For many of us, Christmas is a marker of time, a reminder to us of the loss of someone close to us as we mourn another year without them.

And for my children, Christmas has different meanings too.  For Sister of a Man-Child, the excitement about Christmas started early, begging to put up our tree well before December.  I know the shops couldn’t wait to put the decorations out, but we drew the line at December 1 for our tree at home.  Likewise, her Christmas list was written quite a while ago – just as well for Santa who has to put in special orders before the rush amid the threat of popular toys disappearing off the shelves (she of course just imagines he is busy making as many as are required)!

For one of the Men-Children, he seems completely disinterested in Christmas.  He doesn’t seem worried about having no presents for Xmas Day, otherwise he would have organised to go shopping with his mother for the clothing he wants.  And he has been given plenty of notice that his mother WILL NOT be anywhere near a retail store on the 24th of December, so I guess it will have to wait (and not for the Boxing Day sales either).  C’est la vie.

Conversely, the other man-child jumped at the first chance to go shopping for Christmas presents.   How is it that we half completed my list, but managed to complete his? We walked from one end of the shopping centre to the other until we had found what he wanted – man on a mission (and after my own heart I must admit).   I did draw the line at him then deciding to wear said present the next time he went out, and then another of his gifts the following day (not even from us, but relatives).  I went completely nuts at him, and said at least he could wait to be given the gifts before wearing them.  I am completely over the RFN mentality of Gen Y, who can’t wait for anything.  They expect instant gratification, and have no sense of earning or saving for anything (at least in the case of one of my men-children).  Not to mention maintaining the spirit of Xmas for his sister.

I actually contacted several charity organisations about doing some volunteer work with the boys before Christmas (they couldn’t contain their excitement at my suggestion – NOT!) I explained I thought they could both benefit from a lesson in giving rather than receiving!  Sister of a man-child was naturally very keen to join us, unlike her brothers.  Unfortunately for all of us, although surely a great sign for the charities, we struggled to find somewhere we could help after contacting several organisations.  Apparently there are WAITING lists for volunteer work, although probably more so at Christmas time due to seasonal people like me.

I have also asked (okay, perhaps insisted?) that the boys come to mass with us on Christmas Eve.  It’s a wonderful celebration of all that is Christmas, with lots of families from our school community, full of the joy of the occasion, reminding us all of the real meaning of Christmas, and a chance to join the chorus of wonderful Christmas carols and hymns (I love it)!!!

So as we count down the final days to Christmas, and look forward to a wonderful day spent with my children, Father of a Man-Child, and our families, I wish all my readers the joy of the festive season.  I hope you enjoy the day, along with all the madness that precedes it and the chance to relax that follows it.   Happy holidays – I’ll be back with the Men-Children in 2014. 🙂

I’ve blogged about Christmas a few times before:  2012, 2013

 

 

Happy Family Holidays July 19, 2013

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Port DouglasExcuse the absence from my blog, but a family holiday in lovely Far North Queensland was in order.  Now as some of you will know, it was with great reluctance that one of our men-children attended the holiday with us.  He would have much preferred to have stayed home alone (never!) and gone out every night of the holidays with his mates, completely running himself into the ground, and doing all the wrong things before returning to studies.  I was almost expecting that he would be conveniently absent on the day we left for the airport, thereby missing the flight and the holiday, but thankfully not.

We were motivated to have a family holiday for a few reasons – one to escape the cold Melbourne winter.  The other to enjoy a family holiday with just our kids and us whilst we still can (at 17 I think the appeal will diminish in coming years), and to ensure that the boys had a decent break and rest.

So was it successful?  I am delighted to say it was.  And how do I measure the success?  As we left Port Douglas and drove towards the airport, I asked a few simple questions:

  1. So did you like Port Douglas? A resounding yes by all 3 kids.
  2. Would you come back to Port Douglas?  Another yes by all 3 kids.
  3. Would you come back to the house, or rather stay closer to the main street?  Loved the house, and the location.

Yay, music to our ears.  A couple of things worked in our favour.  Staying in a great Bali style house, with our own pool and plenty of room for the boys (love the QLD lifestyle).  Walking distance to the beach, bike paths nearby for a quick ride into town, some school mates staying close by whom they spent countless hours playing 500 with, and a night life (significantly safer than Bali) where they met even more Melbourne friends for regular nights out.

There were a few other indicators of success for me (call them soft measures) –  the boys rarely fought with each other (an all too common occurrence at home), or their sister for that matter.  In fact, they got along quite well, talking to each other (instead of taunting each other), a habit which happily seems to have been maintained at home.   Whilst they remain very different in their interests and friendship groups, it seems they have found some common ground finally.

We had some nice dinners out as a family and did some sight-seeing together – all just pleasant things to do.  We even captured some happy snaps.  For Mother of a Man-child these simple things give me so much joy, perhaps because I know it won’t last forever.  That said, I was pleased to catch up with friends from Melbourne who had all four kids with them on holidays – the oldest 21.  So perhaps there’s still a few years of fun remaining?

So here’s to the next family holiday with the kids over summer, and many more to follow.

We have had some other good holidays with the boys – it takes planning though, trust me!  Hamilton Island (“Best Holiday Ever”) and Sorrento (“Surviving New Years”).

 

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

 

Mum’s the Word April 5, 2013

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Easter BunnyHappy Easter to everyone!  Chocoholics rejoice.  For many, Easter this year marked the start of the school hols, and therein the end of the school lunchbox routine for a few weeks, and the start of entertaining the kids 24/7.  But it was also Easter for employees, a short break for we full-time workers that was a welcome respite from the five-day grind.  Do you think we would enjoy it so much if we didn’t work full-time?  Probably not, after all it is absence that makes the heart grow fonder.

We made the decision to head to the Gold Coast with sister of a man-child (leveraging a work trip to good effect it has to be said), leaving the men-children at home for Easter.  At 17 years old, we debated whether or not we could trust them at home, and decided the time had come that we could.  However, we also importantly decided not to tell them our plans until we were virtually walking out the door.  We all know how quickly they can organise a party these days, so why give them any further advantage?  We also ensured the car keys were hidden, lest they indulge in joy-riding again!! (You can read about that here).

Credit to sister of a man-child, as she maintained the secrecy around our holiday for a few weeks.  If truth be known, I think she actually liked having one up on her brothers for a change.  However, at the last-minute our secrecy almost back fired on us.  “The deck” (now officially christened by the boys and proving to be a successful venue for small gatherings), was planned to be the scene for “pres” for an end of season rowing party that had been in the diary for quite some time.  The idea was sprung on us at the last-minute, and we were actually very reluctant for him to hold it, especially since it was the day we left and we knew we weren’t going to be here to supervise.   So we dug in our heels with countless reasons to not host it, and finally luck delivered us the solution we needed.  The official party was cancelled, there-in ending the need for any “pres” at all.  Trust me that was close!

The following night we learned that one of the boys was invited away for Easter, leaving only one at home.  Even better – they tend to be more trustworthy alone in my view.  As it transpired we told one of them our plans late the night before we left (actually as a reward for his behaviour and attitude), and the other literally an hour we before we walked out the door (yes, he had been a right little shit and we were punishing him in our own small way).  And the response?  They were a little surprised, but didn’t have much choice did they?  One asked how long we had known and kept it to ourselves?  We nonchalantly replied “Oh, about a week” (or two). 🙂

So how did it go?  Well actually pretty well.  There were definitely a few gatherings in our absence (all made public to us not secret), and we came home to a thoroughly clean house, including a washed deck.  At least one man-child understands the need to reinstate the house to its normal order.  The biggest issue was the other man-child whose only job was to put out the rubbish bins before he went away – and yes, just like the other time, he didn’t do it – aaarrrgh!  Seriously annoying.

Our house-sitting man-child was even good enough to fill in the answers to the questions his sister had left for the Easter Bunny.  Now that’s a nice thing for a big brother to do isn’t it?

So tell me, at what age did your parents let you stay home alone?  And for how long?  Do you think we are being too trusting?

The first time we left them home alone, we were mega worried.  But the end result was actually okay.  You can read more about that here:

https://motherofamanchild.com/2012/01/06/men-children-alone-in-the-house-for-a-weekend/

https://motherofamanchild.com/2012/01/13/post-script-to-home-alone/

 

Willing workers! August 24, 2012

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filingLast school holidays the boys were lucky enough to get a couple of days work at my employer. It was not at all planned, just fortuitous that someone asked if the men-children would be interested in a few days casual work over the holidays. And subject to an acceptable hourly rate (like they were in a position to negotiate) and suitable days that worked in with their busy social lives (again, let’s not be difficult), they gladly accepted the offer.

Yes a reminder to all they are both still UNEMPLOYED!!! Not by choice on anyone’s part although I suspect one has stopped really looking for a job….and the other has found one which we won’t allow so he has us over a barrel. Nevertheless, I remind them every time we provide a handout that they DO need to find a job. And I remind them again every time they whinge when I ask for a chore to be completed in exchange for said handout. It’s relentless really.

As an aside, have you ever seen the way a teenage boy hangs out a load of washing? There is no method. Whichever order they pull it out of the washing machine is the same order they throw it over the clothes-horse. And I mean throw! Clearly they have no idea what a coat-hanger was invented for, as I invariably find all the shirts thrown on the line, not hanging……seriously, are they really that stupid, or are they employing the age-old trick of burning the first thing you ever cook so you’ll never be asked to do it again? Probably. 🙂 And it kind of works, because I practically re-hang all the washing after they’ve attempted to do it. I mean if their school shirts don’t drip dry on a coat-hanger then they end up extra, extra wrinkled, which is no good if the ironing lady hasn’t been, because they don’t get ironed otherwise. And then they go off to school looking like they’ve slept in their school uniforms for a week. (Actually one manages this look every day even if his clothes are all pressed).

Anyway, back to their short-term employment. We organised which days they would attend, which meant coming with me in the car to the office and home again. And getting up before midday! Luckily there was an immediate upside for both – extra hours on the L-plates, so no complaints there. As I take my lunch to work every day (I am so glad this culture now exists universally), I explained to them that they too could take their lunch, or pay for it with their “wages”. I told them I refused to fund their meals, when they were earning money, and that what was good enough for me and all my colleagues was also good enough for them. We did make a supermarket stop to load up on snacks, treats, drinks etc to keep them going throughout the day, but that’s just pantry filling in another guise.

Naturally they were quick to embrace the “freebies” provided at the office, the usual tea, coffee, biscuits etc. Before they had even started their working day they were wolfing down a glass of Milo each and a couple of biscuits. It reminded me of the time they first came into Qantas Club with me. You would have thought they’d never had Coca Cola before they way they drank out of the pre-mix machine. If they could have tapped it straight into their mouths they would have. It was hysterical and embarrassing at the same time (although I did just pretend I had no idea whose children they were).

To the men-children’s credit they put in a couple of good days work. They didn’t complain about the drudgery of the tasks they were asked to do (electronic filing, photocopying, tear sheets etc), they worked diligently, knocking off the set tasks in good time, and they remembered their manners. As an employer you couldn’t ask for more than that. Occasionally whilst working they did found time to argue with each other, as they tend to do….to be honest they sounded just like a couple of old men who have nothing better to do than throw barbs at each other all day as they sit and watch the world go by. I swear if they both live to 90 this scene may well repeat itself.

As a mother, I couldn’t ask for more than the compliments they both received from my colleagues in the days that followed. All parents know, regardless of what little shits they can be at home, if they know how to behave in “company”, that’s all that matters.

So would they do it again? Yep. Would the company have them back? Yep. That’s a good start isn’t it? Filling their days AND making money over the holidays has benefits for everyone. 🙂

You can read about their previous employment-seeking exploits here: Man-child I was convinced to try “pyramid-selling”, and Man-child II wanted to work selling burgers midnight to dawn to drunks!

 

We actually did miss the men-children! August 3, 2012

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Regular readers will know we recently ventured on a holiday without the men-children.  Our first taste of life without the boys for an extended period and also Sister of a Man-Child’s first taste of a holiday as an only child.  Let’s face it, it’s likely to happen more frequently not less in years to come.

It’s fair to say we all enjoyed the break, yes even the boys left at home and school.  We enjoyed a very relaxing holiday with only the demands of one child (and a pretty undemanding one at that) to satisfy.  Our daughter lapped up the undivided attention, although occasionally wished her brothers were in the pool playing with her (how quickly she forgets their tormenting).  And our sons enjoyed the company of their favourite “cool” uncle and aunt, the ones with no kids, who treat them like adults, and have taken them on fab holidays over the years.

I will admit to missing the boys – you always think of your kids when you’re travelling, enjoying something new or indulgent and thinking how much they would also enjoy it.  I know they would have loved the villa and the pool, and the cooked breakfast each morning.   As compensation, my daughter and I made a special trip to find the t-shirts they wanted (very, very particular brands for 16-year-old boys), with strict instructions about colours/stripes etc.  Thankfully my daughter seemed to be an excellent barometer of what the boys would and wouldn’t like.  She saved me from buying all the wonderful new bright colours in polos for summer that they would have absolutely hated.  As it was even with their guidelines, I still didn’t get it 100% right.

paul smith t-shirt When the first man-child walked in the door to find us at home, I was greeted with a hug and kiss and “how was the trip”.  OMG, I know, a lovely son greeting his mother. 🙂  Typically, he then dove into the bag to check the presents we had bought for him, and declared that half the expensive (by Bali standards) t-shirts were “gay” and what was I thinking!!!

Well, not surprisingly, I told him exactly what I was thinking.  Firstly, that he could put the t-shirts where the sun didn’t shine.  Secondly, that I wished we hadn’t bothered to spend so much time stressing about what t-shirts to get him at several different shops, and thirdly, that they actually met his brief.  I then declared that I would give them away to someone else and stormed off quite angry and upset.  It’s a bit like giving someone a lovely Xmas gift you’ve invested a lot of time buying, only to be told they think it’s horrid and can they take it back?  Only Bali’s a bit too far to go to exchange the colours isn’t it?  I received a similarly delightful greeting from his twin brother when he came home, thankfully without the carry on about the t-shirts.  He’s less fussy and his brief was far better!

I caught up with my twin sister who declared the boys had been absolutely delightful in our absence.  She struggled to even remember if they had fought.  She had helped them out with homework, and even been reasonable when she found one intentionally “late” so he would miss his English class.  The cool, calm head of a temporary (but excellent) parent.  She even commented about what lovely young men they were growing into, as exhibited at several family dinners in our absence.  Why are they always better for someone else?  Nevertheless, that is just what every parent wants to hear.  Naturally, within an hour of her departure both boys were fighting and we could hear the slamming of bodies upstairs as the household returned to its natural rhythm.  I swear, every night after we got home they seemed to fight, just to make us realise how nice our little break was!

So onto the next holiday, which will be WITH the boys.  It was nice to have the break, it was nice to miss them, and it was nice to come home, even to a fight or two.

PS. The “gay” t-shirts ended up in the cupboard – maybe not so bad after all? 

If you think we’re horrible, here’s the earlier discussion around our holiday plans and why we decided to leave the boys at home.  The Challenge of Happy Holidays for Everyone.