Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

The Holiday from Hell November 4, 2011

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A recent post by my friend and fellow blogger Mother Who Works, about their household battle with an outbreak of gastro, reminded me of a holiday many years ago with the men-children when they were just men-babies.   At the time I penned an article about our travels entitled “The Holiday from Hell” for the Australian Multiple Births Association newsletter.   14 years later I thought it was a rather amusing anecdote to share. 🙂

beachJuly 1997

And so the “M” family planned the perfect holiday.  A week at South Molle Island in the Whitsundays in July.  A direct flight to Hamilton Island (instead of a stopover in Sydney or Brisbane) and 30 minutes by launch to South Molle Island.  All meals catered for (parents and kids alike), a crèche for the kids, babysitting service, golf course, tennis courts, pools, beach, long walks, etc etc.  The perfect break for Mum and Dad after 15 hectic months with twins “C” and “H”.  No supermarket visits at 10pm, no standing in front of the fridge wondering what they (and you) were having for dinner, no hectic morning or evening schedule with Mum and Dad trying to get to work on time (for once) or get the kids to bed after a long day in the office.  Just pure relaxation for everyone, and a chance to spend valuable time with (and occasionally without) H and C!

The flight up was made somewhat easier courtesy of an upgrade to business class.  I guess the Ansett check-in attendant took pity on the parents with bags, twin stroller, and two restless kids waiting in the longest queues ever witnessed at Melbourne airport.  With extra room, H and C could basically trash a much larger area of the plane.  Fortunately, business travellers were limited on our flight, and the hostesses very helpful.  Of course, it’s difficult to enjoy the food, service etc in business class with a bouncing toddler on your knee throwing complimentary pencils everywhere.  Plenty of cheese sticks, tetra bricks, dry biscuits etc kept us in good stead for the first two hours.  However, as expected, the kid’s confinement was a little trying into the third hour of the flight.  Thank God for Vallergan, although it is our misfortunate that is has never worked on H.  He eventually fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion 30 mins from our destination, whilst C managed a one hour sleep.

Great to hit terra firma at Hamilton before a pretty uneventful (although somewhat rough) trip by boat to South Molle Island.  We arrived on a Saturday at about lunchtime and checked in to our home for the next week – the Family rooms at South Molle are more than sufficient with a separate room for the kids, complete with cots, and a veranda with safety gate to stop two particular boys falling straight down the stairs.  With two hungry kids we headed straight to the restaurant for lunch.  The restaurant staff only had to see us heading in before they grabbed the highchairs and had them ready at a table for us.  This exceptional service continued the entire period of our stay.

Not wanting to seem too eager, we immediately checked out the crèche on Saturday afternoon, memorizing the hours available, and effectively booking them in on the spot.  Our kids had been looked after by a nanny since they were five months old, with little time spent in crèche or similar facilities.  Nevertheless, H took to it like a duck to water, and instantly busied himself with the new toys, books etc.  C on the other hand, always the clingier child, was not happy with his new surroundings.  The crèche staff suggested a five minute walk by Mum and Dad, to see if our absence made him settle down.  Unfortunately, we returned to a very upset little boy.  Oh well, perhaps tomorrow it would seem more familiar (it better!).

After an attempt at crèche on Sunday morning, and again on Sunday afternoon, the staff finally won C over and we headed off for an hour long walk to the other side of the island, confident that the boys were having a good time.  Indeed they did.  So much so that we booked them in for Monday morning, so we could enjoy a round of golf on the 9-hole, short par course (basically ideal for amateurs like me).  We picked up two very tired but happy boys and headed to lunch at midday on Monday.  But before we had even ordered a drink to celebrate the start of the holiday we had dreamed about, H projectile vomited across the middle of the restaurant floor!  So much for lunch.  Needless to say H and I went straight to the resident nurse, who couldn’t diagnose anything particular at that stage, and home to bed for a rest.  As he had had no unusual foods on the island, nor come into contact with any sick kids at the crèche, we ruled out any nasty bugs.

We spent a quiet afternoon with H recovering, and planned our activities for the next day.  Dinner in the room was easy to arrange, in view of the sick child, so we had a night in.  At 10.30pm that night, we were woken by the sound of a child throwing up – not H, but C, and yes you guessed it, in his cot.  The same violent projective kind of throwing up as his brother.  (Starting to sound suspicious????)  By the next day (Tuesday), both boys seemed to have recovered, although unfortunately the crèche was out of bounds for 24 hours due to their illness, so we spent the day with them.  An uneventful evening over dinner (they cleverly had a sitting for kids at 5pm and parents from 6-8pm whilst kids are in the crèche), although we were forced to do shift work with dinner because crèche was out.  To cheer ourselves up we arranged for a babysitter to mind the boys on Wednesday evening so we could enjoy the only upmarket restaurant on the island.

By Wednesday morning H was clearly not well.  His general state of lethargy over breakfast was of great concern, and so another visit to the nurse was arranged.  By this stage I was starting to feel unwell myself, and the thought of spending half my day travelling by boat to the mainland to see a doctor was not high on my agenda.  Fortunately a phone conversation with a doctor and a very sympathetic nurse allowed us a course of antibiotics to settle what appeared to be an oncoming ear infection (with a flight looming, who wants an ear infection?).  And so the babysitter arrived that evening, and we left confident that the kids were finally on the mend.  Arrived home to find no problems, and went to bed happy.  Only until I had to make the dreaded dash mid-morning to the loo for you know what!  So there goes Thursday, with still no kids in crèche, me feeling lethargic and miserable, and seriously considering getting on a plane to go home early, although who wants to fly with a gastro bug?

Friday, and with the holiday drawing to a close, we planned our last night out with the babysitter booked again.  By this stage, we were all feeling better, although we sensibly stayed away from the crèche.  Fortunately we were able to borrow backpacks, buckets and spades etc for the kids, so we could get out and about with C and H.  After a great day with the boys we got organised for our “big night out”.  No sooner had Father-of-Twins dressed, than he was looking for the nearest receptacle to throw up in.  Of course we know gastro is catchy but this was ridiculous.  Not wanting to be a party pooper, he cancelled the babysitter, but insisted I go out anyway while he minded the kids (if you call lying prostrate on the bed feeling shithouse minding the kids).  I caught up with another couple, and had a great night, although I was sorry that hubby missed it.

By Saturday we were on the launch and on our way home.  By this stage, it was the only place I wanted to be.  Unfortunately it’s a little difficult to be upgraded on a flight that is fully booked (better luck next time).  And so we joined the “zoo” in economy, indeed fortunate to end up with the only vacant seat on the plane between us.  The kids spent the flight home standing on the meal trays and annoying the shit out of the people in front of us.  Thank God they were a couple of ten year old kids, and quite entertained by H and C.  I have never been happier to get off a plan than that Saturday in July.  Home to the routine, our beds, the kids’ cots and high chairs, my own loo to throw up in when I want, and of course a mound of washing and a visit to the supermarket at 10pm on a Sunday night, to restock the fridge for the coming week.

Of course the faces of my colleagues told a thousand stories at news of our Holiday from Hell on Monday!  In fact Rob’s company were so devastated for us that they insisted on sending us to Sydney for a child-free weekend to recover!! (And enjoy it we did).

And what may you ask did we learn from our well planned holiday?  Never leave mainland Australia with young kids, never fly more than an hour with kids under 10 years of age, give up the notion that a holiday north every year is still possible with kids, and resign yourself to the sensible ways of our parents, who long ago realised that a couple of weeks on the peninsula with the kids was just as much fun, and only an hour from Melbourne if disaster strikes!!!

November 2011

Ironically we just came back from another holiday in the Whitsundays at Hamilton Island – very much enjoyed by all of us this time.  I do recall when we left South Molle Island some hel­pful staff member telling us that it was very common for mainlanders to get gastro on the island due to the poor water source.  You can imagine how thrilled that made me can’t you?





Mother of a Man-Child: Suspicious Minds? April 29, 2011

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beersOkay, so here’s the thing.  I seem to have an in-built bullshit radar that is on high alert these days.  Which means my poor men-children get away with very little.  I have taken the suspicious parent to new levels, with good reason it would seem, as the history of this blog shows.  But assuming my radar isn’t fool proof, they must be getting away with something, sometimes (just like their mother did in her day).

My learned and wise uncle once commented that sometimes it pays to turn a blind eye – and just not notice everything.  In other words, cut them some slack and just let stuff slide.  I have to admit I find that incredibly difficult to do.

Case in point over the Easter break.  We seemed to spend the entire school holidays cajoling and encouraging the boys to get out of the house.  Go to the movies, have a Pizza & Poker night, go bike-riding etc.  Any alternative is better than sitting on the computer or play station all day every day, indoors, not expending any energy.  Sure, I’m all for them having a rest, but teenage boys can take “resting” to a new level if you let them.

As the holidays drew to a close, even I was surprised to find Man-Child I sitting around at home on the second last day of the holidays, especially being one of the most glorious autumnal days Melbourne can muster.  I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t making the most of his last days of freedom but he constantly evaded all my questions.  Hmmm.  Until of course he sat down at dinner and casually mentioned a small gathering at his best mates house that he’d like to attend that evening!  Instantly explaining staying home all day in order to increase the chance of being allowed out at night.

So we asked for some information (the Spanish inquisition has nothing on me)!  When was this arranged? It’s very last-minute.  Are his parents home?  Do they know about it?  They just got back from holidays.  What time will you be home?  DON’T text us at 10.30 to ask to stay the night as you always do!  How are you getting there and who with?  My gut said whilst it’s all designed to feel like a casual, last-minute get together (nothing to worry about right), that wasn’t the case at all.  And you know what – my gut was right.

So I casually offered to drive my son to his mates!  Ah, really, but I was going to meet so and so….No probs.  Happy to give him a lift too!  (Gotcha).  And he assured me he’d get a lift home with a friend.  Really?  Last time you said that I didn’t hear a car pull up.  No parent would drop you up the road at midnight, they’d bring you to the door, which means you’re catching the tram home late at night, when I’d rather you didn’t (yes I know I sound like a paranoid mother, but I don’t trust the bogan element on the streets late at night – even in our leafy suburb I know boys who have had their front teeth knocked out in an unprovoked attack).

So do you know what happened?  My husband wisely offered to give him a lift (sometimes Dads just need to step in).  Turns out the reason he was meeting his friend on the way was to buy beers via some contact they have – I KNEW it.  Then he gets to the mate’s place.  Turns out the father of the mate didn’t really know about the party until it was too late to pull the pin – not impressed.  I KNEW it.  Oh and guess who rang Father of a Man-Child’s mobile at 10.30pm to ask if he could stay the night?  I KNEW it.

So do I have an uncanny ability to detect when something is going down?  Yes, it would appear so.  Do I need to learn to let stuff slide, just a little bit, just occasionally?  Yes, probably.  Should I stop worrying and just see what happens?  Gulp, don’t answer that – I’m just not sure I can ignore all my motherly/parental instincts just yet.  They might look like men, but they’re only 15 years old!

As my friends with older kids say to me – God help you when they get their license and take the car out – then you’ll know what real worry is.  So I better start up a new business before then – “Taxis for Teens” – fully funded by sponsors, free to kids and parents.  E.g. they can have a free taxi trip if they go via the Maccas drive-in on the way.  There, that should keep them off the roads for a while longer. 🙂


Mother of a Man-Child: Griswold Family Holiday Anyone? April 21, 2011

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beachAs the men-children get older, so too does the challenge of finding a holiday to satisfy the whole family. This becomes increasingly important as their needs change, and also as the number of family holidays we are likely to have in the future with them diminishes rapidly. Although I have no doubt any offer to take them overseas will ensure an instant family holiday – no questions asked!!

That’s not to say that every family holiday should centre on the men-children, but more that we ideally want everyone to enjoy their time together. Mother of a Man-Child and Father of a Man-Child invariably want a relaxing holiday, having worked hard to ensure we can afford them in the first place; Sister of a Man-Child just wants to have fun playing with her parents and brothers and receiving bucket loads of undivided attention (fair enough when you’re seven), and the Men-Children want either access to loads of cool stuff or their mates on tap 24/7.

Both of these present challenges. Firstly, in order to satisfy the mate requirement, you either organise a family holiday with another family (no easy feat to co-ordinate in the modern world), or invite a couple of extra kids along on the trip (if you think you can cope or afford it), or stay where their friends stay. Having two men-children with different circles of friends makes the latter challenging to say the least. Especially when one of them thinks that Portsea at Christmas time is THE place to be (as I did at his age!!!). Apologies to my friends who have lovely beach houses down there, but I can’t bring myself to pay $’000’s of dollars over summer to rent a house there and queue for bread every day, or battle for a parking spot, only to bump into all my Melbourne acquaintances. Now of course if I had a lovely, large beach house I could hide in for summer that might be different. 🙂

So the alternative is finding somewhere that has cool stuff for men-children to do, to keep them entertained on occasion, and a place that also provides the opportunity for us to relax and unwind whilst entertaining a sometimes demanding seven-year old! Invariably we seem drawn to the beach for holidays (although we have done the odd snow vacation but frankly I find it anything but relaxing – I need a double espresso laced with Scotch by the time I hit the first run at 9am having got everyone out the door in all the requisite gear). There’s nothing quite like the warmth of the sun and the heady combination of sand and surf in Australia; we’ve been to some wonderful beach spots over the years with the kids, including Kangaroo Island, Merimbula, Sunshine Coast, Phillip Island, Gold Coast, Wilsons Promontory, Mission Beach, South Molle Island, Apollo Bay and of course Somers.

The beach is always the perfect antidote to Melbourne’s winter, and summer just isn’t the same without a spell beachside. And what’s a holiday in Australia without the mandatory road trip (we’ve done a few of them too) with the back of the car or trailer filled to the brim and the family resembling the Griswolds off on their next vacation!

But increasingly the boys are no longer happy to just be at the beach for days on end (certainly not in the company of their parents). God I hope this is normal and not just a reflection of how disliked we are by them? Like all good teenagers they seem intent on spending as much time as possible lying in bed, and then arising to feed, then swim, then feed and loll about again. Hence we look for a mixture of adventure and indulgence.

So we’re going to Hamilton Island in September, with lots of water activities and day trips for us and/or them to partake in whilst mother and daughter lie poolside, and hopefully some other teenagers they can hook up with day and/or night. And we’re considering Sydney in January. We figure there’s plenty for men-children and us to see and do in Sydney (bridge climbs, harbour jet boating, ferries, opera house, Sydney tower etc), and if all else fails, we’ll just spend days at Bondi beach watching the world-famous lifeguards rescue stupid international tourists from the many rips whilst they swim outside the flags – doh!!

BTW, I know it must seem ridiculous for me to be talking about holidays in January already, but as anyone with kids knows, you need to get in early if you are to be organised and find decent accommodation options for a family of five. So it’s never too early to float ideas with the family over dinner to see what sounds like a viable option. Any thoughts or suggestions welcome, especially if you’ve found a great spot that satisfies everyone.