Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

My 8 year old has a Facebook account! July 13, 2012

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facebook logoYes, the headline is true, to a point.  She HAD a Facebook account, until I found out and shut it down faster than you can say “Sometimes I hate the internet and all it allows”.  The problem unfolded when I received a call from another Mum, letting me know that her daughter had mentioned Sister of a Man-Child now had a Facebook account.  Thankfully the Mum called me and let me know, as she was concerned that she would even have one, and rightfully so.  She also explained she’d expect me to do the same if the situation was reversed – and she was absolutely right.

To be honest I was pretty surprised to hear that our daughter had a Facebook account.  I actually think for the most part she’s a very mature young girl, and also highly trustworthy, so I was genuinely shocked to learn what I did.  So what happened next you ask?    Angry, scary Mummy walked right in to where she was on the computer (again) and asked her “Who set up your Facebook account?”   “Me” she said, looking absolutely terrified.  I immediately asked her for her access details and “deactivated” the account on the spot, with a very teary Sister of a Man-Child beside me.  She got even more upset when the damn password wouldn’t work and we had trouble even getting into the account and I got madder and madder at her and Facebook.  Interesting, they only “deactivate” you, and tell you they’ll be waiting patiently should you decide to come back.  You never get to really “delete” the thing, of course.  So there’s her “signature” already on Facebook just waiting for her when she’s actually old enough to use it.

I asked her how she got around the age issue, and she told me she just lied about it. Now this is where the situation needs further explanation, and where I hold myself to blame.  You remember our problem with her iTunes account, and my fortune (insert extreme sarcasm) in seeing (and hearing) every iMessage she sends to her friends on my iPhone.  We finally managed a work around, which I admit did involve creating an email account for her with perhaps a little white lie about her age so we could have the account in the first place, and then another little while lie about her age to get the iTunes account.  Problem finally solved, however, behaviour also easily mimicked by an 8-year-old.  If she’s seen her mother and brother do it, then it must be okay!  Damn.

I naturally also asked why she wanted a Facebook account in the first place.  She told me she’d been jealous of her friend and how many “things” she had in an online game, and when she saw that she could earn more “things” herself if she simply logged in to Facebook she did just that, creating the account along the way.  Aaaarrrgggh.  They don’t call it “the web” for nothing, it’s a web of intrigue and danger and invitations that little minds just fall in love with.  We then had a discussion about what she’d learned at school about the internet, and all the things she knew NOT to do, and that setting up this account was totally against the rules (both at school and home).  As only an innocent 8-year-old could, she explained through more tears and half breaths (yep, very, very upset) that she had been on school holidays for a few weeks and forgotten about all the school rules.  We had hugs and made up (angry Mummy now forgiving Mummy) and agreed that it would never happen again, and that she could be trusted not to make another error of judgement like that.

We also agreed that she has no more computer access until we go away, and the iPod has also been confiscated for an indefinite period.  I am disappointed in myself to think that our behaviour wouldn’t be copied by my daughter, and I’m also annoyed with myself that I got so angry about it and with her.  Father of a Man-Child would have been much calmer about it (he always is).  He’s definitely the Yin to my Yang and where I am generally the yelling parent he is generally the talking parent (anyone who knows us both will not be surprised by that at all).  At the end of the day I should have been angry with the internet, and the social networks that allow us all (including our children) to so easily create fake accounts and personas, whether for a good cause or not.

So, that’s our Facebook drama.  What do you do to stop the hideous infiltration of the world-wide-web into your children’s lives?   Do you have rules about using the internet, and other devices?  Should I have handled things differently?

It does seem Sister of a Man-Child is getting quite a look in on the blog these days.  Perhaps one day I’ll have to rename it?  And what of the Men-Children you ask?  Well being school holidays, I’d love to tell you how they are, but we’ve seen them so infrequently I barely know.  I think we’ve had ONE meal together as a family in the whole school holidays.  Yep, at 16 it’s just not where they want to be.

As we’re off on a little holiday with Sister of a Man-Child, you may not hear from me for a week, unless there is exciting breaking news about the Men-Children whilst we’re away!  And no, we are not leaving them home alone – what do you think we are?  Crazy?

I have written about the joys of Facebook before.  Can you be Facebook friends with your kids?

 

Technology – A privacy invasion? July 6, 2012

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video cameraI love technology don’t get me wrong.  It makes our lives easier on a daily basis, it has revolutionised the way we communicate, and no doubt will continue to make incredible advances that we haven’t even dreamt about by the end of the year (one might have said decade but it moves so fast I have to condense the time frames)!

And just as well I love technology – with two teenage boys who can’t get enough of it, and their sister, a true “digital native” at only 8 years old – it’s very present in our lives.  It’s fair to say Sister of a Man-Child’s use of technology took a quantum leap when Father Christmas generously gave her an iPod Touch last Christmas (Nintendo DS are SO last century)!  As a result, she was no longer reliant on borrowing the iPad, or one of our iPhones, or the Macbook, but had free reign of the App store – she was like a kid in a lolly shop.   Thankfully, the bulk of them are free, and she’s been trained to ask if she can download one that costs money (yes even 0.99c – it’s the principal of it), so it’s relatively under control.

Of course the clever iPod Touch does everything the iPhone does in a wireless environment, except make phone calls.  I mentioned when she got it that having put it under my iTunes account (very logical at the time), I now have the joy of “sharing” all the conversations she has with her friends via iMessage.  Which can be insightful, but also very annoying when you’re in the office and your phone keeps pinging you every time another inane comment from an 8-year-old enters cyberspace!!!

My daughter is now so with the program, she can thumb type faster than me, and create a video on her iPod in about 1 minute flat.  No wonder YouTube has so much content on it – they create it constantly.

Sister of a Man-Child discovered the joys of Face Time too, so you can often hear her and a friend talking to each other about absolutely nothing really, for 30 mins or so.  It’s their version of a telephone call naturally, but you can’t pick your nose discreetly or roll your eyes when it’s on video can you?  I was recently stuck at home for the day, having survived the hideous man-cold that is doing the rounds at the moment (it’s earned that title, it’s not a nice gentle cold that a woman-cold would be, it’s a dead set bastard of a thing that king hits you and bang – you’re out for the count).  Anyway, I had kindly said my daughter could spend the day at home with me while I worked with my germs close by, instead of sending her off to holiday program.

Trouble first set in on the Sunday night – she was reluctant to give up her iPod Touch, and kept wanting to chat to her friend well past bed time.  Alarm bells rang when I noticed the message on my phone between them agreeing to FT (short for Face Time) each other at 10pm!!!!  Thank you, there’ll be none of that, I’ll just take that iPod for the night.  I was pleased to see her friend tell my daughter “Shore (sic) but I think it’s a bit naughty to do that”  – yes it is!!!!

Of course by 8am the next morning they were both up, so what better time for FT.  Next thing you know I am in the kitchen in my PJ’s (after a weekend of man-cold it’s very fair to say I was not looking my best) and I hear my daughter’s friend, and then her mother, saying “Good morning” to her.  What the?  Can’t I even have breakfast in peace?  Nope, it’s like Big Brother in our house.  They’re hearing AND seeing what we’re doing in the morning, and vice versa.  I think not.  I explain to my daughter that she is welcome to share her life via FT to anyone she cares, but that I have limits for our family.  And that means I don’t really want to see the school mums over breakfasts – regardless of how well we know each other.  It’s just a little too invasive for my liking.  But then again, maybe that’s just me.  I admit it, I absolutely HATE Big Brother, and always will. Obviously I am not Gen Y or Z!!!

So that’s our life with technology at the moment.  There are days that I have to tell Sister of a Man-child “no more screen time”, which she knows means don’t touch the iPod, iPhone, or Macbook again today.  So of course she’ll plonk herself in front of the TV – not yet an iTV, but coming soon to a home near you!  Am I the only one who hates this invasion of technology sometimes?  Do you set limits in your house?

I have written about technology before:  Fighting the Technology Tsunami.  It’s an uphill battle!

 

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. 

 

Sister of a Man-Child: Here comes the Attitude. May 11, 2012

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OMGIt’s been a while since I wrote about Sister of a Man-Child.  She’s a darling 8-year-old most of the time, and really a very easy going, and thoughtful child.  But sometimes she can take me by surprise, and cause me to reflect on the world around her and just what impact the behaviour of the Men-Children and we as parents have on her, considering she lives in an “adult” world a lot of the time.

Of course, there are other influences in her life also – the media, her friends, her teachers.  I can only guess as to the source of influence for a recent text message I received from her whilst at work:  “I hate my life!”  I kid you not – that’s exactly what she wrote.   I rang home immediately in case she was seriously suicidal, only to find out that a small incident had occurred with her brother/father and she was basically having a sulk.  I am confident she learned to be a drama queen from the countless Foxtel/Disney teenage shows she watches – some saccharine sweet, but clearly some not quite so.  Most of them drive me insane and I regularly demand they be turned off.

I totally blame these shows (and also the Men-Children) for her latest outburst.  Upon learning we were going out for dinner and she would need a babysitter (admittedly we had an unusually busy week and I had been “out” every night at some function or meeting) she declared at the dinner table “Are you serious!”  (insert indignant tone of voice).  I was gobsmacked to say the least, and immediately angry, and said she was NOT to speak to us with that attitude again.  Cue tears – suddenly a small 8-year-old girl not a teenager with attitude!

She also recently started walking around the house, saying to me BTW, blah blah…..so not “By the way”, but literally “BTW”.  When I asked her why she was talking in abbreviations, she said she liked it.  Hmmm.  Just like teenagers like it.  You may have noticed that “OMG” and  “LOL” are not acronyms any longer, but “words”.   I said please talk to me in proper English and save the text language for the iPod/iPhone thanks.   I really wonder what we’re breeding some days and whether or not our children will be able to write or speak using correct English.   Was I being too mean?  Was she just experimenting with language?  Or am I right to nip this in the bud?

When it comes to her brothers, Sister of Man-Child doesn’t want much from the Men-Children – just their love and a little attention from time to time so she doesn’t feel like an only child.  It’s so rare that they are nice to her, that the other day she came running in to tell me that they had BOTH been really nice to her, and that she was SO happy.  She even asked one of them why he’d been nice to her four days in a row.  I have made a point to let them both know how she feels, so they might begin to realise what impact they have on their sister’s feelings, and how easy it is to earn her adoration and make her feel wonderful.  It takes such a small effort on their part to be nice to her, I hope they think twice about it and change their behaviour towards her.

As I say often to my daughter, just wait until you’re 15 years old.  Your 22-year-old brothers will be VERY interested in you and your girlfriends, and probably fighting to drive you everywhere and even chaperone you to parties.   Bring it on I say!

You can read more about Sister of a Man-Child here:  A Princess Tale

 

Back to School!! February 3, 2012

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twins at schoolAs our unusual “summer” enters its final month, the kids this week returned to school.  And we returned to the daily grind of making lunches, 6am rowing starts, music lessons, and countless loads of washing every week – I haven’t missed it I can tell you.  Nor the peak hour traffic that results!  Whilst there was no excitement evident amongst the men-children as they headed back to school, I know they were happy to return and catch up with their mates after a few months off.  And they’re both pretty pumped about a big year of sport in Year 10.  (Let’s hope it’s also a big year of study for both of them!)

It seems every newspaper carries a mandatory image of twins or triplets or even better quads in school uniform, as they head to school for their first prep year.  It reminds me of our own front page photo of the men-children some 10 years ago (that’s it pictured for you) which was pretty exciting at the time, and really is a great moment to have captured for posterity.  I still remember the boys wearing their school uniforms home from the store, such was their thrill at owning one.  And of course the pride I felt whilst blinking back tears as we stood in the prep classroom and launched them on their school journey.  No less joyful was repeating it all 7 years later with our daughter.  They are moments you could relive a thousand times over and each would be as wonderful as the first!

In contrast to the boys, Sister of a Man-Child’s excitement was palpable at entering Year 3.  She even sent me a text message yesterday when she got home “Hay (sic) mum first day of school great.  Thumbs up”, complete with thumbs up images!  Now before you think our 8-year-old daughter has a mobile phone, not quite.  For Christmas she was lucky enough to get an iPod Touch (as a modern-day alternative to the Nintendo DS).  Whilst most people would think she would use it for music, it comes with so many other features she’s barely had the earphones on.  Why would you when it also has countless games free from the App store, a camera better than mine, access to YouTube, and most importantly the ability to text (via iMessage) and use Facetime with other iPhone/iPod users.  The ONLY thing it doesn’t do is make phone calls – seriously.  So when Ruby’s in a wireless environment, she’s practically got her own iPhone.  A “Digital Native” in the making!

emoji imagesShe recently found some friends with iPods or iPhones, and now they’re madly texting each other and doing Facetime.  The only issue is that Ruby doesn’t have her own email address, so she’s using one of mine.  As a result, all her messaging appears automatically on my phone too.  It was fascinating to observe the conversation unfold between three young girls, and see them helping each other text and use Facetime.  And then installing Emoji (an app for texting icons).  Now they seem to send each other hundreds of smiley faces and other images.  Although the other morning I was sitting at work with a stream of messages (complete with sound notifications) going off at my desk which got a little out of hand.  I ended up joining the conversation and asking them to stop, which took a while because we had to convince one of the girls that it really was the “Mother” texting.  Not surprisingly, we have now banned the use of the iPod before school and not until after homework is done in the evenings – like all fun and highly addictive “toys”, good in moderation.

So back to school and back to the routine.  And back to family meals which are a nice change, especially since during the holidays we rarely had both men-children at home for a meal.  No doubt the novelty will wear off quickly!! 🙂

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Gaming the old fashioned way? June 24, 2011

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A quite fantastic thing happened the other day.  The men-children, and sister of a man-child and me all sat down together after dinner and played a game.  Not just any game.  It wasn’t electronic, it wasn’t on a PS3 or an iPhone, it wasn’t on the TV or the internet, it was a good old-fashioned BOARD game!!

Now this board game wasn’t old fashioned to me, it was Pictionary.  But my kids had never seen it would you believe (or the men-children might have when they were small but they couldn’t remember it).   And certainly it’s way older than the seven-year-old.  So it was exciting and “new” in a strange sort of way.

We found the game a few weeks back in a couple of boxes we pulled off a top shelf.  It’s amazing what you find post-renovating when you decide to reorganize the house.  The kids had a ball looking at the stamp and coin collections that had belonged to my husband and me as kids.  We even found my old swap cards (who remembers Blue Boy?) and some old footy and collectible cards that had belonged to my father.  (BTW, turns out those old 50’s footy cards are worth about $30 EACH!!!).

So the board games had been sitting in the box on the floor (okay, I haven’t put everything in a new place yet) and I had been meaning to actually get the kids to play some of them.  So on Sunday night I asked the boys if they’d play with their sister and me for a short while (mention anything longer than 30 minutes and you’ll only see dust).

I am delighted to tell you we actually had a lot of fun.  We pitched the men-children against Mother of a Man-Child and Sister of a Man-Child.  That seemed fair, and actually we girls held our own easily.  The funniest thing was playing a game that dates from 1985 – it’s the first edition actually.  There were quite a few words none of the kids even understood (e.g. garter belt, punk rocker, bell bottoms, fondue, Mrs Thatcher), so we would just pick another card.  And I was also amazed to witness the different skills for each of my children and to see who can a) draw, and b) think laterally enough to guess what a doctor’s stethoscope is when it’s drawn very, very badly!!!  And oh, there’s not a competitive bone in their bodies (yeah right). 🙂

I’m not sure if we’re unusual, but how long is it since you played a board game as a family?  Let me guess, on holidays at the snow when they have no TV’s at all (yep, there’s a lodge we stay at where there’s no TV – it’s fantastic), or on holidays in Queensland, when it’s raining and you can’t go to the beach and you’ve watched all the DVD’s and the kids find an odd assortment of board games with missing pieces?  Or you pull out the playing cards for a round of poker or snap?  We used to play games a bit at the beach house, but often with the adults after dinner – it was a ritual of sorts.

I do play board games with sister of a man-child from time to time at home, but after our Pictionary experiment I think we should endeavour to work our way through the boxes of old games on a regular basis.  It was such a nice opportunity to have the kids all doing something together and the family for the matter (if you’re wondering Father of a Man-Child was let off the hook last week, but he won’t be again).   With a seven-year age gap the men-children and their sister don’t have a great deal in common as you would imagine, so I like the chance to do these things.

It’s the stuff that memories are made of for me, and I’m hoping it will be the same for our kids.  I can still remember learning to play 500 when we were about 14 years old on one holiday.  We became so obsessed with it we played for hours and hours, day after day – our parents must have been thrilled at their ingenuity.

So pull out the Monopoly, or Pictionary, or Cluedo and get playing!  I promise you’ll have fun!

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Whoops! May 27, 2011

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iphoneA funny thing happened the other day.  I discovered a heap of unknown contacts in my iPhone.  What the?  Where did these come from?  And who are these people anyway?  And then it dawned on me – they were my son’s contacts!  GOLD!!!

Man-Child I was recently the recipient of his first ever iPhone.  A hand me down I might add, and he stays on the $30 plan, so forget surfing the net or racking up hefty data charges – he quickly realized how fast his credit was getting chewed by one of the telco monsters.

In order to get his iPhone up and running, we seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time updating everyone’s phones one night.  Father of a man-child needed all his contacts copied over to his new iPhone (and somehow ended up with them in triplicate)!  Man-Child I wanted all his contacts copied over to the old iPhone and his fathers deleted.  Plus all my apps and games copied onto his iPhone from mine – not that easy trust me.

In typical fashion Man-Child I went like a bull at a gate (who needs instructions I’m a male) and nearly stuffed up the entire thing.  The head of technology in our house (that’s me, Mother of a Man-Child) then used forums and Google to determine how we should best go about this and saved the day.  Well sort of…

Two days later I’m at work when I notice I have a stack of new contacts in my phone.  And they’re not mine.  Moreover they’re not Father of a Man-Child’s.  That was when I realized I had Man-Child I’s contacts in my phone.  I suddenly had access to all his friends mobile numbers, email addresses etc, thankfully in addition to my own contacts.

So I naturally sent a text to let him know.  I’m sure he felt positively ill about it.  He couldn’t get home fast enough to delete them from my iPhone and off my computer.  Not that I was going to talk to any of them, but it was funny knowing I could.  It would be a bit like having my son friend me on Facebook and suddenly having access to all his mates – like that’s ever going to happen!!!