Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Learning the hard way February 14, 2014

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workmen's tool beltOur role as parents is to guide our children in life.  As they get older, we let them make more and more decisions for themselves, hopefully so that in their adult life they are well equipped to manage independently.  As part of this, experience is a great teacher, and often shapes what we learn and understand about the world.

One of the men-children is job hunting this year.  Having successfully completed a TAFE course last year (much to our delight), he is now looking for an apprenticeship in his chosen trade – carpentry.  It has been interesting to observe his approach to full-time job hunting.  It started with “I need a holiday, it can wait until after January, no-one is working then”, to “You guys know a lot of people, you help me find a job.”  I was suitably unimpressed, and set about educating my son about the various channels he would need to explore to find himself a job.

To be fair to said man-child, he has had a part-time job for several years, so it’s not that he is afraid of work – he just doesn’t LOOK for it willingly, somehow it always finds him!

Anyway, as luck would have it, an opportunity recently fell in his lap to potentially work for a builder, as an apprentice.  It commenced with a few days “trial”, on a large construction site, and required us to drive him across to the other side of town for 3 days at an ungodly hour of the morning, which of course we were very agreeable to (he should have his licence in about 3 weeks we hope).

Naturally I was keen to know how the day went, and was shocked to hear that the guy he worked on site for had been quite nasty – abusing our son, swearing at him, calling him a “moron”, etc.  The mother in me wanted to ring him up and abuse him right back that night, and tell him that workplace bullying was illegal.  However, I took a deep breath, and we decided that perhaps on day two he would be in a better mood and not quite so awful.  My son is amazingly resilient in these situations, seemingly thick skinned, but really just like a lychee – tough on the outside, but soft and gooey in the middle.  So off he went on day two, which improved a little on day one, and our son found a friend in his other young apprentice, who was at pains to assist him to understand what the boss generally “cracked the shits” over.  Again, I was appalled at the thought that these kids worked in such an environment of fear.

At the end of day two, I told my son he didn’t have to work day three if he didn’t want to.  He again elected to return, telling me “maybe this is just how it is Mum”.  I asked him if he thought that the 3 builders he had done work experience for would treat their apprentices the same way, which got him thinking, and I saw the light go on, as he realised it actually wasn’t normal.   Anyway, off he went on day three, after his mother had another sleepless night angry at the employer and worried for my son (yes, I was in protective mother bear mode for 3 days).

I did seek the advice of some colleagues who assured me that yes, sadly, this behaviour on some building sites was pretty normal, and that apprentices were simply a form of cheap labour that allowed them to make margins, and they weren’t really focussed on teaching them – I was quite alarmed it’s fair to say (and clearly naive).

I saw my son briefly at the end of day three, and much to my dismay, heard of more abuse and bullying on site.  To my sons absolute credit, he had actually stood up for himself several times on-site, to explain to this IDIOT that he was the one making mistakes, not my son.  Clearly apologising was not in this man’s nature!   If the man had crossed my path that night, it would not have been pretty.  I apologised to my son for finding him the job (I really wished I hadn’t), and reassured him that not all builders were like this.  He had been left “hanging” for a text message over the weekend, to let him know if any more work would be required the following week.  I asked him if he wanted to work for him, and could see him wavering.  So I told him we would rather he was unemployed than work for an arsehole like this bloke.

It took all my nagging to finally get him to send “Builder of the Year” a text message that weekend, explaining that he wouldn’t be working for him again.  My draft was carefully scripted to say he was going to look elsewhere (read between the lines, I’d rather have no job than work for you pal), but my diplomatic son insisted that saying he had found another job was certainly nicer, and probably meant he might be paid.  As to the latter matter, we also sent a follow up text message about payment for the 3 days work – due this week.  Trust me, if the money doesn’t hit my son’s bank account, rest assured our friend will wish he had never heard of me – as I will pursue him to the end of the earth (and VCAT) to see my son paid for 3 days work.

So what has the above taught us?  It’s taught my son that not everyone is nice to work for, but that doesn’t mean you have to take it.  It’s taught his mother that she must learn to bite her tongue, and not take control,  but be there to offer guidance along the way (and assert her influence very strongly when required).  It’s also taught my son that it’s okay to stand up for yourself, and to walk away if you want to.  And to demand what is rightfully yours.

So where does that leave us?  Back to square one.  I have armed my son with all the information he requires to job hunt, had him send numerous emails to relevant contacts, sought advice from friends about where to look for work and showed him where to find apprenticeship jobs on  As I explained to him the other day, you are the horse and I have given you the water.  I can’t make you drink it, but if you don’t, then you won’t find a job!!!

So begins the next lesson in life…..I will keep you posted.  And if you should hear of a NICE builder looking for a great young apprentice, who was top of his class, and is most definitely NOT afraid of hard work, please let me know.

Working has been a popular topic for me (yes, I like my children to work):  Here’s one about work experience, and school holiday work, and labouring work.


Gold at the end of the rainbow….. November 23, 2013

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It’s been a good week in the man-child household – we are on the up.  Headlines of the week:


Man-child cleans room after threat from Mother!

clean room

You would have seen last week that I had reached the end of my tether.  Finally the dust and debris littering man-child’s room was too much for me.  Under threat of ME cleaning his room (and finding who knows what) he actually stayed home over the weekend and cleaned his room.  OMG!!!  There was actually enough carpet visible that I was able to run the vacuum over the floor.  I wanted to show him how nice the room could look with a small amount of effort.

I also had three loads of washing to do as a result of his room cleaning efforts – I told you there was a lot to clean up, not to mention the nice sheets that had been on his bed for a few months (yes, totally gross).

Now that we can see the floor, he has another task to tackle – his desk!  Such are the organisational instincts of our man-child, that he has everything on his desk and NOTHING in his desk drawers!!  Hasn’t he worked out the easiest way to “clean” is to shove it all in the draw or cupboard? 🙂

messy desk


Man-child actually has a paying job!

In another exciting development last weekend, my other man-child actually did some paid employment.  A bit of lateral thinking by mother of a man-child secured a short term gig mowing lawns for a school family.  Also this week, another job in the pipeline came off, with some garden maintenance work he can do during the Dec school hols (the latter through his initiative I am delighted to say).

He is clearly happy to have work, and enjoys manual labour and working outdoors like his twin brother.  He is also excited about the prospect of banking some money before the Christmas holidays.  Not nearly as excited as me!!!  He even needs to get a tax file number – all good as far as I am concerned – welcome to the real world.

So all in all a good week on the home front.  Small but important steps for the boys.  And a small step towards sanity for Mother of a man-child.  Now that’s a good job!

Here’s last weeks post:

And my previous musings and about job prospecting:


The World at his Feet November 4, 2013

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BulldozerA few days ago, one of my sons finished his course (and in effect his school life), and is now ready to enter the workforce.  He literally has the world at his feet, and the future of his career in his hands.  It’s an exciting, but also scary time.

For those who know our men-children, we made the decision over 12 months ago to let one of our sons leave school at the end of Year 10 and undertake a VCAL/Pre-apprenticeship course.  The academic life wasn’t for him (no matter how bright he is) and life as a “tradie” was begging.  He has spent the last 9 months at TAFE, doing a building course and to his credit thoroughly enjoying it (that’s the practical side of things, it’s fair to say he still didn’t love the academic requirements, no matter how basic).

In that time of “adult learning” they have taught them all manner of skills, both building related and not, and undertaken a vast range of modules, including green bowling (I kid you not), and community oriented activities such as teaching kids in schools.  I think our son has learned things about himself, and also about others.  He has certainly been exposed to a life outside of his sheltered private school upbringing (always a good thing) and probably has a new sense of appreciation for how fortunate he is.   This particular man-child has always been pragmatic and pretty down to earth, so I don’t think he’s been too far outside his comfort zone.  I have to say though, I’d like to send his twin brother along to TAFE for a short time – it might open his eyes a bit more!!!

So where to from here for our future “tradie”?  He has a part-time job he will continue, whilst he looks for an apprenticeship.  We have encouraged him to contact everyone he knows to make them aware he is job hunting, and also to seek recommendations from his lecturers.  I have also ensured that he realises it’s a tough employment market, and it might take a while to find an apprenticeship – not wanting to dull his enthusiasm – quite the opposite, to create a sense of urgency.

To the credit of our man-child, I am not at all concerned about him.  I know he has found his “thing” (how fortunate at 17 years old) and I have confidence he will do well in his chosen field.  I know he is not afraid of hard work, and therefore will be rewarded with success in due course.  He has also come to the realisation that his desire to leave home as soon as possible might be thwarted in the short-term, now that he has learned exactly how little the hourly rate is for an apprentice!!   As I said, if you want the ute, and have to pay for petrol, there won’t be much left for anything else (secretly of course I am happy about the chance to keep him at home a little longer – REALLY!!)

I told him the other day that we are extremely proud of him for completing his course and following his heart – I hope it confirms how much we believe in him, no matter how often we disagree about mundane details in our daily lives.

So onto the next chapter – whatever that brings.  I can’t help but share in the excitement of what might be around the corner for him…..I will worry when I need to, but just not now.

Our decision to let him leave school early wasn’t easy, but we survived the journey.   Read more below:




A valuable lesson October 12, 2012

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laptopOne of the men-children learned a valuable lesson the other day about the working world and the importance of commitment.  I hope it is a lesson he will remember for a lifetime.  As luck (along with his Mother’s  persistence) would have it, he was able to spend a couple of days in my office over the school holidays helping out with filing and various other tasks, and earning some longed for income to support his entertainment needs and shopping habits.  Less lucky for him was the fact that the two days were right at the tail end of his holidays, which is when he least preferred the work – but hey, beggars can’t be choosers can they?

So it transpired that on day two, as I was on my way to an early appointment before work, I received a text message from said man-child informing me that he was suffering a head cold, sore throat, and general tiredness and did he really need to work that day?  I am serious!!!  Oh and he had been out the night before too.  I yelled upstairs on my way out the door that he should be ready in 30 mins to go to work.  The text messages continued unabated during my appointment, and I arrived home to find him still in bed, and openly admitting that he didn’t want to go to work because it was the last day of the holidays.  One word people – TOUGH!!

The next 15 mins were a battle of wills and wits.  Him insisting he wasn’t going anywhere, and me arguing the opposite.  Quite apart from the fact that it was MY employee that he was going to stand up, it was the underlying principle associated with believing you could just decide not to turn up if you didn’t want to that had Father of a Man-Child and me up in arms and fuming. In the end an outright threat was what got him over the line.  And I quote:  “If you don’t come to my office today, not only will you not get paid for yesterday’s work, but you will never work for my company again, and we will not give you another cent of pocket-money between now and Christmas!”  From the expletives that followed and the sounds of stuff being thrown around his room I was pretty sure I had him cornered.  So down he stomped and off to work we went!!!

Naturally I delivered him a lecture during the trip (nothing like a captive audience in the car) about the importance of commitment in life, in sport, in jobs, etc.   I asked him if he would leave seven of his rowing crew in the boat waiting for him – of course not.  I said if it was a permanent job at Coles or Woolies, you wouldn’t ring up at the last-minute and say you had a party to attend so sorry, can’t come in on Friday night, unless of course you wanted the sack.  And I said it was doubly worse that I had gone out on a limb to get him work, and this was the thanks he gave to me, my boss, and my employer!!!  Thankfully by the time we arrived at the office my anger had subsided and I was able to breathe.

On the way home that night, I asked if he had learned anything that day (actually referring to some newly acquired Photoshop skills) and he mentioned the importance of commitment and going to work when you say you will.  Silent fist pump!  Therein ending another life lesson for one man-child, and another chapter of stress and torment for Mother of a Man-Child.

Anyone else got any good stories of not giving in to the demands of their children or insisting they do the right thing?  Whether it’s a toddler or a teenager, it’s damn hard work I tell you.

Read about their first taste of work experience, and the lessons they learned earlier this year:  Gaining life experience from work experience



Not THAT sort of job…… June 29, 2012

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burgerAs you know both the boys have been “job-hunting”, in a roundabout way.  One Man-Child recently got himself into a pyramid selling scheme with promises of making millions if he recruited friends of friends to also sell said product.  He’s yet to see one cent!

The other Man-Child seemed to have more promising prospects, when he advised me that he was being offered a job by his girlfriend’s sister, in a cafe.  Excellent, it sounded great, complete with training and it was to be local when she opened a second shop.

It’s funny, and perhaps not intentional, that men-children don’t share all the information with you all the time.  Either they just don’t think it’s relevant, or they know that certain information will in fact lead you down a different path of questioning or to a different decision.

As it transpired, there were a few issues in relation to the “cafe” job.  It started with a requirement for him to sign a contract for a four year “Traineeship” as part of a Certificate 3 in Retail.  Yes he needs training, but he doesn’t need a Cert 3 in Retail over four years!  It’s a casual job!  Hmmm, just like the well-publicised case last year about Brumby’s signing up school kids to benefit from a $4,000 government grant.  I was concerned about the contract “we” were being asked to sign as guardian, moreover, I was worried as our son wants an apprenticeship eventually, and some friends in the know had warned me it could jeopardise future funding for him.

A chat to both the cafe owner and an apprenticeship officer didn’t allay my fears 100%.  The urgency to sign said contract by June 30, even though the new venue hadn’t yet opened, left me feeling a little uneasy.  A few days later, whilst I was still mulling over the contract, my son called late one night and asked if he could start his “training” early, like that evening, with his girlfriend, doing the 11pm to 5am shift on a Saturday night.  What????  As he’d been sick earlier that week, and he had rugby training the following day, the answer was a flat no!  An easy decision to make.  However I then spent a sleepless night tossing and turning, surfing the net and uncovering more detail about the cafe and putting two and two together.

I knew it was a burger joint – no issue there – I love a good burger too.  I then discovered it’s open 24/7 over weekends and from the online reviews I found, you can imagine the clientele it attracts?  Yep, the inebriated late night dwellers in need of a feed.  A sudden realisation then dawned on me which was confirmed the next day by Man-Child – yes they actually work alone in the shop on the night shift, even if they’re 15 or 16 year old boys or girls.  Gulp.  Nope.  Not on my watch.  Sorry, my Man-Child is NOT working there.  That sealed the deal for us.  The answer was simple – no we would not sign the contract, no he would not work there.

Someone said to me the other day, I’m sure Man-Child could look after himself.  And yes, I suppose he probably could.  But as a mother, do I want to put my son at risk unnecessarily?  No I do not.  Am I being paranoid?  Probably. 🙂

When we told Man-Child about our decision, he was understandably furious.  And not surprisingly, he said, well I found a job, and so if you don’t want me to work there, then you’ll have to keep funding me.  Man-Child 1: Parent 0.

Here’s how the conversation went with the pyramid selling job: Man-Child has a job – sort of!


Man-Child has a job – Sort Of! June 8, 2012

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fish hookAs you know I am keen for the men-children to have jobs.  For two main reasons: firstly so they stop putting their hands out for money every week (which they don’t do anything to earn), and second to teach them responsibility and a little business sense gained through working.

One of the men-children has made more efforts than his brother to get a regular job.  But as I doled out yet another note to him the other day (why is it I always have a $50 when I need a $20), I asked him how the job hunting was going, especially since rowing is over, and he now only has one sporting commitment on the weekend.  And do you know what he said to me?  He told me he’d put his resume into every shop in our local area, and no-one had given him a job, and anyway (and I quote here) “why don’t you get me a job”!!!!

Well, you can imagine how that went down can’t you?  So he got a few lessons in life about job-hunting from me.  It went something like this:

  1. A job won’t find you – you find the job.  Your resume will go in a file (or bin) with about 20 others from that week, and that’s where it will stay.  It won’t sit on the top screaming give HIM the job.
  2. You should drop into the places you want to work regularly.  For two reasons: you might just be there on the day they’re thinking about hiring someone.  Or when they do come to hire the next person, they’ll remember the kid who drops in regularly and say lets give him a go.
  3. You should think beyond your own nose!  He has so far visited the businesses within walking distance of our home.  I said why don’t you go a short tram or bike ride down the hill to the next suburb and see if you can get a job somewhere there?  I recall travelling some distance to my casual job every week, and didn’t even think about it.
  4. As for the last comment, I said I didn’t have friends who ran the sort of businesses that could offer him a casual job.  What I didn’t say was that based on your attitude I wouldn’t find you a job even if I could, because I don’t want my sons growing up thinking nepotism is the answer to all their problems!!

I like to think when he made the comment about me finding him a job, he didn’t quite mean it to come out that way.  But apparently since some of his friends have parents who have indeed found their sons jobs, I’m not sure.  So be it – I am not them!

Since our little discussion about job-hunting, an opportunity has in fact presented itself to Man-Child I.   He was invited along to an “information” session the other night by a school peer, about a health-related product that he could help sell.  The information session (think sales pitch) was very successful – my son came home having drunk the Kool-Aid and espousing the virtues of said product and all the money he could make selling it.   He told me all the wonderful things about the product (scientifically proven of course), how a famous footballer had been at the meeting and talked about how good the product was, he showed me the fancy bag with all the shiny literature in it, and told me he was going to have other people selling it, and he’d even make money out of them too.

Pyramid selling at its best?  The way he talked about it reminded me of a successful drug-pushing network.  So Mother of a Man-Child gave him a few lessons in sales (they will tell you ANYTHING), and how it really works (you won’t get rich overnight), and what it really costs (the product is actually pretty expensive), and that they key to success was finding a market to buy the product, and at the prices they sold stuff, I wasn’t sure his school mates could afford it.

I also Googled the name of the company and showed him what some people had to say about this worldwide “conglomerate” and the fact that they promise you’ll make gazillions of dollars, but that really most people don’t make much at all.   That took the shine of it for him!!!  I also suggested he ask his cousin who has some knowledge in this area what he thought of the product (he endorsed it which was something).

So my Man-Child has drunk the last of the Kool-Aid and signed up as a “distributor” of the said “miracle” product.  I said go for it, so long as you go into it with your eyes wide open, and don’t ask me to buy the product from you so you can make sales.  I figure there’s nothing to lose, and something to gain – perhaps some money, but more importantly an insight into how these businesses operate, and what “selling” is really all about.  I’ll keep you posted, and I promise not to offer to sell you anything! 🙂

PS.  All job hunting tips welcome, and of course job offers for a kid who really does want a job!!


Get a Job Men-Children! October 21, 2011

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piggy bankEnough – the ATM is tired of handing out money!  Do you ever get the feeling you’re feeding a beast with an insatiable appetite?  Weekly pocket-money, plus extra on school holidays, and regular concert tickets, and clothes and shoes….the requests are never-ending.  And you can imagine how much they do to earn the pocket-money can’t you?

Now I know when they’re young your children need you to support them and provide for them, but as the men-children keep reminding me, they are ALMOST 16.  Time surely to get a job and start funding some of their own entertainment?

To be fair, one of the men-children has made some effort to apply for jobs.  The other, only under extreme sufferance, and from memory that would be ONE application only.  Now I don’t know whether it’s harder to get work as a teenager these days, but I had my first job at 14 and didn’t look back.  It was at the French Bakehouse with one of my best friends Lou, walking distance from home.  The best part of the job was all the almond and chocolate croissants and cheese twists we got to eat and the crunchy baguettes we got to take home at the end of our shifts.

Once I got the taste of having my own money I couldn’t earn it and spend it fast enough.  Actually, one of the men-children is just like me – the moolah positively burns a hole in his wallet if he doesn’t spend it in record time.  The other man-child is actually more like my twin sister – a non-spender and therefore good saver.

Either way, the independence and responsibility that comes with holding down a job is an invaluable lesson for teens in my view.  I know they’re busy with sport – in fact right at the moment it’s quite ridiculous how busy they are with extra sporting commitments due to pre-season training for rugby and footy, on top of rowing; but now’s the time to have a foot in the door with a casual job so they can be employed over summer and earn some holiday money.  Of course one side effect of having a job might be a little dent in the social life too – and that can’t hurt can it?

So how old were you when you got your first job?  Was it as good as the French Bakehouse?

Please note any prospective employers should feel free to contact me.  The men-children are good-looking and have developing muscles so manual labour is definitely an option. 🙂