Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Driving us crazy October 18, 2013

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mini cooper, carAs the boys 18th birthday inches closer the frequency of our discussions about first cars escalates. Naturally, having twin boys, our discussions are made more complex, particularly because their current situations are so different, so we don’t even really have the option of them sharing an old bomb (god forbid!!!).

One, set to be an apprentice carpenter very soon, has his heart set on a Ute from day one, and to be honest, this seems like a practical option, as he will likely need to drive to be on-site every day, so helping him buy a car is not out of the question – especially since he will be earning money.

His twin brother on the other hand, still at school, with another year to go, also thinks he should have a car – to drive himself to school!!!!  Well, you can imagine how that conversation went down recently.  As we drove somewhere, he casually asked if I might hand over my almost 10 year old (but very good) car recently, and buy myself a new one – no reason, except so that he could have mine.  Hmmm, the conversation went something like this, quickly deteriorating:

Man-Child (MC): Can you give me this car, and buy a new one?

Mother of Man-Child (MoM): What, I don’t need a new car.  No, you’re not getting this one, it’s worth too much money for a first car.  And it’s still under lease anyway.

MC: Well, I will need a car when I turn 18.  Don’t ruin my life by not giving me one! (Insert hideous sense of entitlement by very spoiled brat).

MoM: Hmmm, so he who has NO casual job, earns no money, and lives off his parents generosity, somehow expects us to GIVE him a car, and to then PAY to fill the petrol tank each week?  Do you know how much a tank of petrol actually costs?  What about that registration sticker on the windscreen?

MC:  (Mini rant follows with various reasons why he should receive a car). You have no idea….things have changed……all my friends have cars…..I NEED a car to get to school, and home from rowing or footy……you can afford it……..I will speak to Dad.

MoM: Son, you need to understand, we are trying to teach you the value of money.  GIVING you a car teaches you nothing. We all earned money and bought our own shit heaps, not a $10-20K first car.  And we will not be giving you a car to drive to school – you can keep getting the tram next year.  Of course, you are free to drive our cars on the weekend, provided we don’t need them.

MC: Deadly silence now in car, smoke coming out his ears. Hatred for mother, who is far too pragmatic and reasonable, and tight with her money.

MoM: (As we arrive at his mate’s place and pull up behind a car with P-plates)  Is that car there the “farm-car” your friend got when he turned 18?  (Shock in voice and on face as I look at a very new looking twin cab ute and think his friend is very very lucky).

MC: Yeah, what’s wrong with that?  See, he got a good car (and of course that totally justifies why MC should also get one).

Now don’t get me wrong.  I would love to give our boys a car for their 18th birthday.  Even a car each.  But I just don’t think it will teach them much about money and how you earn it to get what you want in life.  The perfect scenario for me (not them) would be someone’s grandparent with a great old car stuck in a garage that they want $2K for, with a gazillion miles on the clock and a reliable engine.  Nothing too fancy, even better if it can’t go over 80 KMH. 🙂

So, what was the upshot of my discussions with MC you ask?  Well apparently he has spoken to Father of a Man-Child, and they have brokered a deal.  From what I can gather (having been told it’s NONE of my business), I think he’s been told he will have free access to his Father’s brand new car, thereby satisfying some of his wants and desires (and ego).  The reality is, he doesn’t need it at school, and he doesn’t need it on weekends when they are out drinking, so I’m not sure when he really will use it, but since we seem to have some peace on the car front I am not complaining.

So what are your thoughts?  Am I being a horrible parent, not buying my son/s a car when they turn 18?  Or am I right to make them understand they need to pay for it, and fund it’s running costs and maintenance?

Over the years, I have written about them driving before, including when they first got their L-Plates, and also when they decided to try joy riding!!!  Read on.


Joy Riding Men-Children? Not Happy! February 1, 2013

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As you know, we have two Learner drivers in the house.  Almost a year on, so far so good.  They are learning to drive.  They are putting in the hours to reach the required experience milestone (not quite as fast as their friends since there are two of them to share the driving opportunities).  And to date, we have had no bingles or near misses (although perhaps a few more grey hairs for their parents)!

However, not all is as it seems.  Father of a Man-Child was recently made aware by a neighbour that she had seen one of our sons behind the wheel of his car – alone!  Yes, an UNLICENSED 16 year old driving a car!!!!!  We have since deduced it was during our holiday last year when we left the boys in Melbourne with my sister for a week.  Hmmm, next time we won’t be leaving the car keys will we?

Suffice to say a bit of investigation led us to discovering that in fact BOTH of the men-children have driven their father’s car without an accompanying parent in the car.  (One accidentally dobbed the other one in – that went down well as you can imagine).  Almost as well as the knowledge of their offence.  At this point in time they are both probably thinking it would have been preferable to be caught by police and given a warning than to be caught by us.

As they deserved, we went absolutely nuts when we found out and spelt out for them just SOME of the potential consequences of their incredibly STUPID behaviour (which from discussions with friends appears to be solely a male trait, not a female one).

  • For starters, if they have an accident, the car is not insured, nor is any other damage to property covered.
  • Even worse, should they injure a person in an accident, they could be convicted of a criminal offence (there goes your future), and also sued for damages (their goes our house/future etc).
  • Of course, the likelihood of ever getting their precious license if they are caught driving unlicensed diminishes somewhat doesn’t it?  Great for the tradie who wants to be an apprentice driving a ute in about a year’s time.  That might be a career limiting move?
  • Plain common sense (not common in teenage boys as we know) is that they are still learning to drive, hence the reason experienced adult drivers accompany them.  Accidents DO happen, and not just in Dandenong!  So whilst they think they are good drivers (with only one hand on the wheel), adults know they are not.

What made us feel even worse was their defence of their behaviour – we know how to drive, all our friends do it, blah blah.  The fact that this behaviour is rampant amongst their friends makes me furious.  I could understand (even expected) that at some stage they would take our car without permission one day, once they got their licence, and drive somewhere they shouldn’t, but we certainly didn’t expect they would do it whilst Learners.

1982 Toyota CelicaI must confess to taking my mother’s super shiny, new and very cool Toyota Celica sports car (with sunroof) in the early 80’s to Portsea for the day without my parents’ permission.  Naturally (as my friends came to expect), I got caught!  Two simple things gave me away:  a very sunburnt forehead (the downside of a sunroof), and a speedo with an extra 200kms on the clock – yep, my father was way too smart for me! 🙂

As for our boys, they have been warned about EVER thinking about driving unlicensed again.  And of course, they will be punished for their stupidity.  One is still trying to negotiate his way out of his punishment (not on your life), and the other is still awaiting his – it has to hurt so we have to wait for the right opportunity.  I know it sounds pretty mean, but they just have to understand it cannot happen.  And sadly, it also means that we cannot trust them and so can’t leave any car keys in the house again.

It is not often we think our boys are stupid, but in this instance, common sense has certainly been absent.  It is when you realise that the feelings of being invincible, and knowing everything, and having your whole life before you is the stuff of naive youth (and our men-children), and that one day they will look back and know how wrong their behaviour was, and realise just how right their parents were.  In the meantime, we will just wait for the next hurdle to leap over in the steeplechase of adolescence.

I have written before about our Learner drivers:  read more here and here.


Sometimes you just have to say NO! May 4, 2012

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roadAs you know we now have two learner drivers in the house. The upside – we got “chauffeured” to a school function the other evening – one drove us there, one drove us home. And we didn’t have to worry about nudging 0.05. (Don’t worry, I’m pretty certain you can’t be over the limit if you’re supervising the said learner driver, but you get my point – it’s the difference between relaxing over a glass or two of wine versus drinking water all night because you’re so paranoid you’ll get breathalysed on the way home).

The downside of learner drivers is when one of them asks if he can drive to Queensland with his girlfriend and her older brother in the July school holidays? Yes, the very same Man-Child who has the incredible sum of two hours driving practice currently under his belt (and in his log book). I am not giving any of you points for guessing what the response was, because it was an immediate “absolutely NOT” kind of response that should have ended the conversation right then and there. But alas, it was our Man-Child who won’t ever take NO for an answer. The one who just goes on and on at you in the hope you’ll just give in. But as you know, I’d sooner throw a cask of wine at him than give in. (If you don’t know that story, you can read it here for your own amusement).

Now please don’t get me wrong, we’re not averse to our son having a holiday in Queensland with his girlfriend and the older 30-something brother, but he seemed shocked that we would want ANY detail at all? For example, where in Queensland would you stay? (Last time I checked it’s a mighty large state!) Does the brother work? Will he be on holidays with you or working every day? Who else is going? What does he do for a job? (Okay, maybe a little nosy, but we don’t know him at all, so it’s a fair question). Who does he live with? (I can’t help but have visions of a group of bong smoking, tequila-drinking boys playing cards).

My son was affronted by my questions, and couldn’t understand why I didn’t automatically trust an older brother. Simple I said – because he’s not a PARENT!!! And that changes everything in my book, fairly or not.  And so the conversation went around and around. Can I go by car to Queensland but only as a passenger? NO. Especially since his girlfriend who doesn’t even have her Learner’s permit yet was proposing to test her driving skills (using that term very loosely) on the way to Queensland.

I have done the Queensland drive more than I’d prefer to remember. My scariest memory is leaving the road travelling at 100kmh with a mate (who was driving) and hitting the grass paddock roadside – it could have ended a very different story if there’d been trees trust me. Or with my father driving years ago and the car just missing the semi trailer coming in the opposite direction, who didn’t have his headlights on at dusk as we overtook another car. I think my father nearly had heart failure when he realised what we’d just avoided!!!

So yet again, the wisdom of the parent is lost on the child. I think we’ve made our position clear for now, but we are often getting the “Now I’m 16 I can do what I want” response on a regular basis. How we deal with that is a whole other blog post best left for another time.

So tell me, are we being too tough? Or paranoid? Should we be worried or not about the driving? Or the unknown older brother? I’d love to know what you think.


Are we breeding spoilt teenagers? March 23, 2012

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Teenagers are an interesting breed.  They can be sweet, pleasant, almost enjoyable at times (especially when they want something from you), and then turn in a nano-second and become horrible, hormonal, angry ants, who lose all rationality, typically when they don’t get what they want.  Sound familiar?  Yep, just like a toddler really.

Just a few weeks ago I recall writing that the boys seemed to be turning a corner…..growing up at last….coming out of the woods!  I think I also mentioned some expected set-backs along the way.  You may now call me Nostradamus!

You see our boys can indeed be very charming, provided they get what they want.  Money, a lift somewhere, money, permission to go to a gathering or have someone stay, money, food and drink supplies on tap.  Just stay clear if you plan on saying no or not giving them what they want when they want it.

Lately we are asking ourselves if we have spoilt the men-children too much?  They wanted their Learner’s licence recently, so Father of a Man-Child was convinced to pick them up from school one lunch time and take them for their test, before returning them to school.  Nice VIP service isn’t it?  The same day, just as I pulled into the driveway from work, we got the call to pick them up from a rowing dinner.  So my dinner waited whilst I played taxi service.   They really don’t want for much, although I don’t think we’re a soft touch very often either.

carHaving just got their Learner’s permit (yes I know, fearful times), they are understandably excited.  We however, are understandably not, and suggested that a few driving lessons might be in order to give them some good grounding before they jump in our cars for their first “test drive”.  The ensuing tantrums would have made a 3-year-old with ADHD proud, except I don’t think a 3-year-old has quite the vocabulary of our charming sons.  “We have been waiting SIXTEEN years to drive a car” stated one.  “We’ve driven cars plenty of times” they both claimed.  Now I know one has experienced a small amount of farm driving, but for the life of me I have no idea when his brother did, which leaves far too much to the imagination.  And a determination to never leave the car keys at home if we’re not.

Strangely enough, they are aghast at the idea of having driving lessons.  They think they’ll learn NOTHING.  Hmmm, any wonder that males under 25 are so well represented in the road accident statistics.   An hour-long argument raged with both boys and their father last night over this.  It was quite frankly ridiculous, and made us even more determined to stand our ground.  We promised to get the lessons organised pronto.  It will make no difference to them getting their licence when they turn 18. They just have to learn to wait a few days – sadly something Gen Y aren’t very good at it seems.  I know one of mine especially has an expectation that if he wants something he can get it instantly.  And let’s face it, with online 24/7 you practically can.  Except driving lessons!

So lovely readers, are we being too mean?   Are we being kill joys, and not sharing in their excitement?  Or are we being sensible parents who care about the safety of our own children (and ourselves for that matter)?

As I write this blog I have however had a sudden flash of brilliance.  We have two very early morning runs to school for rowing in the next two days, giving us two perfect opportunities to let two very eager young hoons loose on the road.  Thankfully it’s a very short distance, and we’ll be lucky to see another car on the road.  That’s just how a very nervous Mother of a Man-Child will like it. 🙂


Last week we had the build up to the Learner’s permit:  Beep, Beep, Learner Alert.  And we  have experienced our share of power struggles before:  The Parent-Child Power Struggle.  


Beep, Beep. Learner Alert! March 16, 2012

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L PlateThe boys are now 16 as you know.  Which means they can now get their L-Plates, or “Learners”, i.e. a permit to allow them to sit behind the wheel of a car and DRIVE!  Gulp.  I don’t remember being 16 when we got our L-Plates.  Help me friends – weren’t we 17?

Naturally there was enormous pressure to get their L’s on the day of their birthday – but thankfully with Rowing Nationals immediately after their birthday it was just too hard to organise and we just couldn’t get them to Vic Roads.  So it will be next week – a whole two weeks after their birthday (you would think we made them wait TWO YEARS the way one of them carried on).

As you can imagine, I am just thrilled at the prospect of being a passenger with a 16-year-old man-child driving.   One of the boys tells me his mate got his licence and drove the car home straight from Vic Roads – What!!  The same one got all excited about driving us to rowing up at Nagambie in a few weekends.  Not on your Nelly I said.  It’s a two-hour drive, with your grandfather, me and your father in the car, and your brother’s girlfriend.  I don’t think so!  Let’s get a few kms (like more than two) under your belt before we go for the long distance drive.

He rightly predicted that I will be the panic-stricken mother every time one of them drives, and that Father of a Man-Child will be as cool as a cucumber, with complete faith in their driving skills.  To be fair one has done a bit of driving on a friend’s farm – let’s hope he can still remember what he learned.

I assume the reason they now get their L’s at 16 is so they have plenty of time to clock up the mandatory hours before they can get their full probationary licence, a practice I fully endorse.  For the twins, I’ve already enquired to find out about getting their mandatory hours reduced, on the basis there are two of them, and it will take us a long time to get them the hours they require.  It’s quite legit to apply apparently, provided you can demonstrate you have made as much effort as possible to get a lot of hours logged for each of them.

Yes, I know, some of you will be saying why did you let them know about the get-out clause, what a great excuse to keep them “practising” for years!  There is upside and method in my madness – when they have their licence, we can call on them to drive us around – they get the hours now, we get a cheap taxi later.  Bring it on!

So, anyone up for offering them driving lessons? 🙂

The boys started talking about getting their licence six months ago.  Read more here: Men-Children in motor cars – yikes!