Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Showtime! October 4, 2013

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ferris wheel, carnival rideEvery child in Melbourne would know about “the show” in September. For those not in Melbourne or Australia that’s the Royal Melbourne Show, held at the Melbourne Showgrounds of course, originally a showcase of agricultural livestock and produce, where “city families” could get a taste of country life. Most major cities and some country towns have their own version of the show, be it the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, or the Bendigo or Shepparton Show.

A peculiarly Australian tradition is the showbag, initially containing samples from various exhibiting companies, and now the mainstay of any visit to the show. Everyone would know the famous Bertie Beetle showbag for a measly $2 (it’s still available for $2 but only has about 3 Bertie Beetles in it). Now you can pick from 380 showbags ranging in price from $2 to $35+. That’s a lot of showbags!

My childhood favourite was always the Lucky Boy showbag, which probably cost $1 in my day – it was full of licorice. I am not sure my parents ever took us to the show – as they had four children, they just couldn’t afford the expense, so they would cleverly find someone who was going and ask them to buy four showbags – and we were ecstatic just with that. I know I eventually went myself with a friend in my teens, riding the famous Mad Mouse, and probably buying a showbag or two.

So why am I wandering down memory lane? Well as it transpires, Sister of a Man-Child innocently asked me about “the show” and whether or not she could go. I immediately explained a few “facts” about the show:

  1. It’s ridiculously expensive, not just to get in but for the rides ($10 a pop) and the showbags
  2. It’s very crowded being the school holidays and full of bogans with stacks of whining kids and a pram overladen with scores of showbags
  3. I have no plans in my immediate future to take you there, perhaps someone will invite you one day

I chatted to a friend shortly afterwards, who said if she took her kids one year she’d invite my daughter along – I honestly think she felt sorry for her. A few days later, my guilt kicked in. What sort of a mother deprives her child of a once in a lifetime visit to the show? How mean could I be? It’s not like we couldn’t afford it. Then, a flash of brilliance. Father of a Man-Child was taking a few days off over the holidays – perhaps he could take our daughter and a friend to the show? After carefully broaching the subject, he agreed he would happily do that, and the plans were complete, and the iphone app downloaded.

Off went Father of a Man-Child with the two girls and a backpack full of supplies to keep them watered and fed and provide the energy to traipse around the kilometres of pavilions at the showgrounds. Suffice to say the day was a huge success and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it. As my husband explained, you forget how excited kids are and see the joy of the show through their eyes, not the cynical memories of their parents.

The kids loved every minute of it – the tram and train ride to the showgrounds., the farm animals – cattle the size of a family car, the baby animals – too cute rabbits and lambs, and ducklings, the Masterchef kitchen, the rides – yes expensive and some too scary for a couple of 9 year olds, the working sheepdog displays, and of course the showbags!

Apparently they thought very hard about the number of rides they would go on, versus the number of showbags they would buy. Initially my daughter, knowing me too well, had said that she was close to picking THE showbag she would buy, having studied them on the website in glorious detail. That was when I explained that she could actually have two or three – as long as they weren’t all lollies. OMG, the excitement!

So the five hour excursion to the show was a huge success. We made the day (and the school holidays) for two exhausted little girls, who now have the wonderful childhood memories of a visit to the show. My daughter has taken me personally through the exact contents of each showbag, and relived the day with me with the excited narrative only a child’s eyes can provide.

Hat tip to Father of a Man-Child for taking the girls along and dropping a couple of hundred bucks in a day! Ditto to my nanny 10 years ago who took the Men-Children to the show – I recall it cost me about the same then – plus the cost of employing her. No flies on me. 🙂

What is your favourite memory of the show? Have you taken your kids yet? Are my perceptions of the show incorrect?



Mother of a Man-Child: Masterchefs in the Making? March 11, 2011

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As promised (or threatened depending on your point of view) I have been endeavouring to teach the men-children the art of cooking.  Not your high-end Masterchef type of cooking, but some simple dishes that will equip them with basic skills to survive in the kitchen, and that might even mean on a busy night we could call on the boys to help with preparing dinner.

A month back they had basically one meal in their repertoire – bacon and eggs.  No surprise when you’re a teenage boy.  Oh and two-minute noodles, if you count that as a “cooked meal”!  They’re adept at making a hearty (or heart-stopping?) meal of fried eggs and bacon coupled with toast and lashings of that great Australian tradition – tomato sauce.  Sadly they’re also adept at leaving the splattered remains all over the stove and the dirty frypan on the bench for Mother of a Man-Child to clean up.

So we began our own “Masterchef challenge”.  Each week I have been trying to teach them a new meal to make.  So week one was Mexican – pretty easy these days with the availability of kits, at least it has some salad greens in it, but go easy on the packet seasoning boys!

Week two was a curry.  Again made easy with great curry pastes these days, and pick virtually any meat and vegetable combo and you’ve got yourself a hearty meal.  And week three was a tuna pasta – again, nothing fancy, but a good carb-based meal for budding sports stars that can be put together readily with standard pantry items.

I’ve decided to tackle it one man-child at a time, one meal at a time.  It’s too hard to have both of them trying to make a meal with me in the kitchen – as they say “too many cooks…..”.

And the results:  so far we’ve had no food poisoning, and the meals have tasted just like the ones I make – since I’ve been standing over them, I guess that’s no surprise is it?  And the boys have actually embraced the idea – I think they realise it’s not a bad skill to have, and of course mentioning that it might also impress a girl goes a long way too.

Now the challenge is to make them realise that cleaning up after you cook is actually part of the job, especially Man-Child II, who seems to spill as much onto the stove as into the pot when he cooks!!!  Thankfully the need to earn pocket-money generally means we can convince them to also do the cleaning up, albeit reluctantly.

As we go along, we will no doubt move to more sophisticated meals.  But before you think I’m aspiring to grandiose things, I mean sophisticated for a 15-year-old, not a 30-year-old.  By the way, the men-children just turned FIFTEEN.  I for one cannot believe that I am the mother of two 15-year-old boys.  I had lunch recently with an ex colleague who asked about the boys, and when I told him how old they were, he kept repeating “fifteen, fifteen” with such incredulity I knew exactly how he felt!!

So Happy Birthday to my Men-Children, and happy cooking too!  Of course, recipe suggestions from my blog readers are welcome at any time.  🙂



Mother of a Man-Child: Uninvited guests after midnight! July 23, 2010

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After Man-Child I’s recent brush with the law, Man-Child II decided it was his turn for trouble – what is it with twins?  Fortunately this incident didn’t involve the law, although some of his friends may think I have recently joined the force, such was my police-like response to the event!

The night unfolded like any other, with my man-child deciding to ask me, no in fact, beg me if three of his mates could stay for a sleepover during the school holidays.  They always seem to leave these requests for the last-minute, which they either do because they think it’s more successful, or because they’re too stupid to consider the impact on anyone else at 14 years old – sadly I suspect it’s the latter.

As it was 6pm, and I had just arrived home from work, and was now faced with the task of feeding an extra three hungry teenage boys, I am not quite sure what possessed me when I said yes.  Perhaps it was the opportunity to do something nice for my son, having been on his back about a few things recently.  A mother’s guilt goes a long way sometimes – little do they know!

At any rate, like a true Masterchef I managed to whip up a perfect gut-filler of carbonara and mounds of garlic bread, that seemed to satisfy the needs of five hungry boys and my daughter.  They then retired to their lounge room for a few hours, where they did all the normal boy things (farting, snacking, joking around, snacking, fighting, snacking, Facebooking, snacking, PS3 etc), before finally taking over the family room at midnight when we retired to bed.

Like all mothers, I remain the world’s lightest sleeper, so I typically hear every noise in the house (unlike my husband who could sleep through a freight train in the middle of our bedroom)!  So it was that at 3am I woke to the sounds of several teenagers…..”Shhhh……Be Quiet…..Shhhh……Giggle…….Be Quiet…..”.  I decided that 3am was late enough, and they really should all be asleep by now, so I promptly opened the door and turned on the light to tell them all so.  What I saw wasn’t quite what I expected – the sight of eight – that’s right – EIGHT bodies all diving under the doona covers in my son’s bedroom.  Eventually my brain took in this fact, and then realized that the extra four bodies were actually FEMALE!  Yes, we had four teenage girl guests in the middle of the night – yikes.

I calmly invited the four girls to join me in the family room, leaving the boys in the bedroom.  After a stern lecture, during which I ascertained that they had each told their parents they were staying at a friend’s house (yep, that old trick), I obtained their names and that of their school.  I then explained that under no circumstances could I allow them back into the dead of night, and that I would need to drop them home to one of their houses, where it was more than likely I would need to wake the parents and let them know what had gone on.

Whilst down the other end of the house doing a quick change (I didn’t think I should drive them home in my pyjamas), and simultaneously briefing my husband who had slept through the excitement to date, I heard the sounds of four screaming girls making a quick get-away down our side path, and quickly realized that my late night visitors had in fact done a runner!   I was so furious that I actually got in my car and tried to find them, unfortunately to no avail.   What we did find was Cinderella’s boots on the back doorstep – so one of them certainly ran home with cold feet.

We then dealt with the teenage boys, delivering yet another stern lecture, and extracting an apology from some (sadly not all).  As the text messages came in thick and fast to Man-Child II’s mobile, I told him that the girls had done an extremely stupid thing bolting, and that I would now make it my business to contact their school and/or their parents to ensure the event didn’t pass un-known.

Over the following days, the tale unfolded even further.  Amazingly I received hand written notes, text messages and phone calls from each of the girls professing their deepest regret at what had happened and assuring me it wouldn’t happen again – yeah right, how dumb do they think I am exactly?  It turns out, not only had they given me the wrong school name, but also used false names, and briefed my son, so when I drilled him he actually knew what names they had used.  Pretty conniving isn’t it?  When one of the girls offered her mothers phone number during her apology (which I did acknowledge was brave of them all) I joyfully accepted.  And that’s when things got even messier.

You see in assuring me of her absolute honesty with her mother, I decided to verify her story.  Alas, the truth had been twisted quite a bit, and the trusting mother had fallen for the very fictional version of events.  Eventually more and more of the story came out, until it was discovered that in fact the boys had all left our house for a midnight jaunt in the park with the girls.  At 3am they had come back to our house because they were all cold – and clearly all thought we would be none the wiser.  I’m not sure how long they were planning on spending in Man-Child II’s room, but the mind does boggle.

Needless to say Man-Child II is having a very quiet quarter, having been grounded for an entire term.  His friend’s parents have chosen their own punishment – that is for them to decide.  Unfortunately the mother of the “honest” girl in question decided it wasn’t her place to alert the parents of her daughter’s friends at all, which does disappoint me, as I think that’s extremely irresponsible on her part, but I can’t live someone else’s life for them.

So the lesson?  Hmmm, I’m not sure there is one, except that what goes around comes around.  Once in my teenage years I crept out of the house in the middle of the night for a party, unbeknown to my parents.  But I was so terrified when I arrived home and had to sneak back into the house, I was sure my heart could be heard pounding three blocks away.  I never did it again because I couldn’t bear the fear.  LOL.