Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

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. 

 

High Expectations? February 17, 2012

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salad rollA teenagers needs are pretty basic.  Feed me, clothe me, drive me, fund me, and leave me alone!  Simple really.  Oh and read my mind constantly.

So unfolded a conversation with one of the men-children on Monday morning at 6.30am that is pretty indicative of how “adolescent” they can sometimes be.

The first thing that popped out of his mouth:  “Did you make the sandwiches I asked for?”  Actually he asked his father for a certain variety, not me.  So no, I didn’t make them, because I didn’t know, and by the way he was pretty lucky that a Year 10 boy was still having his sandwiches made for him.  What are we, a tuckshop?  No we’re just parents with boys who are rowers who recognise how important their food requirements are.

“That roll is small!” This immediately followed the last comment.  Oh sorry, it’s only half a baguette, and yes it’s not the same size as the ones I’ve bought previously.  But it’s better than a sandwich isn’t it?  Sorry I bothered I am thinking to myself by now.  See previous point about rowing men-children – it’s all about fuel!

Within 60 seconds, man-child was heard from the laundry:  “Where’s my zoot suit?”.  (For the uninitiated, this is the all-in-one fitted suits that rowers wear – very “gay” when you’re in year 7/8/9 but somehow more “manly” when you’re in year 10.  Go figure.)  Now, since I had VERY KINDLY trawled through both their bedrooms late on Saturday for dirty clothes to wash, only because they were both rowing all day and I felt sorry for them, I knew the zoot suits had indeed made it into the washing machine, onto the line, and into the folded pile of teenage clothes that seems to live permanently in the laundry.  So you can imagine my response – silence! (Actually you could call it fuming, because I was).  He eventually found it, but not before he’d told me that the only one he found was his brothers, not his, and therefore that’s why he couldn’t find a zoot suit.  Yes, they still fight over clothes regularly.  And no they don’t put their names on them to stop said fighting.

It got better.  A minute later we had the same thing over the rowing t-shirt, which he promptly produced for me saying “You didn’t wash my shirt”!  Well no, I clearly didn’t wash your shirt – as any blind man can see because it’s filthy.  It obviously wasn’t on the floor, and so I didn’t pick it up when I was VERY KINDLY looking for 4 weeks of washing on your bedroom floor, you know the floor that the cleaners no longer vacuum because they can’t find the carpet!!  “Well it was in my backpack!”  Oh sorry, I didn’t go through every bag in your room looking for errant dirty clothes.  On another day this would be called an invasion of privacy wouldn’t it?  Clearly ESP and XRAY vision are two skills I need to add to my mother of a man-child collection.

Ah the simple joys of motherhood.  Slavery would have been a better option for some.  I can’t recall the last time they voluntarily thanked us for a nice meal, or for driving them at 5.45am every second day to school for rowing, or to a party, or for washing piles of clothing.  One of the men-children (yes the one above) sees it in very simple terms – well you chose to have children so it’s your job to do all this stuff.  Stop complaining.  I can’t wait to be laughing if and when I’m a grandmother to his children and he tells me how ungrateful they are.  The joys of parenting. 🙂

I do recall a similar conversation with the other man-child a few years back: Argue this Logic

 

Mother of a Man-Child: New Years at Portsea – 30 years on… January 14, 2011

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When I was 14 years old, and again at 15 years old, I begged my parents to be allowed to go to Portsea for New Years Eve. Naturally they said “NO” – not a surprise.  By the time I was finally permitted to go years later, I actually no longer wanted to go, because my peer group had moved on.  Clearly that was the intention of my parents. 🙂

As readers of my blog know, I am now experiencing first hand with my Men-Children what my parents experienced with my twin and me as their teenage daughters.  My Men-Children seem to be exhibiting extremely similar (scarily so) behaviour at exactly the same age.  Of course my father is thoroughly amused by all this – call it Karma.  Since I turned out all right, we can also assume that my Men-Children also stand a reasonable chance, so he doesn’t seem at all worried.  He’s more interested to see how I respond to the challenges of parenting a mini-me of myself.

So it should come as no surprise that Man-Child I wanted to go to Portsea for New Years Eve this year.  I am sure he planted the seed months ago with a mate, to secure a berth at someone’s house.  Which of course made it much easier for me to say I would think about it and eventually to agree.  Apparently they were off to a party at a friend’s house, which they would walk to (much better that no cars are allowed on the roads in my view).

The day before New Years, having asked the boys to tidy their room ahead of guests visiting the beach house, naturally it was me who ended up picking up wet towels off the floor and dragging doonas onto beds.  Whilst doing so I came across a bag under the bunk beds and when I pulled it out, discovered a number of grey school socks covering something cylindrical.  My first thought was large firecrackers, but alas what I found were individually wrapped stubbies of beer.  Yes that’s right, 24 bottles of warm beer.  It took me less than 0.5 seconds to work out who they belonged to and for what reason, so I picked them up and took them with me to find Man-Child I.  You can imagine his face…priceless!

The funniest thing for me was that I had asked before we left Melbourne where all the school socks were as they had strangely disappeared from the laundry.  The boys nervously responded that Man-Child I now wore his school socks with casual clothes, which I commented was very “gay” quite frankly.  Little did I know!

For once (and yes this may come as a surprise) I actually didn’t determine the resulting punishment on the spot.  I calmly advised Man-Child I there were a number of possible outcomes, namely:

  • Option 1:  Confiscate the alcohol but still allow him to go (fair)
  • Option 2:  Not allow him to go at all (very mean)
  • Option 3:  Allow him to go with the alcohol (I didn’t mention this option, but I had it up my sleeve just in case)

I then drilled him to understand how he had actually managed to acquire the beer?  We went from an un-named bottle shop in Glenferrie Road with him purchasing them initially, to the eventual truth – namely paying a “random” to buy them for him.  That was after I threatened to visit the said bottle shop and have them shut down for selling alcohol to minors.  Trust me, I so would do it!

When I told my husband about my discovery, he admitted that he actually knew about the beer!  I was not amused.  He had apparently caught our men-children passing the beer over the back fence to hide in the garden – strangely on the weekend when he was gardening.  Considering they’d been on school holidays for weeks and we’d both been working full-time I was a little surprised they were that stupid.

I was also furious to learn that Father of a Man-Child’s response had been “I don’t want to know about it”, so they had considered that tacit approval (yet again).  I mentioned that I considered that to be a clear failure of Parenting 101 and dodging responsibility.  Grrr…

As we were entertaining friends, it was several hours later before we got around to discussing what should happen with the beer.  By this stage, my friends knew about the find (it made a good story over drinks), and I had also sought the advice of my sisters and discussed/argued about it with my husband and father-in-law.

Actually it was the latter (wise older man) who had the best suggestion.  As he was kindly and conveniently taking Man-Child I to Portsea himself, he said he would take the beer as long as the parents of Man-Child’s friend knew he was bringing it.  I reasoned that this was a good approach – we were being very transparent (no more sneakiness), and the parents accepted some responsibility also.

So the result?  Countless texts and phone calls later it was all sorted.  Option 3 came to fruition – he got to go AND take the beer.  OMG, yes Mother of a Man-Child actually gave in, much to the chagrin of Man-Child II.  This is history in the making you realize?  This also meant Man-Child I was allowed to get the beers in the fridge before hand, guaranteeing an icy cold beverage.  You wouldn’t believe what they were proposing to ensure they had cold beers otherwise.

And the night?  They went to a mate’s (with beers in the back packs) then onto Shelley Beach.  The perfect hot and windy 40-degree day and night to end the year and mark the beginning of 2011.   Man-Child I survived it, no doubt sobered up by having to walk miles from his friend’s house and home again.   The only incident I learned about was a friend who had his front teeth knocked out by a charming bogan on the beach – although I understand he asked for it!

So I find myself on the cusp of another stage in adolescence.   One where I actually accept that they might just be old enough to partake selectively in alcohol…although I know it’s really not good for them at all.

And if you’re wondering what Man-Child II got up to, he didn’t manage to get to Portsea or Sorrento, or have a friend down (some things just don’t work out).  So he spent the night with some of our friends and us and we really enjoyed his company.  We even let him have a beer with us.  Cheers!