Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

The Parent-Child Divide January 25, 2013

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As the men-children approach their 17th birthday (yes, nearly 18 years ago two small cherubs entered our lives), it seems we just get further and further apart at the moment.  Not surprisingly, their independence has escalated substantially in recent years, but so too has their disconnection from us, their parents, to the point we can barely sustain a conversation with them.  I hope that’s normal?

They are naturally interested in talking to you when they want something – money (thankfully less frequently since at least one of them has a job!), a lift somewhere (in 12 months they won’t just want a lift but the entire car!), permission to go out or have someone over (at least they still ask, although you don’t want to be here if we occasionally say “no”!!!).

baboonHowever, should we attempt to engage them in conversation, it is seriously like talking with a mute baboon.  They just don’t seem to want to give you anything more than a one or two-word response.  Unless of course you are texting them, in which case they seem to be able to SMS more quickly than the time taken for their brains to connect to their mouth and utter words, so you tend to get a longer reply.  If you can’t beat them join them?

And then I think back to when I was their age, and how much time I wanted to spend with my parents.  Yep, that would be ZERO.  NADA.  ZIP.  So are they any different to us as teenagers 30 years ago, or any other teenager today?  Probably not, although I think our men-children are towards the extreme end.

I do recall my final year at school with fondness, when I spent more time just talking with my mother.  I assume it was me finally maturing at 17 years of age, and realising that we could have adult conversations about interesting things, and that it wasn’t completely daggy to do so.  Also doing VCE meant I spent a lot more time at home, so it was probably inevitable.

Does Father of a Man-Child fare any better – you know, the father-son bond that is more important and/or influential at this age?  He says not, except maybe in the car, when you have a captive audience, but then he says you end up arguing half way through the drive because you’re trying to teach them some good road sense (L-plates remember) or reminding them to put TWO hands on the wheel (yes, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s a boy thing!!).

So all in all it’s a joyous time to be parents to the men-children.  Sometimes you wonder why we bother to do anything for them – you really don’t feel obliged to provide much for them in any way, when you are left to feel like a door mat, unpaid slave, chef, driver, housekeeper, etc.

Anyway, we’ll hang in there (breathe, count to ten), and hope that things improve a little when we get back into the rhythm of school/TAFE in a few weeks time.   That does have a tendency to bring some normality back into everyone’s life in our house.   And we’ll soak up the joy of a 9-year-old daughter who still thinks her parents are pretty awesome. 🙂

If you have survived the teenage years, please tell me ours are “normal”?  It would make me feel a lot better.  And if you have any tips for getting through to grunting, testosterone-laden men-children, please share!  I would be very grateful.


No room for Mums….. October 19, 2012

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bridgeBeing a mother of teenage men-children is an interesting journey. The boys that needed you so much for so many years as their primary carer, no longer look to you first for help and advice with everything. On the contrary, they look to and respect the opinions of their friends and peers first, older boys second, sporting coaches, teachers or other authority figures next, and parents coming in a long way last.

Trust me, 16 year old boys know everything and don’t need parents at all!  Except when they need a lift somewhere, or to know how to open a bank account, get a tax file number, put on a washing machine, fill the dishwasher or hang out some clothes.  And if they want something, they don’t necessarily ask their mother first anymore (especially if they think their father will lend a more sympathetic ear). Even more so if it’s a blokey activity, which I can appreciate and actually think is healthy for boys. You know, that male bonding stuff.

It’s certainly a challenge for one’s ego parenting teenagers, even more so as Mother of a Man-Child. In my mid 40’s, it’s fair to say I am loving life. Great mates, great job, great family, at my healthiest in years, good work/life balance, good network of friends and colleagues. However such is the power of teenagers that in a split second your ego can be inflated by a few simple words (“Mum, you look great” – if only they could say it without surprise in their voices), then instantly deflated with a look from them that needs no words, rendering said mother as “useless”.  If you are having a moment of weakness, these incidents can cut you to the core, leaving you feeling bereft, and almost in mourning for the children you once had, and the adoration they once bestowed upon you.

And God forbid you should attempt to talk to their friends.  Most of them seem very nice to me and happy to chat upon arrival in our home. Yet one of my men-children in particular (and to be fair not his brother) practically drags his friends out of the room, so quick is he to escape our presence.  I can only assume it’s embarrassment on his part – perhaps we are not up to his standards?  They say the grass is always greener on the other side – does the same extend to parents?  Are everyone else’s parents somehow cooler than your own?  No doubt.

Thankfully I still have Sister of a Man-child, who still wants and needs her mother. Me and my ego soak that up every day, knowing too well it is a temporary state.  Fortunately, as Celia Lashlie’s book “He’ll be OK” showed, I also have confidence the men-children will return to me in due course, and be the nice young men we are bringing them up to be, who love and appreciate their Mum (and of course their Dad and sister). 🙂

I have written about the journey across the adolescent bridge before:  It’s a Man’s world


A tribute to an extra-ordinary man-child October 5, 2012

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heartsThis week a beautiful man-child that I had known for the 18 years of his short life, passed away whilst on a road trip across America with his family. Whilst this young man had been unwell for the latter years of his life, his death was still a shock and absolutely devastating for his family and everyone that knew him.

I have often thought of GG as we will call him, as I wrote about my own men-children every week. Whilst I typically make light of my boys and their escapades (good and bad), my thoughts over the years have often turned to GG, whose body progressively failed him until it could cope no more. So as I wrote about the hardships of 6 am rowing starts, the thrill of white water kayaking trips, the freezing conditions endured on cadet camps, the fun of gatherings on Saturday nights, and the arrival of first girlfriends, in the back of my mind was our friend GG, who didn’t have the chance to row, or kayak, or drive a car, or head out on the tram with all his mates to the races.

I also frequently thought about how lucky and blessed I am to have three healthy children, and how fortunate are my men-children and sister of a man-child, that they have their whole lives ahead of them to take on the world and all its challenges and opportunities.

That is not to take away from GG, or the things he did accomplish, both alone and with his family. I don’t for a minute want anyone to feel sorry for GG, as certainly he and his family didn’t feel sorry for themselves, or dwell on the cruel twist of fate that meant both GG and his darling younger sister suffered from a shocking childhood illness that would make their stay on this earth all too short.

Instead, they tackled the challenges head on, with more enthusiasm and energy than you could ever imagine, and ensured that their children lived life to the full. They made their kids lives as normal as they possibly could, whilst simultaneously ensuring they didn’t miss out on anything. They crammed more experiences and adventures into the short lives of their sick children, and their surviving daughters, than mine will probably ever have even if they live to 80. They are a truly remarkable, humble and amazing family.

And as to GG, and his sister, Angel J, they were both absolutely inspiring. They lived with their illness every day, they kept going, against all odds and setbacks as they became less well, they somehow retained a sense of humour, and were happy, optimistic, stoic and in short, quite heroic, making the most of every opportunity they were given. If I could bottle this determination and enthusiasm for my own children, just imagine what they could achieve?

We will all miss the beautifully handsome GG, just as we do his sister Angel J, none more so than his wonderful parents and sisters. For my part, it has been a privilege to have known such a special man-child, for the 18 years of his life, and I hope that it gives my own men-children pause to reflect on just how lucky they both are.

For those who are moved by this story and would like to recognise my friend GG and his sister Angel J in some small way, feel free to make a donation to Glenallen, a special school that they both attended for many years, where they continue to do a brilliant job catering to the needs of the most special children.


Evaporating alcohol supplies? August 10, 2012

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vodkaLike the average Australian household, we have a range of alcohol in our home.  Always a supply of beer and wine in the grog fridge in the shed (very Aussie I know), as well as an assortment of spirits, some bought purely for that dessert recipe that required brandy, or sherry for an Asian marinade, but most as duty-free gifts from visiting friends or relatives.

As a result we seemed to have an endless supply of unopened bottles of gin and vodka in the fridge.  It’s not that we don’t drink it, but for some reason it seems to be our preferred drink of choice when we go on holidays, not at home.  Who doesn’t love a G&T or Bloody Mary when you’re on holidays and the late afternoon cocktail hour comes around (okay, so sometimes cocktail hour starts at midday on holidays, but who’s watching the time anyway)?  It’s almost anathema to have a holiday without one.

So at home, the bottles of gin and vodka sit unloved for most of the time, alongside the ever replenished supply of beer and wine.  Well at least we thought they were unloved, until recently!!  Father of a Man-Child must have been doing a fridge clean out (maybe making room for dinner party food and wine), and obviously noticed our unopened bottles looking a bit light on.  No doubt he considered a number of possibilities:

  • The alcohol has miraculously evaporated, even with the lid firmly on and sealed?
  • Mother of a Man-Child has turned into one of those awful alcoholics who necks vodka for breakfast (a possibility given teenagers living in the house)!
  • The Men-Children have discovered the untapped delights of Mum & Dad’s grog supply.

Now which option would you bet on????

Naturally, he approached the Men-Children, who both vehemently denied it the first time around.  When the trend continued, he approached them again.  One was adamant it wasn’t him, the other one, not quite so…….bingo, suspect identified.  He eventually admitted that his friends and he had on occasion helped themselves to a few pre-party slugs.  Don’t worry, his brother isn’t all innocence.  He was once caught with beers under the bed at the holiday house, and another time heard walking down the hallway “clinking”.

Whilst it’s not surprising that they have been into our supplies, it is surprising that they haven’t tried the age-old trick of adding water to the gin and vodka bottles so their “idiot parents” don’t even realise they have consumed any.  Or in the case of scotch, black tea of course.  I can imagine a little watered down gin or vodka might go unnoticed by the taste buds, but a scotch drinker would surely notice black tea?

Naturally, my parents were twice as smart when it came to checking if we had thought to do the same with their grog supply many years back.  They didn’t just mark the amount in the bottles so they could tell if anyone had been drinking it, my father turned the bottle upside down and then marked it, which meant we looked at it and thought, oh good, they’ve drunk past the line and forgotten to add a new mark, so we won’t be caught……Doh!!!!  (I can only assume he learned this trick from his father.  I suppose when you come from a long line of Catholics it’s no surprise is it?)

My parents’ smarts continued the time I took my mother’s car for a “joy-ride” to Portsea for the day, never even thinking my astute father would have checked the speedometer before they left for an outing.  I had permission to drive the car, but not on a 200km round trip!  The speedo coupled with my extremely sunburnt forehead from driving with the sunroof open on a hot summer’s day was a complete giveaway, but hey, it was worth it for the chance to be uber cool for a few hours! 🙂

So the upshot with the boys?  We didn’t empty all the bottles in front of them and say “there, that’s solved that problem” did we.  Certainly not, we don’t want to waste good alcohol, and one day we might want a G&T or Bloody Mary at home.  We just told them that it wasn’t theirs to drink, and please stop helping yourself to our supplies.  In other words – buy your own!!  We are not naive, teenagers of 16 years old drink, and have many ways to get their supplies.  We don’t ask how, as we simply would rather not know.

Tell me, what tricks did your parents use at home to stop their teenagers hopping into the family stash?   Of if you have children, have you decided to live like a monk and abstain from having alcohol in the house, or simply put a padlock on the grog fridge?

Read about the time I found beers under the bed.  New Years Eve at Portsea – 30 Years On.


Mother of a Man-Child: Young Teens Running Wild November 12, 2010

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I was interested, but alas not surprised, to read a story on this week about a particular suburb in Western Sydney.  The story made headlines because one weekend police had set about rounding up all the roaming kids one Saturday night and subsequently sent no less than 55 young teenagers home to their parents.

What was most alarming for the police was the fact that most of the teens’ parents had no idea where they were – believing them to be somewhere else.  Some of the kids were found to be consuming alcohol, and a few using drugs.   The police rightly despair for these kids, and what other trouble they may find themselves in.  They are also rightly annoyed with the parents, for not taking more responsibility for their sons and/or daughters.

Trust me, you don’t need to look far to find similar behaviour going on, and it’s not contained to the Western suburbs of Sydney.  The nice Eastern suburbs of Melbourne will do just fine.   We have ourselves been the recipient of four female guests (aged just 14 years old) at 3am one morning – they had been out all night roaming the streets of Melbourne, and their parents were completely unaware.   And I know for a fact that several of them have repeated this behaviour.   I’ve also attended a teenage girls party where the parents were letting anyone in, along with their alcohol and cigarettes (and god knows what else) – and the parents are supposed to be the responsible ones!   Don’t worry I quickly turned into the door bitch and promptly turned the undesirables away.

I have to say I agree with the Sydney police – it’s time parents had a reality check and took more responsibility for their children, ensuring they are safe from harm.  As my readers know, we’ve had our share of trouble, but that’s with us being the “world’s strictest parents” and always checking up on our men-children.  Imagine what they’d get up to if we didn’t check on them?

Apparently “Operation Enough” is set to be rolled out across NSW.  Maybe I should lead the charge for Victoria – I know a leafy suburb they could start in!!!

To read the full story:


Mother of a Man-Child: R.E.S.P.E.C.T…..? October 22, 2010

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I am sure you all know the Aretha Franklin song – “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.  Want to know what it means to me? “ etc.   As a child of the 80’s disco era I am all too familiar with that song, and spent my early youth singing it at the top of my lungs and dancing enthusiastically to it.  Unfortunately it seems, my men-children are not at all familiar with the song, and indeed it’s message.

At the risk of sounding exactly like my parents, my children just don’t seem to have respect for their elders the way we did when I was younger (OMG, did I really say that?).  Take my boys.  I am sure they show an appropriate level of respect to their teachers at school – I certainly hope so, and since I haven’t heard otherwise I will assume so.  In an all boys school they’re pretty strict on how you address teachers, and how you behave, so I think that’s probably pretty well-managed.  However on the home front it seems to be a different kettle of fish.

For some unknown reason, my sons have taken to calling their father “Neville” (his real name is Rob, but to them it should simply be “Dad” of course).  Now I am not sure how this started, but recently it seems to have escalated out of control; where once I think Neville may have been a term of endearment, I now often wonder if in fact it’s a derogatory term?  This may have originated from the nicknames that my husband gave the boys, and in turn they decided upon one for him (fair enough I hear you say).  And whilst you could call it senseless fun, male bonding, etc etc, I often overhear the way they use his nickname, and cringe at it. Of course once you’ve allowed this sort of thing to go on for a while, it’s a little hard to stop it – the name has stuck!

So what’s in a name?  It is the fact they call him Neville?  Or the lack of respect that underpins their behaviour?  Am I perceiving one issue to mask another?  Are they just being normal teenagers?  Does it stem from our home environment?  After all, they say children just reflect their own parents behaviour – GULP!  Clearly I don’t have all the answers.

Interestingly, I don’t have a nickname – at least not a definitive one they use to my face unless you consider “Pyscho-Woman” a nickname?  So do they respect me any more than their father?  Probably not if the truth be known.

On reflection I suspect it’s a case of typical teenage attitude – they apparently know everything, we apparently know absolutely nothing, having never been teenagers, or had pimples, or boyfriends/girlfriends, or been in trouble at school, or snuck out late at night.  I guess I can respect that for now.  🙂


Mother of a Man-Child: Fond Farewells October 16, 2010

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Like most teenagers, my men-children spend their weekends out and about with friends, in preference to being at home (especially if the “rents” (parents) are about!).   We are lucky if we even find out when they are leaving the house, let alone where they might be going, with whom, and when they’ll return (normally for dinner – after all a bloke’s gotta eat right?).

Their logic would no doubt be “got a mobile, you want to find me, call it” or some such pragmatic but utterly unthinking response.  And on school mornings it’s much the same – out the door they go.  It’s only good fortune if they happen to pass you and grunt a farewell as they make their exit.  I of course always make a point of loudly saying “Bye (insert name)” so they get the message – subtle aren’t I?

So on a recent trip interstate for four nights, it was interesting to observe the different farewells afforded to me.  Man-Child I headed off with friends on the weekend, and was apparently reminded to say goodbye to me before he left by his father.  As I was on the phone myself I got a cursory wave from my son as he talked into his mobile – yep, CYA!  Wow, impressive huh?  More than a little underwhelming, and actually a little surprising from him.

Man-Child II headed out the door a few hours later.  As he saw me he muttered “CYA” as normal.  Then I reminded him I was going away for four nights and to “be good for dad and kind to your sister”.  My heart positively leapt as he walked back in the door and gave me an awkward hug, and said sweetly “Bye Mum, have a good trip”.  OMG, he actually hugged me, voluntarily, and wished me luck.  WOW!  There should be more of it – definitely.  It warms the cockles of the heart.

I rang Man-Child I later on his mobile just before I headed off to the airport.  When I commented on his earlier farewell, he admitted he’d only thought about my extended absence when he got to the tram – that was when he realized what his father had been banging on about!  Clearly one needs to be very specific with teenage boys – they just don’t connect the dots sometimes do they (or is that a bloke thing also)?  Anyway, he then wished me a great trip and assured me he’d be good.

So I left Melbourne feeling like I would be missed just a little, and confident they would all survive my absence (a couple of freezer meals ensured they wouldn’t starve at least).  Of course my darling daughter gave me 500 hugs before I left, because at seven years old they still believe you are the most clever, important, wonderful person in the whole world.  🙂


Mother of a Man-Child: Don’t they learn? Part II August 13, 2010

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As you will recall, last week Mother of a Man-Child II had yet again performed his Houdini trick, disappearing at midnight for a late night visit with friends.  I discovered this at 3am in the morning when I found his bed looking rather empty.  You would also know it was 4.45am before his father arrived home with him, having picked him up from a train station some distance away!!!

The first thing I actually did when he walked in the door was asked for his mobile phone.  Two things surprised me initially:

  • One, his mobile had no pin code on it – I thought Mother of a Man-Child II was smarter than that – to protect it in case stolen and to stop prying mothers looking at the phone.
  • Two, much to my disappointment, there were no text messages on his phone.  When I enquired why, he said he always automatically deletes them (the opposite behaviour of most people I’m sure).

Momentarily deflated by this, I decided to check the call log on his phone.  Bingo!

Not only could I see all the recently received calls (including some stalker called his mother) but I could also see all the recently placed calls.  The best thing about call logs of course is that it includes times, numbers or names (when in the address book) and dates.  The detective now had exactly the evidence required.  And yes, I was particularly smug about this fact, and did think myself extremely clever.  I will enjoy it whilst it lasts, because it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to repeat this feat – my son isn’t that stupid!  Score:  Parents 1, Kids 0.

So now armed with clear evidence of who had been involved in the late night escapade (and yes a girl was at the top of the list), we retired to bed for a few pathetic hours more sleep.  What astounds me is that Mother of a Man-Child II thought it was perfectly acceptable to be out from midnight to 5am and then have a 2 hour rugby training session and play an AFL game the following day.   The fact that he managed to play so well as to get Best on Ground left me further gob-smacked – freak child.

So Sunday morning came around.  My first call was to the home of his school friend to find out if he had been out the night prior.  Well, it transpires that this particular friend had actually been caught at the front door by his parents trying to leave home, and made up some bull-dust story about hearing noises at midnight.  When his parents found a backpack with clothing and shoes outside the front of the house, they quickly wised up.  When I told them about Mother of a Man-Child II’s travels, they knew they had foiled a clever plan.  Score:  Parents 2, Kids 0.

Then it was onto the offending female, who had called my son from her mobile and her home, thereby providing me with a landline number and direct access to her parents.   Glee – until I received a recorded message.  I was reluctant to leave a message lest the daughter erased it, or wised up to my calls but eventually I did.  When the father called me back he was naturally very interested to learn about his daughter’s activities the prior night.  Score:  Parents 3, Kids 0.

There were also some phone numbers that had no name, so naturally I called them.  One was a parents phone that the child had obviously used, the other interestingly was the phone of one of the 14-year-old female visitors to my house a few weeks ago – hmmm, seems she hadn’t quite learned her lesson, and was still roaming the streets late at night.

So now I have a dilemma.  The only way to let this girl’s parents know what she’s doing on a regular basis is to contact her school.  I am still thinking about whether or not this is the right thing to do, as it involves more than just her parents.  Advice welcome!

In terms of Man-Child II, I have told him that when we extend upstairs I will be having a zoned alarm complete with trip wire put at the base of the stairs, thereby ensuring he cannot leave our house without my knowledge.  And trust me the upstairs window won’t be an option – even for Houdini.  🙂