Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

The Christmas Rush! December 13, 2013

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Christmas chocolate barkPardon my absence, it’s been a busy time in Man-Child world, and to be honest, not much super exciting has been happening (or I don’t feel I can share specifics of certain events just now)!!  As I literally hurl myself towards the end of the year, with an almost 3 week break in sight (love those public holidays that stretch things out), it’s a crazy time for working parents.

To name just a few of the things on my plate:

  • The rush to the end of the work year – why do we all decide everything has to be done BEFORE Christmas?  Some of it is self-imposed deadlines and some the demands of seasonal businesses that kick off again in January.
  • When I worked in ad agencies years ago, why did so many clients call new business pitches the week before Christmas?  Because they are either complete bastards or couldn’t wait to get it off their desk and onto someone else’s for the break.  Plus with a performance review coming they could declare they had pitched the business before the year was out!!!
  • The end of the school year – in our case, TAFE course ending (help son with job-hunting), end of year 11, start of the rowing season (rowing cocktail parties and season opening events), primary school concerts and family picnics, dance concerts, basketball season break ups – the list goes on.
  • Christmas shopping – in our house, it seems Mother Claus bears the bulk of the workload, whilst Father Claus is relegated to ensuring a good supply of alcohol throughout the entire festive season!  The co-ordination of presents, including those from Santa, group presents, work presents, family presents, KK presents and teacher’s presents (don’t forget the cleaner) is EXHAUSTING, requiring a constantly evolving list of suggestions, additions and revisions.
  • Teacher’s presents – coming home from a long day at work to create the wonderful hand-made sweet treats for the teachers (sports teacher, class teacher, language teacher, piano teacher), with lovely hand-made cards by Sister of a Man-Child.
  • Santa videos – grabbing a spare 30 mins at night to create the wonderful, unique and mega-exciting message from Santa for your 10 year old who still believes! Truly magical to behold.
  • Christmas parties – being an all or nothing girl, these are either fully embraced or completely avoided (resulting in an acceptable list of outings on the calendar).
  • Friends’ catch-ups – the first hint of Christmas renders us all momentarily insane, and we suddenly decide that the friends that we somehow haven’t had a chance to catch up with all year we must finally see in the few remaining weeks to the end of the year.  And ex-colleague reunions are also the perfect annual event, best held at Christmas when everyone flies in for the summer holidays.
  • Just to ensure all working mothers are tipped completely over the edge, the inbox overflows with festive messages from every blog or website you have ever visited in your life, not to mention the daily 12 days of Christmas emails from every online retail site you have ever even thought about (I swear, Google is now so clever, you don’t need to type anything, they actually KNOW what you are thinking of searching for)!!
  • Add to that social media (which I admit I love), with more channels and more messages and more Christmas insanity and more fun than you can poke a stick at, and I think I’m as full as a TURDUCKEN*!! (If you don’t know what a Turducken is, just Google it peeps).

So, with less than two weeks to go, I am attempting to breathe deeply (not hyperventilate) and get across the line in one piece.  As I learned at a recent “stress” workshop (or rather how to avoid it), they told us it’s not “something” or “someone” that causes us stress, it’s actually we that choose to take it on.  Hold that thought – just as I am trying to!  Do you think practice will make perfect?

Promise another post before Christmas.

Here’s my previous musings from last year about the JOY of Christmas (seriously).


Letter to a Man-Child June 28, 2013

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letterDear Men-Children

I know it’s hard to believe, but I have been a teenager before.  I well remember thinking my parents were the world’s strictest on the earth, and in fact my friends would probably tell you they were.  I also remember thinking that I knew an awful lot, and could take care of myself, and that they didn’t really understand what it was like being a teenager, especially since they were soooo old (in fact my parents were a lot younger than many of my friends parents), but guess what, they were teenagers once too!

I know you want your independence and that at almost 18 you think you should be allowed to do whatever you want, but as you live under our roof, it goes without saying that you really are obliged to do what we say, play by our rules and RESPECT our decisions.  It may be that you can’t wait to leave home, and sometimes part of me can’t wait either, especially when you are being quite revolting towards me and rebellious and won’t take no for an answer, but you need to know you are very much loved and there is always a place for you at home.

You need to know that our job as parents is not to be your best friend.  I have always maintained if I am mistakenly doing that during your teenage years then I’m probably not being a very good parent.  I am not interested in being “popular”, I’m interested in your welfare and well-being.  So if we actively discourage you from doing certain things, or making the wrong choices, it’s because we’ve either learned from our own experience or as outside observers are concerned about what is going on.  I know some things you just need to experience and learn from yourself, but sometimes parents will and should step in, and as you know, we aren’t afraid to do that from time to time.

I will nag you along the way, especially if I need you to do something.  Why?  Because you need to understand your place in the world, and your part in it.  Sometimes it’s necessary to conform or co-operate, even if it goes against your nature.  If you are to succeed later in life, you need to be able to adapt to the environment and make appropriate decisions.  That starts in the small world called home, and extends to the school world, and eventually to the working world   Our job as parents is to guide you and give you lessons in life, in the same way your teachers do.

I do like your friends (even if I can’t remember all of their names), I enjoy a house full of young people, I like to see you spending time with them and they are always welcome in our home (and to our food – but not our grog)!  I am always happy for small gatherings, provided you are honest about how many are coming, and when, and for how long.  And I am excited about an 18th birthday party (for each of you naturally), if you would like one.  It’s a milestone to celebrate – and we promise we won’t embarrass you at your own party (will we Father of a Man-Child?).

I do like to know about your day, and how you spent it.  You might think it’s boring, but I want to know what you did at work, or at school, or on the sporting field – the more detail the better.  You are our children – hence our biased view and hunger for information about your lives.   Perhaps take a leaf out of your younger sister’s book – she recounts everything in so much detail you could write a small book – but at least we know exactly what she thinks and feels. 🙂

I like you coming on holidays with us, and spending time as a family, and I honestly think that you enjoy it too (although one of you is seriously borderline).  I know sometimes the thought of spending your holidays with your PARENTS is not your idea of fun, particularly if it means missing out on something special with your friends, or a big event, but perhaps you should be grateful for the wonderful holidays we have, and the places you have seen, and the number of times you have holidays each year.  Many people are not nearly as fortunate as you.   When you are 18, and working, you can go on holidays wherever you like.  But we’ll still invite you on our holidays and again, you will always be welcome to join us.

Lastly, I know you don’t really like each other much at the moment.  I am not sure why you haven’t really grown out of this phase.  Of course you are both very different (something we love), but I think it’s time to put your differences aside (even celebrate them), and start getting along.  We’re pretty tired of the constant fighting and arguing amongst you – it’s really unpleasant for all of us, and imagine how your sister feels with you both yelling and then us (parents) both yelling?  Madhouse or what?  I am sorry if you learnt how to yell from me – I wish I could change it, but I can’t take it back.  But we can all try to yell a little less.

I know you have heard all of this before, but sometimes it’s better to write something down than to say it (again).  It doesn’t involve any yelling and you have to listen!  A bit like text messages. 🙂

All my love

Mother of a Man-Child


Ever present danger September 28, 2012

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tram tracker appThis week we were reminded about the potential for dangerous situations for our men-children.  Not surprisingly, as teenagers they are often out on weekends, generally hanging with a couple of friends, attending parties or gatherings, and travelling on public transport or by taxi if (their) funds permit, preferably in a group for safety.

We always like to know where they are going, who they will be out with, what time they are coming home, or if they are staying out for the night, etc.  Sometimes this frustrates the hell out of them, but as we explain, if something happens to you and you somehow lose your mobile phone, we really need to have some idea where to start looking for you or tracking you down.

Both of the men-children were out last weekend, having come back from kayaking camp (where they had a fabulous time), showered (I’m sure that felt good) and then headed straight back out the door.  When one of the boys eventually got up the next morning, he was fuming.  He told me about an incident outside a party where two older boys had confronted him and a mate.  They had pinned his mate against a wall, threatened him with a bottle (not broken I’m glad to say), and demanded money.  My son eventually offered them $20 and they took off, thankfully without stealing their mobile phones and any more money.

Over the next few days we had an interesting debate about how to handle a situation like this if it was ever repeated.  I actually think he did the right thing – stay with your friend, handover money (who cares) and stay safe.  I also asked if he knew who the boys were, or what school they attended, as I was more than happy to phone the said school and let them know there was some delightful behaviour going on.  What are the chances it’s not the first time they’ve bullied other boys?

We agreed personal threats to the offenders would get you nowhere, unless you wanted your head beaten in!  In truth, our son even baulked at the thought of us contacting the school, lest it be known he was the “dobber” and there were repercussions.  A discussion then ensued about the rights and wrongs of naming and shaming, so that the collective good defeats the bad seeds of society.  As a teenager, he really didn’t have the same global view of his parents, and frankly, didn’t seem to want to hear it.  Would it surprise you to know one of the boys had apparently been expelled from a very expensive private school?  No wonder!  So the matter was put to bed, there really wasn’t much we could do, but we do hope we gave our son food for thought.

Whilst the above events were unfolding, our other son was also out for the night, at a mates.  Since the men-children had been at camp all week, they were both under strict instructions to come home to sleep, and not stay out.  As is usual however, at 11pm the text messages started (no thought for slumbering parents of course).

“Mum, can I stay at xxx house please?  I’ve missed the last tram.”  “Bullshit.  You have not.  We agreed you would come home.”

He then calls me (most unusual in itself) to explain it’s a long walk to the tram, and that the timetable has changed due to school holidays (yeah sure) and that his Tram Tracker is showing no further trams.  Really I say, that’s frog shit, the tram timetable doesn’t change in school holidays, and they always run up until midnight.  And then I check my own Tram Tracker and see THREE trams coming to our suburb from his friend’s house in the next 50 minutes!!!!!

Suffice to say, I gave up arguing, told him I thought he should come home, but that I really didn’t care what he did, said I looked forward to the screen grab showing his faulty Tram Tracker, and by the way, thanks for waking me up, and would he like me to text and ring him at 6.30am when I got up for a run the next morning?  Of course not!!

Late next morning, up turns man-child #2 looking like he’s been beaten up by the same thugs that our other son encountered.  He’s got a massive bump and cut on his forehead, a cut under his eye some initial bruising, and another cut across his nose.  He can see the alarm on my face, and quickly tells me it’s not what it looks like.  Apparently he got up at his mate’s house in the morning, went to the bathroom, slipped on the wet floor and wacked his face on the vanity.  He’s lucky something isn’t broken.  He then tells me he wishes he came home after all (good) and has spent the morning icing his wounds and worrying how it will look tomorrow for his girlfriend.

Now for those who are thinking we just bought the oldest lie in the book, I have to admit the same thought crossed my mind.  However, having actually spoken to my son, who sounded completely sober the night before, I did believe his story.  Then again, I could shoot holes in it – an unusual call, a last-minute request to stay out, lies about tram timetables (do they think we came down in the last shower?).  Bottom line, he really had no need to lie about it.  Like his brother, I think he would tell us if something worse had happened.

So whilst the events of the weekend could have been far more fraught, it did bring home the ever-present threat of danger for our men-children when they are out at night.  You just have to read the paper and watch the news on any given day to see constant reminders of the randomness of violence on our streets.  And you just have to be a parent (like mine before me) to know the feeling when you lie in bed at night waiting to hear the squeak of the gate, or the sound of the front door opening, letting your children in to the warmth and safety of their home.  I can only hope this is the worst we will ever have to deal with in the lives of our men-children.

Of course, we have encountered the odd spot of trouble over the years:  An Arresting Story (caught shoplifting) and Drug & Alcohol Education (caught smoking dope)!


Mother of a Man-Child: How late is too late for teenagers? July 2, 2010

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The social life of Man-Child I continues unabated.  This year, the social life of Man-Child II has caught up, and almost leapfrogged his brother.  It’s amazing how quickly one is sucked into the vortex that is teenage parties and “gatherings” (for the un-initiated the two are VERY different), and therefore the associated role of playing taxi and ensuring you know where they are going, when, with whom, what time they will be home, etc etc.

The other night Man-Child II and I had a rather heated debate about a forthcoming party.  As it was for a special friend, he wanted to go to the “after party” at the birthday girl’s house (well in fact his GIRLFRIEND – can you tell I am still in shock?) and was to be dropped home at 1am by a very generous parent.  But the reason for the fight, was that he was asking to be home later!!!!  And five of the boys wanted to stay at someone’s house together, and no doubt be up until 3am in the morning – not on your life.!

I thought we were being very, very generous in allowing him to be out that late given his age (fourteen).  Of the parties my boys have attended, the latest finish time to date has been 11.30pm, plenty late enough in my view.  I was so concerned about the apparent intent of the boys that I contacted a couple of the other mums, just to give them the heads up.  I was relieved to discover that in fact their boys were not even to attend the after party, so relatively we actually looked “slack” for once.

I subsequently confirmed with Man-Child II that some of his mates would in fact not be attending the after party.  I also extracted an apology and he even acknowledged that he was extremely lucky to be allowed out until 1am.   The vision of the irrational, very angry, screaming teenager who “hated” me with such passion will remain, and no doubt repeat itself many times in the coming years.  As will the vision of the parent standing their ground and just saying “no” repeatedly, because they refused to bow to the whims of a teenager who thinks he is an adult.

At this rate I can’t wait until they’re 25 and nice again!


Party pooper? February 17, 2010

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Some things across the generations don’t really change.  All teenagers LOVE a good party with their friends and all teenagers HATE their parents ringing up to ensure that everything is above-board before they allow them permission to attend.

Unfortunately for my boys (man-child and teen-child), I grew up with pretty strict (and to be fair very astute and sensible) parents, who always rang up in advance of said party to chat with the parents and ensure there was appropriate supervision, etc.  I seem to recall I didn’t like it, but over time I guess I learned to endure it, probably until I was 16 or 17 years old.   Typically parties were via printed invite only – we didn’t have the internet or mobiles back then, and if you heard about a party via word of mouth it was chatting with friends face to face or even god forbid using a landline (ask a teenager what a “landline” is – many have no idea).   

These days the invitations are still mostly printed (designed on the home computer) and either emailed out or hand delivered.  Although in some instances invitations are issued via Facebook – a little too uncontrolled for my liking.  That seems akin to sending a group text message to everyone on your phone.  You are asking for trouble.

Every time there is a party for the Man-Child (and trust me has one at least every fortnight, boys and girls, from varying schools, 70-100 people) we go through the usual ritual.  From me:  Whose party is it?  Can I see the invite?  Please provide the parents name and number so I can call them.  And the response from Man-Child:  OMG.  Do you have to?  Why can’t you just let me go?   No-one elses mum rings up.  etc etc. 

To this date I have not once said he can’t attend a party – but I still get the same response every time.  That said, I have said no to some “gatherings”.  For those who don’t understand the difference, as much as I can determine, a gathering is a small informal party (up to 20 or 30 people), whilst a party is more formal and has between 70-100 attendees.  Now I have no problem per se with “gatherings”, but on the occasions Man-Child has been told he can’t attend it’s because we are either moderating his social life to ensure he has some down time,  or because it’s a last-minute invitation that I always think is a little inappropriate.  I mean how is it he can receive an invite to a gathering 2-3 hours before it starts?  Surely the parents haven’t said on a whim that little Johnny or Suzy can have a gathering tonight – and they decide that at 4pm on a Saturday afternoon?   Do the kids just continue to churn out invites via Facebook until they have filled their quota? 

And you can imagine the response from Man-Child when he gets a “no” can’t you?    M-C:  What do you mean NO!  Everyone else is going.  This is so unfair.  You have to let me go.   OMG.   What is wrong with you?  Why can’t I go?   Well I’m going anyway.  (Insert SFX of stomping feet, swearing, banging doors etc). 

Now I am not alone in doing my own form of party “policing”.  I have spoken to many of my friends who all do the same thing, so I’m not sure how many of Man-Child’s friends actually don’t?  I am always silently chuffed when I do call the parents and they assure me that they too would call as I am.  And they happily share details and reassure me that everything is in order.  Only once to date have alarm bells rang for me – the parent clearly had NO idea how to manage a party, didn’t know the number of people her child was inviting, had no controlled RSVP list, and the party was supposed to finish one hour before the stated time on the invitation.  Considering the guidelines that all the schools issue these days I have to say I was gob-smacked at their ignorance or laissez-faire attitude (actually I think it was more the former). 

Anyway, there will continue to be parties, and gatherings, and I will continue to call the parents and ask my usual questions for the next couple of years.  Hopefully Man-Child will get used to the idea, although I am a little doubtful.  Incidentally, teen-child doesn’t seem to have the same issue – maybe it’s a peer thing, or maybe they’re just different kids?