Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Choose your words wisely! May 3, 2013

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not listeningThis week, I plan on taking my own advice.  I recently had a fantastic argument with one of the men-children, which resulted in me making a serious threat if he went ahead with his plans.  I was then left to find a way to resolve the “threat”, without losing all credibility and also “ruining my son’s life”!!!

The problems with arguing with a 17-year-old (or at least one of mine) are multiple:

  1. They argue back.
  2. They don’t let go (think pit-bull).
  3.  If they don’t get the answer they want, they just keep on at you (AKA they don’t take “no” for an answer).
  4. You can’t physically remove them from the room/argument (which you could a toddler)
  5. You can’t send them to their room/the corner (it no longer works sadly)

And so we end with a Mexican stand-off of epic proportions.  Who will win the battle of wits?  Who gets the last word?  Who is powerless and powerful?

On this particular occasion, the man-child in question decided he wanted to go out on a “school night” to a friend’s place (and not just go out, but have a sleepover – of course!!!).  Regardless of the fact that he had the next day off, both Father of a Man-Child and I had both separately responded to the request with a consistent and definite “NO”!  We just felt that it was completely unnecessary (what’s wrong with a night at home in front of the TV anyway?), and also being a school night not a practice we wanted to encourage every time a day off arrived.

But no, man-child didn’t like the answer, and so ensued a very painful couple of hours that unfolded like this:

  • Constant questioning of Mother of a Man-Child during dinner prep about request to go out.
  • Sit-in with Father of a Man-Child in the lounge after dinner, still bemoaning the decision to now allow him out.
  • Appearance in front of Mother of a Man-Child wearing his back pack advising he is going anyway.
  • Mother of a Man-Child arguing (very futile) and eventually threatening that if he sets foot out the door he will have his course cancelled (yes, as the legal guardian I have the right).
  • Sister of a Man-Child looking for her brother and finding he is not in the house.
  • Mother of a Man-Child realising he has snuck out of the house (yes, via the front door, but he avoided letting us see him leave).
  • Furious exchange of text messages and calls throughout the night (gee he must have had a good time at his friend’s place!).
  • Night spent at friends against parent wishes.
  • Mother of a Man-Child now left to carry out the punishment the following day.

So here’s the thing – I don’t want to carry out the punishment, because I don’t want him to leave his course.  Of course you are thinking “well how stupid can you be for even using that as a threat”!  But what if I told you it worked once before, and he didn’t walk out the door on a school night because I made the same threat a few years ago.  Would that mean that I had my own stupid behaviour reinforced once before and that it was obvious I would try it again?  Or would it mean I was just a desperate mother trying to win the war with a 17-year-old, and using the only leverage I thought I had (and it STILL didn’t work)!

So where did that leave us?  Well as I write this I have the Exit Course form sitting at home awaiting a discussion with our man-child tonight.  The discussion is going to be about his choice to live at home (he is free to leave, really, although has no means to support himself as yet), and the impact of that decision – namely, that if he lives under our roof and we support him then he needs to abide by our rules and respect our decisions.  Quite frankly, if he can’t do that, then he should go, and make his own way in the world (I am deadly serious).

This may seem unfair, but really what is unfair is the complete powerlessness of parents against these teenagers, and the lack of respect that sadly seems to afflict this generation (or is it really just mine?).  So it’s decision time for my man-child.  As he keeps telling me, he’s in an adult learning environment.  Well then it’s time he behaved like one!

And as for me, next time perhaps I should just walk out the door myself, and drive to the nearest bar to count to ten and drown my frustration and anger, rather than making a stupid threat.

Any other suggestions welcome!!! 🙂

Naturally there are previous occasions like this:  I wrote about RESPECT (or their early lack of it a few years ago).  And a similar theme is also found here: The Parent-Child Power Struggle.  It would be funny to read these again if it didn’t reveal that not much has changed. 😦

 

The Parent-Child Power Struggle January 20, 2012

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There comes a point when you realise that it’s a lost cause. That whatever you say will be ignored, and that you are powerless as a parent to control your child anymore. Now in an ideal world, that would be when they are 18 years old, and fair enough too, since legally they are an adult (not necessarily mentally) and you really can’t stop them from doing what they want.

However, as a parent, I have long maintained a couple of principles:

  • Whilst our children are under 18 years old they are our responsibility and really should do what we say
  • Whilst our children live under our roof, they will abide by or at least respect our rules and our house (and it goes without saying respect us), even after they are 18 years old

So how was it that I found myself in the kitchen on Sunday night, with an almost 16-year-old, about to enter into one of the above mentioned no-win conversations? It transpired because after five days away with mates, bringing back a couple of tired men-children from the beach, I stated that Man-Child II was not to ask to go to his girlfriend’s house the minute we got home, as he was clearly tired and in need of a good night’s sleep in his own bed (you may recall he stays at his girlfriend’s house on occasion, against our wishes, as he sleeps in her room apparently)!!!!

No sooner had we walked in the door, than Man-Child II was in my ear.

  • “Hey Mum, I know you said “no”, but can I go to (insert GF’s name) house?”
  • “No you can’t” I tell him. “Don’t go there, we’ve covered this already.”
  • “But Why?” is the response, and the badgering continues for the next 10 minutes in the kitchen, as I’m trying to prepare dinner and get us all unpacked and ready to head to work the next day, whilst Father of a Man-Child is getting Sister of a Man-Child organised.

Now I could swear I had told him in advance that he should not even ask, but what does he do? He not only asks, he nags. And nags, and nags. As he nags, and I hear “But Why” another 10 times, my blood pressure escalates. Now many parents will know this trick, even those of a toddler throwing a tantrum – he’s trying to get me to declare in frustration “Okay, whatever, do what you want”, thereby allowing him to win, hands down, and get his own way. I am determined this will not be the case, so in my absolute frustration do you know what I did? As I was head in the fridge looking for dinner ingredients, I suddenly yanked a full cask of wine out of the fridge and threw it at him (I know, loads of self-control!!).

The cask actually hit him (no harm done) then sadly ricocheted off his arm, hitting the floor and splitting the bladder wide open, emptying the contents under various pieces of furniture. If you’ve never seen a very angry, very frustrated mother, trust me, it’s not a pretty sight. A few swear words later, and some pointed phrases directed at Man-Child II, and I set about cleaning up the mess I had made. Just Fabulous!!!! The rest of the household ducked for cover pretty quickly. Yes I know, it serves me right, but it was not what I needed. And I’m sure the neighbours didn’t really enjoy the entertainment going on next door – but then again????

Do you know what Man-Child II did? He left anyway. He says after Father of a Man-Child and his Man-Child brother had a crack at him (rightly so for causing the fracas), he’d had enough and so felt it was quite acceptable to leave the house (that’s teenage post-rationalisation for you isn’t it?). A pointed exchange via mobile phone then ensued, with multiple threats made by me and then by Father of a Man-Child. Thereafter, I didn’t speak to him for two days (he didn’t come home anyway) and he was seriously in our bad books. Eventually, we insisted he return home, and I did manage to extract a rather pathetic apology from him.

Father of a Man-Child and I have since agreed he needs a good talking to, so he understands that this approach to running his own life at his age is not acceptable, and not going to work while he lives in our house. My view is simple: if he wants to run his own life, he can leave school, get a job, move out, and then do what he wants. Now that would be interesting wouldn’t it?

I spoke to another parent just recently, who experienced similar challenges with his teenage son. He’s just coming out the other side now, but he said it’s been damn hard, and he provided some valuable tips about how to deal with these situations to avoid the instant blow-ups. Of course, avoiding the instant blow-ups might be easier if Mother of a Man-Child didn’t have such a fiery Irish temper…..will need to work on that clearly.

If you’re wondering why I am sharing this story with you, rather than avoid the embarrassment, I guess I thought you should know that I am really just a normal mother, with normal children, who is a long way from perfect, and feels much better admitting that it probably wasn’t the best behaviour on my part, and no doubt I’ll be laughing about it one day soon.