Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Suspended from school! May 24, 2013

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schoolIt’s been an interesting week with the suspension of one man-child from school!  No doubt you will be just as shocked as I was when I first heard, but the circumstances themselves are cause for interesting discussion and reflection.

I was more than a little shocked to find out he was suspended one morning, when I routinely asked why he wasn’t out of bed getting ready for school. That was when Father of a Man-Child informed me he had been suspended and wouldn’t be attending school that day.  You can imagine my response, which went something like this:

“WHAT!  What do you mean he’s been suspended?  What for?  Why didn’t you tell me yesterday?  Don’t you know they invented mobile phones so husbands can call wives in an emergency?”

So you may ask, what was he suspended for exactly?  Well as it turns out it was over racist comments he made on the football field in a recent game.  And as the incident was reported, the school moved very swiftly to act.

But first some context, which sheds some further light on the incident.  During the game, an opposition player apparently hit an already seriously injured player on the field, in an entirely unprovoked attack.  This was witnessed by the team, including my son, who were all pretty angry at his action.  As it transpires my son was manning this very player on the field, hence the heated exchange that followed, with my son throwing some choice racist remarks at the opposing player.

The incident was subsequently reported to the umpire, and we assume by the opposition team via more formal channels, which left my son’s school with no choice than to act.  He will miss the school football game this weekend (which definitely hurts) and was also suspended from school for one day (you can’t tell me that hurts any kid).  There were appointments with the Vice-Principal for my son, and with the Principal for him and my husband (what a lovely way to meet the head of the school!!).  Whilst I think the school suspension is a little extreme, I have to say that I applaud the school’s zero tolerance on racial vilification.  The fact is, it needs to be nipped in the bud in schools, before it escalates to other football or sporting fields and into other more senior codes.  One wonders if all schools abide by similar codes – you would hope so!  Although based on the behaviour of AFL players in recent years (just to mention one code), it’s probably not yet common practice, or still early days in the education process.

So what did the man-child make of it?  He learned a valuable lesson about racism, even if he didn’t think what he said was particularly racist (trust me it was).   And he learned that the best response is absolute honesty and copping the punishment on the chin.  So the matter is closed – no more will be heard about it from the school, and we all move on, with yet another life lesson for our boys.

What do you think?  Did the punishment fit the crime?  Or was it too extreme?

We’ve had issues with the school before – but it was the other man-child: Trouble on school camp!

 

Negotiating with a teenager! May 17, 2013

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angry boyFor those who followed my recent journey with a man-child, which resulted in me making some serious (and foolish) threats, you might be wondering how things ended up.  Well as promised, we did sit down with said man-child, and had a very frank conversation about what we expected IF he stays at TAFE, and IF he chooses to live at home.  And we insisted that IF that was the case, he HAD to agree to our conditions for living under our roof, particularly as he is still not 18 (and to be frank, even afterwards).

We also added that we are not actually unreasonable parents, and that he just needs to “suck it up” occasionally, and just accept NO for an answer.  We even made him literally say the words in agreement, so he couldn’t say his grunt was misinterpreted (and people wonder why I am cynical)!  So naturally he spent that night at home, but had the rest of the weekend out with friends, as was his wish.

What followed the next Friday though was the stuff of text books.  Man-child walks into kitchen and casually asks if he can go out that night.  I immediately tell him that no he cannot go out since he spent the day at home, missing school, due to being unwell the previous night.  He looks at me in complete shock, and proceeds to attempt to enter into a debate with me (yes the exact behaviour we had expressly asked him not to exhibit every Friday night).  I park the conversation, and tell him to ask Father of a Man-Child when he arrives home.  Naturally the response is identical – you spent the day at home, you can’t possibly go out tonight, etc etc.

So then the tirade starts, the constant “why”, and “why not”,” what a stupid rule”, “what is your problem” etc etc.  We just let it run its natural course, and eventually he stopped long enough to eat dinner (food is a good alternative to arguing you know).  Then to our surprise (and my sister’s), we eventually made the decision to let him out.  Why you may ask?  Because we decided to reward him.  Yes that’s right, to actually try the opposite tack.  Now whilst you may be thinking that he did exactly what we asked him not to do (nag), the fact is he did stop.  So we chose to reward that behaviour, and let him know that the simple stopping nagging was enough to earn him some brownie points.

So did it change anything?  Well I am not really sure.  We shall see what the next few Friday nights brings.   And we will just keep trying to keep him on the right path, and ensuring that he at least respects us as his parents, and our decisions.

So what do you think, other parents of teens or toddlers?  Is punishment or reward the way to go?  Which one has worked for you in the past?  Or is reasoning the way to go (me thinks not based on experience)!!

If you missed the fun of my original encounter you can read more here:  Choose your words wisely!

 

 

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. 😦

 

Man-Child Truth Serum March 8, 2013

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hawaiian leiFunny thing about twins, when it comes to getting in trouble.  You see, to a point they will protect each other – I am sure there are secrets they both have and constantly threaten each other with – “I’ll tell Mum & Dad about (insert scandalous incident)”.   Basically they both have each other over a barrel, so it’s a bit of a Mexican standoff.

But as we recently discovered, if one should implicate the other, then it’s game on.  All downside for the men-children, all upside for the parents!  Some of you would recall my earlier post about the boys being caught driving their father’s car unlicensed (read about it here).  As it turned out, in denying driving the car in the first instance, and then being outed by the neighbour who told us who she saw behind the wheel, one of the boys accidentally dobbed in his twin, so they were both caught doing the wrong thing.

As you may recall, we quickly moved to find suitably serious punishment.  One of our sons had an invite to a party down the coast – he had been looking forward to it for some weeks.   So you can imagine what his punishment was can’t you?  Yep, no party.  He wasn’t surprised we picked that, but did carry on and plead with his father to be allowed to go (guess who’s the softy?), but we held our ground.  As we said, it’s gonna hurt.

His brother meanwhile lay in wait for his punishment.  Luckily for him the Big Day Out concert had just been and gone, so he avoided missing that.  But we told him we would wait for a suitable event that he desperately wanted to go to and he would be told he was grounded for the night (oh, we are SO awful aren’t we?).

A recent conversation with the latter man-child lead to an interesting revelation.  He could see we fully intended to carry out the punishment, to square up the ledger so to speak, in due course.  Like an animal with his back against the wall, he then went into survival mode.  And the following conversation ensued:

Man-Child (MC):  “You know you didn’t punish (Man-Child I)?”
Mother of a Man-Child (MOMC):  “Yes we did, he didn’t go to the party at (insert up market coastal destination naturally).”
MC:  “You know he went to the party don’t you?”
MOMC:  “No, he didn’t.  He wasn’t allowed.  How would he get there and stay overnight?”
MC:  “They had a bus.  I’ve seen the pictures on Facebook!”
MOMC:  “What!  You better be sure of this.  Can you prove it?”
MC:  “Yep.  Remember the Hawaiian shirt.  That’s what he wore.”

Slowly but surely the pieces of the puzzle then fell into place.  Man-Child II did indeed show me the Facebook photos of his brother having a great time on the bus.  And I did recall the strange Hawaiian shirt that appeared in the wash, and which I had asked about at the time.  I also remembered specifically asking Man-Child I if the party had been and gone (just to rub it in, knowing he missed it).  And yes, he told me some of them had stayed afterwards, but some had been on a bus to and from the party (at this point we didn’t know HE had been on it too).

So then we waited for Man-Child II to come home, and to drop the bomb shell on him.  “Sprung bad” as they say.  He was quite frankly arrogant about it, and then of course turned on his brother with the usual vitriol he reserves for him (it’s quite horrid actually).  As Man-Child II told me, “I have nothing to lose Mum, you know all the stuff I’ve done, so there are no more secrets he can dob me in for now.”

So that leaves us with two men-children that are still both to be punished for their earlier misdemeanour.  We are saving it up, because when we least expect it the most wonderful occasion will present itself and we will pounce.

In the meantime, I am quietly pleased that the truth has revealed itself in this way – who would have thought we could rely on them so often to dob themselves in.  It’s brilliant! 🙂

My twin sister got me (actually us) in trouble once (big, big trouble).  It’s a scandal too horrid to write about here, but suffice to say I won’t forget it for a long, long time, nor the punishment that we received for it.   I did however quickly forgive her stupidity at getting us caught.  Shit happens as they say.

For the most part the small punishments handed out by parents over their lifetime rarely stay in the minds of their children (although at the time they cause so much grief).  But we continue to play our role, and they continue to play theirs.  Ah, the joys of parenting!!!

I wrote about the driving escapades here:  Joy-Riding Men-Children: Not Happy!

 

Men-Children alone in the house for a weekend? January 6, 2012

Happy New Year to all my readers.  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  Well the Griswold Family have just returned from a great short holiday in Sydney.  We did all the tourist icons with the kids – Harbour Bridge, Opera House, The Rocks, Darling Harbour, Westfield Eye Tower, Bondi Beach, Manly Beach and Luna Park amongst others.  There’s no doubt being a tourist is hard work – it’s quite an exhausting holiday, but satisfying nevertheless.

Highlights for the Men-Children included doing the bridge climb (highly recommended) and jet-boating on the harbour, and for Sister of a Man-Child it was a photo with Maxy, one of the famous Bondi Rescue surf life savers, Luna Park, and seeing the NYE fireworks over the Harbour Bridge.  Much to the boys’ disappointment their plans for NYE didn’t quite work out as they hoped (they tried trust me), so they spent the night with us and our friends.  It wasn’t all bad as we were harbour-side to watch the Sydney fireworks and it’s not every year you get the chance to do that.  And we did buy them some alcohol so they could share in the festivities (Jim Beam & Cola being their drink of choice – Yuk!).  I have no doubt that will be the last NYE they will ever spend with us – and eventually just like us they will realise it’s a highly over rated night.

Having returned home, we’re all still in holiday mode and planning further escapes during January.  They boys have invitations to go beach-side with friends, and more sport camps so that should keep them occupied until school returns.  When an opportunity came up for a couple of weekends away with Sister of a Man-Child we both jumped at it.  One of the weekends was cleverly co-ordinated to coincide with the boys’ absence.  However, only at the last minute did we realise that heading away this weekend meant leaving the boys home alone.  And we hadn’t really thought about organising an alternative.

A couple of thoughts sprang to mind about how we might approach our absence:

  • Don’t tell them until the last minute, so they can’t plan anything.  (Or maybe don’t mention it at all and see if they call us to find out where we are – a bit of role reversal?)
  • Tell the neighbours to keep an eye on them and let us know if an impromptu party of 200 teenagers eventuates.
  • Threaten death if anything happens to the house.
  • Tell them we’ll be home on Saturday night (when it’s really Sunday night).
  • Ask the aunties to do drive-bys (do you think every hour is overkill?)
  • Panic!

The latter happened when I chatted to my twin sister and we both recalled the first time our parents left us at home for a weekend and “trusted us to do the right thing”.  Well, you can guess what happened can’t you?  Within 2 minutes of them leaving the house, we were on the phone to our mates organising a party.  And a great party it was, followed naturally by us cleaning the house to within an inch of its life.  A sure giveaway don’t you think?

Of course we got sprung – nothing to do with the stench of smoke and alcohol that I am sure permeated the entire house, or the motorbike divets left on the front lawn by someone’s boyfriend (I seem to recall his name was “Moose”).  My father (“hawk-eye”) wondered who had moved the fridge?  For God’s sake, who would have thought?  Naturally it wasn’t something we noticed was it? We blamed Moose – a mammoth of a man, and the only one big enough to do it!   I can’t recall the exact punishment metered out for this particular crime; there were quite a few over our teenage years.  We were probably grounded for a year or two, or perhaps it was the time when our invitation to go skiing with the neighbours to babysit their daughter was declined, much to our immense disappointment (and just quietly to our parents relief I suspect).

So as I post this, we will be on the road to our weekend away, and the boys will be “free” for the weekend.   If you should happen to see anything on Facebook about a party at our place, please let me know urgently (they’re not my friends on FB remember). 🙂

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Trouble on school camp! March 25, 2011

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“Hello Mrs M (that’s me, Mother of a Man-Child), it’s Mr Y from the Z school camp.  There’s been an incident involving your son!”  This phrase is enough to propel any parent into a momentary panic attack. My first irrational thought: “OMG, is he okay?”  This is followed shortly after by “Right, what the hell has he done now!!!”

And so it was that Man-Child II found himself on a “retreat” with the school, designed to give 15-year-old boys some time to reflect on their adolescent journey, and to grow up a little as they enter the serious end of their education.  Clearly my son decided it was an opportunity to demonstrate that he wasn’t quite up to the task!!!

It seems Man-Child II had successfully thrown an aerosol can into the fire on camp, which naturally enough exploded about 10 seconds later.  Apparently it sounded like a shotgun going off, so you can imagine the initial panic by the teachers.  He tells me he was the only one of his friends who volunteered (stupidly) to throw it and that it was a pretty lucky shot from a distance!

Once calm had been restored, and it was clear what had happened (yes with my son the only culprit) they then had to decide how to respond.  Since the incident was deemed serious enough, especially since it could have resulted in an injury to someone, the decision was made to send him home early from camp.  Hence their call to me, the lucky parent.

My first thought: “Great, a trip to Healesville and back on a week night.  Fabulous, can’t wait to spend two hours in the car tonight!”  (Sadly we all sign a form agreeing to fetch our wayward children in the event of any such incident like the above.   You hope they’re not at the snow trust me!)  My second thought was “Gee, I wonder if this will be enough to have him asked to leave the school?”, since it’s not the first time he’s come to the attention of the vice-principal.  However, whilst they considered it a serious error of judgment on my son’s part, they also acknowledged it as a “stupid teenage boy thing” so he received a Saturday detention and was sent home early as punishment.  Along with the mandatory lectures from a few different teachers along the way, oh and of course Mother and Father of a Man-Child!!

Ironically he thought that it was far better being driven home by one of his teachers than having to sit on the bus.  Lucky for me, said teacher was attending a dinner on their last night and so was able to bring him home and save me a trip.

His brother Man-Child I left for his retreat this week.  As he got out of the car I simply said “Please don’t get sent home from camp, I couldn’t bear it”.

P.S.  Apologies to those subscribers who received a blog notification three times last week via an unexplained glitch – clearly WordPress shared my excitement about the boys moving upstairs!!!

 

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Sage Advice from a Man-Child Expert September 24, 2010

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As a parent, I am one of those who reads child-rearing books, openly shares issues with other parents for support, and/or sympathy and to compare notes (hence the blog I suppose), and seeks objective advice from relevant professionals when appropriate – my logic being the more help I can get the better my chances for success.

I am fortunate enough to be the niece of a very experienced child-rearer; although not a “parent” himself in the literal sense, over 40+ years my uncle has been a boarding house master, teacher and school principal in all-boys’ schools as well as working with delinquent youths in a well-known boys home, amongst other roles. He’s the best “surrogate” parent I know.

So who better to provide me with occasional wisdom and advice regarding the issues I face with Man-Child I and II.   He probably also has the odd laugh to see that my own children are putting me through what I put my own parents through in my adolescence.

Following some recent issues with Man-Child II, he did offer some great advice for which I am extremely grateful.  I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing his words of wisdom with you, gained over the years through experiences with hundreds if not thousands of adolescent boys.  You may not be in agreement with each of these, but for me they were objective tips sprinkled liberally with pertinent quotes, which provided me with another viewpoint to consider.

  • “The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook” (Edmund Burke). Maybe you have to overlook more than you really think you want to overlook.  A good question to ask yourself is ‘What will it matter in a hundred years, or even ten?’
  • “A wise man (woman) sees as much as he/she ought, not as much as he/she can” (Montaigne). My uncle never lied to his father because he was sensible enough not to look too closely or push him too hard into a corner (and I’m sure being the fourth child made this more likely too).
  • My uncle never liked ‘grounding’ or what the boarders called ‘gating’. It made kids resent what you really wanted them to enjoy – being at school. He did everything possible to find positive alternatives, something you could withdraw temporarily – a sanction rather than a punishment.
  • His golden rule about punishments was to keep them as short as possible rather than locking yourself into a long battle. Same day punishment is ideal with a fresh start tomorrow – and certainly seeing the funny side of misbehaviour. (So much for my term-long grounding of Man-Child II recently)!
  • Lastly, some advice a colleague and close friend of my uncle gave the carers of very challenging boys – “Enjoy the kids”, even with their unusual behaviour.

So there you have it.  Sage advice indeed from a Man-Child expert.  I wonder if he’d consider a book?  I’m sure I’d find plenty of buyers.