Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

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

 

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. 😦

 

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.  🙂