Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

House Rules January 19, 2014

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written house rulesHappy New Year to all – back into the routine with a vengeance (being back at work will do that to you)!  I am the first to admit the almost 3 week break which included the joyous madness that is Christmas was absolutely delightful, and a wonderful way to recharge the batteries after what was an incredibly busy but fruitful year.

We seemed to spend the time doing a lot of all the things one should – sleeping, exercising, eating wonderful food, catching up with friends, lounging on the beach, enjoying fine wine and G&T’s – is there a drink more synonymous with summer holidays?

Whilst some might complain about the weather over the Xmas/new year period, I didn’t mind the mixed bag at all, as it allowed us down time and the opportunity to do other things that we might not have done if it was a heat wave.  The latter was naturally saved for the week we were back home and I was at work, and quite frankly, that wasn’t a bad thing.  There is hot, and then there is OMG, that is so frigging stinking hot I can’t breathe/sleep/eat/walk/think…….

The men-children and their sister all loved their holiday too – not that we saw much of the boys – they were out every day, out every night, busy hanging with their friends and generally having a good time.  We did survive another New Years Eve “pres” (short for pre-party drinks), which interestingly turned into more of a “gathering” in my book, since they were at our place until 11ish, but a year older and wiser, it all seemed to go quite smoothly.   It might have had something to do with the consent form we insisted they all sign upon arrival, confirming parental permission to drink and waiving any responsibility by us for them once they elected to leave our home and go elsewhere.  The next day I was so relieved that we had no major incidents, that I took to playing Mother Theresa and fed them all (or rather their hangovers) with pasta and toasties.

As you would expect, the minute we walked in the door, the boys (rarely together over the holiday break) proceeded to fight as usual upstairs.  How easily they slipped back into their routine, squabbling about whose clothes had been left on the bathroom floor, or foodstuffs on the coffee table, etc.  It made our blood pressure rise instantly, undoing all the good of a relaxing holiday.  And as is my preference, I immediately put pen to paper, in an effort to get them back on track.  They both came home the following day to the sign below on their bedroom doors – a subtle reminder of how we expect them to behave, and to let them know who is boss (okay, stop laughing)!

So there they are, for your amusement, enjoyment, and reference, should you need them at some point in the future.

House rules

  • Please do not leave dirty plates/bowls/cups/rubbish in lounge area for more than 24 hours (consider educating your friends to do the same!).
  • Please do not leave your belongings lying around in the lounge – your bedrooms are the place for your personal effects.
  • Please do not leave your dirty clothes in the bathroom – either put them in your room or better still the washing basket.
  • Please hang up your towels when wet rather than leave them on the floor.
  • If you both want to play loud music and/or watch TV then one should use the headphones, especially if homework is being done.
  • If you want to borrow things from each other please ask first.  And similarly, if you refuse a reasonable request then have a good reason.
  • Please respect each other’s rooms and do not enter bedrooms uninvited.
  • Please let us know where you are going and when you are returning home. We pay for your phones so NO excuses.
  • Please do not help yourselves to things that are not yours without asking.

I’d like to say there has been a marked improvement since the sign went up, but as one has been on a rowing camp for the last week, the issues don’t exist.  We shall see what happens upon his return!

Do you have your own set of “house rules” for your kids? Do you have them posted somewhere?  We could probably have another set in the kitchen now that I think of it. 🙂

 

25 Rules for Mums with Boys April 20, 2012

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This week’s post is for my friends and readers who have sons.  Such is the wonderful world of blogging that I came across this post via another WordPress blogger http://aspellbindingexistence.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/24-rules-for-moms-with-sons/ and then made my way to the original source and blogger http://studerteam.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/25-rules-for-mothers-of-sons.html.  As a mother of two sons, I loved both versions of “rules” and felt compelled to share them with you.

Enjoy.  I know I did.  It gave me cause to pause and think about the wonderful role we have as mothers in the lives of our sons (even though they don’t always show their appreciation).

I have reposted the original blog post below.

© Tabitha Studer http://www.studerteam.blogspot.com Nov.2011
25 Rules for Moms with Sons
November 2011

After a mostly fruitless search for “rules” for mothers with sons (and a particularly hard momma day), I was inspired to write my own list to remind myself of what’s important, especially during those days that being a mom to an ever-squirming, ever-curious boy is both challenging and exhausting. Granted, my list will not be conclusive and may not be entirely uncontroversial. So agree, or disagree, or take with a grain of salt – but I hope to inspire other moms who are loving, and struggling, and tired, and proud, and eager to support the boys in their lives. You are the most important woman in his life, his first teacher, and the one he will look to for permission for the rest of his life. From “Can I go play with them?” to “Should I ask her to marry me?” It’s a big job, but as the mumma, we’re up for it.

1. Teach him the words for how he feels.
Your son will scream out of frustration and hide out of embarrassment. He’ll cry from fear and bite out of excitement. Let his body move by the emotion, but also explain to him what the emotion is and the appropriate response to that emotion for future reference. Point out other people who are feeling the same thing and compare how they are showing that emotion. Talk him through your emotions so that someday when he is grown, he will know the difference between angry and embarrassed; between disappointment and grief.

2. Be a cheerleader for his life
There is no doubt that you are the loudest person in the stands at his t-ball games. There is no doubt that he will tell you to “stop, mom” when you sing along to his garage band’s lyrics. There is no doubt that he will get red-faced when you show his prom date his pictures from boy scouts. There is no doubt that he is not telling his prom date about your blog where you’ve been bragging about his life from his first time on the potty to the citizenship award he won in ninth grade. He will tell you to stop. He will say he’s embarrassed. But he will know that there is at least one person that is always rooting for him.

3. Teach him how to do laundry
..and load the dishwasher, and iron a shirt. He may not always choose to do it. He may not ever have to do it. But someday his wife will thank you.

4. Read to him and read with him.
Emilie Buchwald said, “Children become readers on the laps of their parents.” Offer your son the opportunity to learn new things, believe in pretend places, and imagine bigger possibilities through books. Let him see you reading…reading the paper, reading novels, reading magazine articles. Help him understand that writing words down is a way to be present forever. Writers are the transcribers of history and memories. They keep a record of how we lived at that time; what we thought was interesting; how we spoke to each other; what was important. And Readers help preserve and pass along those memories.

5. Encourage him to dance.
Dance, rhythm, and music are cultural universals. No matter where you go, no matter who you meet – they have some form of the three. It doesn’t have to be good. Just encourage your son that when he feels it, it’s perfectly fine to go ahead and bust a move.

6. Make sure he has examples of good men who are powerful because of their brains, their determination, and their integrity.
The examples of men with big muscles and a uniform (like Batman and LaMarr Woodley) will surround your son from birth. But make sure he also knows about men who kick a$s because of their brains (Albert Einstein), and their pen (Mark Twain), and their words (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), and their determination (Team Hoyt), and their ideas (The Wright Brothers), and their integrity (Officer Frank Shankwitz), and fearlessness (Neil Armstrong), and their ability to keep their mouths closed when everyone else is screaming (Jackie Robinson).

7. Make sure he has examples of women who are beautiful because of their brains, their determination, and their integrity
The examples of traditionally beautiful women (like Daphne Blake, Princess Jasmine, and Britney Spears) will surround your son from birth. But make sure he knows about women who are beautiful from the inside out because of their brains (Madame Marie Curie), and their pen (Harper Lee), and their words (Eleanor Roosevelt), and their determination (Anne Sullivan), and their ideas (Oprah Winfrey), and their integrity (Miep Gies), and fearlessness (Ameila Earhart), and their ability to open their mouths and take a stand when everyone else is silent (Aung San Suu Kyi).

8. Be an example of a beautiful woman with brains, determination, and integrity.
You already are all of those things. If you ever fear that you are somehow incapable of doing anything – remember this: If you have done any of the following: a) grew life b) impossibly and inconceivably got it out of your body c) taken care of a newborn d) made a pain go away with a kiss e) taught someone to read f) taught a toddler to eat with a utensil g) cleaned up diarrhea without gagging h) loved a child enough to be willing to give your life for them (regardless if they are your own) or i) found a way to be strong when that child is suffering…you are a superhero. do not doubt yourself for one second. Seriously.

9. Teach him to have manners
because it’s nice. and it will make the world a little better of a place.

10. Give him something to believe in
Because someday he will be afraid, or nervous, or heartbroken, or lost, or just need you, and you won’t be able to be there. Give him something to turn to when it feels like he is alone, so that he knows that he will never be alone; never, never, never.

11. Teach him that there are times when you need to be gentle
like with babies, and flowers, and animals, and other people’s feelings.

12. Let him ruin his clothes
Resolve to be cool about dirty and ruined clothes. You’ll be fighting a losing battle if you get upset every time he ruins another piece of clothing. Don’t waste your energy being angry about something inevitable. Boys tend to learn by destroying, jumping, spilling, falling, and making impossible messes. Dirty, ruined clothes are just par for the course.

13. Learn how to throw a football
or how to use a hockey stick, or read music, or draw panda bears (or in my case alpacas), or the names of different train engines, or learn to speak Elvish, or recognize the difference between Gryffindor and Slytherin, or the lyrics to his favorite song. Be in his life, not as an observer but as an active participant.

14. Go outside with him
turn off the television, unplug the video games, put your cellphone on the charger, even put your camera away. Just go outside and follow him around. Watch his face, explore his world, and let him ask questions. It’s like magic.

15. Let him lose
Losing sucks. Everybody isn’t always a winner. Even if you want to say, “You’re a winner because you tried,” don’t. He doesn’t feel like a winner, he feels sad and crappy and disappointed. And that’s a good thing, because sometimes life also sucks, no matter how hard (as moms) we try to make it not suck for our kids. This practice will do him good later when he loses again (and again, and again, and again, and again…..) Instead make sure he understands that – sometimes you win – sometimes you lose. But that doesn’t mean you ever give up.

16. Give him opportunities to help others
There is a big difference in giving someone the opportunity to help and forcing someone to help. Giving the opportunity lights a flame in the heart and once the help is done the flame shines brighter and asks for more opportunities. Be an example of helping others in your own actions and the way your family helps each other and helps others together.

17. Remind him that practice makes perfect.
This doesn’t just apply to performance-based activities (like sports and music) but also applies to everything in life. You become a better writer by writing. You become a better listener by listening. You become better speaker by speaking. Show your son this when he is just young enough to understand (that means from birth, folks – they are making sense of the world as soon as they arrive), practice trick-or-treating at your own front door before the real thing. Practice how you will walk through airport security before a trip. Practice how you order your own food from the fast food cashier. Practice, practice, practice.

18. Answer him when he asks, “Why?”
Answer him, or search for the answer together. Show him the places to look for the answers (like his dad, or grandparents, or his aunts/uncles, or his books, or valid internet searches). Pose the question to him so he can begin thinking about answers himself. Someday, when he needs to ask questions he’s too embarrassed to ask you – he’ll know where to go to find the right answers.

19. Always carry band-aids and wipes on you.
especially the wipes.

20. Let his dad teach him how to do things
…without interrupting about how to do it the ‘right way.’ If you let his dad show and teach and discover with your son while he is growing up, someday down the road (after a short period of your son believing his dad knows nothing), he will come to the realization that his dad knows everything. You will always be his mother, but in his grown-up man heart and mind, his dad will know the answers. And this will be how, when your son is too busy with life to call and chat with his mom, you will stay connected to what is happening in his life. Because he will call his dad for answers, and his dad will secretly come and ask you.

21. Give him something to release his energy
drums, a pen, a punching bag, wide open space, water, a dog. Give him something to go crazy with – or he will use your stuff. and then you’ll be sorry.

22. Build him forts
Forts have the ability to make every day normal stuff into magic. Throw the couch cushions, a couple of blankets, and some clothespins and you can transform your living room into the cave of wonders. For the rest of his life, he’ll be grateful to know that everyday normal stuff has the potential to be magical.

23. Take him to new places
Because it will make his brain and his heart open up wider, and the ideas and questions and memories will rush in.

24. Kiss him
Any mother of sons will tell you that little boys are so loving and sweet. They can be harsh and wild and destructive during most of the day. But there are these moments when they are so kind and sensitive and tender. So much so that it can cause you to look around at the inward, reserved grown men in your life and think, ‘what happens in between that made you lose that?’ Let’s try to stop the cycle by kissing them when they’re loving and kissing them even more when they’re wild. Kissing them when they’re 2 months and kissing them when they’re 16 years old. You’re the mom – you can go ahead and kiss him no matter how big he gets – and make sure he knows it. p.s. (this one is just as important for dad’s too).

25. Be home base
You are home to him. When he learns to walk, he will wobble a few feet away from you and then come back, then wobble away a little farther and then come back. When he tries something new, he will look for your proud smile. When he learns to read, he will repeat the same book to you twenty times in a row, because you’re the only one who will listen that many times. When he plays his sport, he will search for your face in the stands. When he is sick, he will call you. When he really messes up, he will call you. When he is grown and strong and tough and big and he feels like crying, he will come to you; because a man can cry in front of his mother without feeling self-conscious. Even when he grows up and has a new woman in his life and gets a new home, you are still his mother; home base, the ever constant, like the sun. Know that in your heart and everything else will fall into place.

So there you have it.  25 rules (give or take a few).  I think these apply equally well to young boys as well as my own teenagers, but perhaps I should write 25 Rules for Mothers of Men-Children?  Although Celia Lashlie did a great job already.  I wrote about her book some time ago.  He’ll be okay.

Let me know what you think about the above?  Do the rules resonate with you?  Do you have your own to add?  Now go and give your son a huge hug and tell him you love him! 🙂

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Tough Love – does it work? April 8, 2011

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heartI am a firm believer in Tough Love.  As defined by Wikipedia, “tough love” is an expression used when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run.   Of course tough love is infinitely more palatable when sprinkled with doses of good old-fashioned TLC.  A good mix is probably the ideal.

On reflection I would say I was brought up with a mixture of both.  I certainly have wonderfully happy memories of my childhood, but I also recall being brought up by pretty strict disciplinarians, and tough love when required.  It was a case of “you do the crime you pay the time” in our household and if you stuffed up then there were always serious consequences – pretty devastating ones when you’re a teenager and your social life is curtailed!!

The other day Man-Child II left his lunch at home.  We knew that because we found it sitting on the bench, and shortly afterwards he sent me a text message: “I forgot my lunch” (NO, really?).   Father of a Man-Child, being far more sympathetic and kinder than Mother of a Man-Child, instantly offered to take it to school for him.  “Absolutely NOT” I replied, he can go without.  And then I proceeded to text back man-child “Tough shit.  Buy your own or go hungry.”

On a roll, I added a few more messages about the mess left upstairs, no pocket-money being paid, etc as my usual frustrations set in.  Just what you need to start the morning off isn’t it?  Now before you think I am a very mean Mother, the reason he forgot his lunch is that he turned on the TV whilst waiting for his school shorts to dry (yep, I admit due to a rare backlog of washing) rather than packing his bag, making his bed, picking up a bathmat and towel off the floor etc.  So then in the ensuing rush to get out the door, he forgets lunch.

I think Tough Love teaches him that we won’t come running after a 15-year-old every time he forgets something, and hopefully he’ll be sure to remember it next time.  In the same way telling me 5 minutes before the first footy match of the season that his footy socks don’t fit drew very little sympathy.  I said “Oh well, we can’t buy them now.  You’ll just have to wear those and buy some new ones next week”.  Emphasis clearly on him, not me, to organize it.  If he can’t manage to get there after school one day, then bad luck I say.

And tough love extends past home on occasion.  Man-Child II also refused point-blank to wear white footy shorts last week for the “away” game.  No amount of insistence by me would convince him why he should, nor reasoning about rules, regulations, respect for team mates, the club etc.  And so he didn’t and he got away with it.  Apparently he never has worn them (no idea why).  Well tough love is telling his footy coach that next time he decides to flaunt the rules, he doesn’t go on the ground.  He doesn’t play by the rules, he doesn’t play period!

To be fair to Man-Child II, I’ve let him know that we’ve asked his coach to enforce this.  And when he came home from school on the day he forgot lunch, I did say I was sorry about being so angry, but did he understand that I was annoyed because he was disorganized yet again.  That’s when he admitted to turning on the TV.

So there you have it.  Tough Love.  I’m sure people who know me won’t be surprised that I endorse it.  It’s not always easy to do, but I’m convinced it’s worthwhile.  And hopefully deep down our men-children understand our motivation, if not now, then one day in the future.

Do you think I’m too tough?  Or not tough enough?  I promise I can take a stern talking to. 🙂