Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

From Boys to Bogans? December 16, 2011

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rats tail hairIn what can only be described as a worrying trend, I think my men-children are showing Bogan tendencies.  The only comfort I can take in this is that they are not alone.  In fact they are joining a growing number of their school friends with body piercings and a “ratty” hairstyle which seems to be the current trend.

For those of us old enough to remember, the “ratty” style harks from the disgusting “rats tail” trend that was worn by Bogans in the 80’s.  They would cut their hair short, with the exception of a long piece of hair that was left at the nape of the neck.  It was often plaited for effect (and not any prettier trust me), and sadly was a trans-gender style worn by Bogan men and women alike!!  If I am honest I may have had a VERY SMALL ratty myself which was very tasteful of course at the height of this trend. 🙂

One of the men-children recently had his brother use the clippers to cut his hair, leaving a delightful “ratty” at the back.  Fortunately, it’s not quite as long as the original version, more a short stumpy version, but nevertheless quite ridiculous.  Apparently it’s all the rage at school, and most likely they are emulating many of the young footballers, who all sport similar styles.  Now I think of it, most of them are Bogans at heart aren’t they?

Our other man-child has recently renewed his requests (read badgering) to be allowed an eyebrow piercing.  The last time he asked, we did suggest he could have one if he chose to have his private parts pierced simultaneously.  This time, he started quoting the fact that at 16 years old he could do as he pleased in relation to body piercing (a fact I must check).  Father of a Man-Child, for reasons completely unfathomable to all of us, seems to think a tattoo is a much better idea???  Even the man-child couldn’t understand this logic, and I don’t think his father was using reverse psychology.   Let’s face it, at least you can take out the stud from your eyebrow, but the tattoo on your arm or leg is slightly more permanent!  And whilst the school should BAN all visible piercings in my view, it seems they will allow a clear stud in one’s eyebrow whilst in uniform.  We did try to encourage piercing the earlobe over the eyebrow, but he seems adamant on the latter.

I do recall my nephews now in their mid-20’s both had piercings in their eyebrows shortly after they left school, a fact that their Mother and Grandfather were both appalled by.  God only knows how that same Grandfather will respond to the almost 16 year old man-child having one when he attends the same school his Grandfather did, and where the latter currently enjoys a well-earned reputation.  Oh dear.

So it seems I have a couple of Bogan men-children.  Given the odd hair styles I have seen created by their friends at our house, I have no doubt my boys are not alone in pursuing their “individual” styles, which are really just designed to ensure they conform with all their teenage friends, and demonstrate some anti-establishment, rebellious behaviour like we all did a few decades ago.

I promise to share photos if and when the eyebrow finally gets pierced!

Read our last discussion about eyebrow piercings here.

 

We survived another school year (not without incident) December 2, 2011

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school booksFor all parents, the end of the school year is looming.  In no time the kids will all be on holidays for about two months (we workers can only wish), wondering what to do with themselves, and bleeding the parental ATM dry.

We survived the end of year exams, although the results are not in yet.  But that in itself is a major triumph, especially since we were at the school only a few weeks ago for a meeting to discuss one of the men-children and basically to receive a warning that his results would not be good.  (I really hope they’re wrong and we’re pleasantly surprised – is that naive or just optimistic?).  They basically told us that whilst they couldn’t fault our son’s commitment to sport at school, he needed to show similar commitment to academic subjects.  They, like most other mainstream schools, make no apologies for being an academic school first, with a multitude of other “opportunities” second.  It seemed a little late to be telling us this to be honest, although it didn’t come as a complete surprise.  You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink!  (Ditto homework).

Following our “meeting” we tried to ensure the men-children made the most of weekend study time.  That basically meant curtailing their social lives for two weekends and not allowing them out on a Saturday night.  As they still had serious sporting commitments, this wasn’t actually a bad idea in our minds.  However, in the eyes of men-children, spending a Saturday night at home with your parents is about the worst thing you can do.  Honestly, you should have heard the carry on.  You would have thought we’d asked them to walk naked down Glenferrie Road after school.

We also received some interesting correspondence from the school during the year about an “incident” involving both our men-children.  I can’t help but love the tone of carefully crafted letters to parents that are so politically correct in describing an event.  So the “serious incident” that involved a number of boys (including ours), followed “ongoing negative interactions” and “verbal interplay”, resulting in a “physical interaction” breaking out between some boys.  In other words a bunch of testosterone-laden boys who had been egging each other on all year finally had a shit fight and tried to punch the crap out of each other.  Thankfully both of our boys were deemed to be fringe dwellers only, and one was even credited with helping break up the fight. He later admitted that he’d actually managed to land a great punch, and even accidentally slugged one of his mates (LOL).  All part of being boys especially at an all boy’s school.  Of course I completely understand the school’s need to write a letter to all involved, and I’m thankful that ours didn’t do anything too bad.

As for how they’ll amuse themselves over the holidays – thankfully we love camps, and so do they!  Especially the summer camps and sporting camps that the school offer.  They will both be away before Christmas and again in late January.  We think it’s great for them to get away with mates on camp, and also to have time away from us.  We (that’s Father of a Man-Child, Sister of a Man-Child and myself) also enjoy the unusual dynamic that a house with a single child brings.  It’s incredibly quiet and we seem to enjoy spontaneous outings more frequently!!!

So onto the end of Year 9 and exam results next week.  You may recall the bribe we handed to the boys earlier this year – $100 for every B grade or better in their exams.  I suspect one will have a windfall shortly, and the other will be looking for lots of odd jobs he can do over the holidays. 🙂

Read about the bribery here.

 

A bit on the nose after camp! September 23, 2011

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socksThe men-children returned from camp on Tuesday after five blissfully quiet days without them.  We almost didn’t know what to do at night while they were gone – there were no arguments over the dinner table, no demands about homework, no screaming to pick up stuff or begging for help at home.   Father of a Man-Child and I even enjoyed several long, uninterrupted conversations (it’s been a while), and Sister of a Man-Child was simply in heaven (as you would be being an only child for a few days with the undivided attention of your parents).

If you didn’t hear the men-children soon after they arrived home, you could definitely SMELL them!!!  Pity Father of a Man-Child who had to collect both boys (of course they didn’t arrive home together or leave together – the joys of twins) and endure them in close proximity for the short trip home.  Trust me they absolutely stank; I imagine his car will carry the odour for weeks.

By the time I saw them both at home they had showered thankfully, probably for a good 30 mins each, and fair enough too.  My only sample of the smell of boys after five days of camping was the clothing that came down for a wash, the sleeping bags that needed airing and/or washing, and the socks and boots that were so vile they had to spend the night outside because they could stink out an entire room in seconds.  It really was a very rude shock to the olfactory senses.

Man-Child I did change his jocks on occasion although he didn’t shower at all on camp.  And Man-Child II (and all other cadets apparently) simply wore their cadet uniforms for the whole five days.  So naturally, since they didn’t shower, they didn’t bother changing their jocks or socks either……..gross!!!  Perhaps I should just throw those ones out?

Both of the boys came home thoroughly exhausted, but having really enjoyed the challenges of their respective camps.  That would be with the exception of the last night, during which they both endured gale force winds and driving rain.  It was actually so bad on Cadet Camp they had to abandon the camping ground at 10pm at night and all hike back to the barracks, where they got to sleep in dorms (relative luxury), without bedding though, as that had all been left at the site.  Thankfully the school put the boys’ safety first – strong winds in a camping ground full of large trees being a recipe for disaster.   Man-Child I also endured a close encounter with a leech one night in his sleeping bag – ewww.  Nasty little suckers!

Whilst they both survived on the food (army rations and dehydrated noodle meals for the most part), they were certainly thankful for the large steak we served up to them upon their arrival home.  Nothing like a few days camping to appreciate a home cooked meal, a nice warm bed, a hot shower and a toilet that’s not a long drop. J

As for the parents who chose to let their boys stay home and not attend camp – far too soft!!!  This is the stuff that turns boys into men – the adventures that shape them and make them realise they can survive, and that they are stronger and more resilient than they might otherwise believe.  Good old-fashioned male bonding – bring it on.

PS.  Off on holidays next week – so forgive me if I don’t post a regular update.  Am seriously considering going away without a laptop and am too busy to have prepared anything in advance.  Sorry folks.

Read about pre-camp preparations here: Man-Child Free For Five Days – Woohoo!  

 

Man-child free for five days–woohoo! September 16, 2011

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camp fireIt’s the end of Term 3 for the boys (where did it go I ask you) and the men-children are off on camp.  That’s the trade-off for having three weeks holiday – they go on a five-day school camp at the beginning.   One is off on Cadet Camp at Puckapunyal, and one is off to Glenelg River (Portland) on an Outdoor Ed camp.

One of the men-children has spent the week getting himself organised, looking at his list, organising tent hire, borrowing sleeping bags, packing etc.  We’ve been to the supermarket several times to buy his body weight in food (they have to carry it all themselves but that didn’t stop him loading up on ridiculous non-essential food items) and he’s all organised to head off in the morning.   As my sister said to him, make sure you eat up the heaviest food first – that 20kg pack is going to feel like about 120kg before he knows it.

The other man-child finally packed last night – no worries, it’s all the same stuff from last time – she’ll be right mate.  Yes, you guessed it, our man-child cadet.  The one who froze last time in his hutchie, because he wouldn’t listen to his parents to understand exactly what he was sleeping under (not in)!   He swears he’s got it covered this time – a warmer sleeping bag and a beanie is his version of improved warmth.  No thermals for this tough boy!  As they say, you can’t do it for them, so I guess he’ll learn for himself.  We haven’t seen his list at all, and he doesn’t even know what time he’s due at school in the morning.  Aaaarggh.

The men-children are just getting their last play fight in before five days apart.  They’ll probably miss each other, ironically, and be back at it within hours of returning home.  I’m just getting myself ready for the unnatural peace and quiet that will descend on the house, along with the bursting-with-food-fridge that won’t empty in a nanosecond, and the washing basket that will stay empty for an entire day or two.  Domestic bliss.

Sister of a man-child is probably relishing the thought of no screaming in the house for five days, and the undivided attention of her parents.  Of course we will miss them, by about day four!  I’ll be sure to regale you with any good stories from the camp in a future post.  No doubt they’ll enjoy being boys/men immensely, hopefully without any major incidents or injuries.

Read about the last cadet camp experience here:  Camping Man-Child Style and Freezing on Cadet Camp (the post-script)

 

Post-Script to The joys (or not) of Parent-Teacher interviews

As a follow-up to last weeks post, we did actually make enquiries at the school about a spot for one of the men-children in boarding school for a term.  Our reasoning being the study routine might benefit him and help create some good habits ahead of next year.

Sadly I received a call today from the school – they won’t take him.  Not CANT, they WON’T.  That’s right, our man-child’s reputation is so bad they don’t want him in the boarding house.  Something to be proud of – NOT!!

 

The Joys (or not) of Parent-Teacher Interviews September 9, 2011

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This week we had the joy of parent teacher interviews.  Since there are two men-children, it requires either both of us to attend so we can split the interviews with their teachers, or one of us has to see twice the number of teachers as any other parent (that can involve several hours).  Thankfully this year Father of a Man-Child and I split the task – and even then it was a killer – let’s face it how many people feel like going to the school at 8pm on a Monday night – what were they thinking?

Not surprisingly it was a mixture of good news and bad.  Good news – doing homework, improving behaviour in class, some good results etc.  Bad news – not doing enough homework or revision, not turning up for class on time, not organised, distracting others in class……one of the men-children in particular falling into the latter news category.  Sadly for us, it’s a recurrent theme, and has been for three years now.  If we don’t decide to pull him out of the school, it may be the school asks him to leave.  This is a real possibility at the end of next year (year 10) which is crunch time for the boys, as they head into the all important Years 11 and 12.  Important for the boys, and let’s face it, important for the school’s reputation and grade averages!!!!

It’s quite difficult to sit with your son and be supportive when you learn that he has failed to hand in homework on numerous occasions, knowing that every night you have asked if all homework is done.  Moreover, knowing that you get them up each day to be out the door in a timely fashion, yet somehow they can never be on time to school?

At the P/T interviews (that’s Parent/Teacher for those of you who are new to this stuff), we bumped into one of the men-children’s head teachers.  Quite frankly she’s a delightful and seriously pragmatic teacher of boys, who really understands them.  We have exchanged numerous emails over the last 12 months, so now know each other well – I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not? 🙂

Anyway, we cast each other a knowing glance as we met to chat briefly, with Man-Child II accompanying me.  The topic of conversation was her recent email, which was to let me know that our son was now the proud owner of such a huge number of demerit points and detentions that they had escalated the issue to the head of middle school.  A fact our son had failed to mention for some reason?  Sadly it seems the demerit and detention system has absolutely NO impact on the man-child’s behaviour – it’s akin to water off a duck’s back.  I understand the head of school left him quite clear that the current spate of lateness and other offences leading to the detentions was to stop, as this situation could not continue without future consequences.  Hmmm, I certainly hope he’s successful, but I’m not convinced.

The pain point for this man-child is that he is fast earning himself a reputation in the school for being a difficult student – not a place you want to be in my view.  It just becomes increasingly difficult to get teachers to invest in you if they think you’re already a pain in the butt!  Thankfully I still saw signs the other night of wonderful teachers who are really keen for all their students (including my sons) to succeed under the tutelage.  If anything, like us, they are just frustrated to see boys who don’t make the most of the opportunities granted to them, and don’t achieve their best.

Easy in hindsight isn’t it?  Personally, detentions and slackness are quite foreign to me – I was such a goody two shoes at school I handed out detentions to other students.  Maybe this is the payback?  LOL!  Any hints to assist in reducing detentions or motivating the men-children welcome.  As you know bribery via a cash incentive is already on the table.

Read about “Money The Great Motivator” here.

 

Drug and Alcohol Education – the unofficial kind! August 19, 2011

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bongThis week I attended the Cannabis Education evening at the school of the men-children.  They thought it was a good idea to talk about drug use to Year 9 parents and boys, having covered off Alcohol Education last year.  We had a presentation by the local Drug Support program, and the local Youth Affairs Police Officer.  Little did they know that sitting in the audience was the mother of a man-child whom they had both had the pleasure of meeting almost one year earlier!!

Below I have published the post that I drafted a year ago, when one of the men-children decided to experiment with cannabis (for obvious reasons I couldn’t bring myself to publish it at the time).  Looking back, I am convinced we handled the situation appropriately.  To the best of my knowledge our son has not continued to experiment with cannabis, and I think he learned a lot through the process.

Original Draft Post (November 2010): 

We’ve endured some interesting events on the journey to date that is adolescence.  Parties, gatherings, girlfriends, shoplifting, meetings with the school, smoking cigarettes, sneaking out at midnight, uninvited guests at 3am, and so the list goes on.  With each new event we seem to exhale with a “well that should be the worst of it shouldn’t it”, a glimmer of hope, but a sense of the inevitable.

And so our latest hurdle.  Man-Child II arrived home on a recent Saturday afternoon after being out all day with friends.  He was happily (unusual in itself) sharing details of where he’d been, and with whom, when I noticed his words were slurred, and he could hardly keep his eyelids open.  My first instinct was of course alcohol, but I couldn’t smell it on him at all.  My second instinct was dope – and unfortunately it seems I was right.

Now both alcohol and marijuana are drugs – but one is highly illegal and one is legal (for those of adult age of course).  The use of either by my 14-year-old son scared me, but more so dope, because you don’t find kids “pushing” alcohol to fund their habit the way you do drugs do you?

Naturally Man-Child II initially denied all usage to my face, but claimed he had been with others smoking dope and therefore he smelt of it and was mildly affected – yeah, right!  Seriously, do they really think any parent with a brain bigger than a goldfish would believe that?

He wasn’t in much of a state to talk (yes what you call totally “stoned”), and for obvious reasons wasn’t forthcoming with any associates names, so off to bed he went.  We actually called the police to check what we should do (we were more than happy to haul him down to the local station for a good talking to on the spot).  They were very interested to know his age, and school – no doubt looking for patterns in usage and known users.  They asked us to bring him down to the station at a later date for a meeting, and also advised us they offer a counselling service where they work with young teens to try to encourage them not to use drugs so they would be referring our son to them.  Perfect!

In the meantime, there was instant punishment dealt out (“you can forget the long-planned Halloween party”) and we had to endure 24 hours of pleading, begging, cajoling, crying, tantrums and text messages to try to make us relent.  But we held our ground and he didn’t attend the party – a minor victory for the parents.

I also had a conversation with Man-Child II to actually ask if he knew what effects drug use had (for irregular and regular users).  He was a little vague so I set him straight.  And I also explained how the classic pyramid selling worked, and why people he didn’t know well were more than happy to give him free drugs with a view to recruiting him longer term.   That seemed to make him think.

I am hoping that the meeting will involve the police scaring the absolute crap out of him (a la Man-Child I’s run in with the law over shoplifting) so he’ll be put off for another few years at least, and that the counselling session will have the desired educational effect.  And if I find out who exactly was kind enough to share the drugs with my son, they should be more worried about me finding them than the police.

Post-Script (August 2011): 

Our man-child did meet with the local police officer, and did attend the drug counselling program as instructed by the police.  He was told if he didn’t attend the program there would be serious consequences for him.  To his credit he took himself off for several appointments as required.  He didn’t share what went on at the sessions, and nor did he need to – it was between our son and the counsellor and we were pretty sure he was in good hands.

When I arrived home last night from the school I mentioned the name of the local policeman and the counsellor who had attended the evening.  Man-Child II nearly died of fright when he realized it was one and the same, as he is obviously known to them.  The fact is he has nothing to fear.  He has learned his lesson, and I hope is actually one step ahead of some of his peers, who haven’t yet been given the skills or life lessons to equip them with the ability to make the right choices when exposed to drugs.

You can read about Man-Child I’s brush with the law here: “An Arresting Story”.

 

Money – The Great Motivator July 29, 2011

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money boxAs the men-children head towards Year 10 (can you believe we’re already talking about subject selection for next year – Gulp!), Father of a Man-Child and I realize we are indeed getting to the pointy end of their school education.  And with that, we are keen to see an overall lift in their performance at school, as we all know that diligence in the early years pays off in the later years.

So with the latest school reports in hand, we discussed how we might incentivize the boys onto greater things during the second half of the year.  One of the men-children is a reasonably diligent student, although we think he does the bare minimum to achieve results, so is capable of a lot more.  And the other is a pretty poor student, in so far as he is not at all engaged by school (academia at least), not motivated (or even propelled by the threat of detentions) to do homework, listen in class, study etc – in short lacking in a basic belief in the importance of school education for his future prospects (sigh from Mother of a Man-Child, the most diligent of students).

On countless occasions the school tells us both are capable of far more – which I suppose is the biggest disappointment, especially with our disengaged man-child.   And so, to motivation – what better solution than MONEY!!!  Every 15-year-old boy who doesn’t have access to an in-built ATM at home, or a paying job, or has tight parents, surely needs money.  Especially with extended summer holidays on the horizon.

So we put a deal on the table for them:  For every B grade or better they achieved in their exams, we would pay them $100 per subject.  So they can both earn themselves $600 if they really want to – not bad for a 15-year-old we thought

In the case of one of the man-children, there was however a catch.  For whatever reason, he is consistently late for school.  No amount of detentions at school for lateness or positive reinforcement from home and school for timeliness seems to impact his behaviour.   His last report had 11 “half day absences” – basically the times he was late and was unaccounted for.  So we added a catch to his reward scheme.  For every late day on his report he would lose $20.  So if he had 10 late days it would cost him $200 offset by the B grades he would hopefully earn.

Do you know what he said?  No deal!!!  Crap – I didn’t see that coming.  He just refused to partake, point-blank, and said he’d rather go without than pay some money back.  I was exasperated.  How hard is it to get up and go to school on time – it’s such a small thing to do isn’t it?  Especially when your mother wakes you up every day!

No amount of reasoning in the next few weeks would convince him to partake in the scheme.  I was pretty pissed off with him especially since we’re even paying for a tutor for one subject, which should guarantee he gets a good grade (yep, double impost for us really).  Not one to be beaten (you know I hate to lose), I came up with an alternative deal that I wouldn’t let him refuse.  I basically flipped the penalty on its head.  So if he got five or less absences we would pay him a bonus $100.  That’s right, not a penalty but a further reward.  It seems weird, but hey if it works it’s worth it.

So time will tell how we go with the carrots for the men-children.  Father of a Man-Child and I are optimistic that it will motivate Man-Child I.  We’re less convinced about Man-Child II, but maybe he’ll surprise us?

Any other thoughts on how to motivate students?  Is the carrot or the stick better?  It’s hard to know sometimes.  Although removing PS3 for the term and taking the plug out of the TV certainly ensures they don’t have much to do except homework whilst they’re sitting upstairs some nights! 🙂

Read about more challenges with educating the men-children: “The Challenge of Educating Boys”