Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Back to School!! February 3, 2012

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twins at schoolAs our unusual “summer” enters its final month, the kids this week returned to school.  And we returned to the daily grind of making lunches, 6am rowing starts, music lessons, and countless loads of washing every week – I haven’t missed it I can tell you.  Nor the peak hour traffic that results!  Whilst there was no excitement evident amongst the men-children as they headed back to school, I know they were happy to return and catch up with their mates after a few months off.  And they’re both pretty pumped about a big year of sport in Year 10.  (Let’s hope it’s also a big year of study for both of them!)

It seems every newspaper carries a mandatory image of twins or triplets or even better quads in school uniform, as they head to school for their first prep year.  It reminds me of our own front page photo of the men-children some 10 years ago (that’s it pictured for you) which was pretty exciting at the time, and really is a great moment to have captured for posterity.  I still remember the boys wearing their school uniforms home from the store, such was their thrill at owning one.  And of course the pride I felt whilst blinking back tears as we stood in the prep classroom and launched them on their school journey.  No less joyful was repeating it all 7 years later with our daughter.  They are moments you could relive a thousand times over and each would be as wonderful as the first!

In contrast to the boys, Sister of a Man-Child’s excitement was palpable at entering Year 3.  She even sent me a text message yesterday when she got home “Hay (sic) mum first day of school great.  Thumbs up”, complete with thumbs up images!  Now before you think our 8-year-old daughter has a mobile phone, not quite.  For Christmas she was lucky enough to get an iPod Touch (as a modern-day alternative to the Nintendo DS).  Whilst most people would think she would use it for music, it comes with so many other features she’s barely had the earphones on.  Why would you when it also has countless games free from the App store, a camera better than mine, access to YouTube, and most importantly the ability to text (via iMessage) and use Facetime with other iPhone/iPod users.  The ONLY thing it doesn’t do is make phone calls – seriously.  So when Ruby’s in a wireless environment, she’s practically got her own iPhone.  A “Digital Native” in the making!

emoji imagesShe recently found some friends with iPods or iPhones, and now they’re madly texting each other and doing Facetime.  The only issue is that Ruby doesn’t have her own email address, so she’s using one of mine.  As a result, all her messaging appears automatically on my phone too.  It was fascinating to observe the conversation unfold between three young girls, and see them helping each other text and use Facetime.  And then installing Emoji (an app for texting icons).  Now they seem to send each other hundreds of smiley faces and other images.  Although the other morning I was sitting at work with a stream of messages (complete with sound notifications) going off at my desk which got a little out of hand.  I ended up joining the conversation and asking them to stop, which took a while because we had to convince one of the girls that it really was the “Mother” texting.  Not surprisingly, we have now banned the use of the iPod before school and not until after homework is done in the evenings – like all fun and highly addictive “toys”, good in moderation.

So back to school and back to the routine.  And back to family meals which are a nice change, especially since during the holidays we rarely had both men-children at home for a meal.  No doubt the novelty will wear off quickly!! 🙂

 

It’s quiet without the Men-Children January 27, 2012

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Australian FlagIt’s been a quiet week on the Man-Child front.  They headed off last week for five nights at a school rowing camp on the Tambo River.  It coincided with the hottest week of our summer so far  – just as well they were on water.  No doubt the next hottest one will be when the kids get back to school next week.  Isn’t that always the way?

I can’t tell you much about it – as is usual you don’t hear from them when they’re away unless you prompt them.  Father of a Man-Child was pretty active with texts and probably got a bit more information out of them.   He wanted to know how they were rowing, and if they were improving their times and winning.  I wanted to know if they were getting sunburnt and wearing hats!  Naturally we were both keen to hear all about it when they came home.

I left an Australia Day BBQ to pick them up on their return, only to drop them off home and head back to the party.  So we only had a quick debrief in the car – they admitted they were stuffed and keen to get home.  They said the camp was good, but hard – the healing blisters on their hands being testament to that!  5.30am starts, 3 rowing sessions a day, typical camp food.   Home to their own beds and a nice home-cooked meal by Mum – what bliss I thought.

By the time we returned from our party the boys were long gone – off to catch up with mates and girlfriends.  So much for tired!!! And so much for wanting a meal….probably hankering after some junk food anyway.   So any good camp stories will have to wait until next week – we should get some out of them over the dinner table tonight.

Sister of a Man-Child thoroughly enjoyed the week without her brothers. It’s probably a nice treat to have Mum and Dad all to yourself.  I expect the main thing she enjoyed was the quietness in the house – no arguing, no fighting, no screaming Mother, and when I bought a packet of hot cross buns they actually lasted the week and not 24 hours (you’ve got to be fast in our place normally).

So a belated Happy Australia Day to all.  We had a wonderful day with friends embracing the true meaning of the public holiday and celebrating our fortune to live in the lucky country.

 

Fighting the Technology Tsunami November 25, 2011

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facebookTechnology – can’t live with it, can’t live without!  Smartphones, iPads, laptops, smart TV’s……the digital revolution is amazing and literally engulfing us all like a giant tsunami.  Of course the digital natives don’t know any different.  And even though I work in the digital space every day, I was more than a little surprised when Sister of a Man-Child, now 8 years old, asked me recently for her own email account. She even told me she’s already decided a “name” for Gmail.  I said no, straight away.

No because I didn’t want her having an email account that she could use to email her friends just yet, no because I didn’t want her having a SPAM account, where all those marketers (like me) could send her countless invitations to impart private information and sign up for countless offers.  No because she’s only eight years old, and it just seems wrong.

She signed up for a website recently, created especially for kids, with all the right rules and regulations etc, and you could even pay a monthly fee for premium services.  I gave in eventually when I found out quite a few of her friends were on it, and I was the only tight-arse parent not paying the subscription fee!  Seriously though, it was Facebook for under 10’s!  Totally getting them into online chatting, making friends, “buying” stuff….quite alarming in my view.  Even more so when her friend’s mother rang me to say their 8-year-old daughter had amassed several hundred “friends” on the game and they were closing her account.  Good move!  I happily cancelled my daughter’s account the same week – peer pressure can be used to your advantage sometimes.

Thank goodness Facebook terms and conditions state you have to be 13 to have an account – at least I can use that excuse for the next 5 years.  Already though she’s clued onto Facebook – who wouldn’t be when the rest of your family are constantly on it or talking about it.  To the point that Sister of a Man-Child’s friend was over for a play recently, and mentioned something I had posted on Facebook about my daughter.  Her mother had seen it, and commented on it (it was cute trust me), and then the daughter had seen it, and told my daughter.  So now Sister of a Man-Child regularly prompts me to “put it on Facebook Mum” and asks if people comment or like something about her.  See, she doesn’t even use it and already she’s being sucked into the vortex, the opportunity for two secs of “fame “on a Facebook wall, the opportunity to share the minutiae of her life with friends, friends of friends, and even complete randoms.   I should know, I do it on a daily basis – a Facebook fan from way back.  So much so I’m even paid to do it at work can you believe? 🙂

As for the Men-Children, they’re as obsessed as the rest of them.  They have iPhones (naturally), but they no longer have their own laptops.  We did buy them one each in Year 7 – not that it was mandated by school, but we thought it would be useful for homework (wishful thinking perhaps?).  They’ve both since given up the ghost, the boys haven’t bothered to get them repaired (they only need a new charger/cord), and the boys had made do with mine or my husband’s Mac (we LOVE Mac’s).  However, we’re now down to one Mac (damn it when you have to give back the work Mac) and as I’m on my work laptop (sadly not a Mac) most nights for work, they’ve been forced to share.

So for Christmas, top of the list for one Man-Child is a Mac.  Yes, not just any laptop, which you can buy for $4-500 bucks, but a $1,000 Mac.  Marketed so successfully that they enjoy a premium position and therefore premium price – they NEVER discount – haven’t you noticed damn it?  Apart from the cost (he even offered to make it a combined Xmas/Birthday present – it’s still too expensive), we’re loath to buy them a laptop each.  For the key reason, we don’t want them on them (read Facebook) 24/7.   They still don’t need a computer for homework every night, and we know for a fact that if they’re on the computer, they’re on Facebook, which means they’re NOT doing their homework.  Yes you can search Google and Wikipedia and be on Facebook at the same time, but we all know how easy it is to get distracted by that wall don’t we?  I even found one of the men-children on Facebook at 7am in the morning, before he headed off to rowing.  Just grabbing a quick look before we headed out the door – seriously!!

So tell me, should we get them a laptop for Christmas (even to share – a foreign word to the men-children but nevertheless a valuable lesson)?  Or should we continue to fight the technology tsunami for as long as we can, and overnight earn the title of the world’s meanest, tightest, most horrible parents ever put on the earth?  I’d almost rather live with the abuse than feed the beast!  Crazy I know.  🙂

I’ve talked about technology and Gen Z before.  Read more here.

 

A Celebration Of Boys Through Sport August 26, 2011

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I attended a function at the men-children’s school recently (yes, we had three events in seven days) and it gave me reason to reflect as the Mother-of-a-Man Child on the journey of my sons from boys to adolescents to adults.

The event I attended was the Rugby Presentation night.  As the team manager for one of the men-children’s teams (ironic since I know virtually nothing about rugby no matter how hard I try to learn the rules – apparently the prerequisite was being good at email communication), I decided that this year I would like to attend the evening.

Father-of-a-Man-child and I tend to play tag team at these events anyway, mainly because we have the much younger Sister-of-a-Man-Child at home, and it’s just too big an impost to all go to everything, especially on a school night.  Hubby had been to the AFL presentation night just a few nights earlier, so it seemed fair to share the load.

The night was really like any sporting presentation night.  A great compilation video to open the night, followed by Coaches awards for each year level (best player, most improved, etc), gifts presented to coaches, recognition for the all important 1st team (this is predominantly made up of year 12’s and other boys who excel in the sport), and special awards.

No doubt since I hadn’t attended one before I probably enjoyed it more than many.  I doubt the format changes year in, year out.  As some of you would know, the end of year primary school concert, as gorgeous as it is, loses some of it’s joy by the time you’ve attended four or five of them, and you know you’ve got another 10 to go with your daughter following your sons through the school!!!

But we digress – back to the rugby evening.  My overwhelming sense of the night was that it really was a true celebration of boys.  Collectively they represented a wonderful display of teamwork, mateship, determination, and dedication by both coaches and students alike.  Many of the coaches referred to watching the boys progress over the year as they grew into young men, witness to the ever-changing physical and emotional rollercoaster that is adolescence.  Some were very frank about the challenges of coaching the boys, particularly at certain ages when they are more anti-authoritarian, but even then, you could tell they enjoyed the challenge and delighted in the development of the boys and what they had achieved throughout the season.

Above all, I also got an amazing sense of the bond they all shared through their love of the game of rugby.  It was quite a contagious feeling, and made me pleased to be playing even a very minor part in the sport.  It also gave me an insight into Father-of-a-man-child’s passion for the local AFL footy club of which he is President.  It takes up way too much of his time, but now I think I can understand why he just can’t get enough of the club.

For us, we love that both of our men-children are active in sport.  Be it AFL, Rugby or Rowing, what became clear for me is the importance for them to be part of a team, to do their best, to enjoy the pursuit of sporting excellence, to put in the effort to get the reward, and to have fun whatever the result.  And above all, to just be boys, becoming young men, playing sport, with all the stuff that goes with it. 🙂

Read more about being a Mother in a Man’s world here, reflecting on the book “He’ll be OK, by Celia Lashlie”.

 

Man-Child Pays Sister For Silence August 12, 2011

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top secret
Sister of a Man-Child was left at home recently with Man-Child II babysitting whilst we went out to dinner (yes there are advantages to having men-children after all).  When we came home there appeared to be no issues, daughter was asleep in bed, all was good.

About a week later, Sister of a Man-Child told me she had a secret.  Moreover, it was a secret she wasn’t supposed to share with us, because her brother had asked her to keep the secret.  But she wondered if she could share it, on the condition her brother couldn’t know, and no-one would get in trouble.  Poor child, she was carrying around a secret and bursting to tell someone.  “Of course you can tell me darling” I said, wondering what mischief was about to be revealed.

Sister:  Well, the other night when you went out, Man-Child II had a friend over, and he said he’d pay me to keep it a secret from you.
Mother:  Really, did he now?  Was it a girl or boy?
Sister:  Boy.
Mother:  Do you know who it was?
Sister:  No.
Mother:  How much did he pay you?
Sister:  $3.   (Reasonable deal for both really.)

So we said nothing, and praised Sister of a Man-Child for being honest enough to tell us and reassured her she or he wouldn’t get in trouble or know that we had been told the secret.  I figured we might as well encourage this excellent form of man-child espionage. 🙂

A week later a mate of Man-Child II walks in the door.  Sister of a Man-Child discreetly says to me “Mum, you know how I said he had a mate over, that’s him.”  Bingo! Puzzle solved.  Perfect.  Sister of a Man-Child was actually quite chuffed, realizing she had managed to deliver all relevant information to her parents, without suffering any form of retribution.

She then floored me when she said to herself, “Gee, this is okay.  I get paid to keep a secret, but then I tell Mum, and everything is okay.”  LOL, brilliant!  This kid will go far in life.  She earned the $3 from her brother – I hope she makes plenty more from them over the years!!!

Read more about Sister of a man-child here:  A Princess Tale.

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Testosterone Power Surge in Melbourne Suburb! June 10, 2011

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If it was possible to measure the output of testosterone in males, I swear my boys would be world record holders and probably blow up any machine that attempted to gauge it.  Such is the surge of testosterone in our house I can almost feel the electric-like current running through the place sometimes.

I grew up with three wonderful sisters – yes, one of four girls.  Naturally I always wanted brothers and envied my friends who had them in spades.  I therefore thought it was appropriate that my first-born were a) twins, since I am one myself and b) boys, since I had no brothers and was a complete tomboy as a child.  Some would say it served me right!

When my men-children were growing up, we always joked that our gorgeous boys were really just like dogs – always happy when outdoors and definitely better behaved after a good run in the park.  Growing boys just seem to need to burn off some of that energy and testosterone which courses through their veins during key phases in their life.   This is in stark contrast to raising girls, as we learned with the adorable sister of a man-child.  Females are just so different to males, but both equally enjoyable I must add.

Now the men-children are enduring yet another testosterone surge during adolescence, they don’t seem to be able to burn the hormones fast enough to keep a lid on it.  Even with sport virtually every second day, they seem to have plenty in reserve.   Which means that most nights they use it to “play-fight” amongst themselves.

Those of my readers with brothers will know what teenage boys play fighting looks like.  Others of you without brothers or men-children might be surprised to know how severe it can be.  “Play-fighting” by its very name sounds like light wrestling, some muted punches, a bit of nudging, and general pushing and shoving.  But no, that’s just the appetizer for my men-children!

Play fighting in our house involves two 15 year olds literally holding each other in death like grips, using every ounce of their strength in order to deliver harm to their opponent.  I kid you not I once found them entwined, one with legs wrapped around the other, and one in a choker hold, and them thumping each other on the ground to try to extract themselves from the other’s grip.  Neither would give up – no wonder they’re good at competitive sports!  I am still waiting for the hole in the wall, an elbow through the new TV, or a head split open on the corner of the coffee table – it just seems inevitable sadly.

The other night, having listened to the dulcet tones of play fighting from upstairs (yep, all we’ve done is move the noise and testosterone to a new location) I ventured up with the intention of putting an end to it.  I then made the stupid mistake of getting involved – bad idea, when I’m a) shorter, b) lighter and c) prone to excitement and extreme frustration.  All I ended up doing was screaming, getting madder, and earning a physical injury myself.  The lesson for me – I cannot physically win anymore – do not even attempt it (although hair pulling works as a last resort – for some reason they find this EXTREMELY painful)!

We had play-fighting again the following night, and they literally made their way downstairs as they fought.  So I tried a new tack – I threw them out of the house – the freezing winter air in Melbourne soon cooled them down, and took the heat out of their aggression.

Is this normal behaviour?  I think so, or at least I hope so.  It’s probably exacerbated by them being very different personalities.  I recall my girlfriend’s brothers once chasing each other around their kitchen table – I was sure they would kill each other, but I was probably only 10 years old so it made a big impression on me.

Will they be the best of mates one day?  I think so, or at least I hope so.  The testosterone will slow down its relentless pace and the aggression will give way to mate-ship and a lifelong bond between brothers.  Now that would make me happy. 🙂

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Mother of a Man-Child: Mother’s Day Musings May 13, 2011

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mothers dayMother’s Day has been and gone for another year.  Unfortunately both my hubby and me are without our mothers now, something you can’t help but recall with sadness on this day.  Fortunately however, being a mother means I also get to be the centre of the day’s events at home (well almost).

For the Men-Children, Mothers Day is clearly an event to be missed.  Both of them made plans to go out on Saturday night, and to stay over at a mates, until both Mother of a Man-Child and Father of a Man-Child pointed out that since it was Mother’s Day on Sunday, it would be nice for them to be at home.  Moreover which other Mother wants to wake up to my men-children on Mother’s Day I ask you?

My daughter on the other hand had been living in anticipation of Mother’s Day for an entire week.  Of course there’s the special presents to make at school, and the cards to craft.  Not to mention the breakfast-in-bed planning to do with Dad.  Oh, and an acrostic poem to write.  My daughter was one of a select few to have her effort published in the school newsletter for everyone to read.  I’ve included it below for your amusement – I just love the bit about me getting angry!!!

Kind and loving she is caring and careful. I love my Mum.

Every day she says good night, she cooks us dinner and she helps the family with so much stuff.

Lots of things my mum does. She lets me have friends over, she plays games with me.  My mum is SUPER!

Little times, big times, hard times, easy times. I don’t care if mum gets angry at me.  I will still always love her.

You know my mum is the Best in the whole WORLD!

Such was my daughter’s excitement that she couldn’t actually wait until Sunday to give me one of my presents.  So I got the homemade heart-shaped lavender soap as an early present on Saturday, which took pride of place in the bathroom.  It’s quite “rustic” but seems to do the job.  🙂

In keeping with the boys’ level of engagement around all things Mother’s Day, I actually bought my own Mother’s Day card and asked them to write in it.  Is that sad or what?  Thankfully Sister of a Man-Child wasn’t satisfied until they had each written in it.  And to be honest, what they each wrote warmed the cockles of my heart.

On Sunday I did get breakfast in bed along with Sister of a Man-Child naturally, and a kiss and hug from Man-Child I.  Man-Child II went the hug but resisted the kiss.  Clearly at 15 that just grosses him out I gather?  Oh well, small steps.  Somehow I then ended up going to see a kid’s movie with my daughter (I did point out the irony of this to her on Mother’s Day) and then we watched the men-children play footy.  All in all an enjoyable day.

When I asked the boys where my present was from them their instant retort was “But you don’t give us enough pocket-money”!!  My response: “Gee boys, I’m sure you could have guilted Dad into giving you money to buy a present for me.  And apart from that, you could always have offered to cook dinner for me!”

In the words of my daughter “It really is kids day every day Mummy isn’t it?”