Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Being Older Brothers September 13, 2013

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brother and sister gingerbreadIf there is one thing I don’t regret in life, it is having a sibling for my men-children.  Apart from a natural longing for more children following our twin boys, somehow it just felt right to have more than the perfect “two-some” in our family.  No doubt the fact that both Father of a Man-Child and I were both from families with four children contributed to that, a desire for the chaos and joy that goes with more kids.

Of course it did take us 7 years to come around to the idea before we welcomed Sister of a Man-Child into the world, but we wouldn’t replace her for anything. As 7-year-olds, the boys adored their baby sister.  Funnily enough at about 4 years old they had both placed an order for a baby sister, so how lucky they were.  She was completely doted on by them as a baby – they spent enormous amounts of time looking after her, helping her, playing with her, competing for her attention, and importantly realising they were no longer the centre of the universe.  Although to be fair, as there were already two of them from birth, I think they had already had to learn that lesson from day one!

As they approached their teenage years, and the adolescent attitude reigned, I think they have been less than kind older brothers.  Not because they don’t like their sister, but because they become so self-absorbed at that age, that everyone else except peers is irrelevant to them.  Of course the boys’ girlfriends all adore our daughter – is it the female nurturing nature that brings that out in them?

Like all families, the dynamic between the kids varies substantially.  One is generally nicer to his sister than the other.  And one is more prone to teasing his sister – I suspect because they are very alike they tend to bring the worst out in each other.  Just as the boys do the same to each other.  But it has to be said, as they all get a bit older, I am starting to see the dynamic change again, for the better.

During the recent spontaneous but highly unusual clean up of one Man-Child’s bedroom, he kindly offered his prized Carlton football jumper to his younger sister, also a fan.  He also recently helped his sister with a school project (with a fair bit of coaxing from his mother).  As I pointed out to him, you can either be an arsehole or her hero – you pick!

Sister of a Man-Child also made her First Eucharist recently (that’s First Communion for anyone my age).  Both boys found the Holy Crosses that they were given to mark their own First Communion, all the way from Rome if memory serves me, to show their sister.  I was pleased to see they still had them and delighted to see them all on common ground as our daughter passes the same milestones during her primary school life as her brothers.

So it seems that they are edging slowly out of the teenage abyss, becoming nicer sons to their parents and nicer brothers to their sister.  I hope they all have good relationships with each other as they get older, that are as healthy as mine with my siblings.  Did you have older brothers?  Were they nice to you or nasty when you were growing up?  What is your relationship like with them now?

 

A tribute to an extra-ordinary man-child October 5, 2012

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heartsThis week a beautiful man-child that I had known for the 18 years of his short life, passed away whilst on a road trip across America with his family. Whilst this young man had been unwell for the latter years of his life, his death was still a shock and absolutely devastating for his family and everyone that knew him.

I have often thought of GG as we will call him, as I wrote about my own men-children every week. Whilst I typically make light of my boys and their escapades (good and bad), my thoughts over the years have often turned to GG, whose body progressively failed him until it could cope no more. So as I wrote about the hardships of 6 am rowing starts, the thrill of white water kayaking trips, the freezing conditions endured on cadet camps, the fun of gatherings on Saturday nights, and the arrival of first girlfriends, in the back of my mind was our friend GG, who didn’t have the chance to row, or kayak, or drive a car, or head out on the tram with all his mates to the races.

I also frequently thought about how lucky and blessed I am to have three healthy children, and how fortunate are my men-children and sister of a man-child, that they have their whole lives ahead of them to take on the world and all its challenges and opportunities.

That is not to take away from GG, or the things he did accomplish, both alone and with his family. I don’t for a minute want anyone to feel sorry for GG, as certainly he and his family didn’t feel sorry for themselves, or dwell on the cruel twist of fate that meant both GG and his darling younger sister suffered from a shocking childhood illness that would make their stay on this earth all too short.

Instead, they tackled the challenges head on, with more enthusiasm and energy than you could ever imagine, and ensured that their children lived life to the full. They made their kids lives as normal as they possibly could, whilst simultaneously ensuring they didn’t miss out on anything. They crammed more experiences and adventures into the short lives of their sick children, and their surviving daughters, than mine will probably ever have even if they live to 80. They are a truly remarkable, humble and amazing family.

And as to GG, and his sister, Angel J, they were both absolutely inspiring. They lived with their illness every day, they kept going, against all odds and setbacks as they became less well, they somehow retained a sense of humour, and were happy, optimistic, stoic and in short, quite heroic, making the most of every opportunity they were given. If I could bottle this determination and enthusiasm for my own children, just imagine what they could achieve?

We will all miss the beautifully handsome GG, just as we do his sister Angel J, none more so than his wonderful parents and sisters. For my part, it has been a privilege to have known such a special man-child, for the 18 years of his life, and I hope that it gives my own men-children pause to reflect on just how lucky they both are.

For those who are moved by this story and would like to recognise my friend GG and his sister Angel J in some small way, feel free to make a donation to Glenallen, a special school that they both attended for many years, where they continue to do a brilliant job catering to the needs of the most special children. http://www.glenallen-sch.vic.edu.au/