Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Boys to Men August 9, 2013

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footballI was reminded last week of the benefits of sport and how wonderful it is to observe boys becoming men.  One of the men-children played football this season, fortunate enough to play in the First squad with mainly Year 12 boys (sadly his brother has hung up his rugby boots now that he has left school – no amount of cajoling, encouraging or threatening helping to convince him to keep playing).

For our footballer, I noted a couple of benefits from this season – one, he played with older boys, I am sure a good influence as they are more mature (the drinking games they taught him at the end of season party were NOT an advantage!).  Two, he observed up close how they are balancing the demands of Year 12 and sport.  And he formed good friendships with some of his teammates, a strongly bonded group, with a great bunch of very supportive parents.

At the end of season gathering, another great chance for the boys and their parents to get together (they really do the parent participation exceptionally well), there were the traditional speeches, videos and presentations to boys and coaches.  Naturally each parent delighted in the comments made about their son, all clearly proud to receive such public praise and recognition.

I especially love to see the wonderful young men speak publicly, about their coaches, their teammates, their parents, their school.  To witness men-children on the cusp of adulthood, showing grace and maturity is heart-warming and reminds me that my own men-children are on the same pathway, about to emerge from adolescence to adulthood like a beautiful butterfly from a chrysalis.

And whilst we don’t see that side of them often, more the prickly caterpillars at home, or the jousting testosterone-laden lion cubs, I am confident that the persona they present to others is of delightful, well-adjusted, polite young men, with no hint of the way they sometimes behave for their parents at home (isn’t it always the case)?

For those who wonder what happened last week (I know, NO post), could it be that Mother of a Man-Child’s days of writing thrilling stories about the adventures of her men-children is coming to an end?  That they will stop to provide me with excellent material for the blog, simply through the things they do on a daily basis, because they are finally growing up?  Let’s hope not!!!  Although last week passed without any unusual incidents, so I was left bereft of a worthy tale.

I have written about the celebration of boys through sport before – such an important part of their school life.  https://motherofamanchild.com/2011/08/26/a-celebration-of-boys-through-sport/

 

 

Not always the perfect parent June 1, 2012

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bookBeing a mother is a lot of things – joyful, fearful, enlightening, loving, exhausting, rewarding, hilarious, chaotic, spontaneous and so the list goes on.  And being a mother, we naturally wear many hats – teacher, cleaner, mentor, dishwasher, driver, cook, diplomat, doctor, psychologist (oh and wife, friend, daughter, sister as well).   When you sign up for the parenting gig, there’s no going back – it’s 365 days a year, 24/7.  As my father-in-law once said – you’re a parent for life.  You never really stop worrying about your kids – right until the day you leave the earth.

I think he’s 100% right, but quite frankly sometimes the relentlessness of parenting just wears you down.  I have no doubt that I am not the perfect parent.  Certainly I am not in the eyes of my men-children – oh no.  The perfect parent doesn’t make you do homework, but lets you go out whenever you want, doesn’t make you tidy your room, or nag you to take off your filthy footy boots rather than wear them through the house, and gives you an unending supply of cash to fund everything your heart desires.  The perfect parent has a great relationship with their teenager, and somehow always knows what to say to them when they’re angry or hurt, or annoyed, or worried (and don’t want to tell you).  The imperfect parent (guilty) just seems to spend a lot of time yelling at them to do the stuff they need to do, or wondering how it is they are so disrespectful towards me and how did I not manage to teach them that they can’t speak to their mother like that?  Worse still as the imperfect parent swears at them, should she be surprised when they choose to do it back?  (yep, guilty).

The perfect parent knows to count to ten, and not lose her cool, and not make idle threats, and not say things she shouldn’t.  Sadly, I have never been good at counting to ten – it’s not in my nature!

I’m not sure I am the perfect parent even in the eyes of Sister of a Man-Child.  When you hear “It’s okay mum, I know you’re too busy to help me/play with me/talk to me”, the feelings of failure are immense.  Is my life so damn packed full of stuff I have to do that even my youngest child is missing out on the love and attention she deserves from her parents?  Are we just so driven to do everything we have to do that we don’t stop for the very important things (but somehow not a deadline driven task) such as reading a book to our child, or listening to what they need to tell us?

That’s when being a working mother can take its toll on you emotionally.  When you almost feel like you are juggling so many balls in the air that you’re in danger of dropping them all.  Along the way you feel like you are half doing everything.   So you’re running out of time to answer all those emails at night, you’re a stressed wife with too much to do and barely time to exchange words, let alone have a nice conversation with your husband, you’re a useless class rep who’s not really doing what good class reps do, or you’re thinking about the sport commitments for the weekend and which child you will miss seeing play yet again?  And while we do all this, we have the iPhone, or iPad, or laptop within easy reach, all trying to grab our attention and distract us further.

I recently had the chance to head away for 4 days for a “work trip” (okay, so there wasn’t any work at all), a short break from the madness of life in general.  The absolute bonus when I got there was that none of my devices worked, so I was effectively disconnected from the world back home.  Can I tell you it was liberating.  I switched off completely, indulged in reading books (my child-free holidays are often spent devouring a good novel), and just spent time doing nothing.  It was soooooo good.  Did I miss home?  Nope, not in only four days.  I just lapped up the fact that I didn’t have to wash or cook for anyone else, that I could drink champagne for breakfast if I chose (I didn’t), go for a walk if I chose, go to bed early if I chose, or just lie by the pool and let time drift by.

Did it help me be a better parent?  Probably not.  But it did restore some balance in my life, some me-time, some think time, some free time.  As for parenting, I really wouldn’t give it (or them) up for the world (but it was nice to for four short days).  Sometimes it’s okay to be selfish. 🙂

So hands up, who else is a perfect parent?  I’ll feel much better if someone would tell me I’m normal!!

Of course it’s not all bad, as this post shows.   The Men-Children really do love me. 

 

Should Man-Child Leave School? May 25, 2012

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rowingThey joys of parenting includes surviving the highs and lows of your children’s school years.  From the excitement of the kinder and primary years (such times of innocence and youthful enthusiasm) to the more serious journey into adulthood that secondary school marks.

Our boys enjoyed wonderful years in their primary school.  They had great teachers, made wonderful friends, and both did well academically and on the sporting field.  Happy times in a school with only 300 kids and a wonderful sense of community.

Then off to “big school” from Year 7, into an all boys’ school, which is well suited to our men-children.  It’s a large school, with great facilities, catering to diverse interests of the school population.  And very well versed in how to care and manage for boys on their journey through adolescence and beyond.

In the last 3.5 years we have certainly enjoyed the fruits of their sporting excellence, but it has to be said neither has excelled academically.  That in itself is not an issue, we can’t all be good at everything.  Our hope is merely that they apply themselves diligently and make the most of every opportunity they are given at school.  What we don’t enjoy is knowing that they are in fact intelligent, but not really making the effort required to excel in their studies.

To be fair, one of the men-children is pretty diligent, and doing okay (not amazingly, but well enough).  Let’s just say ahead of the recent careers night I did advise him bluntly that law and medicine were probably not worth pursuing, unless he’s been hiding the report that shows straight A’s!!   Sadly, our other man-child has really not applied himself well to academia at all.  The parent-teacher interviews have been pretty repetitive over the years – very capable, but not really living up to his potential (read LAZY).   And that attitude has extended to homework (not really bothered to do it if the subject didn’t interest him), and more recently school punctuality (why rush when you can sleep in after mum and dad have gone to work?), resulting in a familiarity with key teachers/staff in the school that we’d rather not have.  This familiarity is the result of countless email exchanges, meetings, and phone calls over the years about our son.

We considered boarding school once for him – ironically his own school wouldn’t take him – he was seen as too disruptive!!!  We also considered shifting schools – perhaps he would be better with a fresh start, away from his twin?  I spoke to a few schools, one of which provided us with amazing advice and guidance about surviving the teenage years at school and recommending that we didn’t shift him at all, because the results would be far worse.   (Then again, maybe he was just trying to discourage us from sending him there – LOL!)

The reality following work experience and a recent careers night is that our son is not an academic and doesn’t thrive in the learning environment typically offered by mainstream schools and universities.  He’s just not interested enough.    He knows he doesn’t want to be office bound, but wants to do some sort of trade, and work outdoors.  He loved his recent work experience stint with a builder, spending the day with tradies, doing physical work, driving utes, etc.  So you can imagine how he finds the regime that is school – NOT!  So we finally bit the bullet and seriously looked into VCAL – the TAFE alternative to Year 11 and/or 12, where they can commence studies in a chosen trade ahead of applying for an apprenticeship.   And to be honest, what we found seems the perfect mix for our man-child.   A blend of hands on learning about a chosen trade, coupled with general Maths and English units, and other life skills to ensure they’re still educated to an acceptable level.   We’d rather he be happy and engaged at “school” than stuck in a system that doesn’t work for him.  Who knows, he might one day decide he wants to do further study, and being his own decision he would probably apply himself.  Countless people before him have done the same and gone on to be very successful.

We have discussed the possibility of him leaving to do VCAL with his current school, and they have been extremely supportive, both about our potential decision to leave the school at year-end, but also about the chance to retain him at the school if he wishes to stay on.  It’s almost a relief to have it on the table (probably for our son as much as us), but also an added incentive for him to complete Year 10 well since it’s a pre-requisite for VCAL.

One large regret for us if he leaves the school is him also leaving the school community and the sporting opportunities that he has so far enjoyed.   But to be honest we’re probably more worried about that than our son.   He can still pursue sport outside his current school – it just won’t have the cache that some of the private schools associate with sporting excellence, and again, maybe that just isn’t important to him?

So it may be a very different year for our boys next year, especially if they both find themselves at different schools.  My prediction is that one will go to trade school, work full-time, buy his longed for ute with his hard-earned money and move out (he wants his independence desperately), whilst his brother will go to uni, and be a poor student for years, living at home with Mum and Dad.  As I’ve said before, they’re very different, and no doubt their lives will head in very diverse directions, but I know they’ll be great mates when they’re older, just like me and my twin sister, and hopefully they’ll both agree that we did everything we could to support them through their school lives and beyond.

You can read about the joys of Parent-Teacher interviews here.  As I said, rarely enjoyable.

 

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.

 

Get a Job Men-Children! October 21, 2011

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piggy bankEnough – the ATM is tired of handing out money!  Do you ever get the feeling you’re feeding a beast with an insatiable appetite?  Weekly pocket-money, plus extra on school holidays, and regular concert tickets, and clothes and shoes….the requests are never-ending.  And you can imagine how much they do to earn the pocket-money can’t you?

Now I know when they’re young your children need you to support them and provide for them, but as the men-children keep reminding me, they are ALMOST 16.  Time surely to get a job and start funding some of their own entertainment?

To be fair, one of the men-children has made some effort to apply for jobs.  The other, only under extreme sufferance, and from memory that would be ONE application only.  Now I don’t know whether it’s harder to get work as a teenager these days, but I had my first job at 14 and didn’t look back.  It was at the French Bakehouse with one of my best friends Lou, walking distance from home.  The best part of the job was all the almond and chocolate croissants and cheese twists we got to eat and the crunchy baguettes we got to take home at the end of our shifts.

Once I got the taste of having my own money I couldn’t earn it and spend it fast enough.  Actually, one of the men-children is just like me – the moolah positively burns a hole in his wallet if he doesn’t spend it in record time.  The other man-child is actually more like my twin sister – a non-spender and therefore good saver.

Either way, the independence and responsibility that comes with holding down a job is an invaluable lesson for teens in my view.  I know they’re busy with sport – in fact right at the moment it’s quite ridiculous how busy they are with extra sporting commitments due to pre-season training for rugby and footy, on top of rowing; but now’s the time to have a foot in the door with a casual job so they can be employed over summer and earn some holiday money.  Of course one side effect of having a job might be a little dent in the social life too – and that can’t hurt can it?

So how old were you when you got your first job?  Was it as good as the French Bakehouse?

Please note any prospective employers should feel free to contact me.  The men-children are good-looking and have developing muscles so manual labour is definitely an option. 🙂

 

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”.

 

Do The Men-Children Actually LIKE Each Other? July 15, 2011

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yin and yangAs those who know my men-children will tell you, they are extremely different.  Not just in looks but also in personality.  They have different friends, are quite opposite in their natural strengths, have diverse interests (except playing sport), have completely different fashion approaches, and like all siblings they fight a lot.

This year a couple of their individual friends moved to a different school together.  Not surprisingly new allegiances have been formed amongst these boys, thrown together in a new environment, and as a result new relationships have developed with my men-children.  One day I seemed to have one man-child talking about a mate regularly that plays in the same sports team, the next week he’s here with my other man-child and moreover now seems to be a permanent fixture with the latter.

The big surprise came when Man-Child II asked if he could stay over at a friend’s – who just happened to be the BFF (“Best Friends Forever”) of Man-Child I – go figure!  I was so taken aback I said he could stay as long as he told his brother first – I thought that was at least fair.  Man-Child I didn’t seem to mind at all.  And went so far as to lend his twin brother a jumper – yet another first in our household.  Trust me normally there’s a complete shit fight over the Bonds jocks, school shirts, footy shorts, Skins, and socks every morning – they just don’t do the sharing thing well at all.

So whilst my boys show disdain for each other often, at least at home, obviously their friends find them both good guys, and maybe not so different after all?  Or they enjoy their differences and uniqueness, just as they do with all their friends.

So is this a sign of things to come?  A new era of loving, sharing, caring men-children?  Based on the fighting going on upstairs at the moment and the charming language filtering down the stairs whilst I write this post, I very much doubt it.  But hey, mother of a man-child is always open to surprises. 🙂

Read more about the boys “play-fighting” here:  Testosterone Power Surge in Melbourne Suburb