Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

The Narcissistic Teenager April 26, 2013

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individualLast weekend I read an article in The Age – “Is this the most narcissistic generation we’ve ever seen?”.  It struck such a chord with me that I immediately sent the link to Father of a Man-Child asking him if it was familiar.  Not surprisingly he agreed it was in fact too close for comfort.  It was such an interesting read, that it’s prompted me to write a blog post about it.

Here’s the original post for reference.  http://www.theage.com.au/comment/is-this-the-most-narcissistic-generation-weve-ever-seen-20130419-2i5ne.html

In a nutshell the author presents an argument that today’s teenagers are so narcissistic, that some of them are in fact suffering from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)!!  Now my personal view is that the “disorder” bit might be a bit extreme, however when I read the article, there were definite signs in my men-children of said narcissism.  And for me this came back to an often-touted view of mine (and countless parents before me) that teenagers are so focused on their own world, they are virtually oblivious to the rest of it.   We have daily reminders of this in our household at the moment.

Just think about their lives.  With everything at their fingertips, how are they learning patience?  You want to know something, Google it.  You want to chat to friends – text them, or call them 24/7.  You want food – don’t wait for the meal that your parents have slaved over, just eat on the spot, and then skip dinner (we are fighting a losing battle during school holidays around this).  You want money (immediately), just demand it from your parents – the mobile ATM, even when they are at work and expected to drop everything to do said internet transfer.  You want a lift somewhere, just ask, and be completely flabbergasted when you are told that the tram is still running and you can use it.  You want to be picked up from school – don’t then send a message reversing the request when said parent has battled through traffic to get half way there.

We even had a recent case where we were told that yes it would be nice to go on a holiday to escape the Melbourne winter, but could this particular narcissistic man-child fly independently and be with us for a shorter time period, because he didn’t want to spend 10 days of his precious holidays with the family, when he could be at home alone spending it with friends.  Never mind the implications of the decision, the inconvenience, the arrangements required, or just the sheer cheek and ungratefulness.  Part of us wanted to tell him we would gladly leave him home alone, and the other part wanted to make him endure 10 days on a family holiday.  We picked the latter by the way.  It’s our last year to “enjoy” family holidays with the boys, and we are confident they will actually have a good time themselves once there.  It also means they will be forced to recharge their batteries, slow down, eat well, drink less, and generally have a proper holiday (not one spent burning the candle and over indulging in the things 17 year olds like to do).

So who do we blame for the narcissistic tendencies our own teenagers show (or those even more extreme in the article)?  I actually think it’s two-fold.  Part of it is the world they are growing up in, and part of it is the role we as parents play.  Even when it feels like a losing battle, we need to impart our values and beliefs, and behave in the way we want them to behave in (easier said than done), and teach them to understand how the wider world works and the part they play in it.  We need to stand tall, and set an example, in the knowledge that somehow, via osmosis almost, those values will over time manage to seep into the sub-conscious of our children and they will in turn adopt the same standards.

I particularly liked the reference in the article to gratitude: “One of the best ways to combat entitlement is to be grateful for what you already have…….Gratitude is the opposite of entitlement. You think about what you already have, instead of what you deserve to have but don’t.”   I think we have some work to do on this front with one of our men-children in particular.

I must ask my father if he recalls the same narcissistic attitude when we were teenagers?  I expect he would.  I also think he would confidently tell me that we didn’t all turn into completely narcissistic adults so it was after all just a phase.   Let’s hope so, for my sake and the men-children’s!  🙂

Would love to hear your thoughts.  Do you agree with the article?  Do you think they’re worse this generation than ever before?

 

High Expectations? February 17, 2012

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salad rollA teenagers needs are pretty basic.  Feed me, clothe me, drive me, fund me, and leave me alone!  Simple really.  Oh and read my mind constantly.

So unfolded a conversation with one of the men-children on Monday morning at 6.30am that is pretty indicative of how “adolescent” they can sometimes be.

The first thing that popped out of his mouth:  “Did you make the sandwiches I asked for?”  Actually he asked his father for a certain variety, not me.  So no, I didn’t make them, because I didn’t know, and by the way he was pretty lucky that a Year 10 boy was still having his sandwiches made for him.  What are we, a tuckshop?  No we’re just parents with boys who are rowers who recognise how important their food requirements are.

“That roll is small!” This immediately followed the last comment.  Oh sorry, it’s only half a baguette, and yes it’s not the same size as the ones I’ve bought previously.  But it’s better than a sandwich isn’t it?  Sorry I bothered I am thinking to myself by now.  See previous point about rowing men-children – it’s all about fuel!

Within 60 seconds, man-child was heard from the laundry:  “Where’s my zoot suit?”.  (For the uninitiated, this is the all-in-one fitted suits that rowers wear – very “gay” when you’re in year 7/8/9 but somehow more “manly” when you’re in year 10.  Go figure.)  Now, since I had VERY KINDLY trawled through both their bedrooms late on Saturday for dirty clothes to wash, only because they were both rowing all day and I felt sorry for them, I knew the zoot suits had indeed made it into the washing machine, onto the line, and into the folded pile of teenage clothes that seems to live permanently in the laundry.  So you can imagine my response – silence! (Actually you could call it fuming, because I was).  He eventually found it, but not before he’d told me that the only one he found was his brothers, not his, and therefore that’s why he couldn’t find a zoot suit.  Yes, they still fight over clothes regularly.  And no they don’t put their names on them to stop said fighting.

It got better.  A minute later we had the same thing over the rowing t-shirt, which he promptly produced for me saying “You didn’t wash my shirt”!  Well no, I clearly didn’t wash your shirt – as any blind man can see because it’s filthy.  It obviously wasn’t on the floor, and so I didn’t pick it up when I was VERY KINDLY looking for 4 weeks of washing on your bedroom floor, you know the floor that the cleaners no longer vacuum because they can’t find the carpet!!  “Well it was in my backpack!”  Oh sorry, I didn’t go through every bag in your room looking for errant dirty clothes.  On another day this would be called an invasion of privacy wouldn’t it?  Clearly ESP and XRAY vision are two skills I need to add to my mother of a man-child collection.

Ah the simple joys of motherhood.  Slavery would have been a better option for some.  I can’t recall the last time they voluntarily thanked us for a nice meal, or for driving them at 5.45am every second day to school for rowing, or to a party, or for washing piles of clothing.  One of the men-children (yes the one above) sees it in very simple terms – well you chose to have children so it’s your job to do all this stuff.  Stop complaining.  I can’t wait to be laughing if and when I’m a grandmother to his children and he tells me how ungrateful they are.  The joys of parenting. 🙂

I do recall a similar conversation with the other man-child a few years back: Argue this Logic

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Suspicious Minds? April 29, 2011

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beersOkay, so here’s the thing.  I seem to have an in-built bullshit radar that is on high alert these days.  Which means my poor men-children get away with very little.  I have taken the suspicious parent to new levels, with good reason it would seem, as the history of this blog shows.  But assuming my radar isn’t fool proof, they must be getting away with something, sometimes (just like their mother did in her day).

My learned and wise uncle once commented that sometimes it pays to turn a blind eye – and just not notice everything.  In other words, cut them some slack and just let stuff slide.  I have to admit I find that incredibly difficult to do.

Case in point over the Easter break.  We seemed to spend the entire school holidays cajoling and encouraging the boys to get out of the house.  Go to the movies, have a Pizza & Poker night, go bike-riding etc.  Any alternative is better than sitting on the computer or play station all day every day, indoors, not expending any energy.  Sure, I’m all for them having a rest, but teenage boys can take “resting” to a new level if you let them.

As the holidays drew to a close, even I was surprised to find Man-Child I sitting around at home on the second last day of the holidays, especially being one of the most glorious autumnal days Melbourne can muster.  I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t making the most of his last days of freedom but he constantly evaded all my questions.  Hmmm.  Until of course he sat down at dinner and casually mentioned a small gathering at his best mates house that he’d like to attend that evening!  Instantly explaining staying home all day in order to increase the chance of being allowed out at night.

So we asked for some information (the Spanish inquisition has nothing on me)!  When was this arranged? It’s very last-minute.  Are his parents home?  Do they know about it?  They just got back from holidays.  What time will you be home?  DON’T text us at 10.30 to ask to stay the night as you always do!  How are you getting there and who with?  My gut said whilst it’s all designed to feel like a casual, last-minute get together (nothing to worry about right), that wasn’t the case at all.  And you know what – my gut was right.

So I casually offered to drive my son to his mates!  Ah, really, but I was going to meet so and so….No probs.  Happy to give him a lift too!  (Gotcha).  And he assured me he’d get a lift home with a friend.  Really?  Last time you said that I didn’t hear a car pull up.  No parent would drop you up the road at midnight, they’d bring you to the door, which means you’re catching the tram home late at night, when I’d rather you didn’t (yes I know I sound like a paranoid mother, but I don’t trust the bogan element on the streets late at night – even in our leafy suburb I know boys who have had their front teeth knocked out in an unprovoked attack).

So do you know what happened?  My husband wisely offered to give him a lift (sometimes Dads just need to step in).  Turns out the reason he was meeting his friend on the way was to buy beers via some contact they have – I KNEW it.  Then he gets to the mate’s place.  Turns out the father of the mate didn’t really know about the party until it was too late to pull the pin – not impressed.  I KNEW it.  Oh and guess who rang Father of a Man-Child’s mobile at 10.30pm to ask if he could stay the night?  I KNEW it.

So do I have an uncanny ability to detect when something is going down?  Yes, it would appear so.  Do I need to learn to let stuff slide, just a little bit, just occasionally?  Yes, probably.  Should I stop worrying and just see what happens?  Gulp, don’t answer that – I’m just not sure I can ignore all my motherly/parental instincts just yet.  They might look like men, but they’re only 15 years old!

As my friends with older kids say to me – God help you when they get their license and take the car out – then you’ll know what real worry is.  So I better start up a new business before then – “Taxis for Teens” – fully funded by sponsors, free to kids and parents.  E.g. they can have a free taxi trip if they go via the Maccas drive-in on the way.  There, that should keep them off the roads for a while longer. 🙂