Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

The last word! June 5, 2014

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twins at 18In January 2010, I was inspired to start this blog.  As I stated at the time, it was prompted by a number of events.

  1. I had endured yet another encounter with one of my twin teenage boys (just starting to push the boundaries).
  2. I was in between full-time jobs, and looking for some relief from the relentless grind of job-hunting.
  3. I had a long-held and untapped desire to put pen to paper, to exercise my creative side.
  4. I was interested in social media and “blogging”, so no better way to learn than to do.

Who could have imagined that 4.5 years later, I would still be writing weekly blogs about my “men-children”, having survived their teenage years.

I must apologise for my recent absence, but life has been seriously hectic, and the blog for the first time has been neglected.  It’s most unlike me to let my disciplined approach to blogging wane, but there was another underlying reason which permitted this.

You see, in March of this year, my darling men-children turned 18.  We had a wonderful celebration at home, with family and their Godmothers.  It was a lovely intimate occasion marking their official entry to adulthood, and we delighted in sharing our collective pride in our young men.  It also gave cause for me to reflect on the blog, and the stories of their teenage years, and what we had jointly “survived”.  And although there remain stories untold (some that would make excellent reading I assure you), I decided that the time had come to hang up my man-child blog, and let the boys be.  As “children”, I thought it was quite acceptable to share my stories, albeit “anonymously”.  But as they crossed the threshold to adulthood, I decided that it was no longer appropriate for me to continue to share their stories on their behalf.

To some of you, this sentiment may seem a little misplaced, after airing so much personal information for the last 4.5 years.  But for personal reasons, it just feels right.  So this will be my last post about the men-children (and their sister for now).  Who knows, when Sister of a Man-Child hits her teenage years, the blog make get a second run, but for now, it’s time to rest the keyboard.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a blogger.  I have loved the feedback and comments from my readers.  It has been in equal parts cathartic, reflective, amusing and enlightening.  I hope you have enjoyed reading our stories as much as I have enjoyed penning them.  My final thanks go to my subjects, the men-children, who allowed me (kind of) to share glimpses of their lives with the world (okay, not quite the world, but 24,000 views is pretty cool).

The blog will remain live for the time being, whilst I consider the task of self-publishing the posts into a book for posterity (funny, how I’d still like a tangible “book” isn’t it?), so you can still find it when you wish, as can others who stumble across it on the web.

Signing off for the last time,

Mother of a Man-Child.

 

Letter to a Man-Child June 28, 2013

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letterDear Men-Children

I know it’s hard to believe, but I have been a teenager before.  I well remember thinking my parents were the world’s strictest on the earth, and in fact my friends would probably tell you they were.  I also remember thinking that I knew an awful lot, and could take care of myself, and that they didn’t really understand what it was like being a teenager, especially since they were soooo old (in fact my parents were a lot younger than many of my friends parents), but guess what, they were teenagers once too!

I know you want your independence and that at almost 18 you think you should be allowed to do whatever you want, but as you live under our roof, it goes without saying that you really are obliged to do what we say, play by our rules and RESPECT our decisions.  It may be that you can’t wait to leave home, and sometimes part of me can’t wait either, especially when you are being quite revolting towards me and rebellious and won’t take no for an answer, but you need to know you are very much loved and there is always a place for you at home.

You need to know that our job as parents is not to be your best friend.  I have always maintained if I am mistakenly doing that during your teenage years then I’m probably not being a very good parent.  I am not interested in being “popular”, I’m interested in your welfare and well-being.  So if we actively discourage you from doing certain things, or making the wrong choices, it’s because we’ve either learned from our own experience or as outside observers are concerned about what is going on.  I know some things you just need to experience and learn from yourself, but sometimes parents will and should step in, and as you know, we aren’t afraid to do that from time to time.

I will nag you along the way, especially if I need you to do something.  Why?  Because you need to understand your place in the world, and your part in it.  Sometimes it’s necessary to conform or co-operate, even if it goes against your nature.  If you are to succeed later in life, you need to be able to adapt to the environment and make appropriate decisions.  That starts in the small world called home, and extends to the school world, and eventually to the working world   Our job as parents is to guide you and give you lessons in life, in the same way your teachers do.

I do like your friends (even if I can’t remember all of their names), I enjoy a house full of young people, I like to see you spending time with them and they are always welcome in our home (and to our food – but not our grog)!  I am always happy for small gatherings, provided you are honest about how many are coming, and when, and for how long.  And I am excited about an 18th birthday party (for each of you naturally), if you would like one.  It’s a milestone to celebrate – and we promise we won’t embarrass you at your own party (will we Father of a Man-Child?).

I do like to know about your day, and how you spent it.  You might think it’s boring, but I want to know what you did at work, or at school, or on the sporting field – the more detail the better.  You are our children – hence our biased view and hunger for information about your lives.   Perhaps take a leaf out of your younger sister’s book – she recounts everything in so much detail you could write a small book – but at least we know exactly what she thinks and feels. 🙂

I like you coming on holidays with us, and spending time as a family, and I honestly think that you enjoy it too (although one of you is seriously borderline).  I know sometimes the thought of spending your holidays with your PARENTS is not your idea of fun, particularly if it means missing out on something special with your friends, or a big event, but perhaps you should be grateful for the wonderful holidays we have, and the places you have seen, and the number of times you have holidays each year.  Many people are not nearly as fortunate as you.   When you are 18, and working, you can go on holidays wherever you like.  But we’ll still invite you on our holidays and again, you will always be welcome to join us.

Lastly, I know you don’t really like each other much at the moment.  I am not sure why you haven’t really grown out of this phase.  Of course you are both very different (something we love), but I think it’s time to put your differences aside (even celebrate them), and start getting along.  We’re pretty tired of the constant fighting and arguing amongst you – it’s really unpleasant for all of us, and imagine how your sister feels with you both yelling and then us (parents) both yelling?  Madhouse or what?  I am sorry if you learnt how to yell from me – I wish I could change it, but I can’t take it back.  But we can all try to yell a little less.

I know you have heard all of this before, but sometimes it’s better to write something down than to say it (again).  It doesn’t involve any yelling and you have to listen!  A bit like text messages. 🙂

All my love

Mother of a Man-Child

 

Observations and Ironies April 12, 2013

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observingMen-children are an interesting species.  As you know I have been a keen observer over the last three years of my own boys, as they journey through adolescence.  Here are some random observations and ironies from that time.

  • Men-children (and for the most part all teenagers) are totally self-absorbed.  They are virtually incapable of thinking beyond their own immediate needs.  So when they ask for money (because they have no job and rely on you for handouts), they are always surprised if you do not have wads of cash in your wallet, or cannot drop everything at the office to do a cash transfer for them.
  • Men-children are not always logical.  How do I know this?  They are only motivated to help with the laundry if there is something in there they want or need.  And if something isn’t clean, well then it’s obviously YOUR fault for not doing the washing.  And definitely not THEIR fault for finally filling the washing basket with their dirty clothes after you’ve already done three loads on the weekend.
  • Men-children are pretty useless in the kitchen – well at least mine are.  I think the only thing mine can cook is bacon and eggs, two-minute noodles and Latina pasta.  Great catches they’ll be won’t they?  I am prepared to wear the blame for this.  I tried some years back to start showing them how to cook basic meals, but their interest waned pretty quickly.  Time was probably our greatest enemy – on weekends they’re not exactly sitting around wanting to spend time in the kitchen with you, and on a week night it’s always a rush to get a meal on the table when you get home from work (and yes, imagine if the boys who got home from school could start meal prep!!!).  I am assuming that necessity in time will make them learn to cook – although if they move out later in life, it could be embarrassing for them.
  • Men-children’s stomachs think ahead of their brains.  Over the school holidays, which we don’t all get to have off, we continue to cook a family meal 6 nights a week (Friday night is no cooking night).  It’s almost rare for them to be at the table for a family meal during holidays (much to our annoyance, as it’s always a last-minute “Oh, I am going out…..”), but somehow on a Friday night one in particular often asks “What’s for dinner, I am starving”.   If you ever want to see the death-stare, just pop over on a Friday night at around 6.30pm.
  • Men-children see what they want to see.  I am sure other mothers of teenagers will relate to this claim.  “There is no food in the house/nothing in the fridge!!!”.  Now last time I checked, we have a pantry practically bursting with all the essential ingredients to make a meal, not to mention a freezer full of meat for cooking, and even if one looks hard enough, pre-prepared home cooked meals also in the freezer.  The translation of the above claim is in fact “There are no leftovers in the fridge staring me in the face that I can either shove straight in my gob or into the microwave to reheat in order to fulfil my immediate hunger”.
  • Men-children are useful with new technology.  With a new car, Father of a Man-Child, already a little technically challenged, definitely has his hands full.  I think he’s still surprised that the phone answers automatically via blue tooth.  So you can imagine getting the GPS or sound system to work properly, let alone the DVD player, is not really coming automatically to him.  The solution is simple.  Being a male, he is NEVER going to read the instruction manual is he?  Nope, instead, he is going to let loose two men-children in the car who will figure out how it all works in less than 10 minutes, and then show him in two minutes which buttons to press, or arrange to pre-set everything for him.  Perfect.  That’s a win-win for everyone really.
  • Men-children still fight with each other, even at 17.  My twin sister made an interesting observation the other day.  She was surprised that at 17 years old the boys are STILL fighting (not just arguing, but physical “punch-ons”, seriously it’s a freak show at our place some nights).  Her recollection (quite accurately) was that by that age we had both given up fighting with each other, having taken our own paths and developed our own friendships and basically grown up a bit.  But sadly the boys still haven’t.  It could be a maturity thing, it could be just a boy thing – that latent need to burn up testosterone when they have been holed up in the house for a day or two during the holidays, and are just looking for someone or something to poke!
  • Men-children love their friends and having a good time.  Some things don’t change.  Teenagers love to spend time with their friends.  The peer group is the most important thing in their life.  Moving in packs is what they love to do, not being alone.  There is nothing wrong with all wearing exactly the same clothing – it’s a badge, a way of fitting in, of “conforming”, and they don’t even notice it.  Youth is on their side and the heady responsibilities of life are barely upon them.  Life is good, and they definitely should enjoy it (within limits say their parents, forever the hand-brakes). 🙂

So there you have it.  What started as a short post of observations grew quite quickly.  Perhaps I will make this a regular post – so as not to fill too many pages in one go.  The teenage years are certainly full of many things – angst, learning, experimentation, boundary pushing, love, hope, fear – on both sides of the fence trust me.  As we near the end of their teenage years, there is more time for reflection about the journey, and what we have all learnt during the men-children era.

I’d love to hear your own observations and ironies.  There must be so many of them, not just applicable to teenagers, but to all kids, and of course husbands (sorry, this assumes many of my readers are women)!

 

The Parent-Child Divide January 25, 2013

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As the men-children approach their 17th birthday (yes, nearly 18 years ago two small cherubs entered our lives), it seems we just get further and further apart at the moment.  Not surprisingly, their independence has escalated substantially in recent years, but so too has their disconnection from us, their parents, to the point we can barely sustain a conversation with them.  I hope that’s normal?

They are naturally interested in talking to you when they want something – money (thankfully less frequently since at least one of them has a job!), a lift somewhere (in 12 months they won’t just want a lift but the entire car!), permission to go out or have someone over (at least they still ask, although you don’t want to be here if we occasionally say “no”!!!).

baboonHowever, should we attempt to engage them in conversation, it is seriously like talking with a mute baboon.  They just don’t seem to want to give you anything more than a one or two-word response.  Unless of course you are texting them, in which case they seem to be able to SMS more quickly than the time taken for their brains to connect to their mouth and utter words, so you tend to get a longer reply.  If you can’t beat them join them?

And then I think back to when I was their age, and how much time I wanted to spend with my parents.  Yep, that would be ZERO.  NADA.  ZIP.  So are they any different to us as teenagers 30 years ago, or any other teenager today?  Probably not, although I think our men-children are towards the extreme end.

I do recall my final year at school with fondness, when I spent more time just talking with my mother.  I assume it was me finally maturing at 17 years of age, and realising that we could have adult conversations about interesting things, and that it wasn’t completely daggy to do so.  Also doing VCE meant I spent a lot more time at home, so it was probably inevitable.

Does Father of a Man-Child fare any better – you know, the father-son bond that is more important and/or influential at this age?  He says not, except maybe in the car, when you have a captive audience, but then he says you end up arguing half way through the drive because you’re trying to teach them some good road sense (L-plates remember) or reminding them to put TWO hands on the wheel (yes, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s a boy thing!!).

So all in all it’s a joyous time to be parents to the men-children.  Sometimes you wonder why we bother to do anything for them – you really don’t feel obliged to provide much for them in any way, when you are left to feel like a door mat, unpaid slave, chef, driver, housekeeper, etc.

Anyway, we’ll hang in there (breathe, count to ten), and hope that things improve a little when we get back into the rhythm of school/TAFE in a few weeks time.   That does have a tendency to bring some normality back into everyone’s life in our house.   And we’ll soak up the joy of a 9-year-old daughter who still thinks her parents are pretty awesome. 🙂

If you have survived the teenage years, please tell me ours are “normal”?  It would make me feel a lot better.  And if you have any tips for getting through to grunting, testosterone-laden men-children, please share!  I would be very grateful.

 

Living With Teenage Hormones October 28, 2011

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apeIt’s a known fact – part of the joy(?) of living with teenagers is co-habitating with a million hormones.  And we’re not just talking any hormones here, but the most temperamental and unpredictable hormones you’ve ever met.  One minute as nice as pie, sweet and almost human, the next minute positively acerbic, and extremely unpleasant.

Those same hormones will want to sleep during daylight hours and relish the darkened room with only the light of a television as company for hours on end, or conversely be out expending energy in search of a post-adrenal hit, or otherwise standing at the fridge looking for anything they can shove in their gobs to satisfy an insatiable appetite, driven by said exercise.

Such is our life with the men-children.  Sometimes it’s like living with a schizophrenic I imagine, you’re just never sure what you’ll encounter on any given day.  The odd thing with Man-Child I and Man-Child II is that they seem to operate on a tag-team basis.

So for a few weeks (or even months sometimes) one of them will be quite civil, almost friendly to the rest of the household, generally having their shit together, not needing to be nagged constantly, and being an agreeable member of the family.  This seems to be the cue for the other one to turn into an absolute monster – a grumpy, disagreeable, rude and obnoxious beast who snaps at everyone and just can’t be pleasant at all.   Couple these hormones with tiredness due to simply being a teenager and running on empty often and you’ve got a weapon of mass destruction right in your living room.

I don’t really know if it’s a twin thing, or just a sibling thing?  Are we all like this in our moods?  Does this dynamic happen in your house with children or even adults?  I’m thinking it’s more a teenage thing, and totally blame the hormones.  Mind you in our household they’d probably tell you I must be constantly hormonal then because I’m always grumpy!! (Nothing to do with working full-time, and running a busy household, coping with more child-related paperwork than you can poke a stick at, finding time to go to gym, and co-ordinating the taxi service with Father of a Man-Child to ensure three children are where they need to be 24/7 – no, that relentless pace wouldn’t make anyone grumpy would it?).

So teenage hormones – what are your experiences?  Do you remember being the above-described teenager?  Or have you lived with similar?  I know we’ll come out the other end with the men-children, but the rollercoaster ride can be tiring some days.

 

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. 🙂

 

Girlfriends for sleepovers? October 14, 2011

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kiss“Mum, I have a girlfriend.”  “Do you darling, that’s nice”.  “Can she stay over, in my room?”  “Of course she can, no problems, and I’ll bring you both breakfast in bed the next morning.”  Okay, that’s NOT how the conversation went.  But imagine if that’s what I had said to my 15-year-old Man-Child.  He definitely would have thought I’d completely lost my mind – he knows I’m not that liberated.

Seriously though, we did have the conversation recently, whilst on holidays.  Man-Child II innocently lobbed this fact over the dinner table to me whilst out a restaurant (I think he was using a public place to ensure I didn’t completely lose it given how the questions unfolded).  I told him I thought he already had a girlfriend, but now it seems it’s “official”.  It is a girl I have met.  In fact it’s the girl who lied to my face a few months back…..no wonder she’s kept a low profile.  Anyway, I can move on!

I was initially thrilled that he had chosen to share this with me, however as the conversation progressed, it became clear why.  It was so he could quite seriously ask if it would be alright if she stayed over some time.  But not just stayed over as a friend would, but stayed over in his room, in his queen size bed, with the bedroom door closed.  (I’m hyperventilating now just thinking about it again).

As I mentioned, we were in a restaurant, so I couldn’t lose it.  I didn’t want to give him an outright no and appear totally unreasonable (just yet), so I asked a few more questions whilst I tried to collect my inner thoughts.  One of which was “Are you having sex”!!!!  His answer was no – and I have no way of knowing if that’s the truth or not, but I am happy to believe him.   I also asked what her parents thought of her staying the night – they hadn’t been asked.  Hmmm.  I suspect they were optimistically going for the “Man-Child’s mum thinks it’s okay, so do you too”?

I know my son has stayed at her place before, but with a whole host of boys and girls, and he assures me he slept on the couch.  I recall speaking to the mother at the time who told me the girls and boys were well separated and her bedroom was in between – excellent arrangement!

Of course I grew up with fairly strict Catholic parents, who didn’t allow my boyfriends to EVER sleep at our house.  And my parents-in-law finally let me and Father of a Man-Child share a room at the beach house once we were engaged (oh and I was allowed to call them by their first names then too – yep, a tad old-fashioned and conservative).

So back to the decision.  I told him I wasn’t really keen to have girlfriends staying in his room just now, mainly because I didn’t want to condone sex amongst teenagers who aren’t even 16.  (No probs if she was to stay in the spare room downstairs).  He went to his father for an opinion, who was for once even more assertive than me and gave him a very flat NO!  Yay.  Man-Child continued to badger us for a couple of hours that night, reminding us that at 16 he will be able to do what he wants, but we haven’t heard about it again since.  I did sound like my parents when I said “It’s our house, and while you live in it, you abide by our rules”.

I’m sure at some stage we’ll agree to a girlfriend staying over in his room, but for now, it’s not on.  I even asked about his mates – he assured me half of them hadn’t even kissed a girl, so they’re years behind our man-child.   Great, we get the early developer!!

So what do you think?  Are we right?  Or are we too prudish for our own good?  When do you think it’s okay to have “sleepovers” of this kind?

Read about the lying incident here: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.