Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Committed to their causes October 26, 2012

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It’s not often I wax lyrical about the men-children (it doesn’t make for the usual amusing reading) but from time to time, to be fair to my subjects, it is worth recognising their achievements and acknowledging that where there is ambition and commitment there can also be success.

Two cases in point. As many would know, one of our men-children has indeed made the decision to leave school (with our support), and head to TAFE to undertake a trade course and an apprenticeship. We were naturally delighted that he conducted himself well at the interview and was successful in gaining entry to the course of his choice. He is looking forward to next year, and to focussing on something he really wants to do, with a clear end goal in mind. He is already talking about the opportunity to work on building sites during the course and get valuable experience on the job. I admire his passion and hope it translates into dedication and success.

As we rightly pointed out however, don’t lose focus on finishing year 10 this year, because without it you can’t continue onto the course. Such is the life of parents, why is it we always seem to dampen enthusiasm! Having recently seen the drop out rates for trade apprentices I was momentarily alarmed. However something tells me our man-child will thrive at TAFE and find success in his chosen career.

Our other man-child will of course remain at school, with plans to head to university eventually. As an aside, yes you are right to realise our twin boys are very different, both in personality and aptitude at certain tasks. Hence one is happy to remain at school and most likely head into a business course, and one is off to trade school so he can work outdoors.

blistersNaturally, in remaining at school, one son is continuing rowing, something which they both excelled in last year. Of course this season, it’s a whole new level of intensity, as it’s “open squad” for Year 11 and 12 boys, and now very, very serious. So whilst we thought last year’s training schedule was demanding, this year’s is incredible. Two early mornings a week, two afternoons a week, lunchtime gym sessions 5 days a week, and a 50km row on a Saturday up the Maribyrnong River (and that’s their light training program)! As you can see, the blisters on his hands are just starting to heal, and the skin harden, as they do at the start of each season. Apparently his hands look good compared to some of his friends!

My son knows what he wants to achieve and is working hard to get it. Each seat in the skull is highly prized and sought after. He has his sights set on rowing in the “seconds” this season and hopefully sharing in the ultimate prize of a spot in the “firsts” the following one. With determination and continued development we hope he achieves his goals. But we are already proud of him!

I do take my hats off to the boys that pursue rowing at this level. The demands are enormous, physically and mentally, and totally time-consuming. It impacts their working life (you can almost forget a casual job), their social life (good news is they forego alcohol), and their school life (reduced time for homework) and eats into their holidays with camps and more personal training. In doing so, it also teaches them the importance of the commitment that is required to pursue sport at a high level, and the sacrifices elite sports people make on a regular basis.

So as we head into the end of the school year (and for one his “school” life), we watch our men-children continue to grow, like butterflies emerging from a chrysalis, having left behind their life as hungry little caterpillars. We know they will both be beautiful butterflies in due course, we just don’t know what colour they will be, and what direction they will fly in. All part of the excitement (and worry and stress for parents) of our children growing up. 🙂

I have written about their rowing before: Rowing when they first started out (Row, Row, Row you boat), and their success last year (Hats off to my rowers)

 

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.