Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

The World at his Feet November 4, 2013

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BulldozerA few days ago, one of my sons finished his course (and in effect his school life), and is now ready to enter the workforce.  He literally has the world at his feet, and the future of his career in his hands.  It’s an exciting, but also scary time.

For those who know our men-children, we made the decision over 12 months ago to let one of our sons leave school at the end of Year 10 and undertake a VCAL/Pre-apprenticeship course.  The academic life wasn’t for him (no matter how bright he is) and life as a “tradie” was begging.  He has spent the last 9 months at TAFE, doing a building course and to his credit thoroughly enjoying it (that’s the practical side of things, it’s fair to say he still didn’t love the academic requirements, no matter how basic).

In that time of “adult learning” they have taught them all manner of skills, both building related and not, and undertaken a vast range of modules, including green bowling (I kid you not), and community oriented activities such as teaching kids in schools.  I think our son has learned things about himself, and also about others.  He has certainly been exposed to a life outside of his sheltered private school upbringing (always a good thing) and probably has a new sense of appreciation for how fortunate he is.   This particular man-child has always been pragmatic and pretty down to earth, so I don’t think he’s been too far outside his comfort zone.  I have to say though, I’d like to send his twin brother along to TAFE for a short time – it might open his eyes a bit more!!!

So where to from here for our future “tradie”?  He has a part-time job he will continue, whilst he looks for an apprenticeship.  We have encouraged him to contact everyone he knows to make them aware he is job hunting, and also to seek recommendations from his lecturers.  I have also ensured that he realises it’s a tough employment market, and it might take a while to find an apprenticeship – not wanting to dull his enthusiasm – quite the opposite, to create a sense of urgency.

To the credit of our man-child, I am not at all concerned about him.  I know he has found his “thing” (how fortunate at 17 years old) and I have confidence he will do well in his chosen field.  I know he is not afraid of hard work, and therefore will be rewarded with success in due course.  He has also come to the realisation that his desire to leave home as soon as possible might be thwarted in the short-term, now that he has learned exactly how little the hourly rate is for an apprentice!!   As I said, if you want the ute, and have to pay for petrol, there won’t be much left for anything else (secretly of course I am happy about the chance to keep him at home a little longer – REALLY!!)

I told him the other day that we are extremely proud of him for completing his course and following his heart – I hope it confirms how much we believe in him, no matter how often we disagree about mundane details in our daily lives.

So onto the next chapter – whatever that brings.  I can’t help but share in the excitement of what might be around the corner for him…..I will worry when I need to, but just not now.

Our decision to let him leave school early wasn’t easy, but we survived the journey.   Read more below:




The Piercing – It’s Official December 21, 2012

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They say a picture paints a thousand words.  So here it is.


Yes, that’s right, man-child has done it.  He’s actually got an eyebrow piercing.  Now that he’s left school, and he’s 16 years old, he’s apparently allowed to, without needing parental permission.  No doubt he’ll fit right into trade school next year and the building sites in due course (yes I know I am painting a picture of a stereotypical tradie here, not necessarily an accurate one.  Apologies to my tradie friends who don’t have piercings).

As the man-child did warn me the other day, and Father of a Man-Child had actually told me he’d had it done, I was pretty calm by the time I actually saw it.  Father of a Man-Child, on the other hand, was not.  He insisted it be removed ahead of a special dinner out on Sunday night, for various reasons, including respect for his father (grandfather to the boys).  I explained (as others who have had piercings will know) that you actually can’t remove it for 6-8 weeks, so the solution is to cover it for the night with a small bandaid.

I think there is some concern about the opinion of one grandfather in particular, but I also think husband may be surprised by the mellowing of his own father’s attitudes in regard to this sort of thing.  Certainly there is anger that our son has got the piercing, with little respect for anyone else, and to be honest, I can empathise, to a point.  But I also recall our nephews going through exactly the same thing, and neither now has them in their 20’s, so I am confident in time he will remove it of his own free will.   And let’s face it, at least it’s not a tattoo!!!

For those who are curious, I asked where one goes to get an eyebrow piercing these days.  I was quite amused to learn he was referred to a reputable establishment apparently – called “Off Ya Tree”.  And yes they do sell exactly what you would expect.  Say no more!


Schoolies Week! November 23, 2012

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schooliesSchool’s out for the VCE students of 2012 and this week is the beginning of “schoolies”.  For those who are not aware of this Aussie tradition, “schoolies” involves thousands of excited Year 12/VCE students who have just finished their final exams, travelling to selected destinations en masse for a couple of weeks of partying and celebrations.

Sadly as this post was being written news had been released of the tragic death on the Gold Coast of a 17-year-old girl falling from her balcony – most certainly every parents worst nightmare, and a shocking end for some schoolies to their celebrations.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive entry on schoolies week, including the history – did you know it actually started on the Gold Coast in QLD in 1979?  It certainly wasn’t an Australia-wide trend when I finished school in 1982, although I imagine we would have loved the idea (alas my parents probably wouldn’t have).  Wikipedia also provides further useful information:  “Toolies” refers to older revelers who participate in Schoolies week but are not high-school graduates. “Foolies” or “pre-schoolies” refers to younger adolescents, who participate in Schoolies week but have not yet graduated from high school.

There are a couple of key destinations for schoolies, including Byron Bay, the Gold Coast, and of course Bali.  My men-children were chatting with a family friend just recently, who was heading off to Byron Bay for 10 days of partying.  I commented that only one of my boys would attend schoolies in two years time, as his twin brother, set to leave school at the end of this year, won’t actually be “graduating” with all his current friends.  Oh no he assured me, he would be at “schoolies” with all his mates regardless, making him a “Clayton’s schoolie” me thinks?

I learnt during this conversation that they will need to be booking accommodation as early as mid next year for schoolies, yes that’s right, a full 18 months ahead of the end of their VCE.  The dilemma of course will be selecting the destination, agreeing who you will stay with, and I suppose hoping you are still friends by the time the holiday comes around.

I can’t help but wonder if our “tradie” man-child will have outgrown some of his school friends by then, and if he’s working full time as an apprentice not be the slightest bit interested in schoolies?  One thing is for sure, if they both want to go to any Australian destination, I will be agreeing (although I would prefer if it’s not in a high rise apartment on the GC for obvious reasons).  The alternative (mainly Bali) does not impress me due to the open trade in drugs and inherent danger, and quite frankly I would rather they weren’t over there.  Of course, as the men-children will be 18 years of age by then, I won’t be able to stop them, but the early booking might just work in our favour and I have no intention of reminding them of their impending legal age and associated rights.

As it happened, I travelled to the Gold Coast this week for business (please note NOT as a “toolie”), and was interested to hear what the locals had to say about the influx of some 18,000 reported students to the Gold Coast area.  I learned from the local news about the behaviour of some idiots – yes the media just LOVE to highlight the stupidity and drunken pranks of teenagers.  But I also learned that there is zero tolerance of bad behaviour, with evictions of schoolies if necessary from their accommodation (no second chances) and very controlled party environments.  One taxi driver (a veritable wealth of knowledge) said most of the GC residents who are anywhere near the middle of Surfers Paradise evacuate for the entire period (much like the Grand Prix in Melbourne for some residents).  He also figured the government was more than happy to entertain schoolies, as it’s a huge injection of cash for the economy (definitely “liquid” gold).  Another taxi driver said he’d had quite a few schoolies as passengers and they were just great young Aussie kids having fun.  He did also admit that he only drives his taxi during the day so no doubt he sees the best side of them!!!

I also heard quite a lot of discussion on the radio this week also about whether parents would allow their kids to go to schoolies.  Not surprisingly, there was the full spectrum of views and attitudes amongst parents, from controlling gate-keepers to trusting (naive?) parents.  With the men-children, I am probably less concerned about them going away than I would be if it was my daughter.  For some reason, I feel that girls are far more vulnerable than boys in these situations, especially if you read about some of the “toolies” preying on young girls.  I also know you can’t wrap your kids in cotton wool forever (especially once an adult) so all you can do is your best to teach them not to be too stupid in these environments.  As we know from recent news, even young footballers in their 20’s can still do very stupid things and have fatal accidents.

So what do you think of schoolies?  Did you attend celebrations when you left school?  Would you let your kids go, in Australia, or Bali? Certainly the tragic death of a young schoolie will have other parents questioning whether they should let their kids go at all, and protect their children from possible harm and even worse accidental death.  There are no winners in this situation.

If you’d like to read the full reference:


Mother of a Man-Child: A space to call their own! March 18, 2011

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renovationWell it’s been almost seven months in the making but the boys finally have their space upstairs and our renovation is almost complete.  Since one of the men-children has officially relocated upstairs I couldn’t wait to share the news. 🙂

It’s become clear to me that renovations are a bit like childbirth – over time you forget how painful, disruptive, expensive, and time-consuming it can be (a renovation not a child), and next thing you know you’ve jumped right back in and suddenly find your house turned upside down.  Our last reno was 13 years ago, so we’ve had quite some time to forget the original trauma.

Once the builders moved from working upstairs in the roof cavity, which was relatively painless I must admit, to downstairs IN the house, we very quickly got sick of the dust, dirt and constant stream of tradies through the house.   Not to mention living with one small bathroom between five of us, having the new bathroom fittings and accessories living in our hallway for a couple of months, my daughters temporary bedroom (in the study) hosting hoards of teenagers on the PS3 every weekend, a port-a-loo in the driveway for the builders (yes I know the alternative is far worse), bathtubs and scaffolding in the backyard (very attractive) and a laundry chock-a-block with furniture overflow.

Add to that a couple of hiccups with delays in delivery of orders (the custom windows took two months to arrive), and our two new bathrooms look great, but we’re still waiting for the cabinets and basins (so bad luck if you want to wash your hands), and a few other things that just didn’t go my way.

Like making it to IKEA to order the new Queen size beds for the men-children (an earlier promise for our growing boys), only to find they were out of stock of one mattress (of course I need two, they’re not sharing a bed!).  So having queued at the checkout, then queued at the merchandise pick up counter, then queued at the home delivery counter, I have to go back and do it all again this week for the second mattress!!

Or having the electrician drop something on his foot the day he was supposed to come and do all the power, air-con etc, which meant the boys having moved upstairs anyway had extension cords running up the stairs with more power boards than Bunning’s.  I was sure we were going to short-circuit the entire house with the set up they had.   Naturally it was one of the few hot weekends in Melbourne, so no air-con and broken blinds (don’t ask) made it just a little toasty for them!

But all of the above aside, I’m delighted to say the results are fantastic and we are all thrilled with the new space.  The boys love their bedrooms, bathroom and sitting room.  They have Foxtel, their new flat screen TV, and PS3 upstairs.  The only thing they want is a bar fridge (yes you heard right) and they think they’ll be set forever!!  Oh and a dumb-waiter so we can send meals up and they can send their dirty dishes and clothes down – SURE!  Thank goodness we got a solid door at the foot of the stairs – they took it off temporarily and I was shocked at the noise travelling down the stairwell.  No more doof doof music and wrestling SFX for us – bliss.

Even the younger sister of the men-children loves her new bedroom (her brother’s old one), with so much more space for everything.  Just as well because the other day she ventured upstairs and the boys positively freaked out that she was “in our space”.   She wasn’t even allowed to sit on the new bed!  Naturally I’ve promised the boys the novelty will wear off for their younger sister, but I’ve also explained that they don’t OWN the space and told my daughter that whenever they’re not at home she can use it as much as she wants.  Peacekeeping skills also being a requirement of Mother of a Man-Child.

We’ve just christened the bath (as big as a small plunge pool – I promise in all other ways we’re water savers), and we’re still trying to fill the fantastic under stair storage area (okay, cheap thrills I know).   I’m hoping the shutters will only be six weeks on a slow boat from China, or the boys better get used to early morning starts once daylight savings ends. 🙂

So if anyone is taking the plunge and wants some reno tips, let me know.  Sadly I’ve developed some amazing project management skills in the absence of those promised by the builder, so I could be of use to you.