Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Diverse paths March 1, 2013

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headphonesSomeone asked me the other day if the men-children are getting along better now that they are spending more time apart.  It was a good question, and my initial response was to say yes.  But on reflection, it probably hasn’t made much difference to them.

As they are so, so different (just as my twin sister and I were) they really haven’t spent much time together in recent years, except when they both trained and rowed in the same crew last summer (ironically even sitting next to each other in the scull).  The fact is they played different winter sports (footy vs rugby), they were in different sport houses and classes at school, they never travelled to school or home together, and didn’t spend time on the weekends together as they have different circles of friends.

This year of course one has left school to pursue a trade, whilst the other is doing VCE with plans to attend university, which will no doubt send them on even more diverse paths over the next few years.

Again, it is pause for reflection on my part as to how my twin sister and me were at their age.  We shared a bedroom for at least 15 years (god forbid the men-children should have to do that), and I don’t ever recall asking her about her friends, or her hairdressing course, or her job.  Are we all so self-absorbed as teenagers to not even care?  I can only assume so based on my own behaviour and that of my sons.

On the home front, some things certainly haven’t changed between the boys.  The arguments over jocks and socks, the fights over food supplies, or missing drink bottles or clothing, or the state of their shared bathroom or sitting room (one likes tidy, one comfortably lives with mess – a repeat of my sister and me ironically).

Just last night we enjoyed a raging argument between them over the TV.  One wanted to watch TV, one wanted to listen to music in his bedroom. Even with closed doors, it was impossible for the music not to drown out the TV.  I can vouch for that, as we regularly complain about the doof doof sound effects that come from one’s bedroom above to the family room below.  Even with extra insulation put in when we built upstairs (for that exact reason), the heavy sound of the bass penetrates the floor.

We looked for a solution last night – put in earphones (“I don’t have any”) or turn down or off the music – of course not!  So the argument continued between them, with shouting eventually over-taking the music and TV!  Thank goodness for the door at the bottom of the stairs. 🙂

I found my own solution today – their birthday is around the corner, so I have bought wireless headphones for the TV and/or computer.  That way one of them can listen to the TV or music without annoying the other one.  I wonder if we’ll go back and buy a second pair at some stage to stop them fighting over the single pair of headphones, or so that we don’t have to listen to either of them being entertained?

Or will Father of a Man-Child decide that with the in-built noise reduction he is going to claim them as his own and listen to Fox Sport in bliss for the rest of his life, without the sounds of all of us in the background?  Now that is a very big possibility.

Are we alone with fights over TV and music?  What do you do to manage it, and who wins in your house, if anyone?

 

Money – The Great Motivator July 29, 2011

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money boxAs the men-children head towards Year 10 (can you believe we’re already talking about subject selection for next year – Gulp!), Father of a Man-Child and I realize we are indeed getting to the pointy end of their school education.  And with that, we are keen to see an overall lift in their performance at school, as we all know that diligence in the early years pays off in the later years.

So with the latest school reports in hand, we discussed how we might incentivize the boys onto greater things during the second half of the year.  One of the men-children is a reasonably diligent student, although we think he does the bare minimum to achieve results, so is capable of a lot more.  And the other is a pretty poor student, in so far as he is not at all engaged by school (academia at least), not motivated (or even propelled by the threat of detentions) to do homework, listen in class, study etc – in short lacking in a basic belief in the importance of school education for his future prospects (sigh from Mother of a Man-Child, the most diligent of students).

On countless occasions the school tells us both are capable of far more – which I suppose is the biggest disappointment, especially with our disengaged man-child.   And so, to motivation – what better solution than MONEY!!!  Every 15-year-old boy who doesn’t have access to an in-built ATM at home, or a paying job, or has tight parents, surely needs money.  Especially with extended summer holidays on the horizon.

So we put a deal on the table for them:  For every B grade or better they achieved in their exams, we would pay them $100 per subject.  So they can both earn themselves $600 if they really want to – not bad for a 15-year-old we thought

In the case of one of the man-children, there was however a catch.  For whatever reason, he is consistently late for school.  No amount of detentions at school for lateness or positive reinforcement from home and school for timeliness seems to impact his behaviour.   His last report had 11 “half day absences” – basically the times he was late and was unaccounted for.  So we added a catch to his reward scheme.  For every late day on his report he would lose $20.  So if he had 10 late days it would cost him $200 offset by the B grades he would hopefully earn.

Do you know what he said?  No deal!!!  Crap – I didn’t see that coming.  He just refused to partake, point-blank, and said he’d rather go without than pay some money back.  I was exasperated.  How hard is it to get up and go to school on time – it’s such a small thing to do isn’t it?  Especially when your mother wakes you up every day!

No amount of reasoning in the next few weeks would convince him to partake in the scheme.  I was pretty pissed off with him especially since we’re even paying for a tutor for one subject, which should guarantee he gets a good grade (yep, double impost for us really).  Not one to be beaten (you know I hate to lose), I came up with an alternative deal that I wouldn’t let him refuse.  I basically flipped the penalty on its head.  So if he got five or less absences we would pay him a bonus $100.  That’s right, not a penalty but a further reward.  It seems weird, but hey if it works it’s worth it.

So time will tell how we go with the carrots for the men-children.  Father of a Man-Child and I are optimistic that it will motivate Man-Child I.  We’re less convinced about Man-Child II, but maybe he’ll surprise us?

Any other thoughts on how to motivate students?  Is the carrot or the stick better?  It’s hard to know sometimes.  Although removing PS3 for the term and taking the plug out of the TV certainly ensures they don’t have much to do except homework whilst they’re sitting upstairs some nights! 🙂

Read about more challenges with educating the men-children: “The Challenge of Educating Boys” 

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Gaming the old fashioned way? June 24, 2011

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A quite fantastic thing happened the other day.  The men-children, and sister of a man-child and me all sat down together after dinner and played a game.  Not just any game.  It wasn’t electronic, it wasn’t on a PS3 or an iPhone, it wasn’t on the TV or the internet, it was a good old-fashioned BOARD game!!

Now this board game wasn’t old fashioned to me, it was Pictionary.  But my kids had never seen it would you believe (or the men-children might have when they were small but they couldn’t remember it).   And certainly it’s way older than the seven-year-old.  So it was exciting and “new” in a strange sort of way.

We found the game a few weeks back in a couple of boxes we pulled off a top shelf.  It’s amazing what you find post-renovating when you decide to reorganize the house.  The kids had a ball looking at the stamp and coin collections that had belonged to my husband and me as kids.  We even found my old swap cards (who remembers Blue Boy?) and some old footy and collectible cards that had belonged to my father.  (BTW, turns out those old 50’s footy cards are worth about $30 EACH!!!).

So the board games had been sitting in the box on the floor (okay, I haven’t put everything in a new place yet) and I had been meaning to actually get the kids to play some of them.  So on Sunday night I asked the boys if they’d play with their sister and me for a short while (mention anything longer than 30 minutes and you’ll only see dust).

I am delighted to tell you we actually had a lot of fun.  We pitched the men-children against Mother of a Man-Child and Sister of a Man-Child.  That seemed fair, and actually we girls held our own easily.  The funniest thing was playing a game that dates from 1985 – it’s the first edition actually.  There were quite a few words none of the kids even understood (e.g. garter belt, punk rocker, bell bottoms, fondue, Mrs Thatcher), so we would just pick another card.  And I was also amazed to witness the different skills for each of my children and to see who can a) draw, and b) think laterally enough to guess what a doctor’s stethoscope is when it’s drawn very, very badly!!!  And oh, there’s not a competitive bone in their bodies (yeah right). 🙂

I’m not sure if we’re unusual, but how long is it since you played a board game as a family?  Let me guess, on holidays at the snow when they have no TV’s at all (yep, there’s a lodge we stay at where there’s no TV – it’s fantastic), or on holidays in Queensland, when it’s raining and you can’t go to the beach and you’ve watched all the DVD’s and the kids find an odd assortment of board games with missing pieces?  Or you pull out the playing cards for a round of poker or snap?  We used to play games a bit at the beach house, but often with the adults after dinner – it was a ritual of sorts.

I do play board games with sister of a man-child from time to time at home, but after our Pictionary experiment I think we should endeavour to work our way through the boxes of old games on a regular basis.  It was such a nice opportunity to have the kids all doing something together and the family for the matter (if you’re wondering Father of a Man-Child was let off the hook last week, but he won’t be again).   With a seven-year age gap the men-children and their sister don’t have a great deal in common as you would imagine, so I like the chance to do these things.

It’s the stuff that memories are made of for me, and I’m hoping it will be the same for our kids.  I can still remember learning to play 500 when we were about 14 years old on one holiday.  We became so obsessed with it we played for hours and hours, day after day – our parents must have been thrilled at their ingenuity.

So pull out the Monopoly, or Pictionary, or Cluedo and get playing!  I promise you’ll have fun!