Showing posts with label teenagers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teenagers. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Not My Circus

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Back in February I wrote about how I was ready for my children to leave the nest ... you can read about it here

My boys are still at home here with us, and even though I still stand by that post, I'm not disappointed, because if the truth be known I do enjoy their company and I would miss them, a lot.

What I really don't want to do is look after them.   Menopause is bearing down on me like a freight train which I just can't stop.  With it comes the stock standard hot flushes, dry skin, foggy brain and moodiness.   I totally accept the first three things, but I don't accept the moodiness.

I don't believe I am moody, and for those who are close to me (meaning those who actually live with me), you may not like hearing that what you perceive as moodiness is here to stay.  Rather than me being moody, I believe I have fundamentally changed as a person.  Not because I decided I want to be different, but because hormonally I am now different.

I no longer produce hormones that play a part in making babies.  The maternal instincts I once had have been replaced with something new ... I call them the "circus" hormones.  Thanks to Kelly Higgins-Devine, one of my work colleagues, I have taken on a new mantra this year.  "Not my circus ... not my monkeys."   I am no longer buying into things that I am not responsible for, and in some instances, things I don't care about.

I know this isn't sitting too well with my children and I'm sure they think I don't love them or support them anymore.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I love them more and more as the years go by.  The bottom line is I just don't want to look after them anymore.

A couple of times in recent weeks I could have stepped in and tried to "fix" some things for my boys.  I didn't.  They were a bit surprised.  I was a bit surprised.  Not because I didn't help, but because I actually didn't feel bad.  It wasn't my circus, and they weren't my monkeys.

Possibly you are reading this and thinking that I am selfish and not a very good mother.  You are right on one account.  I am being selfish and that is because this is my time to be selfish.  It is the time for me to worry about me, to nurture me and to do the things that make me happy.   After twenty years of everything being about my children and how what I do might impact on them, the last few years have seen a gradual shift to me changing my priorities. 

Am I a good mother?  There's not a yes or no answer to this question.  I've tried my best.  At times I know I've been spectacular and at other times not so good, but I think that is fairly standard across the realm of motherhood. 

At the heart of it all I do love my children deeply and my support is always there.  It's just different.   I'm different and I'm comfortable with that.

Turning 50 next month ... I'm not comfortable with that.  Not. One. Little. Bit.  But that's a whole other blog post.  Unfortunately that is my circus and 50 is my monkey!


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Are birds smarter than humans?

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Are birds smarter than humans?

It’s possible.  In fact, the brain to body ratio in some birds equals that of dolphins and is almost the same as humans.

Why the focus on birds?  Am I about to “come out” of the bird watching closet?

Not quite.

I’ve been thinking a lot about parenting lately and I’ve come to the conclusion that birds make pretty good parents.  

They look after their eggs carefully, incubating them at the right temperature until they hatch.  They stay with their babies, feeding them and keeping them safe until they are old enough to venture from the nest.   They teach them to fly and teach them skills to keep them safe in the world.  Once they have done all that, they push them out of their nests and send them off to live their own lives.

I’m tired.  I’ve had enough of parenting.  It’s time to push my birds out of the nest.

There, I said it.

Are you shocked?   Disappointed in my attitude?

I didn’t say I don’t love my kids … I love them to bits.  More than I can ever express in words.
I’m just tired of parenting.  

Birds have got it right.  They equip their young with the skills they need to make it in the world then they push them out to fend for themselves.

This used to be the same for us humans.  If you go back a couple of generations most had left home by eighteen and were making their own way in the world.

Somewhere in between the previous generation and this one, things changed.  The game posts were moved.   All of a sudden our children didn’t move out of home.  Why would they?  Home was no longer a place they couldn’t wait to leave.   In fact, most of us have set our homes up so that our teenage children never want to go.   We build or buy homes that have plenty of room so the teenagers have their own space.  They can invite their friends over, there are less rules, their space is filled with every possible luxury – why on earth would they leave?

I am guilty as charged.  

However, there has been a shift.  It was subtle to start with, but now the subtlety has gone and the shift is more like a sledgehammer to my forehead.

My work is done here.  There is nothing more I can teach them.  They need to live their own lives and make their own mistakes to learn new lessons.

I’m tired of being responsible for my children.  They are now almost 21 and 19.  Their “stuff” is so much bigger now and I feel like I carry the worries of three adults.   They don’t ask me to do this, I just do it because I am a mother.  Their mother.  I love that they talk to me and tell me things, but on the flipside I don’t want to know everything they are doing because I worry too much.  I don’t want to know when they are out so I lay awake wondering when they are going to get home.  I don’t want to know if they get up and go to work or if they don’t.  I don’t want to be responsible for making sure they do the right thing anymore.  They need to be in charge of this now.   They want to be in charge of it.

I want to wake up in the morning and know my kitchen is exactly how I left it last night.  I don’t want to find remnants of late night toasted sandwich making.     

I want to wander through my home in my nightie and not have to worry that a twenty something man child, who is not my offspring, may also be wandering through my home.

I want to go to bed at night without sleeping lightly as I wait to hear them come home from their Friday and Saturday nights out.

I don't want to fight with them over the minutia of everyday life as we do now.  I want to have conversations with them, adult conversations and we can't do this while I am still mothering them. 

For the last twelve months I’ve wrestled with these thoughts and felt incredibly guilty.   At times I’ve felt like there was something wrong with me.  However after talking to other mothers with similar aged children I’ve found most of us feel the same.   We are all ready to start the next phase of our lives, unencumbered by children.  Free for the first time in over twenty years. 

Where does this leave our children?  Unloved?  Orphans?  Unwanted? Disposable?

Absolutely not … my boys couldn’t be more loved by me.  I will love them and care about them until the day I die.  

I just don’t want to care for them anymore and I know they don’t want me looking after them.  They are sick of my nagging and fussing and interfering.  We fight a lot at the moment.   I’m still trying to mother them and they are trying to be independent.   We are trying to live together but we all have different priorities.  The family unit has shifted, just as it should.  They are ready to start their own lives with their own boundaries – not mine. 

I’m not asking my boys to leave, nor am I kicking them out – I would never do that.  The changes occurring in our home are happening organically.  They are both talking about moving out as soon as they can afford to and I’m not feeling saddened by this.    It’s funny how things just happen and we are ready for them.  I remember when my boys were younger – the very thought of them moving away from home split my heart in two.  It wasn’t time then.  Now it is.

This is why birds push their offspring from the nest.  There isn’t enough room in the nest for a family of all adults and they know exactly when the time is right to send them off.  


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Imagine ...

Imagine waking up every day and wondering whether or not it was one day closer to your youngest child being taken away from you.

Imagine not knowing if he was going to be safe.

Or warm.

Imagine thinking about how scared he would be.

Imagine thinking about that moment when you said goodbye, knowing you and he would never, ever be the same again.

Imagine your baby sleeping in a prison cell every night.

I imagined this.  For 6 very long months.  Every single day.  Every single night.

In January, my youngest saw himself on the wrong side of the law.  It happened on his 18th birthday.  He was involved in a scuffle and ended up biting someone in self defence.   We have since found out that biting is a serious offence.  So serious that the majority of biting charges end up with a jail sentence.

He was charged, despite it being self defence, and unfortunately the statements against him looked very damning.

When someone is charged with an offence they receive a little piece of paper, smaller than A5 which provides details of when they are to appear in court.  I hate this little piece of paper.  I've never hated a piece of paper before, but this paper sat on the fridge, under a magnet, mocking us all.  Mocking us with its smugness.  With its power.

We hired lawyers and went to court.  For all of us it was first time ever in court.  We were so green.  Whilst it was scary, we thought there would be a smack over the knuckles and a fine.  We were convinced the charges would be dropped.  We were green and also very wrong.

You see, the police rarely drop charges and as they were the ones who laid the charges my son was not going to get off lightly.  We were given another date to return to court in a few weeks time.  It suddenly became more real.  Suddenly all optimism had disappeared.

The lawyers were still confident and reassured us that it would be over before it got to trial.  In fact they said it would be bad for my son if it went to trial.  Magistrates don't take kindly to people who bite others.   I held onto our lawyers optimism and confidence.  Sometimes.   Sometimes I had nightmares instead.   I imagine my boy was also having nightmares in his own private world.

Our lawyers viewed CCTV footage, looked at statements did a mountain of discovery.  What they found was that my son had not broken the law and that he had actually been assaulted by a third party, the person who he had bitten in self defence.

This information was compiled into a report and presented to the police.  We were told it would soon be over.  They were wrong.  The police refused to drop it and were pushing for ... 18 months jail.   Words can't describe how hearing this felt.

I have one word for the court process - crazy.  I still don't even understand how it all works and doubt I ever will.  Absolutely nothing made sense.  In fact, Judge Judy makes more sense.  Truly. 

This is how the whole process appeared to work.  You turn up, the lawyer says a few words the magistrate looks in his diary and gives you another date.  You turn up again and the lawyer says a few words.  The police say a few more.  The magistrate looks in his book and gives you another date.   Rinse and repeat!

It turns out we didn't have to go to the next appearance.  The lawyer could go on our behalf.  We find out the magistrate has done something different - we are going to a different court - the matter is going to trial!   Our worst nightmares have come true.

I think this is the time we all bottomed out.  This was serious.  There was no thinking it would go away.  The police weren't backing down despite the evidence.  It no longer mattered about the law and who was right or wrong.   It now came down to a magistrate who had the power to send my boy to jail.

Two days later I heard a news story where a prison warden was sent to jail for hitting a prisoner.  The said prisoner had bitten and spat on the warden.  The prisoner had hepatitis C.  The magistrate decided that he/she was going to make an example of the warden and gave him a jail sentence.  This made my blood run cold.  I feared a magistrate would also make an example of my boy. 

To be very clear, I don't think teenagers should be let off crimes because they are teenagers.  Nor do I think they can behave badly without ramifications.   My son wasn't an angel in this instance.   He was verbally abusive to a bouncer and some "dancers" from a club.  He was menacing.  He was behaving like a feral 18 year old drunken fool.    However a bouncer, left his position on the door and went down an alley way to engage in a fight with him.   A club manager also went down the alley and attacked him from behind.   All of this on CCTV footage.   My son deserved to learn a lesson, he did not, however, deserve to go to jail.

In a last ditch attempt to have the charges withdrawn our lawyers visited the police again.  This time the officer in charge was prepared to listen, to look at the facts.   He was astounded it had gone this far.  He dropped the assault charges to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.  This would result in no conviction and a fine. 

When our lawyer called to give me this news I have never been so relieved.  I wanted to jump up and down and scream with joy.

This was a month ago.  I am still jumping for joy.

We still had to go to court and it was still nerve wracking.  However it was such a relief to go to court safe in the knowledge that no matter what happened I could take my son home with me.  Had the trial gone ahead, he may have been taken away to jail.

The realisation of this fact caused my son to momentarily lose the colour in his face.  "So I couldn't go home and pack my stuff or say goodbye?"
"Uh no, you would be handcuffed and taken away from here."  I answered.
"No wonder you have been so stressed mum".
No shit Sherlock!

Whilst my son has learned a valuable lesson, he is eighteen.  He is still capable of acting before thinking.  He is still capable of mistakes.  He is still capable of causing me heartache.

Parenting teenagers is so scary.  It is heart in mouth kind of stuff.  It's a scary ride where you close your eyes, hold your breath and grip on as tight as you can for dear life.   It still is the scariest thing I've ever done.

 PS:  The biggest ever heartfelt thanks to my amazing husband who paid the bulk of the lawyer fees.  We would not have gotten through this without you. xx

PPS:  My husband is not my son's father.

PPPS:   This is why he is so amazing.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Am I mum enough? I dare you to judge me.

So much judgement in the air at the moment.  Aimed squarely at the jaws of parents.  Mothers in particular.  Breastfeeding or not?  How long is too long?  Smacking, not smacking?  Body image for children.  Schooling private or state?  Early learning or not?  Stay at home or working mum?  The list of things we can judge other mums on seems to be endless.  Will it ever end?

My boys are 20 and 18 and I couldn't be happier.  I don't think I could stand the criticism if they were little right now.  I would not stack up and I am almost certain I wouldn't be mum enough in the eyes of many.

I was not and am not a perfect parent.  I didn't give it my best shot at all times.  Sometimes life was too hard and I was too focussed on myself.  Sometimes I couldn't be bothered cooking dinner and I gave my kids weetbix.  Sometimes I couldn't be bothered getting them ready for school so we all had doona days.  Sometimes they wore dirty socks to school.  Sometimes I wrote notes to say they didn't do their homework because of a family emergency - I was just too tired.   When I left my husband it was hard work.  I only had them 50% of the time I totally underestimated how difficult that would be.  To even begin to explain the difficulties of this will take a whole other blog post.

I was judged for leaving a seemingly perfectly good marriage for my own selfish reasons.  Do I regret that?  No way.  Did it alter the course of my children's lives?  Absolutely.  For the better?  I hope so, but I can never be sure.   Does this make me less of a mum?  Not in my eyes, but I'm sure in the eyes of the judgers it does.

I breast fed both my boys.  They both stopped at 6 months.  Does this make me a good mum or a bad mum?  They both went straight to cows milk at 6 months.  I hear the purists screaming now.  My boys are okay.  They always have been.  Their stomachs are healthy.  If they didn't wean themselves at 6 months I may have fed them for as long as they wanted.  I don't know this.  It didn't happen to me.  Whether I breastfeed for 1 day, 1 month, 3 years or 5 years, does it really matter?  Does it make us bad mothers because we do what suits us, our children and our lives?

My youngest had a dummy until he was 3.  People looked and judged.  I didn't care.  Okay I did care, but I shouldn't have.  His dummy was his security, something he needed.  Something I needed to ensure he settled at night.  Could I have done it differently?  Maybe.  But I didn't.  Doesn't make me a bad mother.

My children didn't have regular 6 monthly dental appointments.  They only went 3 times during their growing up years.  I have a dentist phobia.  Friends and family are horrified when I tell them this.  As you are reading this you are probably horrified too.  I took my kids when they were quite young and they were never going to need braces.  I took them again when they became teenagers, their teeth were all good.  I took them again in their later teens.  The older one needed some fillings and the younger one didn't.  The older one doesn't clean his teeth.  He doesn't like toothpaste.  I don't make him clean his teeth.  He is 20.  This is his problem.  He always had a toothbrush and toothpaste to use. The fact he doesn't has nothing to do with whether I am mum enough.

My boys were not academic.  They are both extremely smart.  They could be anything they want.  For the most part they have just chosen to cruise along, not really trying too hard.   I never pushed them to be anything different.  Should I have?  Would it have made me a better mother?  Maybe, but when you only have your children 50% of the time it is very difficult to keep up any form of consistency.  They will hit their straps at some point.  They see their parents and step parents work hard.  They understand working hard and the rewards it brings.  I'm seeing my youngest start to hit his straps now, despite the fact he dropped out of school in grade 11.  In fact he just walked in from work at 7.30 pm and said "I'm psyched.  I'm loving work.  I'm excited."  He's not a doctor, he's not an engineer, he's a salesman and I couldn't be prouder.  Does this make me mum enough?

Throughout all of this, over the past 20 years, the hard times, the good times and all the times in between, we all loved each other and everyone had a soft place to land.

My boys have both been in trouble.  They have messed up.  They have made some big mistakes. I have despaired for their futures.  There were times I worried they were actually going to survive the teenage years.  They have, and so have I.

The point I am making is there is so much I could be judged poorly on as a mother.  I am not even close to the "perfect model mother".  I don't care about this.  My boys are healthy, loving, good people.  They know how to love.  They know what is right and what is wrong.  They know how to be compassionate and they have empathy for others. 

A month ago I asked my youngest if he liked his childhood.  He said "mum I had the best childhood ever. I miss it so much now that I'm an adult."    That right there is all the judgement I need.

So many parents out there don't have perfect lives - in fact most of us don't.  Our circumstances are not always conducive to playing happy families.  There are a million different variables.  How about we all stop judging each other and start accepting that this parenting gig is tough.   When we meet in mother's groups instead of boasting about how good little Jemima is and how she can count to ten before she can say daddy, why not ask the mum who looks tired and sad if she's okay?  Maybe tell her about something that you are finding difficult so she doesn't feel like she is failing and alone. .

As mums we are all doing the same thing, we all have the same fears, the same concerns and most of all we want the same outcome for our children.  We want them to grow up to be happy.  

It's time to start playing nice and stop judging.


Did I mention I'm a bit stabby right now?

I'm quite stabby at the moment.  I blame hormones.  You should agree with me.

Right, now we have that sorted, let's get on with this blog post.

You might have noticed my stabbyness?  Did I mention it was hormones?   I have two teenage boys, who, at any given time can add greatly to this stabbyness.  Especially in the mornings when they are getting "organised" to go to work.  Organised in the sense of they have no idea what the word means.  But they try.  Did I mention I'm a bit stabby right now?

The last couple of days have been quite the disaster in the mornings.  At the moment I'm not working full time and am "available" in the mornings.  In my mind I am unavailable, but to my teenagers, the mere fact I am present means I am available.  This adds to my stabbyness no end.

Two days ago, after I ironed a number of shirts, pants etc in a mammoth effort to find the "right" outfit.  For. My. 18. Year. Old. Son.   We eventually got out of the house.  Drove to the bottom of the street.  He forgot something.  I turn around.  Stabby factor rises.

We leave again and get to the bus stop.

Yes, I drive him to the bus stop because I am home and seemingly available.  If I wasn't there he would walk.  Yes I know.  You don't need to say it. 

Son:  "Mum, is your bag in the car"

Me:  "No, I'm only driving you to the bus stop.  I don't need a handbag for that!"

Son:  "Oh, um, you won't like this but I need some money for the bus".

Me:  "So you can't get to work unless I give you some money?"

Stabby factor rising significantly here.

Son:  "Um no.  Sorry mum."

Me, through gritted teeth:  "Get. Back. In. The. Car."

We go home, get my bag and head back to the bus stop.

Son:  "I'm going to be late now."

Me:   "And this is my problem because?"

Son:  "I didn't say it was your fault. I was just saying."

Me:  "Will it be a problem for you?"

Son:  "A bit."

Me:  "Fine I'll drive you then."

So we drive, into the city and over to Southbank.  At this stage my new car is still a novelty so driving is a good thing, otherwise there would have been many, many words said in anger during that trip.   Some were thought, but the pleasure of driving my car helped suppress them.

Next day arrives.  Mr 18 and I do the shirt/trousers/outfit dance.  Mr almost 20 comes downstairs.

Mr 20:  "Mum I forgot to tell you last night that I will need you to drive me to Samford this morning."

Me:    "Right."  Said icily.   Crank the stabby factor up to one thousand and fifty billion.

Mr 18:  "Mum I need some money."

Me:   *Insert whatever the hell you like here* - it wasn't pretty.

Fast forward to last night.  Mr 18 comes home from work at 8.30 pm (he works a really long day).  He tells me how he spent 2 hours consoling a young guy who he works with.  He told me about this boy's life and the traumatic things he's seen and his dysfunctional family life.  He told me how his mum yelled at him this morning telling him how she was sick of giving him money and couldn't wait until he left home and she didn't have to be responsible for him any more.  I felt so sad for that poor boy, just as my boy had.

Then my mind went back to that morning and believe I may have said words similar.  I felt instantly sick to the stomach.  I asked Mr 18 if he felt like he wasn't wanted and he assured me that wasn't the case.  I still felt bad.

I kept thinking how many terrible things we say to our kids in the heat of the moment, when we are stabby, and was about to begin beating myself up, like I usually do.  Then I thought beyond the words to the bigger picture. 

My boys have a stable home life.  They have a loving mother, mostly! They have a supportive step father. They have a safe place to come home to and they are always wanted, provided they don't make me too stabby.  Regardless of how stabby I am they do know that there is nothing I won't support them through and they know that I will be there no matter what.  I think this is the key. 

We can't be perfect parents all the time, in fact I don't believe we can ever be perfect parents.  What we can be is loving and supportive and accepting.  We can still be stabby and snarky and have bad days where we sound like a shrill fish wife.  Just like our kids can have meltdowns and say things that cut through our hearts like a knife.  We are all just venting.  We are behaving badly because we can.  We don't have to be on our best behaviour all the time at home.   We are only human.

Sometimes I say sorry for being stabby - particularly if I've been irrationally stabby.  But in the instances described above - there is not a sorry to be seen!  My boys still love me and still feel loved and at the end of it all that's all that matters.

As I always say, it's about the love.  There must always be love.  Though it doesn't hurt to throw in a bit of stabby to keep everyone on their toes!


Monday, April 2, 2012

Naked and Fifteen

A news story today about naked teenagers reminded me of my youngest's 15th birthday party.

My youngest's fifteenth birthday party still makes me shudder when I think about it.   This boy has never been one to toe the line.  Anyway, he wanted to have a 'sleep over' party for his fifteenth.   He had one for his fourteenth and it went off without a hitch and without the hint of alcohol.  They were warned (read threatened) that parents would be called immediately if there was.   They all slept in the garage and we didn't hear a thing.  Unfortunately our neighbour, who's bedroom was right near the garage ... well she didn't get too much sleep ... thankfully she was okay about it.

The fifteenth, well that was a whole new ball game.  This was the year that we found the bottle of scotch with black things floating around it it.  Turns out the scotch was now tea.  Mr 14 and his friend thought a bottle of scotch might be a nice afternoon tipple whilst at the skate park.  At the time, before I knew about the scotch, Mr 14 told me he had sun stroke which was why he was throwing up at 4pm in the afternoon.  The explanation for smelling like a brewery was that the older boys at the skate bowl threw goon on him.  I knew he was lying but there was no point pursuing it at the time.  In our house things always get found out one way or another.  At some point the piper gets paid :)    It all clicked when I found the scotch.  He fessed up and has not lived this down.

Anyway, back to the party.  I said he could have 5 boys over and NO alcohol.  He agreed.   They set up a little area around the side, I made finger food, one parent called to find out if there would be alcohol.  I said NO, but I couldn't guarantee that they wouldn't smuggle any in.  I would try my best, but if you know 15 year old boys, this is not easy.   She was okay with this.  Little did I know how easy it would be for them to smuggle it in.

They all seemed pretty good and I kept checking up on them every 30 minutes or so by taking out new food and clearing up mess.  My older son had invited two older friends over who were keeping an eye on things.  One of them was looking decidedly green and when I enquired as to how he was, he ran off to throw up.  I was concerned I was poisoning them with my finger food.  No, not quite.   Billy, bless him, was drinking Jaeger Bombs and happily sharing them with the other boys. I didn't think to check up on Billy, he was almost 18 and well, there was my big parenting fail that night.  Never, ever trust fellow teenagers who are almost 18 to supervise fifteen year old boys. Lock this tip away in your parenting toolbox!

Turns out I had a drunk group of boys on my hands.  I smelt the bottles of soft drink on the table and they were all full of alcohol.  I gathered them up and tipped them out.  By now it was 11.30 pm and I gave them the option of me calling their mothers to pick them up or they all had to come in and go to bed so I knew they were all safe.  I grilled them all and they weren't terribly drunk - not like Billy who was passed out upstairs on the bed.   They all came in.  Of course they did!

We had beds made up in the lounge room and I didn't go to bed until they were all in bed and looking like sleep wasn't far off.

I went to bed, exhausted.  Wondering what I might tell their mothers, if anything.  Only one mother seemed interested in no alcohol so perhaps I'd just tell her.

Next morning I get up and find 2 additional bodies sleeping downstairs.  .

When Mr 15 is up and his friends have all gone home - no mothers picked them up so I felt no obligation to tell them of the night's events.  If they called I would tell them.

I asked Mr 15 how the two additional boys got there.  He said, "um mum you might not really want to know".

I reassured him I did want to know!

It seems they met the two interlopers down the end of the street.  "And just when might you have been down the end of the street?" I asked.

"Well we thought it might be funny if we all went down to Hilder Road to do some naked running."

I am serious.  This really happened.

"And, did you all do this?" I asked, not really wanting to know the answer.

"Um yes we all did".

So picture this.  We have six 15 year old boys, running around one of the streets of our suburb at 12.30 am, NAKED  Plus another two who thought it might be fun to join in.

There is a part of me that finds this hysterical and wished I had an insight into how their strange little minds worked.  But the other part of me was horrified and panicked about what would have happened if one of them had been hit by a car.  Drunk.  Naked.  And in my care!!!

He was lectured for days to come about how when his friends stayed here I was responsible for them.

Needless to say this was the last sleepover birthday party held at our place.

Teenagers and alcohol presents such a dilemma.  I never, ever bought my boys alcohol when they were under age because I do think this is fundamentally wrong.  I know their friends bought it for them and I knew from age 16 both my boys used to drink at parties.   I took the path of accepting that they did drink.  It doesn't mean I liked it or encouraged it.  But I accepted it.  This way, if they ever got into any trouble, they could call me without worry of me flipping out because they had been drinking.  On a couple of occasions they did call me and I was glad.

Some mothers I know had no idea their children drank and had no idea when their son or daughter was passed out from too much alcohol, being cared for by friends.   I did not want to be these mothers.

I could have conversations with my boys about drinking knowing they were sharing experiences that either they or their friends had been through.  We could really dissect some dangerous situations and they learnt a lot  through this.  They still did some really dumb things and there were some times I didn't think they'd ever make it to 18 - but they both have.

I'm absolutely certain the dumb things aren't behind us yet, but I do know that all the way through, I've always known exactly who my kids are and they've always known they can come to me when they are in trouble.   I just wasn't expecting it to be so often!


How I Measure My Parenting Success

If someone was to ask me which stage of raising children was the hardest my answer would always be the same ... "whatever age they are right now" I would say.   I look back and remember thinking how I couldn't wait for each stage to be over.  Now that they are almost 20 and 18 I have finally realised that each stage is designed to ease you into the next harder stage.

I think the last year has by far been the hardest stage for me and my boys.  I say this even after some stages have included drugs, wagging school, alcohol, shoplifting, bad tempers, stitches, broken arms x 4 and various other "interesting" moments!  We won't even talk about sex.  Nope let's leave the sex for another day!

It sounds a lot like my boys have been left to run feral without any discipline or supervision.   To be totally honest, on some days they were.   Some days it was just too hard to be the boss.  It was too hard to deal with the fights.  It was too hard to be tough.

A popular saying is "small children ... small problems; bigger children ... bigger problems".  This has never rang truer for me than now.  When your children are younger their problems are easier to fix.   You have more control over their actions and how to direct them in the future.  As they get older, not so.   They are full of hormones and attitude and are trying to find their own space in the world.  They don't want to be controlled ... they want to be in charge of their own destiny.  This is normal.  This is meant to happen.  As a parent, I found this part difficult to deal with.  The time when your child, the one who thinks you are way cooler than anyone, suddenly realises you aren't that perfect.  This is a moment of truth for parents.   This is a defining moment in your ongoing relationship with your child.

When I look back over 20 years of parenting,  I initially think there would be some things I'd change, but then when I delve deeper I know that I wouldn't have been able to.  When you bring up teenagers in a home where they don't live with both their mum and dad and they have "step others" involved in the parenting process, it opens up a whole new world of parenting pain.  Everyone involved has the best of intentions, but they do not always translate.

We faced all kinds of difficulties, clashes of personalities, battles of will and anything else in between.  The way I parented was different to how I would have parented had our family remained in tact, I had no choice in that.  Rather than being a strict parent and making rules and ensuring they are followed, I was more like a boundary rider.  Keeping everything calm, ignoring things that should have been addressed for the sake of keeping the peace.  

Despite the rocky road, I'm now watching my boys grow into men who I am proud of.  They are kind, loving, decent and both have hearts of gold - that said they still have not so nice teenage traits, which I'm led to believe hang around until they are at least 25!

Both my boys still kiss me morning and night, as well as their step father, and they still tell me they love me every single day.  They talk to me about their problems and they tell me about things that happen in their life.   This is my true measure of whether or not I've done a good job.     What's yours?


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Easily Pleased

Here's the thing.  I have two teenage boys.  This makes me very easily pleased.

Let me explain.

Teenage boys have a knack for doing things that parents don't particularly like.  They can be rude, non communicative, loud, clumsy and downright unpleasant to be around.

They can also be loving, kind, tender, well mannered and you can just absolutely love them to bits.   More often than not, though, they tend to be like the former.   This is why I'm easily pleased.

There are times I despair and worry that my boys are not going to turn out to be contributing members of society.  I worry that their seemingly constant need to non conform will see them do something that might ruin their future opportunities.    I worry that their laziness will render them permanently immobile.  I worry that their potty mouths will mean they won't fit into mainstream society.  I worry that they will never give up smoking.  I worry that they drink to much.  I worry about drugs.   I worry that the fact they did not try hard at school will mean they won't succeed in a career.   I worry that they will never find the thing that makes them feel alive.  I worry that they will never have enough money to buy a home.  I worry that I wasn't tough enough on them.  I worry about a million different things.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Image Credit
Many of my friends have children much younger than mine.  They are only just embarking on the scary journey that is "teenagerhood".  Me?  I'm  nearing the end of it with an almost 20 year old and an 18 year old.  Hang on a minute.   Nearing the end?  I should already be at the end.   Why do I still have a twenty year old at home?   My original parenting plans had calculated that eighteen was the end date.  At eighteen, I would be cutting the apron strings, pushing them out the door and putting my feet up with a huge sigh.  Right?  Nope.  Not so.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Our Children Should Live Forever ...

When I was handed my first child I was scared.  He was so small, so innocent and so totally dependent on me.  From that moment my life changed.   Forever.  I can't say I felt a deep, intense love instantly.  I was afraid I didn't know how to look after him.  I was afraid I wasn't ready to be a parent.  I was afraid I might do it wrong.

Within hours, this small person I created, became a part of me.  He moved into a place in my heart and has lived there since ever since.  He has brought me joy.  He has caused me endless worry.  He has driven me crazy.  He also gave me something I never ever knew.  He gave me family.  My family.  Love.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

No More Pretending to be Happy

On Sunday my baby turned 17.  Those 17 years have brought me much joy and much angst, but most of all they have brought me much love.  I love both my boys with all my heart, there is no favourite.  However, there are always people who you connect with in life and it is almost like you can see into their soul.  My baby is one of these people.

For most of his life he has been extremely loving.  I have many love notes and cards and he has always been able to express his love through hugs and kisses, (other than a period of time during his early teens when most boys don't show affection).  He is also very good at expressing his feelings verbally.  He senses things about me and others that I don't even realise.  We have had conversations that I would have with a friend of my own age.  He is so very knowing, so very intuitive and so very caring.

As you know from my Mum I'm stuck on the Grass post, my baby has had some problems recently which totally broke my heart.  Watching him suffer through this difficult time was so painful.

We are now into a new year, his 18th year, and I am so happy to say that he is no longer abusing substances.  He is working out, caring about his health, caring about his body, eating healthily and exercising daily.  He has a fulltime job and never misses a day and is never late.  He is a different person.  His moods are more stable (well as stable as a 17 year old can be) and he has joy in his eyes, again, finally.  After many months of trying to give up his "habit" (he didn't go cold turkey) and many months of him questioning why he wanted to give up, he has finally discovered that a life with a clear head and healthy body is a win for him.  It has taken time and it hasn't been easy - for him or I.  However I am so proud that he has persevered and is now where he should be.

Many of his friends from that time are unfortunately still stuck on the grass, and he wishes they could feel how he does now.  He told me this morning, after we saw one of them at the bus stop in his school uniform totally stoned, that he is so glad he doesn't feel that way any longer.  He said that when you are stoned all the time you have to pretend to look happy because you don't really feel anything other than stoned.  I asked him if he misses it.  I got the "are you serious?" look.  I guess not.

I still worry that he can easily slip back into this life.  He has an addictive personality, which he is also aware of.  As a mum I feel it is my responsibility to keep a close eye on him, but not fence him in.  To constrain his freedom and time spent with friends would do him more harm that letting him go out and learn to live life without giving in to the temptation.  It has now been 1 month since he has had any substance at all and this is a huge win.  I absolutely know he is being honest with me because as he was weaning himself off it he would tell me when he had it. He knows if he does slip up, he can tell me and I won't go postal.  Sure I'll be disappointed, but the fact he will be honest with me means I can help him and be there for him.   I've had to trust he was doing this the best way he could.  I went with my instincts and am so glad I did.  He  has done this on his own, but with my support.  Now that he has achieved his goal, he is so happy with himself.  His self esteem has risen and he feels a sense of achievement.  Something he was sadly lacking before.  He also knows how much this means to me and he now knows how much better life is when he's not stoned.

I don't doubt that as he makes his way through his life he will be lured by other temptations, we all are.  However, for a 17 year old, he has the emotional intelligence of someone much older and understands his personality type.  When he senses he is becoming addicted to something, be it chocolate, coffee or a playstation game, he stops.  He goes cold turkey and walks away.  He is determined not to let addictions rule his life.  I truly hope he succeeds.

I've learnt a lot about parenting teenagers throughout this experience and if I look back to the mother I was when my boys were little, to the mother I am now - I am chalk and cheese.  The way I believed I would be when my boys grew up back then is nothing like my reality.  Those lovely innocent babies I had who were so compliant and reliant on me for direction one day grew up and all bets were suddenly off.

I am not a perfect mother and I'm sure I could have done so many things differently, however I did learn some important lessons from this experience.  They are:

  • Teenagers will always do things you don't like (you did the same to your parents). Keep the communication lines open by not judging and yelling at them when they do something wrong.  They are no longer little children.  Talk to them and tell them how you feel but understand that sometimes you need to let your teenagers do things their way.  If you do this, they will allow you into their life.
  • Dropping out of school does not make your child a failure.  For some teenagers school can contribute to problems.  I am not advocating dropping out of school to bum around - there should be a clear choice of school or work.  Let them make the decision.  It makes such a difference.
  • Don't wait for the "standard" things to happen to show your children how proud you are of them - life is more than sporting and academic achievements - showing your teenagers how proud you are of them just for making good decisions and for being themselves goes a long way.
  • Some teenagers go off the rails despite how they have been raised. It isn't your fault, it just happens.  I believe that whatever is meant to happen in life always does. It's how you deal with it when it happens that affects the outcome.
  • No matter what is going on - tell your teenager every single day that you love them and mean it.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekend Rewind - Mum, I'm Stuck on the Grass

I posted this on 27 August 2010 on my other blog Living Life as Me here.  I no longer blog over there.  You are more than welcome to pop over there and read my posts.  I haven't moved them over here yet.   
Mum, I'm Stuck on the Grass ... 27 August 2010

I didn't watch the Ben Cousins Drug Story.  It is too close to home.  Four months ago our family was in turmoil.  My youngest was a drug addict.  He was a pot head.  He was only 16. I'm sure you are wondering how could this happen?  Me too.  In a way I watched it happen in front of my eyes.  I didn't know how to stop it.

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