Archive for the ‘boys’ Category

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out. –Mary Schmich



For the past couple of years my son has begged during the Christmas hols to work at my café so that he can earn a little extra pocket money.

Only problem is he was nine when he first started asking…and well… although my capitalist heart beats to the sound of cheap labour even I knew that would be breaking some terribly important child protection laws…

But he was devo when I said no, so one day I allowed him to tag along with me and armed with a green-cloth set him about cleaning vacated tables and flat-packing cardboard boxes for recycling… all under my eagle eye.

Last year he even asked for a work uniform. He’s a tall lad, in fact at ten he was taller than some of the fully grown staff I’ve hired and he looked so terribly eager that I thought…well what was the harm?

The manager bossed him around good and proper, told him he wasn’t allowed anywhere near the kitchen and sent him off to empty bins and clear tables. Surprisingly he was actually quite good at having a chat to the customers as he cleared away their little messes, and as his parent I was right pleased at how well he conducted himself for someone so young.

An elderly lady took the time to tell him he was doing a very good job, then her husband asked,

“How old are you sonny?”

“I’m ten” he answered.

“And do you work here?” the old man said.

I suddenly had a nooooooooooooooo-in-slow-motion-moment as I heard him answer proudly…

“Yes, yes I do.”

I could have swore that the old man dropped a wrinkly little F-bomb as they turned and walked away mumbling something along the lines of ‘damn cheek the owner has’… and I remained on high-alert for a letter from child services for the next three months.


Luckily none arrived.


At home that afternoon my son was busy telling a relative about his “new job”, and this relative, being the stirrer that he is, got my son all fired up…

“So how much do you get paid?” the stirrer said.

“Mum gives me five dollars an hour.” my boy proudly answered.

“What? Only five dollars?” the stirrer said with a mock-astonished tone to his voice, “Mate, you’re getting ripped off!”

“I am?” my son answered, puzzled “What do you think I should be getting?”

“Geez well your mum owns that café, let’s see, she should at least pay you ten bucks an hour.”


I sat waiting for a call from the Shop-assistants union… and sure enough it came a little later that night…


“Mum,” my son said with an exceptionally brave look on his face, “can we talk?”

“Of course.” I said…knowing exactly what was coming.

“Well I’ve been thinking about work […you know I’m trying very hard to stifle a giggle and keep a straight face at this point…] and I think I probably should get at least ten dollars an hour.”

“Hmm,” I answered casually, “you know, you’re probably right. Sounds only fair.”

My son looked jubilant.

“But,” I continued “if I give you a pay rise then we need to consider the cost of the things you eat and drink when you’re supposed to be working… so let’s see, you had an iced chocolate and cinnamon scroll at the start of your ‘shift’ today… then you had a sausage roll… oh and a bottle of water… and when you left you took a banana muffin…so let’s see that adds up to…hmmm… oh imagine that…you actually owe me six dollars and forty-five cents.”

I hold out my hand.

“Oh,” my son said “on second thoughts I think I’m pretty happy with the five dollars an hour… ”

Thought so! I think to myself as I watch him sheepishly backing out of the room…


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men ancholy

There was a little boy in my life.

He reached up to hold my hand. He was terrible at tying his shoe laces. His best friend at kinder was a girl named Alex. He played with matchbox cars.


We took a walk together down the bike track, close to the creek. He watched the trickles of water. Looked at the trees, the bark, the leaves, touched a washed rock, stared at a blade of grass.

He asked “How was this world made?”

He wasn’t interested in who, he was interested in how.

He was three. And he already knew there was a bigger picture.


If I close my eyes I can see him now. He hasn’t gone anywhere. But he’s not here anymore.

Tonight I feel off-balance. The axis of my earth has shifted. Slightly. Perhaps no one else notices. The changes have been gradual. Daily infinitesimal.


I now look up to see this little boy.

He puts his arm across me, protectively, before we cross the road.

He mows the lawn because he is saving for his first car. Or a play station three, whichever comes first.

He plays his guitar with his best mate at school. His best mate is Jase, an enthusiast of Queen and ACDC.

But he likes to play Sunshine of your love because he knows I like the sound of the first few bars.


He reminds me to take my vitamins. Every day.


He’s learning how to swear. But he never says anything rude in front of girls.

He’s learning how to cook. And he teaches me about renewable food sources.

He shows me the pumpkins he has planted. He demonstrates the male to female pollination process. He’s rigged the garden so the pumpkins have a soft place to form. So they don’t hang themselves and wither. The vines twist up the back fence and down past the tree he grew from pits we spat out three summers ago.


He needs new shoes. I push my toes into them, ready to squeeze, but I realise that they are roomy on me now.


I tell him that when he falls in love, he should find someone who doesn’t want to change him.

I tell him that when he falls in love, he should find someone whom he can respect.

He sighs and rolls his eyes. But his ears are paying attention.


I watch him when he’s sleeping. One hand squashed under chin and cheek. I’m staring. Trying, trying to find the little boy. He’s there somewhere. Enveloped in this man-child.

I understand now,

One cannot pine for something they have not lost.

But the axis of my earth has shifted.

And I’m standing in his shoes,

trying to find my feet.

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Does he wash up?



Driving the kids home from school lately is a chore.

For at least a month there have been road works at a busy intersection I need to cross. At peak times it takes five or six turns of the traffic lights to get through. Annoying. Much.

So this afternoon instead of watching the snails slime by I flicked on the radio in an effort to keep the kids amused. There was a song playing that sounded snappy so I turned the volume up- nice and loud.

“Why’d ya do that?” my son (11) said.

“Because it’s catchy.” I replied.

“That song is sexist.” he stated.

I paid a bit more attention to the lyrics. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong.

“Why?” I asked him “Is the film clip rude?”

“No mum” he said mildly annoyed at my dumbness “it makes boys look bad.”

 Oh. Sexist.

Against men.

 Does he wash up? Never wash up
Does he clean up? No, he never cleans up
Does he brush up? Never brushed up
He does nothing the boy does nothing

He was right. Although I suspect the song is more about dancing moves than heavy-handed-man-bashing. But nevertheless it’s true- it does mambo-tunefully paint the ‘boy’ in a not so grand a light.

That got me thinking about the world I’m bringing my son up in.

As a woman it’s important to stand up for what is right and perhaps even more so for what is wrong. But does that mean we need to swing the power all the way to one side before it lands in a sensible middle?

It’s okay to teach our girls that they deserve equal wages and equal rights and equal consideration when paying for a dinner bill, but have we have also taught them that it’s not okay to put down women but it is okay to put down men?

Isn’t that a strange hypocrisy?

I don’t want my son living in a world where he is discriminated against because he is a male just as much as I don’t want my daughter growing up in a world where she is discriminated against because she is a female.

“Why do you think it’s sexist?” I asked him

“Well,” he pondered for a second “she’s singing how useless ‘the boy’ is.” And then like most conversations with eleven year old boys we were suddenly off on a tangent, albeit a related one- “And you know what everyone thinks-‘ he said “men want a wife that can cook.”

“And what do you think of that?” I asked him.

“It’s true you know [and he listed of several men in our family who actually do act that way] I don’t know why- it’s just the way they think.”

“No,” I repeated “ I asked you what you thought about that?”

“Oh” he said “Well I’ll cook when I get married.” he looked me and then added “I’ll cook sometimes…Okay I’ll cook a lot, no…I’ll cook always. Errr,’ he grumbled “I’ll cook whenever she wants me too.”

 The traffic lights were still red. I turned off the radio.

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