Living with boys…

Raising four boys, I knew I had a big job ahead of me in regards to house training. But when Master 12 tried to open a can of tuna with a fork, even though it was not of the ring pull variety, it became apparent that the job in question may be bigger than I first imagined.


People often ask me what it’s like to be the only female in a house of five males. My answer is that I don’t know life any other way. I grew up with three older brothers and shared a house, in my uni days, with three boys. I now have four sons. It’s my comfort zone.

However, it is my job to house train my boys so that when they leave the nest, they are able to look after themselves  and grow to be a fully functioning, efficient and effective young man who is capable of cooking more than spaghetti on toast, or living on take away.

Even though it’s gonna be a humungous job, I am committed to the cause and am tackling it one bit at a time, starting with the basics…

Hanging out washing …

Masters 12 and 10 have the Saturday job of hanging out the washing, something I thought was self explanatory, until I saw their work…


We had a soldier’s five on how to hang washing so as to give maximum surface area exposure, which results in faster and more even drying.  I am proud to say that they now use a minimum of two pegs on all items other than socks and jocks. It made my mummy heart happy to see such improvement.


However,  upon my next trip to the washing line, I was puzzled as to why nearly every peg was scattered on the ground instead of hanging on the line. It wasn’t until I remembered asking the boys to bring the washing inside the previous day that their method of clothes retrieval occurred to me.


This was my conversation with Master 12.

Me: When you brought the washing in yesterday, did you take the clothes off the line by pulling them by the bottom, ripping them off the line and letting the peg fly into the air and land on the ground?

M12: wide eyed stare.

Me: Okay, I take it, from your deer in the headlights reaction, that my assumption was correct?

M12: wide eyed stare, tinged with a flicker of confusion – a kind of ‘how else are you supposed to get clothes off the line’ expression.

We all moved out to the line and had another soldier’s five on clothes extraction and the replacement of pegs either onto the line or into the designated peg basket. I am thrilled to say that they are now fully versed in the art of both hanging out the washing, and bringing it back in.

The importance of a balanced diet…

My boys hate vegetables. If it’s not pasta or meat, they aren’t interested.  There have been many a tear shed at the dining table over my placement of a corn cob or a few peas on their plate. Upon suggestion from a friend, not to make a fuss out of the necessity to eat vegetables by quantifying them, I now simply put the salad in front of them and say ‘everyone must have SOME salad’.

Of course, that means that the word SOME is a moot point.

D dinner

Having had three older brothers, I am well aware of many men’s aversion to the more fibrous elements of the daily diet. My brother’s response to my mum asking him to try mushrooms was:

‘If I wanted to eat fungus, I’d lick the bathroom wall.’

You can’t fight logic like that. However, when he fell head over heels– with a vegetarian  (oh, how we loved the irony)- he soon discovered the delights of vegetables in order to impress his new love, even eating raw cauliflower in the pursuit of passion.

Another brother, also wanting to please his lady friend, ate the garnish on his plate as he wasn’t sure if it was for decoration or part of the meal. It consisted of lettuce, alfalfa sprouts and tomatoes – his sworn enemy. But he who ate the garnish, also got the girl, so his sacrifice paid off.

So, based on the historical events of their uncles’ lives, and knowledge that my own hubby’s meal time consisted of two kilos of BBQ’d chicken wings, I know that my boys will one day eat vegetables. It may be in order to impress a girl, or in the hope of having sex with her, but they will eat their vegetables eventually.

boy noise

Being surrounded by boys my entire life has enabled me to understand the way they think, why they act the way they do and, like David Attenborough, how to live with a male of the species in his own environment.  As a mum, it’s my job, and my honour, to teach them how to fend for themselves . One day they will fly away from my nest and I need to pass on the skills of domestic life on to them the same way my mum did for me.  While we’re not quite up to tackling a béchamel sauce yet, they are making wonderful progress on the domestic grounds…one little step at a time and I couldn’t be prouder!










The hierarchy of delegation…

empty toilet roll

We have a hierarchy of delegation in our house and it’s interesting, as well as mildly frustrating, to see it at work.

The established sibling hierarchy is in direct correlation to birth order, which I assume, is ‘normal’ for most families.  I know it was when I was a kid – I was the youngest. The one who got stuck with all the shitty jobs that the others were able to ‘delegate’ to me.

birth order old

My three older brothers (nine and ten years older) delegated the role of  ‘gofer’ to me. They would pay me the princely sum of twenty cents to walk over a kilometre, on dusty, dirty, unmade roads, to the nearest shop to buy their junk food.

dusty road

 I would come home with their stash, covered in dust, sneezing and coughing, usually limping from having fallen into a small ditch.  I did it because twenty cents wasn’t a bad lurk back in the late seventies and early eighties.  It got me twenty licorice blocks, or an icy pole and fifteen blocks. Not bad for a lung full of dust and a few bruises.

I was also ‘delegated’ to clean the week old vomit off my brother’s shoes. He had a doozy of a 21st birthday party, the proof of which was stuck firmly to the caps of his RM Williams boots. He offered me a whopping $1.00 to do it. Donning yellow rubber gloves, three sizes too big for me, I got about scrubbing and earned my dollar the grossest way possible. But hey, back in 1982 one dollar practically made me a mogul.


My other delegations were making toast, making beds, making cups of coffee, getting the mail, feeding the cats, and eventually doing the ironing. It wasn’t much fun, but in hindsight, it did prepare me for life outside the home.

Now, I have four sons and I see it as one of the main objectives of motherhood is to prepare them for life outside the family home. One day they will all move out and live independently – eventually with a partner. I want that partner to like me, (does anyone ever like their mother in-law??), so it’s my job to ensure that my boys are house trained properly. That means…delegation.

But here’s what usually happens:

Me:  ‘Ethan, could you please check that there is enough toilet paper in each toilet?’

Ethan:  ‘Awwwww, why me? Why can’t the others do it?’

Me: ‘Because I asked you to do it. They can do other jobs.’

Usually, here I go on some small rant about all the ways I helped my parents when I was young – only slightly resembling an old fart who relives the twenty five kilometre journey to school each morning in a pair of shoes so worn that the only things left intact were the laces.

Ethan: ‘Awwwww, okay.’

Me: ‘Thanks Eth. Good job.’

Ethan: ‘Rylan, go and check the toilets have spare toilet paper will you?’ (distinct lack of please and thank you here).

Rylan:  ‘Awwwww, why me? Why can’t you do it?’

Ethan: ‘Because mum asked you to do it. It’s one of your new jobs.’

Rylan: ‘Awwwww, okay.’

Ethan walks back to his room, grinning.

Rylan: ‘Hey Lachy, go and check the toilets have spare toilet paper.’ Still no please or thank you!

Lachy: ‘Awwww, why me? Why can’t someone else do it?’

Rylan:  ‘Because Mum asked you to do it. There will be no treat for a week if you don’t.’

Lachy:  ‘Awwww, that’s not fair!’ (his body now wilts like an old stick of celery)

Rylan walks back to his room, happy.

Lachy: ‘Hey Callum! I’ve got a big job for you. You’ll get a treat if you do it.’ Said in a very soothing voice, the kind used to convince four year olds to do something they would normally say ‘no’ to.

Callum: ‘Yeth, what ith it?’ (Callum has a lisp).

Lachy: ‘All you have to do is put the toilet paper in the toilets. It’s really easy and Mum will give you a treat when you’re finished.’

Callum thinks about it for a while, seemingly unconvinced of any benefit to himself.

Lachy: ‘Mum will give you two treats! How about that? You’d like two treats, wouldn’t you?’

Callum nods his head so intently he gives himself whiplash: ‘Yeth!’

Lachy walks back to his room, smiling .

Callum: ‘Muuuuuum! Mummy! I can’t reach the toilet paper.’

Me: ‘Okay, Cal. I’ll help you.’

I hand him the spare rolls of toilet paper, and instruct him to place them on top of each toilet cistern.

He opens the toilet door and throws them on the floor.

toilet paper on floor

I pick them up and place them where they are meant to go.

Callum:  ‘Muuuuuum! Mummy! I get my treats now?’

Now my body wilts like an old stick of celery.

Me: ‘Sure, Cal.’ Try telling a four year old that his brother didn’t have the authority to offer any kind of remuneration for this task. It isn’t worth the heart ache.

This is the hierarchy of delegation in my home.

The one I’ve waited my entire life to be at the top of. I was better off being a minion – at least there was some form of payment and gratification at the end of it!