Category Archives: Family

Mars Bar + Can of Coke = Surprise

For a long while there, Mum would drive my little brother to and from his job (he had lost his licence after a string of bad decisions). Considering where they were living at the time, this was a considerable effort – a round-trip of well over an hour, and about 80km in distance.

But each afternoon, Mum would bring him a surprise. They called this a ‘surprise’ every day – yet the result never differed: A can of coke, and a Mars Bar.

To my Mum these drives together meant that she could hear about his day, and his work and about his plans. She could ask questions and because he was stuck in the car for 40km, he had no choice but to answer and to talk. Mum always said that the best conversations happen when there is common task being shared – like doing the dishes, or in this case, while driving together in a car.

I think this time they shared together brought them much closer – and while others thought Mum was rewarding his bad behaviour by offering him a solution to a problem he caused, I think Mum saw this as an opporuntity to help heal my brother. To care for him in a safe, arms-length way – from across the car as they drove twice a day together, for many, many months. If it hadn’t been for this action from my Mum – my brother would have lost his job and who knows what would have come next. Mum knew this was the best way to keep him on the right path but did it in a way that meant he wasn’t aware of the control she was still exerting over his life, nor was he aware how much he was talking to Mum as they drove.

I have no doubt that this drive, and the ‘surprise’ they shared each day, saved my brother.

Years later, and even now, when my brother asks us to bring him a surprise – we know what we need to buy.

Last Mouthfuls: A Negotiation

“But I’m not hungry…”

“You’ve hardly eaten any of that dinner”.

“But I don’t like peas”.

“You did yesterday. Remember, there is no dessert unless you finish”.

“But I’m not hungry FOR dinner.”

“But you’re hungry for dessert?”

“I will be later, when we have dessert.”

“All right – how old are you?”


“Right – eat 7 more mouthfuls and then you can leave the table, and have dessert.”



It’s 3pm – Put a Tea Towel Over Your Shoulder

And put on an apron.

The kids will be home soon. It is time to get an afternoon snack ready, and to get dinner started soon after that.

Set the table with glasses and plates, and something homemade – biscuits, slice or cake. Something cold to drink in summer, or hot milo in winter.

The kids will sit at the table, but Mum stands in the doorway – with the tea towel over her shoulder. Sometimes with a broom, sometimes with a wooden spoon in hand.

She will ask the kids questions – what did you learn today, do you have homework, have you emptied your lunchbox and put it on the sink, don’t forget to change and get started on your homework. Often the kids volunteer a story from their day – and she will smile as she listens.

Before long, the snack is finished. Time to clear the table and get dinner started. She will wipe her hands on her tea towel and begin.