Mum – we’re bored.
Go find something to do then.
But there’s nothing to do.
Go outside. Read a book. Play a board game. Or else I will find something for you to do.
Well we didn’t want that. That meant chores.
So we’d almost always end up playing a board game. Monopoly. Scrabble. Boggle. Cluedo. They were the standards. We’d play on the floor, with cushions. And more often than not, after about 15 minutes of playing, Mum would bring us a snack – acknowledging we had made a good decision.
Board games were fun – but they also taught us how to share, to take turns, to be competitive, to win gracefully and to accept defeat with dignity.
Sure – they created arguments. Like the Christmas we fought hard during a session of The Game of Life. So hard in fact, that as a result – a new house rule was instilled by Mum. For the rest of the Christmas holidays each time we interacted with someone Mum would make us say: ‘I love you, I’m glad you’re here.’ Every time. It became a joke eventually – but it did help give us some perspective. We never did play Game of Life again though. That was tainted forever.
But mostly these games gave us our best Playing moments. I remember the marathon Monopoly sessions, using books to hide our Cludeo sheets and building mammoth dominio stacks.
These were the best family moments. No separate sessions on computers, phones, etc in separate bedrooms – we would all be in the one room, playing a game together.
Bored? Play a Board Game. How long since you last sat down and played a game with your family?
Things Kids Say: July 1989 (Mum’s Diary)
On the way to Sydney after driving for 4 hours:
Fed up, my little brother asks how much longer to go and Mum answers: 130 kilometres.
“But there are kilometres everywhere!”
Mum and Dad had a Christmas morning rule when we were kids. There was to be no wake-ups at 5am. We were to wait until 6am – or as they taught us to read the digital clock they gave us on Christmas Eve – 6, dot, dot, 0, 0.
They conceded that we could sneak out to look at the presents – but only one at a time.
So our Christmas morning went like this:
- The first one awake, would sneak out to wake the others
- We would check the time, and sit on the bed with the clock between us
- One at a time, we would sneak out to the loungeroom to look at the presents
- We would bring back details of the big presents – like, wow you have a really big box under the tree at the back! or I think you did get that Tonka Truck!
- When this tradition started, we couldn’t read the time – so it was a surprise when the clock actually became 6, dot, dot, 0, 0! But later, the time it took for 5, dot, dot, 5, 9 to become 6, dot, dot, 0, 0 seemed to get longer every year.
- But we would always wait patiently for the clock to turn to 6, dot, dot, 0, 0
- When we would go and wake Mum and Dad – who I actually think had probably been awake for a while already – listening to us kids sneak out to the loungeroom on tiptoe to find our presents.
A few years ago, we were back at Mum’s as adults. Before we had partners and kids. And we still waited for the clock to be 6, dot, dot, 0, 0. We begrudgingly dragged ourselves out of bed – but we all had a knowing smile as we remembered the excitement of Christmas morning.
And this morning, our first Christmas without Mum, the first thing we say when we call to wish each other a Merry Christmas: “But it’s not 6, dot, dot, 0, 0!”.
This will forever be our Christmas tradition.
When there were 3 of us left at home, Mum made a roster and stuck it to the fridge. There were three different jobs:
– dry up and put away
– clear and stack
This roster lasted us many years. We hoped for Clear and Stack – the easiest job. We hated Dry Up and Put Away – it took the longest.
But as Mum always said, the best conversations happen while you’re doing another chore.
So each night, two of us were forced to spend time together in the kitchen. And although it is only now we admit it, we had our best conversations. I remember helping my little brother with his love life and my little sister with a bullying teacher. I remember them making me laugh when I was stressed out about exams.
Mum would pretend to be watching TV, but really she would be listening and smiling on the inside.
It was exactly what we all needed.
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.
“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.”
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.