Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Driving Miss Daisy to drink

I’ve got a theory that parenting is filled with things that no one tells you about until it is too late. A classic example of the genre is that breast feeding can be fraught with a mind numbing agony that will induce you to throw dignity to the winds and start stuffing cold cabbage leaves down your already hideously unattractive maternity bra.

Though my breast feeding days are long gone, I have hit upon another widely unacknowledged parental fact; never mind the alcohol, smoking, excess weight and stress we are all supposed to be avoiding as adults in our forties, the single activity almost guaranteed to raise your blood pressure and shorten your life, is teaching your first born to drive.

I use the word ‘teaching’ loosely, as one key characteristic of the average 16 year old climbing behind the wheel of the family car is an attitude of, “Well, how hard can this be?” And you can see their point from a technology perspective, given the fact their parents can barely master an i-phone. The teenage assumption is that this driving lark must be a piece of cake compared to my offsprings’ norm of simultaneously texting, talking, typing, watching TV and doing homework.

In normal life I am a fairly exuberant type, prone to arm waving, loud exclamations and impromptu gestures, all characteristics that make me wildly unsuitable as a supervising driver. Such however is the level of terror associated with being strapped into my own car as a passenger that I barely utter a whimper. The most frequently heard instruction is in fact from Drama Queen No.1 who with some irritation orders me to let go of the door that I tend to grasp with both hands. The whole outing is also conducted to the steady beat of my right foot stamping to the floor with the rhythm of a death defying tango

The NSW Road Traffic Authority sets 16 year olds loose with instructions to notch up 120 hours of quality driving time before they can sit their tests at 17. The bulk of these hours inevitably fall to their parents. I don’t know about you but 120 hours strikes me as an awfully long time for your life to flash before your eyes at regular intervals. The RTA does however helpfully issue some advice to novice supervisors, including the suggestion that we invest in an extra rear view mirror, presumably to better observe the frothing faces and gesticulations of drivers behind. I have to say that will be all good and well when we get to the giddy heights of changing lanes but actually what I need at the moment is a sure fire method of braking other than shouting ‘STOP’ at the top of my voice and lunging for the handbrake.

In DQ 1’s defence I have to say she has so far managed to control any manic urges and is a careful and consistent driver and I am willing to admit that in fact the biggest problem is my vivid imagination and general nervous disposition.

Drink driving is however acquiring a new meaning in our household, as I generally require a large glass pressed into my hand to revive me as I totter back in after a bit of roundabout practice and the thought of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is quite enough to make long for the quiet serenity of the cabbage leaf days.


  1. I feel your pain. Over here they can start learning when they're 15, have to rack up 50 hours with parents and a lot of time in the classroom, then get their license when they're 16. I surprised myself and everyone else by being surprisingly calm in the car. I get more irate now when she uses my car to drive all her friends around.

  2. My goodness 120 hours strikes me as a very, very long time....I answered the door, several times, in the cabbage leaf / maternity bra outfit xx