Friday, May 14, 2010

mothering: prevention, protection, permission and paralysis

So much for minding your own business. The other night I was watching the news, when Victoria Police's Deputy Commissioner, Ken Lay, came on. In his trademark husky tones, Uncle Ken urged parents to get their learner drivers out on these wet roads, to experience adverse weather conditions.

"Good idea," I thought. Grabbing the car keys from the benchtop I dashed off to find my 16 year-old learner driver girl-child.

"Why mother," she cooed, "how lovely to see you here in my personal space? Can I make you a cup-of-tea?"

"That's very nice of you my darling," I murmured, "but it's raining, and we have to get out there right away."

And she, being a typical adolescent offspring, flashed me her beautiful smile and immediately sprang into action, leaving her facebook friends for dead.

Ok so I'm telling porky-pies. Here's what really happened.

I was sitting on the couch minding my own business and Ken Lay came on, and said his piece. And I thought to myself, "What a good idea. All those learner drivers should be out there in these greasy conditions, trying not to slide into the back of each other's rear-ends, or taking wide-swinging corners, or dodging those pesky pedestrians who dart out in front of you to cross the road because they've forgotten their umbrella and can't be stuffed walking down to the lights and waiting around in these precipitous conditions. Sounds like an invitation to stay curled up here on the couch, and keep right out of their collective way."

And then it hits me. Damn it all, this is one of the those paralysing motherhood moments, like when they go out partying with people you've never even heard of, or get onto public transport alone for the first time, or head off for their first day of school. And you know it's the beginning of the end of something.

If you've never taught your own child to drive, you can't possibly know how it feels. The same person who completely missed the glass when pouring a drink this morning, who can't seem to remember to shut the fridge door, and who forgets to go to bed at night, now has your life in their hands. It is absolutely terrifying. Just this week a friend recalled how her own daughter had driven straight through a stop sign, just to avoid a handbrake start.

I remember my own driving lessons with dad. My older sister and I were learning at the same time, and my mother refused to take us out. Sometimes we'd come home in tears and tell dad, who never yelled and who we hadn't noticed was sweating profusely, that he had no idea what we were going through, and that he was paranoid, and impatient, and strict.

According to research, up to 20% more car accidents occur in wet conditions, so it stands to reason we parents need to get our act together. If you believe all the hoohah, mothers are to blame for most of the world's wrongs: obesity, delinquency, cyber-bullying, street violence, alcoholism. Not to mention school results. Let's not go there.

And now here I am on the couch, and I know I am not going to budge.

Not today.

I am flawed, I am paralysed, I am exhausted.

My man walks in from work, and I nearly say, "It's a nice night for a drive."

But I don't.

And he starts talking about something else.

And we move on.

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