Driving children around

Having children can require extensive driving skills and detailed local road knowledge in order to avoid the dreaded detention.

Driving

 

Forget Lewis Hamilton. When it comes to driving skills he has nothing on a working parent on the school run. Living in a village, we have a school run which is about an hour’s round trip. I basically do the afternoon leg in lieu of a lunch break. Every day there is a spanner thrown in the works. Often I get in the car – particularly these days – and find I have no petrol.

Usually the day begins well with good intentions and promises to leave on time. Invariably these promises fail to materialise in the cold light of reality.

Take Monday. I had agreed a 10 minutes earlier than usual departure time due to having to get back for a kitchen repair job. Only son has all but given up on getting daughter three to be ready on time. Every day he tells me to get in the car at 8.15 in order to force daughter three to speed up. All that happens is that we sit in the car for 15 minutes rather than five.

Daughter three is what I call a slow waker. I go in in the morning and, despite her phone alarm blaring, she is completely asleep. Even when I bring her a cup of tea she has not moved from the foetal position. I used to be able to get out of the door within 10-15 minutes of getting up. These days, however, there are a whole list of ablutions to perform with a vast array of potions and a timed teeth cleaning exercise which apparently cannot be rushed.

So on Monday we left at the usual time and immediately hit a traffic jam – road works are rife at this time of the year and there are multiple diversions around. Having passed the traffic jam, we turned a corner and came head to head with a tractor. NOOOO.  Why is there always a tractor, a horse, a posse of cyclists or a family of ducks crossing the road at school run time? By this stage in parenthood, however, I have come to anticipate this kind of minor setback – it’s water off a duck’s back, even a duck-crossing-the-road’s back. Parenting is essentially a series of problem-solving tasks, often with the added challenge of sleep deprivation thrown in for good measure.

In the event, given I know all the back roads as well as the tractor routes, I managed to get everyone to school with about two minutes to spare, avoiding the dreaded detention, and then hit the traffic jam on the way home. Fortunately, the kitchen repair man was in the same jam.

When you have teenagers a lot of the parenting job seems to involve taking people places. Sometimes, in addition to the school run, I have to take daughter three to work or daughter two to the station. I have calculated that on occasion I spend up to five hours driving. That is a part-time job [unpaid].

There is also a lot of waiting in the car involved so I now go everywhere prepared with my bag filled with work-related books. The other day I did a two-hour webinar in the car at an Asda car park, waiting in the dark for daughter three. Fortunately, I got a bay near the supermarket to be able to access the wifi. I am not sure if I am now capable of not multi-tasking. No moment is wasted in the hope that at some point in the week I might get a few minutes of downtime. I’m not always successful, but I live in hope.



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