Family: Janet Christie’s Mum’s the Word

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Why parenting can be a scarring experience

“Handbrake. Handbrake,” says Middle Child, the one with the driving licence, every time I pull up at a junction.

“I’m about to go!” I keep telling him, but put it on anyway, even though we’re going uphill and I keep missing my opportunity for a quick getaway when the lights change. Sigh.

“Bad driving habit, that, riding the clutch,” he says, from the backseat. “We’re drinking up petrol if you do that. No wonder I keep having to fill it up. Expensive. And it’s bad for the environment.”

“Yes, you’re right,” I say, gritting my teeth. And breathing. We don’t want any bickering in the car. Especially since I’m the one that winds up red and shouty while they laugh.

So we’re paused at the lights again and I glance over at Eldest (who is happy to be driven and never comments on my driving, an ideal if constant passenger). I’m doing one of my almost unconscious offspring body scans, checking for new tatts, piercings, bruises, anything untoward that I should know about. (Hmm, piercings, even thinking about it takes me from zero to raging in the time it takes for the lights to change. Youngest’s Koh-i-Noor belly ring is giving her grief again. Please Nicola, when you’ve a moment, can you change the law so that BOTH parents’ written consent is required for under 16s to get a piercing. Just saying, grrrrrr.) Anyway, nothing to report on Eldest, so my rage returns to idling, and my gaze rests on historic sites.

“That scar on your eye, was that a chicken pox?” I ask.

“No! That was him!”

Aw no. Here we go.

“What? What?” says the Backseat Driver.

“That time you punched my eye. You only got that punch in because I wasn’t looking.”

“Ha. ha. I know, I timed it perfectly.”

“Who punches someone when they’re not looking?” says Eldest.

“The opportunist.”

“Quiet!” I shout. “Anyway you’d burst his lip!”

“Yeah,” says Backseat. “For nothing.”

“It wasn’t nothing!”

“A pair of boxers,” I shout. “Years ago!”

“It was socks,” says Middle. “If it had been boxers it would have been fair enough.”

“Yeah,” says Eldest. “Hey, that was our last fight bro.” They smile and sigh.

They’re laughing, I’m red and shouty, but at least I’ve stopped thinking about piercings. n