Youngest Child is in the driving seat - Janet Christie

Janet Christie's Mum's the word

Keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Pic: Getty Images

It’s dark, driving rain (usual Festival weather, except… well, you know), and I’m collecting Youngest from work.

If she’d just got the bus she’d be home by now, but she’s been sent across the city to another branch and I offered. She’s been waiting… and waiting.

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“Sorry, “ I say as she jumps in out of the storm.

S’ok. Thanks for coming. Wanted to see you anyway,” she says, choosing choons as I drive off.

“Aw…” I say. Or should it be more “Oh…?”

“How was work?” I say.

“Brilliant.”

“What is it about selling fried chicken?”

“Grilled, Mother, how many times. Sorry, but I’m sick of people saying it’s fried. And they have vegan/veggie stuff.”

She’s grinning like Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire Cat. Something tells me it’s not the GRILLED chicken.

“Passed my course,” she says, rattling off initials.

“Another consonant please.”

More initials.

“Oh yes. You told me earlier. And I am VERY proud of you. Must get you something for passing. New PJs or ...?”

“S’ok. Already treated myself.”

I’m focusing on puddles and potholes, but I can hear a grin from the passenger seat. Almost a smirk I’d say.

“Oh?” Keep your eyes on the road, hands on the wheel.

“Yes. Got myself a piercing.”

Steady, deep breaths.

“Ha, ha,” I manage. “You got me. So what did you REALLY get yourself?”

“A piercing.”

Grip the wheel harder, say nothing, think. When Youngest says the kitchen ceiling has collapsed or there’s a boy on our roof, she’s always telling the truth.

We stop at the lights. I allow myself a quick skek at her. Not the face. She’s done the belly, the nose, the lobes – all closed up again of course, only a discreet wee stud at the tip of one ear remains. So…

“I’m telling you while you’re driving,” she says, “because we both know you over-react and don’t really mean it, and later say it’s my body, it’s up to me, I’m legally old enough, I’m doing all the after care and you’re actually fine with it… Mum, go. Go! It’s a green light.”

I might be the one with my hands on the wheel but I’m definitely not in the driving

seat.

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