It’s time to put my child in the driver’s seat

This morning I realised with a hideous stomach churning lurch that in all likelihood, 2017 will be the last year I’m going to be driving my son to school. The 3:30pm pick-up will also soon be a memory of the past. And the loss is as profound as it is humbling (and heartbreaking).

There are signs of my child’s impending adulthood scattered throughout the house and throughout our lives. Not least is the fact that from next month he will be driving us to school with me sitting bolt upright in the passenger seat pressing an invisible brake with escalating urgency. It’s quite the metaphor for growing up really.

He is 16 next month and the journey from child to adult is veering precariously close to the adult line. Our conversations are beginning to change – I am finally learning to leave my inner child out of it and talk to him like the young adult he is. (I take credit for my brilliant parenting that he is more mature than I am). He has settled into who he is, his whole “vibe” is maturing and settling (and as an aside it’s a pretty damn awesome vibe).

He is at that level of brain development where he has his own firm thoughts and beliefs and he is not afraid to express them. It’s almost like the impending loss of the school run in how humbling and heartbreaking it is.

I think back to all our drives over the years from preschool to now and I can take off my rose tinted glasses for long enough to know that they weren’t all blissful and idyllic. It wasn’t just as talking about major life events while managing to avoid eye contact thanks to the brilliant architecture of cars. There were arguments about how late we were, about his face being stuck in an electronic device, there were my bad moods and there was traffic and real life and general grumpiness (from both sides). But there was also a comfort and ease in having him by my side. Even without the distance of perspective I can see how much we shared in those drives and I can feel, rather intensely, the joy I often felt as I was driving to pick him up after a particularly shitty day. As much as he was sometimes the fly in my ointment he was more often my balm.

And just like that the years of me in the driver’s seat, quite literally, are almost over. It’s time for me to allow him his chance at the wheel to drive us to school and god knows where else.

It feels like I am about to slide down that old woman warren where I get caught up in the joys of childhood and how much I loved having a small child who brought out the very best (and worst) in me, the dreamlike abyss of childhood wonder that makes you forget the crying, the tedious repetition, the mind numbing boredom, the screaming and crying and lack of sleep.

It’s not that distant that I don’t remember all that with crystal clear clarity but it’s close enough to ending that I realise how important it is to savour and remember, to hold it close and press it firmly into the folds of my brain so that I can remember it and cling to it whenever I need it.

This is not one of those mother-of-teen laments that implores you to enjoy every minute of your child’s life, I’m not reminding you that all it all passes so quickly and you only know what you’ve lost when it’s gone, I’m just reminding myself that I’ve had an awe-inspiring ride and it’s time to let someone else take the driver’s seat for now.

I hope my son makes as good a driver as he was a passenger. I think I have a lot to learn from him.

Thank you Luiz Antonio, for being the coolest kid on the internet

Luiz-AntonioGrowing up I was a meat and potatoes girl.  Literally.  I survived on chops and chips.  Occasionally just to gee things up a bit I ate spaghetti bolognaise, but that was about it.  As I grew older my taste matured and I started to eat different foods but meat and chicken were my staples.  I was very much a carnivore and to be honest, I was a little wary of vegetables.

I am not sure how the change happened or at what point my already overly sensitive nature decided to turn its focus on to food. But I do know that I started to think about where the meat I was eating came from and it made me feel distressed and in truth – it made me feel  extremely guilty.

For me it was not about eating animals as such, it was more about how the meat got to my plate.  I am under no illusion that an animal has to die before I can eat it and I knew it sure as hell wasn’t going to walk there but I worried about the journey that animal had made.  Death is one thing and, being a fatalist I can accept that, but it is the life that the animal experienced before death that really got to me.

I tried to pretend that cows chomped happily and idyllically on grass for the entirety of their lives before a sudden blow at the abbatoir made them into steak, but increasingly I heard the term “grain fed” beef.  I may not know a lot about farming or even biology but I do know that cows don’t naturally graze on grain.

I tried to pretend farmers spent their morning running after chickens that had, up until that very morning, roamed around the farm pecking at grain on the ground.  But I knew that the sheer number of eggs and chickens at the supermarket made that fantasy impossible to execute.

I tried to pretend that no-one in a humane society would ever torture animals by keeping them in concrete pens their entire lives with no access to sunshine, fresh air or place to stretch their muscles, but increasingly I discovered that I was wrong.

I made a conscious decision to stop eating meat, not because it is not healthy, not even because I don’t like the taste but simply because I could not condone cruelty to animals.  I am at peace with my decision, I feel better about my footprint on this earth and I feel healthier because of this (even if it is only my mental health that has been affected).  I only purchase meat for my family that has been ethically raised with respect and humanity.

Interestingly the only really big change I have had to make is acceptance.  I have had to take a crash course in being tolerant of those around me because, as much as I feel completely validated in my beliefs, I am equally conscious about not ramming my thoughts or opinions down anyone else’s throats – even those of my family.  I know that it is all too easy to cross the line between idealism and fanaticism. I do not want to be a zealot, I think that scares people. It doesn’t educate them and it certainly doesn’t open their minds.

Where others see packaged dinner, I see death.  I simply cannot understand how they don’t see the same thing I do but then I know many religious people who probably cannot understand why I don’t see God or salvation in the same way that they do.

Whenever I become hysterical about the plight of the animals or I balk at the rows and rows of packaged meat in the supermarket, the animal carcasses hanging in the butcher window or the ducks in the local Asian take away – I realise that my beliefs may not translate so easily to people around me.

Thank God then for kids like Luiz Antonio – who is quickly becoming an internet sensation after his “animal epiphany” was caught on film. Please watch the whole thing because although you’ll fall in love with him pretty quickly, there is no doubt you’ll fall in love with his mother by the end.

How is your relationship with meat? Do you eat some things but not others? How do you handle that watershed moment when your kids make the connection between the fluffy lamb they saw on a farm or in a book and the chop on their plate?

The study into motherhood that revealed nothing we didn’t know before

Questions and Answers signpostIn what can hardly be described as news, a study by online retailer  Littlewoods reveals that mothers are asked around 288 questions by their children in a typical day at home.

That’s shocking right? I mean my son must  clearly be above average.  He asks questions before he even opens his eyes in the morning.  But this survey focused on 1,000 mothers with children aged between two and ten and my child is twelve.

The Daily Mail reports

“It is during meal times when most questions are asked, with young children rattling off 11. This is closely followed by a routine trip to the shops, prompting ten.

Some 82 per cent of infants apparently go to their mother first rather than their father if they have a query. A quarter of children, 24 per cent, said they do this because their father will just say ‘ask your mum’.

In all, a mother’s knowledge is in such demand the study by online retailer Littlewoods.com found they are asked around 105,120 questions a year by their children.

The research found the number of questions asked by children differs with age and gender, with four-year-old girls being the most inquisitive. At the other end of the spectrum, nine-year-old boys are more content with their knowledge, asking a mere 144 questions per day.

Although the number of questions children ask falls with age, they increase in difficulty – so much so that 82 per cent of mothers admit they can’t answer them.”

Okay I am well within the 82% with my child asking me, amongst others, some of these doozies just recently

  • How does digital radio work?
  • How high up is space?
  • How do the weather people predict the weather and why does daddy say they can’t do their job?
  • If drugs are illegal because they make you act crazy and you can get addicted to them why isn’t alcohol illegal?
  • What is 29 cubed?
  • Why can’t I put this (glass with batteries in the base) in the bath, it isn’t electricity so how do the batteries actually work?

I almost  look back at the days of endless questions from a toddler with wistful romanticism.  I remember the persistent questioning, the relentless search for knowledge that felt like he just wanted a small piece of my sanity but I remember that I could answer nearly all the questions. (It helped that so many of the questions were the same just repeated a billion times).

But there’s one thing about motherhood that you can be certain of – as soon as you think some stage has passed forever  you get something like THIS every single night

“Can I stay up later?”

“Can I read a few more pages?”

“Why do I get thirstier in the night than I do in the day?”

“What are we doing tomorrow morning?”

“What time do I have to get up?”

“What if I don’t get up in time?”

“What is the weather going to be like tomorrow?”

“Can I wear sport uniform to school tomorrow even though it’s a uniform day?”

“Why is the sport jumper so much softer than the uniform jumper?”

“Did we buy this jumper or did Zach give it to us when he grew out of it?”

“Do you remember that TV show we watched when I was 3 and there was this guy in it that wore cool green pants?”

You have to love an inquisitive mind.

Do your kids ask a billion questions?