Thursday, 9 January 2014

Out of the Mouths of Babes

If you have children of 5 years or over, and are a car driver, then you will (if you haven’t already) one day discover a strange phenomenon known only by London cabbies or Limousine chauffeurs – that of the Invisible Ear.  That is, from the moment that your progeny starts to bring friends home for tea, or in the spirit of good mumminess you offer to give a wayward child a lift, or it’s your turn to do the football run, or indeed (as has once happened to me) a strange child simply clambers into the back of the car and demands to be taken to my house (I didn’t), as the driver, you suddenly become invisible.  Gone then are the two most important things that your children will say to you every day 1) what they ate for lunch  2) what are they having for dinner? 

Instead, their friend brings out of your child more information than you have ever done, and what amazing information that is – unless of course you make the stupid mistake of joining in, in which case if it’s the teenager involved, he merely looks at you wishing that you would instantly explode, if it’s the preteenager, he rolls his eyes and says that you’re really sad, and if it’s the 9 year old he and his friend become instant mutes and giggle on the back seat pretending to shoot you with their fingers…

But if you stay quiet and carry on driving, they carry on talking.  I now know why in my twenties, even thirties, all right… maybe a little into my forties, I would get into taxis with my mates after a night out, and at the end of the journey the driver would be laughing.   It is because, once those car doors close, there is a false sense of privacy, a feeling of shutting out the rest of the world, a space in which to release all that information that is rushing around your head, be it muzzy with alcohol, dizzy with teenage hormones or sparking with prepubescent neurons.

A friend of mine F, whose turn it was to do the netball run, set off in the car to pick up her daughters friend.  F rolled up to the house at 8.30 am in her duvet coat and wooly scarf, beanie shoved on her slightly hungover head, feet trussed up in wellies, teenage daughter in a strop.  The other mother A opened the door impossibly coiffeured and impeccably dressed in a crisp white t shirt and blue jeans, with casually low slung converse boots and not a scrap of make up.  Inwardly F marveled at how great A looked for her age, A was, after all, an older mum, as she bundled the girls into the car.  As she drove off, her daughter turned to her friend with a sigh and said ‘Your mum is soooo cool, she wears fab boots. And she looks sooo cool – I really love her hair, and she’s so pretty.’  F studiously carried on driving although her ears were reddening.  The other girl stopped BBMing on her phone and turned to her daughter, ‘You wouldn’t have said that a couple of weeks ago – she had a chemical peel and bits of her face were dropping off all over the place and she looked like an angry baby.’

Because of the car, I can now proudly talk as an expert on the merits of Xbox versus Playstation, can tell you why the England Cricket team are hopeless, what the best school dinner is, whose single is really the best in the Top 40 regardless of statistics, and who is the fittest girl in Year 4 (and why the girl with an ipad mini and an iphone doesn’t rank).  Other mums who have ferried my kids to places have told me what I wear in bed (or not), which of my children received a bona fide Valentines card (or three) and didn’t tell me, who we entertained for dinner at the weekend, and what I am getting for my birthday…

It does not, however transcend the Teachers Ear Syndrome, which thanks to several friends of mine, have kept us entertained on many a night out.  I asked one friend how her new posting was working out.  She said that a five year old Irish boy with the face of an angel had told her that his mummy thought she was much better than the ‘focking halfwit’ of a teacher that he had had before.  She was torn between correcting his language and defending her predecessor…

Perhaps though, it is best to enjoy the Invisible Ear phenomenon for what it is – a sign that your kids are growing up, learning to express themselves no matter what their age or style, and testing out their ideas and opinions in a contained (and motorized) vehicle. 

Just sit back, and enjoy the ride…