Car Insurance, Teens, And Just How Far Parental Responsibility Extends

key-791390_960_720Insurance is one of those dirty words that you only have to deal with once you grow up – kind of like calories and tax – and as a serial procrastinator, I always found that it was best left well alone until I needed it. But from my perspective as a parent, it is an issue that gets entangled in the question of how much we continue to support our kids once they become adults – and a tricky one. For as much as we want to support their growing independence, in certain areas such as car and health insurance, the penalties for youth are unfavorably high and that decision may not necessarily be the right one, for any of the parties involved. 

Married to an accountant, I’ve never been given a free hand with the administration of our personal finances, (nor have I ever had very much money to spend), but we have taken a stereotypically gender-based view of who deals with which insurance. I tend to sort out the house stuff because I know exactly how much our eighteen-year-old Ikea furniture is worth (sobs), while he has adopted car and health insurance.

Insurance becomes super-complicated once your kids pass their driving test, as anyone with young adult drivers in the house will testify. Super-complicated, as in super-fucking-stupid-expensive, and while on the one side, you want to encourage their independence, (in the vain hope that they’ll move out quicker), on the other, you’re not sure why you have to remortgage the house for them to trash your car. 

If you looked too closely at the statistics of accidents caused by young, inexperienced drivers, you’d never let them get behind the wheel of a car (and certainly not your own). And while the statistics for young adults are terrifying, the statistics for young adults with ADHD are Roseanne Barr-on-Ambien-terrifying, hence the reason we refused to get in the car with Kurt for a very long time, in spite of him being a naturally fast adept driver as a result of his online twelve-year apprenticeship with Top Gear.

We have regretted that decision many times over the past year as each corner of the old man’s car has been reshaped, (although neither sibling has taken responsibility as of yet), and Kurt has accumulated more parking and speeding fines than earnings.  But fortunately, Australia is a nanny state that doesn’t take kindly to free spirits – quite rightly in this instance – and as such, it is unlikely that Kurt will remain in the driver seat for much longer. A fact that didn’t stop him this weekend from going out with a bang. Literally. A minor one, fortunately, thanks to the robustness of the undercarriage of the old man’s car and the softness of the terrain of the roundabout he chose to bypass on his midnight hunt for Coco Pops. However, one that will seriously dent the wallet with an excess on our insurance policy that equates to the cost of Meghan Markel’s wedding dress, meaning anniversary plans may have to be scrapped, and the old man has yet to utter a sentence without a liberal sprinkling of the F word.

Kurt will pay for the damage, over time – no doubt via interest-free installments over the next decade to the bank of mum and dad – and I know I should be grateful that he (or no one else) was hurt, but it has taken all of my strength this week not to call those parents in the US who sued their son to get him out of their home, for a lesson in just how far parenting responsibility extends.

When Your Kids Think They Can Tell You How To Drive

The old man and I are going on a five-day mini break this week. He will drive, because he always drives when we are in the car together and I am having my lips surgically sewn together, temporarily, to avoid any mistimed comments about his driving.

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I gave up the driver’s seat a while ago because the old man’s constructive criticism in regard to my own abilities nearly caused our deaths, several times. Not that the odd comment in relation to his skills doesn’t escape my mouth, but these days I use other, less incendiary actions to demonstrate my fear, such as engaging my foot with the passenger seat carpet, grabbing at my seat belt like we’re going down in the Titanic or simply gasping dramatically each time he aims for a cyclist.

 

We tend to get a bit more anxious about safety when mortality is staring us in the face and the reality hits home that it’s all just a numbers game. I can’t stand being in the car with either of my kids when they drive, either – because one is a lunatic and the other is the best female example of road rage I’ve ever prayed to a god I don’t believe in, to spare me.

 

I hasten to add, that the feeling is mutual. And while I am proud that my children have developed intelligent, questioning minds and vociferous opinions, their right to comment about my driving remains questionable.

 

Neither of them passed their tests until recently, yet both believe they are better drivers than me. You see, I am a Steady Eddy behind the wheel – aka SAFE – a result of my last job where one of my responsibilities was to drive clients around, often with small children, their lives in my hands. So I don’t exceed the speed limit, I stop on the orange light, I welcome everyone in front of me in my lane – even the ass-hole who has snuck up the inside to avoid the queue – and I never cut anyone up. I am the driving version of Mother Theresa, and being typical Millennials with their burning need for instant gratification and to reach their destination asap, Mum’s scenic route and the enjoyment of sitting at traffic lights to watch the world go by is downright annoying to the kids.

 

Kurt can’t keep his commentary on my driving to himself. This is the boy who got his license less than a year ago, his first fine two hours after his test, as well as a suspension – not for dangerous driving, I hasten to add – yet he believes that he is a more natural driver than I am, with thirty years experience behind me.

 

‘Don’t go! Don’t go!’ he shouts sarcastically, pushing his foot down on his own invisible brake pad as I wait for the road to clear completely, like Jesus parting the sea, before I attempt to cross it.

 

Or…

 

‘Let’s just sit at these lights and watch the pretty colors change again, shall we, Mum?

 

And…

 

‘Steady on, Speedy, we’re in a sixty zone and you just hit forty.’

 

Ha…bloody…ha!

 

He seems to have forgotten that WE taught HIM to drive, at great cost to both our wallet and our sanity, and that even after our anxiety reached a level that only Diazapan could handle and the night sweats about roundabouts and right of way kicked in, we remained calm and carried on. He appears to have forgotten that I have been driving since before I picked his father, indeed a very long time before he was even a twinkle in the eye of that sperm on a mission that night. He doesn’t know that I have driven across Europe by myself, crossed borders and frontiers and that I passed my test first time. He doesn’t appreciate, that apart from an unexplainable draw to columns in car parks and a tendency to drive straight through drive-thrus without stopping,  I am a woman and an excellent driver. 

 

 

 

Driven Insane By Kurt Cobain.

So I got a new motor this week.

 

kurt cobain
kurt cobain (Photo credit: seattlewhat)

I can’t say it was a purchase that the old man took lightly – as many of you know, there is very little manoeuvrability within the old man’s pockets – but after fifteen years of nagging and providing him with several very valid reasons as to why I was stealing his golf membership money, (that include the safety of our children and having a GPS that can actually direct me from A to B), he finally caved in.

 

And I’ve surprised myself by becoming very precious about this new car.

 

Which is funny, because I consider myself to be a normal woman when it comes to cars and aside from the colour, I really don’t give a fuck about or understand a damn thing about engine size, petrol consumption or those other minor specifications that men masturbate over.

 

But one particular male in our household has been particularly excited by our new purchase – he, (who along with ‘The Medicinal Benefits of Cannabis’) who is studying Top Gear as one of his electives for his HSC and who refers to Jeremy Clarkson as Dad.

 

Which has caused some personal distress for me in my new motor because he just keeps touching things.

 

Normally our car journeys together are a time where Kurt and I reconnect, albeit to the background noise of some god-awful music that he has recently discovered so that I can’t even hear the GPS let alone her wonderful mispronunciations of Australian street names, and I turn into my mother.

 

‘TURN THAT MUSIC DOWN!’

 

When the old man got a new car a few years ago, Kurt and the Spoodle Princess were forbidden entry, but because my car has been categorised as the ‘family’ car (aka The Pit), I have to share it with the parasites and pretend to be tolerant.

 

There is tolerance and then there is being a fucking saint of a parent, which as you’ve probably realized by now, I’m not.

 

I took Kurt to his drumming lesson yesterday. Ordinarily, this is a ‘happy’ journey together because he is excited at the prospect of beating the fuck out of a drum set and pretending it’s his parents, and I get a useless hour to wander around Leichhardt in search of a decent coffee from one of those lovely Italian restaurants that are never open when I am there.

 

Generally, on the way back home we catch up on what Kurt has been doing that he shouldn’t be doing, while we sit in rush hour traffic.

 

But yesterday was different because the new car has changed the usual dynamics of my one chance per week to be a good parent. I admit to feeling on edge about Kurt touching my new toy and playing aggressively with the controls within my first twenty-four hours of ownership. ADHD kids like touching, taking apart and sometimes destroying as a mode of learning and I wasn’t ready to sacrifice my car, yet. Horrible memories of a similar situation came flooding back of when the old man and I bought our first sofa together some twenty years ago from this posh shop in London. On the first night, while we were sleeping and I was dreaming of its beautiful latte upholstery, one of our cats decided that the sofas arms were better than any scratching post she’d ever seen and clawed the fuck out of both them and my precious sofa was completely ruined.

Veteran Car Dashboard
Veteran Car Dashboard (Photo credit: photographia magnetica)

 

I felt really sad and a little bit sick every time I sat on that sofa over the next ten years and the experience cost the old man five years of therapy as well the re-upholstery costs.

 

Kurt knows that when he pushes the electric window buttons and the automatic door lock button constantly that I become agitated, and this new car has a veritable smorgasbord of interesting buttons to push. He then proceeded to yank at the fragile-looking stick-thing (that I give one month max) that controls the GPS and radio (that’s if you know how to use it) and I remember thinking at that point, ‘thank fuck, we didn’t get the sunroof.’

 

And as we sat on the Harbour Bridge, bumper to bumper, I began to hyperventilate so loudly that I couldn’t even hear Barbie’s frantic commands of ‘turn around where possible’ on the GPS, took the wrong turn and began heading back to Parramatta, which provoked Kurt to roar in rage that even with a GPS I could still get fucking lost.

 

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when he turned Nirvana up so loudly and proceeded to drum in time with his drum sticks on my new, perfect dashboard. I stopped the car and told him calmly that unless he could behave like a sixteen year old rather than a three year old, he would have to walk home.

 

Or maybe…. I did an emergency stop, (destroying my new brake pads), stormed out of the car and tried to yank him out of the passenger seat like a crazy woman, bellowing expletives that even I didn’t know I knew.

 

I haven’t played the ‘get out of the car right now’ parenting card for at least five years but at least this time it wasn’t dark and he was wearing trousers.

 

I know that one shouldn’t get prissy about material things and that relationships are more important, (thank you Pinterest), but sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of what is important.

 

Mr Cobain has been warned that next time I will leave him there.

 

 

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The Impending Trials Of Being A One Car Family

A Batmobile replica on display at Six Flags Gr...
A Batmobile replica on display at Six Flags Great America, in front of Batman: The Ride. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We sold the Batmobile this week.

Parking in Gotham was just getting too hard, even though the old man did shed some unwanted Christmas kilos walking from whichever parking spot he could find in the next suburb.

So we have become a ‘one car family’. Which almost sounds as though we’ve suddenly become all environmentally kosher or Gillardesque and might be actively seeking to reduce our carbon footprint.

I’m afraid not.

It all started with the GROSS MISREPRESENTATION of the real estate agency who marketed our new rental property as having a double garage.

A ‘double’ garage for a Smart car or Mini, perhaps.

Or maybe they expected us to suspend one car from the rafters and breathe in really deeply whilst parking the other. We still wouldn’t have been able to open the doors, of course.

Yet our local council still rejected our application for a parking permit, which would have enabled us to PARK IN OUR STREET, (you can see how well I’ve accepted their decision and am not bitter at all). They then helpfully advised us to exchange our current cars for two Minis.

Serious f*cking compassion for the high rates we pay.

When you can’t beat the system, something inevitably has to give and so the old man has made the decision to cycle to work instead (*laughs hysterically*).

We give it a week.

Luckily he has a few other transport options at his disposal. As there is no doubt in my mind that the bike will be advertised on Gumtree by this time next week, I have supportively checked out both the ferry and train timetables. You do get choices in terms of transport closer to the city when you pay an exorbitantly ridiculous rent. He could even walk if he knew how to walk, (rather than that annoyingly slow shuffle he calls ‘walking’).

However, there are obvious pitfalls to us becoming a ‘one car family.’ Mainly because neither of us is very good at sharing.

The problem with him selling the Batmobile (aside from spoiling the fun Nerd Child and I used to have speeding around the city pretending to be Serena and Lily from Gossip Girl), is that we now have to rely on my old banger. The old man has always rather disingenuously referred to my car as ‘the pit’. If I had a dollar for every time he’s angrily glanced around at the chaos in my car, tutted in that disappointed way and said, ‘you haven’t really looked after your car, have you Lou?’ I’d have enough money to leave him by now.

(As a side note, can someone tell me exactly when our partners morph into our f*cking fathers?’)

I’m not proud of the state of my car, but unlike the Batmobile, my car serves as a multi-tasking family car which not only ferries teenagers, pets, furniture and garden clippings, but also handily doubles up as a rubbish bin when not in the vicinity of an alternative waste solution.

It is not a museum.

It is a compact car/trailer hybrid, that spends half its life trekking to the aforementioned waste disposal site to take all our f*cking leaves away (Marriage And The Secret To A Good Rake), and it does an admirable job and therefore should be appreciated, not criticised for it’s personal hygiene issues.

The old man’s car had remained in the same virginal state as the day he drove it off the dealer forecourt (promptly losing 20% of its value, two years ago). The words ‘pristine’ and ‘precious’ spring to mind, with its shiny black paintwork, ‘bone’ coloured interiors and seats that could be adjusted electronically. (The ADHDer particularly enjoyed adjusting those seats when the old man was driving).

No one was allowed in that car without a special pass or full body search. Including me.

I can’t remember a single family outing in that car when the old man didn’t lose his temper over the kids daring to breath on the leather interiors, touching the backs of the seats with their shoes or the dog catapulting herself out of the boot and clinging on to the seat backs with her claws as she fell to the floor. I remember borrowing it once and allowing the kids to eat Maccas in the back – the old man couldn’t even look at me for a week.

So sharing MY car should add an interesting dimension to our relationship. We will need some rules, like NOT GETTING ANAL OVER UNIMPORTANT THINGS, not SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF, LIVING a little.

We have already created a booking system where I have been forced to introduce a ‘sexual favours’ column just to get access to my car. And as we will be spending more time together in the car now, there will be the increased opportunity for back seat driving, (which is up there with ‘spending too much money’ in terms of potential for creating marital friction).

The old man drives like…. well, an old man. When we first arrived in Australia he stupidly accumulated ten points driving like some middle-aged hoon, which forced him to rethink his driving skills for fear of either a) losing his license, or worse b) having to mix with the proletariat on the bus.

Having driven executive cars for a long time, he also can’t park to save his life. He has become completely reliant upon the Batmobile’s new-fangled reverse camera. When he drives my car I have to get out of the car to navigate him into a spot – like middle-aged people do.

Interestingly, the only damage I have on my car currently was from the time that he reversed down a sloping drive in the dark, taking out a friend’s mailbox.

Sharing one car now could turn out to be almost as exhilarating as sharing one bed.

The Secret To Getting Through Monday

I Don't Like Mondays - JohannakiSir Bob’s words, “Tell me why, I don’t like Mondays’, were the first words to assault my  mind yesterday.  A sign. Not good. I rolled heavily out of bed and slithered into a mass of hormonal dourness on the floor.

Music has that ability to capture those special moments.

Some days just start badly, particularly Mondays. No milk in the fridge (in fact no food), belly the size of a five-month gestation and a large angry pimple on my chin (I’m in my forties for Christ’s sake) – not the best way to start a week. Even the fearful look on the dog’s face couldn’t salvage my mood, even though I usually take such perverse pleasure from my domineering status as her ‘master’. Having to love unconditionally must really suck.

There were a million things I could have blamed my Mondayitis on, other than the old man, who fortunately had to earn our living and so was unavailable for target practice:

  • the beginning of school holiday hell with no concrete plans
  • PMT (you think?);
  • the frustrating incapability of the scales to lie
  • the fact that the newish car, (four wheel drive, ugly as f..k, but SAFE, in the right hands) only purchased for reliability, blatantly refused to power into life when I most needed it to. (My conjugation of the verb ‘to walk’, which I thought was funny, was met with stony stares and contempt from the FML teenagers).
  • the fact that no car = no food

By 9am the dog looked depressed.

Flat battery, apparently – the car that is! Something to do with teenagers + car reading lights + lack of common sense. Of course it was my fault, for not explaining to them the intricacies of ‘circuits’ (that I think they cover every year in the science syllabus from the time they can draw a light bulb). Scientific Fact: leaving car lights on for 48 hours does affects battery performance (don’t ask me why). As I now owe $55 worth in unpaid Top Gear DVD rentals, was it so wrong of me to assume that Jeremy Clarkson has some educational responsibility? Just saying.

The roadside assistance ‘gods’ fixed the car, proving a point to the old man (again), that insurance is not a rip-off (when you need it).

Picture of Jeremy Clarkson, on the set of Top ...
Picture of Jeremy Clarkson, on the set of Top Gear (current format) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But who’s going to fix me?

Can I really blame the day, or the hormones for that matter – maybe it is just general ‘disillusion’? I knew that furtive chapter of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey‘ was dangerous territory, that it might lead to a sense of disatisfaction; I’d been warned at Bookclub.

I could blame my despondency on any number of events: the blog post that failed to ignite a ‘like’; the obstinacy of a teenage son who refuses to do anything I want him to do, in particular washing of the nest he calls a hairstyle; the dull, yet persistent back ache or even the persistent (and irritating) dog who is perpetually under my feet, eager for a walk that I feel no enthusiasm for; or just another bad hair day.

Did I mention I’m pre-menstrual?

‘Tell me why!’ I growl to myself, distractedly, as I swill porridge made with water, (without gagging) and try to reorganize the day – minus car, ‘joie de vivre’, and energy.

That heady ‘potential’ of last Friday night now seems a lifetime away, when we opened the first of several bottles of expensive wine to celebrate surviving the week. Five days of simply ‘existing’ loom ahead.

It’s not that I need affirmation of the good in my life; there is an abundance of greatness. I do, however, need to stop ‘sweating the small stuff’. And I definitely need to control the existentialist demon within me from materialising, on a monthly basis. Sometimes I feel insignificant, embarrassed by my pathetic contribution to life’s grand scheme, and I forget the importance of my responsibility on the home front. The old man reminds me that I will contribute one day….. financially.

The hormones are definitely to blame.

The dog makes a final desperate stand, bleating like a lamb by the front door. Somewhere, in the stony recesses of my heart, I discover some benevolence. It’s not her fault I can be such a cow!

And later, as I focus on the big issues while scraping dog-poo into a bag, ‘Roll Away Your Stone’ (Mumford and Sons) comes onto my iPod, and I have an epiphany.

I rush back home to my precious ‘unit’, to start the day again, because ‘time waits for no man’.

‘Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.’ (Berthold Auerbach)

Top Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com – ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ by Johannaki