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. 

 

 

 

The Perils Of Letting Your Kids Go

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Life definitely gets easier as your children grow up. You get to sleep again, go out again, enjoy free time again, but letting them go also has its drawbacks. When you release them from the nest and the clutches of your taloned feet, it means that they are free to make their own decisions, and sadly, sometimes those decisions are misguided.

 

I will hold up my hand and admit to you that I am that parent that sends links to Kurt of stories of kids that have overdosed on drugs. Worse, I attach subtle comments, like ‘Don’t make me this mum.’

 

And that’s why I feel so devastated for the parents of the young girl who was involved in a scooter accident and died in Bali this week. Because as parents of adult kids, we’ve all had sleepless nights and those ‘what if’ moments when our children don’t come home on time or don’t call when they say they will, and in the end you realise that the only way you move forward is to take the fatalist’s view of ‘what will be, will be.’

 

Anyone who has visited Bali will know that the scooter is the main form of transport over there. Until you’ve witnessed the horror of whole families, (as well as extended family members with groceries),  perched on the back of ONE scooter, you’ve never really experienced Asia. Safety helmets don’t seem to rate highly, either.

 

It’s the same in other poor Asian countries because the scooter is one of the cheapest modes of transport and add in infrastructure limitations and over-population problems, it makes sense for the locals. Less so for tourists. Certain statistics suggest that one Australian tourist dies on a scooter in Bali every nine days, which is f..cked up when all they are trying to do is embrace the culture.

 

For the over-anxious, among whom I am a master, ‘never get on a motorbike’ is up there with ‘don’t ever wear dirty undies’ (in case you get in an accident), ‘don’t lie on your CV’ and ‘never take pills at festivals’ on my ‘Non-Negotiable Things I Have Taught My Kids Not To Do’ list, something I have rammed down their throats since I first allowed them to leave the house by themselves at sixteen.

 

I’m not naive to think that they will adhere to these recommendations, of course, but I hope that the threatening sound of my voice in their head at that ‘shall I or shan’t I’ moment might make them think twice.  

 

The point is, when we’re not fully informed about the culture of a country, as much as it might be tempting to embrace all facets of its identity, sometimes it’s best to leave TF alone – like you do in countries where they serve delicacies such as fried tarantulas and cockroaches. And I know that goes against the grain of just about everything I said in my recent post here, about overriding fear and doing what you love – so sue me – I’m a woman and can be fickle whenever the fuck I want.

 

Coincidentally, I’m currently experiencing those early, nail-biting days of Kurt’s first month on the streets on his P plates. Unlike when NC first passed her driving test – when I’ve no doubt she was nudged at the lights a few times for slow starts, perhaps even pulled over for driving under the speed limit – I’ve noticed that the male approach to driving is very different. Their testosterone levels seem to put them back in the Land That Time Forgot and they become the hunter on the road and any brain development that should have taken place over the last however many centuries is temporarily lost.

 

I suspect that a decade worth of indoctrination from Jeremy Clarkson and his arrogant machismo has not helped either and that Kurt secretly believes he is the Stig.

 

Each time he takes the car and it is not returned to the front of the house within minutes of his anticipated arrival, I pace the hallway, imagining the worst. Last night, as I waited behind the front door for what I believed would be an inevitable knock from the police bringing bad news, in desperation, I texted his friend to see if he was with him – one of the most shaming acts the helicopter parent can resort to.

 

‘MOMMMMMM!’ Kurt said when he called me back immediately afterwards, and I could almost feel the heat from his cheeks down the phone line.

 

‘Well, answer your bloody phone next time!’ I responded, ‘AND NOT WHEN YOU’RE DRIVING!’

 

 

Those Trivial Things That Your Partner Does That IrritateThe F..k Out Of You In Your Relationship

newly-weds-couple-going-in-car-cartoon-vector_MJDPtkdd_LI haven’t mentioned the ‘big freeze’ that the old man and I survived last weekend. I’m contracted not to mention anything too personal about the status of our relationship, but suffice it to say that after an exchange of seriously cruel words – where I might have criticised how he cleans the bath and he might have retaliated with a vicious attack on the amateurish-ness of my writing – I sent him to Coventry and it lasted a whole, glorious three days.

 

I won, just saying.

 

With hindsight, not talking him for three days might not have been the worst punishment I could have meted out.

 

God, marriage is hard sometimes. Sometimes I’m forced to cling onto the fact that if you still feel some element of hurt, there must be something still there, right?

 

It’s quite amazing how much your other half can irritate the fuck out of you over the most trivial things when you’re already having a bad day. How the old man drives is a typical example, and one which is causing me to metamorphose into my grandmother who used to scream hoarsely from the backseat of the car every time my father drove.

 

The other night the old man and I went into the city. A rare treat for me, to get the old man off the couch and away from whatever minor golf championship is far more interesting than me, that could only be marred by the fact that the old man was driving us there in my car.

 

The problem is, the old man can’t drive my car. You see, I have the family car. The wagon. A car built to gently meander through traffic safely, allow us to enjoy the scenery and wait patiently and comfortably in traffic jams. Whereas he’s used to his teenage car, that sits low to the ground, snarls at red lights and snaps impatiently every time your foot hovers close to the accelerator.

 

After five emergency stops in rush hour traffic, the bile was waiting at the back of my throat. I can never understand why, when someone has an obvious braking problem, they have to permanently lick the butt of the car in front of them.

 

The other thing that shits me is that my husband never indicates. He expects other drivers to telepathically know that he wants to move out. He’s a lane hopper who never indicates.

 

‘If you indicate, they might KNOW you want to get out and let you in,’ I said in what I thought was a helpful, non-judgmental tone.

 

Silence.

 

‘Why don’t you indicate?’ I said again, a few minutes later.

 

Silence

 

‘I’m actually quite interested in the science of WHY you won’t fucking indicate?’ I tried for the last time to my partner who remained mute beside me, as I felt the twitch of a new cold sore forming on my upper lip and dug my finger nails into the palms of my hands to prevent me from screaming.

 

Is there anything more frustrating than a partner who won’t communicate in moments of marital crisis?

 

Fifteen minutes later we were searching for a parking space in an area that has one-hour time zones until you’re at least a train journey away from your destination.

 

I don’t know about you, but when I’m searching for a parking spot, I crawl slowly down the streets so I can spot any vacant space before the car behind me. But not the old man. His priority is to test the top speed of the family wagon on the side roads and then hope that by some miracle we won’t be fifteen kilometres past the only space in the west of Sydney by the time we spot it.

 

What does your partner do that irritates the fuck out of you?

 

 

Unparalled Fear, Parallel Parking, Teenagers and ADHD

Kurt is driving. *makes sign of the cross even though atheist*


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I said… another mad, irresponsible teenager has been let loose on the road. So if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself on the same piece of road as a young man in a silver Golf anywhere in the Lower North Shore, who is sat next to some crazy middle-aged female hyperventilating and dry-wretching out of the passenger window, I recommend you get out of the way.

Kurt driving is a huge deal for this over-anxious mother who is a direct descendant of the original Helicopter Parenting species. Several wiry grey hairs have already sprouted through my highlights, seemingly overnight.

 

I promise you, I tried everything to avoid this debacle of putting my son behind the wheel. I tried to control this event in much the same way I’ve tried to helicopter everything my children want to do that may put them in harm’s way.

(What parent doesn’t? It is becoming glaringly obvious to me now that ‘the fear’ never goes away because you have to let them spread their wings).

And then fate stepped in.


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Having told Kurt emphatically that I would not pay for his driving lessons until he reached the age of (at least) 45, (due to the higher risk of accidents kids linked between ADHD and driving, as well as the fact that he still can’t be trusted to take his medication and the worrying long-lasting effects of any self-medication that may or may not still be in his system), I have now been forced to capitulate.

In my opinion, no seventeen-year old boy should be allowed on the road. Maturity in a seventeen-year old boy is about as uncommon as energy in front of the sport on television in the middle-aged man, and furthermore, there is a suspicious relationship between the male and cars that is unhealthy. If only boys showed as much enthusiasm for learning other life skills, such as ironing and cooking, we would all be a lot happier.

And the thought of seventeen-year old boys WITH ADHD behind the wheel is frankly the stuff of nightmares.

But then I was faced with a conundrum – when Kurt’s equally juvenile seventeen-year old male friends began to pass their tests and drive my son around. MY SON! So I was cornered. Was it wiser to trust my son’s life to his silly friends or in his own hands?

Not much of a choice, is it? It’s so bloody frustrating when your teenagers refuse to let you control them.

So I had to back down. I decided that it was easier to blackmail my son into demonstrating some responsibility on the roads than to control his friends behaviour that is fuelled by the most dangerous drug of all, ‘peer pressure’.

At least, I thought, I would have time to get used to the idea. But no, because that disorganised son of mine with little or no focus, only fucking passed his Ls the same week he decided to drive, with no revision – in fact, he organized the whole fucking shebang – something kids with ADHD CAN do when they see a massive Dopamine hit as the end result.

Childishly and on principle, I obviously refused to get into the car with him until he’d survived a ridiculous number of very expensive lessons and his wonderful instructor, Jack, (who is obviously a saint), gave me the all-clear. And our first outing together will not go down as one of those special bonding moments. No, it wasn’t a pretty sight at all – psychotically anxious mother holding frantically to the safety handle of the car door with one hand and brown paper bag in the other, next to a teenager who thinks they are already an experienced Formula 1 driver.

Unparalleled fear, parallel parking, teenagers and ADHD
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‘Chill, mum,’ doesn’t pacify me, oddly, when my son consistently takes corners like he’s in a dodgem at the fairground and behaves as though he owns the road.

If you laughed out loud reading this post, leaked wee or even vaguely managed to identify with any of the middle-aged waffle contained therein, don’t be scared and follow my blog by clicking the ‘Follow My Blog’ button (derr!) at the top of this page, on the left hand side so that I feel loved. You can even follow my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mymidlifemayhem, and if you want to become the ultimate stalker, you can find me on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram too, where I lurk, (far more often than is healthy for my family and work), in the clever disguise of Louisa Simmonds.

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.