MEREWETHER resident Ruth Adams wrote in the other day congratulating Pelican person Brett Patrick on a letter he’d had published in the Herald entitled ‘‘Driving requires total attention’’.
Brett’s letter had been notable not because it was an instruction on how to get ahead in golf, although there was much wisdom in the heading on that front.
No, Brett had teed off on something braver than that.
He’d had the courage to point out, in public, that just because a mother has a child in the back seat of her car in a child restraint, and may be suffering what Brett termed “baby brain”, didn’t mean that mother was entitled to lurch to the right hand side of the road while texting.
I thought this brave because even though it’s obviously dangerous and illegal to lurch to the right hand side of the road with a child in the back seat of your car in a child restraint while texting, it’s even braver, nearly stupid in fact, for a man to say so.
Baby brain, as the experts will tell you, is the worst kept secret in the Mothers’ Secret Business handbook.
A delicate get-out-of-jail-free card employed for all manner of absentmindedness, from cracking eggshells into the omelette and yolks into the bin, to washing the clothes in the oven.
Sometimes mistaken as evidence for early onset dementia.
And definitely a no-go zone for guys, unless they’re out of earshot.
For a man to even consider venturing there, particularly in the Letters page, took almost by definition, balls, I thought.
No other gender could be so stupid. Perhaps Brett was attempting to confirm that men suffer their own peculiar version of baby brain.
In my experience, sisters don’t welcome dudes encroaching on certain sensitive types of turf.
As Brett quite bravely pointed out, regardless of baby brain, or potty mouth, driving requires total attention - often to what we say.
It’s like a guy pontificating on the pros and cons of breastfeeding v bottle.
It doesn’t matter how many Steve Biddulph books he’s read. Or how down he is with infant feeding. He just shouldn’t do it. Unless he’s lactating.
And even then, he should take care.
Having said that, Ruth thought Brett had made a valid point.
Which made me think there is hope yet that gender stereotypes can be more than just a platform for frivolous bloke jokes.
Maybe, just maybe, they could act as a segue into the main thrust of today’s column.
That is, our purpose as role models, unwitting or otherwise, when we drive cars.
It’s what Ruth pointed out in her letter after “well said Brett”, that really got my attention.
Because it went to the very heart of what role models we – mothers and fathers, men and women, of all relationships and persuasions – can be when we drive and there’s a kid in the back seat in a child restraint.
“Drivers need to be mindful they are role models for future drivers,’’ Ruth wrote. ‘‘Those in the child restraints are learning as you drive.”
This resonated with me because it got me thinking back to one of the first unfortunate words one of my darling daughters learnt from the comfort of the back seat child restraint back in the day when she was mastering the basics of the spoken word.
My partner and I had been rolling along, as you do when early with child – sleep deprived, frayed round the edges, discussing the news of the day.
Probably about how tired we were and how much poo and vomit we’d cleaned up that morning.
When possibly, just maybe, the f-bomb was dropped – 58 times.
I can’t be sure if it was 58 times, but if it was I blame baby brain. (Sometimes ‘‘sodding’’ just doesn’t convey the true emotion of what you’re trying to say – unless you’re Hugh Grant.)
Next thing you know, coming right back at us from the back seat, like a parrot:
“Mum ma. Da da. F-bomb.”
We’d been warned about this, but what could you say – apart from holy f-bomb.
No one was suggesting our child had a gift for language.
But the suggestion we were potty-mouthed parents hung heavy in the air.
Research suggests learning is the result of repetition ... but what would *(^* research know!!?
Oh well, shit happens, we concluded.
With that, the s-word rolled off the assembly line.
Kids are so clever that way.
F-bomb s-bomb. F-bomb, f-bomb ... s-bomb.
Darling daughter seemed to delight in her new words, and our alarm.
It took some coaxing to get her to swear she wouldn’t say those words in front of nan when we arrived.
Fast forward all those years later and Ruth was spot on when she said kids do learn as we drive.
And as Brett quite bravely pointed out, regardless of baby brain, or potty mouth, driving requires total attention – often to what we say.