DISTRACTED DRIVING

Distractions are dangerous when driving. It’s why using your phone while on the road gets you a hefty fine from the police and the loss of demerit points.

Distractions are bad. We don’t need or want them when driving, but sometimes it’s out of our control. Like when the kids argue with each other in the back seats of the car or when you sneak a peek at the hot topless man jogging down the street. Sometimes distractions just happens.

The worst kind of distraction is the one you can’t even see… it’s called brain overload. You know, when you’re so in your own head thinking about upcoming bills to pay, scheduling appointments, grocery shopping items, how much washing you have etc. You’re thinking about the million and one things that need to be done.

Brain overload was quite possibly the reason for all the accidents and near-accidents that keep happening to me lately. A few weeks ago, while on my way home from school drop-off, I was in brain overload mode. I was thinking of the sale of the house, what to buy for dinner, the bills I had yet to pay, and a whole host of other unnecessary thoughts when I sideswiped a car.

I was driving around a bend of a single lane road. There was a parked car in my lane, and so I had to veer around it and drive into the opposite lane. As I was passing the parked car, another car driving in the opposite direction came past. Instead of waiting for me to past the parked car and get back into my lane, the oncoming car refused to give way and continued on. In order to avoid side swiping it, I pitched further towards the parked car and side swiped its side mirror. Does this make sense? Maybe the below picture will help.

Blue car: me

I heard the sound of smashed glass as I past and I knew without a doubt that I had hit the parked car. I parked and went to inspect the damage on my car. There was none. For about a second, I thought about driving off but immediately chastised myself for being a shit human being. I went to inspect the other car. The cap on the side mirror had fallen off and a bit of plastic was broken. Other than that, nothing else was damaged. I had my son with me, so we walked up to the nearest cafe to get paper and pen, and left my details under the window wipers.

I received a phone call later in the day. The old gentleman told me his wife had just passed and the car used to belong to her. He was going through a tough time in his life and that he was grateful for my honesty. So instead of going through insurance and costing me an arm and a leg in excess insurance money, he got his mechanic friend to fix it for a third of the cost. Luckily for me, as it was an expensive BMW sports car.

A few days ago I was innocently driving along when a Chopper Reid looking bloke in a Holden Commodore blew out from a side street and almost became a T-bone accident statistic. He had the audacity to stick his finger up at me, like it was my fault he didn’t give way. It rattled me quite a bit.

Blue car: me again

Then yesterday, I almost had another accident while doing a right turn into a highway. The car in the opposite direction did a left turn into the same highway and nearly collided with me. However, after my initial indignant reaction, I realised I was at fault as I was meant to give way first. I can’t chalk it up to distractions, it was simply ignorance.

Blue car: that’s right, me again!

My husband joked that because I’m an Asian woman, poor driving is to be expected. Actually, I don’t think he was even joking! He fully believes this stereotype of Asian women.

It got me thinking. Why do people believe stereotypes? Why do people subconsciously and consciously have oversimplified and overgeneralised beliefs about groups of people?

Does culture play a role? If we are raised in a culture and surrounded by a society that readily accepts certain stereotypes, are those biases programmed into our psyche?

What about media? It’s not uncommon for stereotypes to be exaggerated in movies and tv shows. Remember Apu from The Simpsons?

Anyway, my husband and I had a heated disagreement about stereotypes. He believes they play an important role and there’s a reason they exist. My counter arguments were that stereotypes limit people’s ability to be tolerant by encouraging prejudices and oversimplifies negative assumptions about groups of people in a hurtful way.

It was a pointless exercise as we have such different worldviews and cultural influences. In the end, the only thing we could agree on was this… stereotype and distractions aside… maybe, just maybe, I’m simply a bad driver.

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CHUMP CHANGE

There is the ‘fun’ parent and the ‘chump’ parent. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about, don’t even bother pretending that there’s no such thing. The ‘fun’ parent is the one who says yes to ice-creams for dessert on a school night, sides with the children for takeaway when dinner has been organised and spends more time with the better versions of the children. The ‘chump’, aka usually the mother, is treated like an emotional punching bag, expected to front for active duty 24/7, and rarely gets the appreciation they deserve.

I’ll give you an example of how I am the ‘chump’ parent. This morning, instead of waking at some ungodly hour, our 5-year-old son slept in. His sister and dad were in the kitchen having breakfast while I was on the potty. Our son woke up cranky and a bit alarmed to be alone in the bedroom. He hates being left alone anywhere and is basically afraid of his own shadow.

This was the interaction that followed:

From his bed, he yelled out “Mummy! Come!

“I’m on the potty!”

Whimpering ensued and with more force, he screamed “Mummy! Come NOW!”

“I’M ON THE POTTY!” I mean, come on! You can’t rush these things!

Not getting his way immediately, he had a meltdown of nuclear proportions.

“MUMMY! MUMMY! COME NOW! I WANT YOU TO COME NOW!”

You’re probably wondering why he didn’t ask the ‘fun’ parent to come, right? Why didn’t his dad go check on him? Because the ‘fun’ parent is also the clever parent who knows to avoid and not indulge a cantankerous child who woke up on the wrong side of the bed and in the throes of a temper tantrum. No one sane would bother to entertain this situation, no one except for the ‘chump’ parent. 

Later in the day, I got another reality check, a reminder that I was the ‘chump’ parent. We were sitting on a bench on the edge of the prep playground waiting to pick up our son from school. Today was his second day of prep transition where he got to meet his 2022 prep teacher and classmates. As there were forty-odd parents milling around the exit of the classroom, I was worried that our son wouldn’t be able to see us sitting so far away, so I moved to stand closer within the middle of the crowd. My husband hadn’t seen the need to move and stayed on the bench.

The children were told to wait on the verandah until they could see a parent and to inform their teacher before leaving. As I was frantically waving like the embarrassing parent that I am, our son had no problem seeing me. After notifying his teacher, he started running toward me clutching a piece of paper in his hand. Anticipating a hug, I smiled and bent down with my arms wide open, ready to embrace him.

Imagine my surprise to see him bypass my outstretched arms, veer left of me and continue towards his dad, who was sitting on the bench across the yard. I quickly dropped my arms and stood up. Awkward!

It wasn’t a deliberate act on his part. He was simply excited to show his dad, the ‘fun’ parent, the art he made during class. But geez, talk about epic burns! I wanted to clap and say, “Well played Sir, well played indeed.”

A friend of mine witnessed the encounter and burst out laughing, which made me giggle instead of being mortified with embarrassment because let’s be honest here, my son basically performed the equivalent of a fake high-five to me.   

I asked my husband if he saw what transpired, to which he replied, “Yeah, it was pretty funny. You should blog about it.” Hah! Of course, I was gonna blog about parental embarrassment. It’s the only way for me to process – a problem shared is a problem halved and all that.

Anyway, on the walk back to the car, our son engaged in an animated discussion with his dad about his time during prep transition. I tried getting in on the conversation by asking some relevant questions. 

“What kind of things did you do?”

“Who did you sit next to?”

“Do you know what your teacher’s name is?”

Maybe I wasn’t asking the right questions. Perhaps my voice sits in a frequency range that’s incompatible with our son’s hearing. More likely though, he has selective hearing and by selective, I mean he point-blank ignores me. Rude much? My husband does make an effort by reminding the children not to snub me, but it’s grating to need the favourite parent to intervene on my behalf. It’s even more annoying that I need a third party involvement to get the children to spare me a few minutes of their attention. This is another example of what a ‘chump’ parent has to deal with. 

Anyhow, it is a hard pill to swallow knowing that you’re not the favourite parent. Being the ‘chump’ parent doesn’t always feel good and can be pretty bruising on the ego. Apparently, people say that children will often act poorly with one particular parent, often mums, because they feel safe and secure in your love for them and so, are comfortable letting loose with their emotions. 

But here’s the thing, when our children are hurt, sick or in need of comfort, they come to me. It’s in those moments that they relish my warm hugs and comforting touch. And it’s in those moments that I know, without a doubt, that I mean more to them than just being a ‘chump’ parent. 

Perhaps I’m looking at this all wrong. Instead of thinking of myself as the ‘chump’ parent, maybe it’s high time I consider myself the ‘comfort’ parent.

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THE POWER OF A NAG

Have you heard a child nag before? It’s the most annoying sound in the world, worse than any earworm song I’ve ever heard. It’s repetitive, going on and on like the wailing sound of a fire engine, but without an ounce of the melodious upbeat tempo. Seriously, you could put the sound of a child nagging on repeat and you’d have the perfect torture weapon.

Anyway, as a parent, the minute one of my children starts a nagging sesh, I get the dreads. You know the one I’m talking about? No? Well, let me explain. The dreads is like an evolutionary coping mechanism for parents. Think fight or flight response for when humans face danger, but instead it’s when parents face nagging children. The dreads activates a parent’s automatic coping mechanism whereby their mind and body goes into survival mode.

Parents in dread mode are easy to spot, their eyes tend to glaze over, some mumble incoherently to themselves, most shut down their auditory function. All these responses help fortify their mental shields to ward against exposure to sudden nag attacks. 

Undoubtedly, without this evolutionary behaviour, most parents would fall prey to the nagging wiles of their children. Unfortunately, the dreads brings about the onset of the ageing process. We literally age faster while suffering from a child’s nagging. 

Why am I harping on about this? Well, I recently fell victim to a nag attack, and feel an obligation to tell my story as a warning to would-be parents and parents alike of the dangers of giving into your child/ren. In this instance, I was blindsided by not one but two children nagging at a force of 10/10. No amount of defence or coping mechanism could protect me from that kind of onslaught, I caved faster than a house of cards. The result? I became a mother to three instead of two needy beings.

Yes, we’ve added another to our brood of four, a wee one my children have aptly named Mr Dave Hobart Turtle. One child wanted the name Dave while the other preferred Hobart. Neither were willing to compromise and so the poor turtle copped both names. I guess it’s a bit similar to hyphenated surnames, why keep to one when you could have two? 

Little Dave became our ward after suffering from neglect at the hands of my trigger-happy-retail-spending dad, who thought he could buy a couple of turtles to put into his fish tanks without doing any research on how to properly care for them. In the end, my dad relinquished his ownership when one of the turtles died and he realised turtles weren’t as easy to care for as fish. 

Despite initially being reluctant to have yet another thing to worry about, Dave has really grown on me. He’s been with us for two weeks now and every morning when he swims excitedly against the glass waiting for his food pellet, I can’t help but smile. I imagine he would say, ‘Good morning my lady, thank you for the lovely breakfast spread!’ You know, because he’s polite like that.

He was a bit skittish at first but now, Dave and I are like BFFs. We have a connection you see. Dave trusts me enough to eat right from my fingers. He will even let me rub his head – or at least that’s what I think I’m doing. Unlike a dog, it’s a bit hard to tell if I’m petting him or pushing his head down further into the water.

My husband thinks I’m crazy to think the turtle and I have bonded. My daughter, who was sick of me gloating about Dave letting me rub his head, decided to prove me wrong. Yesterday, she stuck her finger into the tank and shattered any illusion I had about special relationships. The dirty little bugger let her rub his head!

‘See Mummy, he just wants food. Doesn’t matter who puts their fingers in. You’re not special.’

Ah, Dave. I thought we had a thing. I thought we had a special bond, you and I. Remember the time I stuck my finger into your tank, and you came right up and sniffed it? Or that time you almost climbed on my hand? I thought we were BFFs!

Anyway, I still feed Dave every morning despite his betrayal. Now when I see him staring at me with his beady eyes, I imagine him being a bit more like my children. Instead of his polite aristocratic English accent, I imagine Dave nagging like my children, ‘Mummmmmmyyyy, I’m huunggggrrry! Where’s MY foood?’ I’ll bet it won’t be long before he reaches Pre-Teen Turtle age and starts rolling his eyes at me. I expect he will be turning his turtle back on me in no time. 

Back to my nagging point. It’s like children are pre-programmed with advanced psychological warfare techniques, primarily well-versed in the art of negotiation and harassment tactics. Can you imagine a world where children got what they wanted because they nagged their parents to death? A world where children won’t take no for an answer? It’ll lead to a generation of spoiled and entitled brats, who will grow into a bunch of spoiled and entitled adults, and the cycle will continue and doom Earth.

As a parent, I have a responsibility to curb the entitlement and mold these children into well-rounded and good human beings. Therefore, it is important they take accountability and responsibility for their pet turtle. This means being involved in the cleaning of Dave’s tank and feeding him (under my supervision). Have you seen turtle poo? It’s hard to believe a small turtle can drop such big whoppers. And the smell… bleugh, worse than bog water on a hot stinky day.

So without further ado, please welcome the newest addition to our family, Mr Dave Hobart Turtle. Let’s hope he survives the week under the care of my children.


Update 18/11/21: For those of you who are curious to see what a turtle poo looks like…

Spot the poop!

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