Sixteen years ago I wrote a book “Help! I’ve Got A Baby’. Fast-forward seventeen years and I should be writing ‘Help! I’ve Got A Teenager’. In it I would list the top one hundred things that make life with teenagers less stressful. Once your children become teenagers, everything you do is embarrassing. It’s the knowing what not to do that it the real sanity saver.
The top one hundred things to avoid includes speaking loudly or drawing attention to yourself outside the house, dressing like Dolly Parton and hugging or showing any signs of physical affection in public. The number one thing to avoid, as I have just discovered, is never to drive around your local town with a roof-box on top of the car.
The roof-box is there because we drove across the Irish Sea a few weeks ago to see Grandpa. He is sick and these visits are becoming more frequent. Hence, we shall be heading back across the pond again in a few weeks time. The roof-box, bought ten years ago to make travel with four children much less squashed, is a practical, large grey plastic box shaped like a squashed torpedo.
“Don’t come NEAR my school with that THING on the roof” Diva Teen said last month. She is disgusted by it and now meets me half way homefrom school, on a small side road with no lights. That is not all. She crawls into the back seat and lays flat with her school bag on her head. Then we begin the long moan home.
“This is the most embarrassing car in Kildare”, then “Nobody else in the world drives around with an ugly roof-box”, then a muffled “You need to get privacy windows like the Kardashians. At least no-one could see me”. The muffled complaints come thick and fast from the back seat. “It’s like driving around with a boat on the roof”.
To save her from being seen, I have suggested that she gets in the roof-box for the school run. I even offered to put a pillow, sleeping bag, DVD player and mini fridge inside. I could probably get Wi-Fi up there and with a little help from a YouTube tutorial I might put in a little window too.
“It would be like your very own small tour bus. Just like Rhianna’s” I tried. She refused to crack a smile, not even a tiny one. “NOT funny”. “What about if I put in a flask of hot chocolate and an electric blanket?” Silence. That would be another piece of advice in my sanity saving manual; don’t try and be funny.
I am usually the one who has to put the heavy, awkward roof box on and take it off each time we go away. Our son is ten and has just been trained up to help. He is the perfect assistant, the ideal size to actually sit inside it and do up the screws with his little fingers. We both hate doing it and after the last trip, when I went out with him to take it off, he suggested weleave it on. I thought it was a good idea.
“I will never drive with you in daylight again” Diva Teen announced over breakfast last weekend. This roof-box rage has been going on for two weeks, much to the amusement of the rest of the family. I switched off to her protests because having a roof-box does have one big advantage. I can spot the car in less than two seconds in an open-air car park. If only I had stuck to open air car parks. Unfortunately, that day I didn’t.
We headed into Newbridge around 4pm when it was almost dark. As usual, I drove humming along to the radio and talking to myself. The passenger seat was empty. In the rear view mirror I could see Diva Teenlying across the back seats, with a blanket covering her whole body.
At the pedestrian crossing, people looked in with prying eyes. I find it a miracle that I was not reported for human trafficking, kidnapping or on suspicion of murder. “Are you alright there?” I asked her. “DRIVE” she replied. One word answers are the norm. If you have toddlers or small children, hold them tight and cherish them. All this, and more, is heading your way.
In Newbridge I drove optimistically towards the Courtyard multi story car park, planning to drive up the ramp and whirl up to the top floor for a parking spot. But as I got onto the ramp, a crashing, deafening thunder-like noise stopped me right in my tracks. I screamed. Diva Teen remained silent in the back.
I leapt out of the car to discover that I had smashed into the multi story car park ceiling, completely ignoring the ‘Maximum height 1.95m’ sign on the way in. I’d forgotton all about the extra height I was carrying on top of the car. Oops. Wedged, like a doorstop, in the car park. “WHAT have you done now?” Diva Teen poked her nose out from her hiding place.
I wanted to join her under the blanket but being the only grown up in a sticky situation, I carefully reversed out instead. A crowd of onlookers watched, accompanied by loud scraping noises from the roof-box and we slowly drove off. “This is the most embarrassing day of my life” Diva whispered. I think it might have been mine too. Until today.
Driving through Kildare, I came across a massive army truck at a standstill. It was wedged solidly under the low railway bridge, a mile out of town on the Rathangan road. A few red-faced soldiers stood around itscratching their heads.
Just as I was about to take a ‘selfie’ with them to prove everyone that I am not the only person who ignores warning signs I stopped myself. A selfie with a bunch of soldiers? Diva Teen would lock me in the roof-box forever.