So, I’m currently learning to drive, after thirty years of bimbling about largely on foot. My driving test was originally scheduled for fifteen days after The Bee’s due date, but was postponed in deference to the colossal wave of tiredness and hormonal incompetence that I (correctly) assumed would overwhelm me once he arrived. I stopped having lessons two weeks before he was born, and between that time and now every trace I had possessed of clutch control, road sense, spatial awareness, and grace under fire deleted itself from my brain and muscle memory, to be replaced by a kind of bull-headed determination nonetheless to practice on the few and fraught occasions that present themselves. Because that’s how I roll. Unnoticed. Backwards. When I should have the handbrake on.
Learning to drive is not simple at the best of times. It’s not made easier if the driver is highly strung to the point of having a life ban from coffee consumption, or if she is old enough and melodramatic enough to possess a detailed mental catalogue of all the horrible things that can happen when fallible mortals get behind the wheel. And it’s definitely not made easier by packing into the car the two tiny and noisy and uncomprehending packages of living, breathing preciousness into which all your life’s resources are invested. Chuck in a dose of sleep deprivation, infuse into the mix the interpersonal friction born of being “supervised” by your naturally cautious life partner, and voila: driving postpartum became, for me, de facto a Ridiculous Thing to do. So I did it. And best of all, every single outing I had seemed to require me to park in a multi-storey car park.
For this one, I don’t have an edifying conclusion in which I Learn A Valuable Lesson. Unfortunately the valuable lesson — how the heck to park the damn thing, within a bay (just the one bay), without screaming or crying, and without redefining road rage (does it count if none of the parties involved is travelling at more than three miles per hour, and if you can’t actually swear because your half-parrot toddler is sitting right behind you soaking up every word?) — continues to elude me. And as punchlines go, “one time I stopped so far from the ticket machine that I had to actually climb out of the car to reach it, while a white van man behind us actually gave me a slow hand-clap” and “one time it took me longer to park than it had done to complete the entire cross-town drive to reach the car park” both leave a little to be desired. There may in fact be another valuable lesson, and it may be simply this: trying to practice driving at this point in one’s life is a Ridiculous Thing to do.