Without meaning to sound big headed or smug, it’s a fact that Mrs Lighty passed her driving theory test with full marks and her driving practical test first time. And I can say that without sounding big headed or smug when I follow it up with this next statement: I absolutely hate driving. Like with a passion akin to a phobia. Just the thought of it freaks the hell out of me, and with this in mind, I haven’t driven for – oooh – about 18 months now. I mean, what’s the point of passing first time, if you then go on to barely drive?! Stupid Mrs Lighty.
That’s not to say, however, that I wish I didn’t feel this way. That I’d love to be able to hop into a car as most other people I know do, and pootle off to wherever it is that Baby Lighty and I are headed that day. But something inside me means that I just can’t.
Of course, since Mr Lighty drives the family car to work, that also stops me from driving during the week, but it’s also a convenient excuse a lot of the time. So what exactly is it that has stopped me from driving, if not the car itself?
Well, it all started a long time ago…when Mrs Lighty was about 21 in fact. I’d passed my test at 18, but didn’t have the means to buy a car. So when Daddy Hatchy upgraded his car, and offered me his old one, I jump-started at the chance. Only trouble was, it was an automatic, and I’d learnt in a manual…and it seemed exceptionally heavy to a dainty (who am I kidding?!) little thing like a 21 year old Mrs Lighty. I kept telling both Daddy Hatchy and Mr Lighty that the car was just too heavy for me, but they didn’t believe me. That is, until I physically couldn’t manoeuvre the car on the drive when I went to visit Mr Lighty, and he had to jump in to do it for me. At that point, he suddenly agreed with me. And then Daddy Hatchy decided to take my car loaded up with rubbish to the dump, as he didn’t want to get his shiny new car dirty, and suddenly, after not having driven it for a few months, he admitted that perhaps – just perhaps – the powered steering had given up the ghost.
So there I was, driving this lump of a car, going no further than the 5 minute drive to Mr Lighty’s parent’s house or Tesco, not really feeling very confident but pushing on with it all the same. Until one day, I managed to hit a bus. As Brother Hatchy said at the time, “how did you not see a bus?! It’s a great big red thing!”. And yes, it’s true, it is a great big red thing, but I was in a queue of traffic, being beeped from behind for not overtaking the bus, and even though I knew that I didn’t have the room to overtake safely, peer pressure got the better of me and I gave in to those using their horns. Around the bus I attempted to go, and in the process completely smashed the wing mirror of my car. A minor prang to some, but enough to put me off driving completely.
From that point forward, I’ve hardly driven. I had a brief dalliance with a Paul McKenna hypnosis podcast, which helped enough for me to be able to drive Mr Lighty’s then KA on occasion, and Mr Lighty kindly bought me a gift (which, at the time, I thought would kill me through anxiety alone) when we were engaged of refresher driving lessons. I did these extensively, my instructor even having the same car that we were driving at the time, and while I did drive occasionally, I was never very confident and certainly never enjoyed it. It didn’t help that I was much more nervous with Mr Lighty in the passenger seat, doing a Hyacinth Bucket on me (“Watch that cow in that field 3 streets away! There’s a traffic light coming up in ten minutes’ time!”) than I was with my instructor, and whilst I can say that I have driven our current car, all those patient hours of refresher lessons have pretty much gone to waste (with very many apologies to my super-patient instructor: sorry Mr Evvy!).
But now I’m a mum, so where does this leave me? On the bus, mostly. At least, that’s where I’m often found physically, with Baby Lighty either in the pushchair or sling. But emotionally? It’s just another dimension of mummy guilt. My anxiety is obviously something which plays into why I don’t drive in the first place, and yet now I’m battling the feeling that I’m letting Baby Lighty down by not driving, too. All those places we could be going, all those friends we could be visiting, all those interesting things we could be doing. It’s also incredibly embarassing having to cadge a lift from friends yet again. I also worry (that bloody anxiety!) about what we’d do if Mr Lighty was unable to drive for some reason, as we’re so reliant on him, and someone once also put the seed of disquiet into my brain about what happens when Mr and Mrs Lighty are old and grey, if Mrs Lighty is the only one of the two of us physically able to drive but unwilling to do so?
Having said this, I don’t feel that driving is something that I can overcome my fear of easily. I worry about Baby Lighty being in the car, any car, even when I’m a passenger, or when he is a passenger for someone else. The car seat is something I’m completely paranoid about, as family have come to find out to their detriment when Mr and Mrs Lighty discovered that a forward-facing car seat unsuitable for Baby Lighty’s weight and age was once used to transport him home. I fear that this misdemeanor has been brushed aside by those concerned, and that we’ve been laughed at for our ‘paranoia’, but in our minds, Baby Lighty is our most precious cargo, and so it’s our duty – and that of those that care for him – to make sure his is transported safely.
And I worry that, should I be the one driving Baby Lighty, he wouldn’t be transported safely. It’s maybe irrational, as anyone, even the most experienced of drivers, can have an accident, but that’s anxiety for you. So with this in mind, this post is a bit of a public apology to Baby Lighty: I’m sorry that you may miss out on some things, simply because your mummy is a bit of a numpty and too scared to drive. I’m sorry for all of those times when we’ve had to get the bus or the train, when jumping in the car would be the much simpler and more comfortable option. And I’m sorry that I haven’t managed to beat the fear, yet. Yet. For I may well beat it one day; we’ll see.
But in the meantime, shut up and drive? It’s simply not that simple.
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