Stuck in the mid­dle with you


Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - NEWS - Mi­randa Mur­phy is a mother of three and a jour­nal­ist at The Aus­tralian. Fol­low her on Twit­ter @mur­phymi­randa

I’D like to see a spe­cial “driv­ing hol­i­day” edi­tion of those My Fam­ily stick­ers that are still ap­pear­ing on the back win­dows of cars.

Truth In Stick­er­ing would show the dad, his whiteknuck­led hands grip­ping the steer­ing wheel as he stares grimly at the long road ahead, mut­ter­ing: “For God’s sake, can you all just hold it to­gether for another 15 min­utes?”

The mum would have at least four more arms added, in or­der to si­mul­ta­ne­ously rum­mage for snacks, pass out drinks, wipe up a spill, change the CD, re­trieve a dropped toy and mas­sage her own tem­ples.

One kid, shaded a pale green, would be slumped against their win­dow moan­ing of im­mi­nent car­sick­ness.

Another kid would be silently cov­er­ing ev­ery in­te­rior sur­face within reach with di­nosaur stick­ers.

The third kid would have a se­ries of speech bub­bles com­ing out of them, say­ing brightly: “Are we there yet?” “How many min­utes?” “Where are we go­ing again?” “Can we get ice creams?” and to her green sib­ling: “Do you feel like you re­ally, re­ally want to vomit?”

If there’s a dog, it would be wee­ing on the lug­gage.

I’d like to have these stick­ers on our car be­cause, like many fam­i­lies, we are spend­ing much of these school hol­i­days in a ve­hi­cle and they pretty much sum up the sit­u­a­tion in­side (mi­nus the dog, but that’d be one of the speech bub­bles: “When are we get­ting a dog?”)

It’s true that con­di­tions on long fam­ily drives have im­proved markedly since the in­ven­tion of por­ta­ble DVD screens — a con­ve­nient if mixed bless­ing.

(I feel self­ishly torn about this, be­cause while they make jour­neys so much eas­ier I’m bit­ter that as chil­dren our­selves we didn’t have them, in­stead en­dur­ing count­less hours of eye-goug­ing, char­ac­ter-form­ing bore­dom on out­back road trips.)

A cou­ple of years ago we drove half­way across the coun­try with the young­sters wired to var­i­ous au­dio/vis­ual de­vices and head­phones.

It was high sum­mer too, so while the kids were face­down in screens we’d also hung tow­els in­side their win­dows to pro­tect from sun­burn. It was like their own gold-class cin­ema back there, and bliss­fully peace­ful for us up front.

Yet hardly one clas­sic Aus­tralian land­scape was gazed upon by our chil­dren on that bush Christ­mas road trip; barely an an­i­mal was spied from their dark­ened back seat pod.

Once, we adults spot­ted a fam­ily of emus some­where near Hay. “Look kids, look — emu chicks! Oh … never mind.”

We felt a bit bad about that. And re­ally, who needs parental guilt added to a car al­ready over­packed with bag­gage?

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