A vital advance in parenting techniques…


Even if I don’t hear very much of it, I like putting music on in the car. It takes my mind off the sheer vertigo-induced terror at having to do corners at more than twenty miles an hour. Because my son gets a bit fed up with my ancient CD selections, he’ll move fast to switch the media player to radio. At least with the radio, he thinks, there’s little chance of me recognising the song and drowning it out by talking about it.

This morning’s musical joy was a blast of Bond just as I was pulling off the terrifying roundabout by our estate. The orchestral stirrings of the Spectre theme (Writing’s on the wall by Sam Smith) filled the car. I remember the words, rhythm and pace of that song quite well. My higher-pitch hearing was a lot better last year, enabling me to enjoy even the helium-laden chorus.

When a song is particularly anthemic, I find it quite hard not to join in. Seb knows this. Still, I limited my audience participation to mouthing along. Enthusiastically, yes, and I’m sure that passing motorists suspected me of shouting at my passenger, but I was definitely mouthing. I might not always know when I’ve gone into Lady Loudsounds mode, but I do know when I’m not making any noise at all.

Yet, despite my sweet-natured, silent compliance, I could feel the glances of trepidation and suspicion coming from Seb’s side of the car as the song worked towards the rather operatic bridge. I refrained from roaring ‘will you break my fall’, and I wasn’t even going to try to squeak ‘how do I live? How do I breathe…(etc)’, but clearly Seb saw my air intake as a warning sign and bellowed “DON’T!!” at me sharply enough for me to jump and over-correct my steering.

Once at the traffic lights, I was able to take my eyes off the road so that we could argue. I fumed at him for startling the pants off me. He bickered at me for darkening his day by singing.

“I didn’t sing.”

“You very nearly did,” he protested. “I could see you brimming.”


“Yeah, you get this really earnest look just before you shout right off-pitch. If you weren’t driving you’d be flinging your arms out right now, and making horrid noises. It’s so embarrassing!”

“It’s not my fault I can’t sing in pitch!”

He laid a soothing hand on my elbow, his face all apology. “I know, mummy. It’s a stinky deaf-thing and I know you want to be able to sing.”

“Hmph.” Still stung but slightly mollified, I pulled up outside the school gates, popped the handbrake on and leant over for a kiss before he got out.**  I grinned at him, trying to regain the amicable tone of our communications before he left for the day. “You really hate my singing, then?”

“Ah… um… don’t back me into a corner, mum.” He kissed me and legged it for the safety of school.

That’s a “yes,” if I ever heard one!  I was too deflated on the way back home even to howl along to Total Eclipse of the Heart. His harsh views hardly came as a shock—I sing alone for a reason—but it wasn’t fun to be reminded of my total inability to keep tune.


Once home and full of coffee, something struck me. My son has handed me a GIFT. There’s this old saying that when life hands you lemons, you should slice them into your gin. I can weaponise my singing! If he perpetually refuses to take his plate into the kitchen, or to do his homework, with just a few prods on my iPhone, I can bring Sam Smith forth on iTunes and inhale meaningfully. If he won’t come in from the playground, I can take my Bluetooth speaker out there, and fill the air with the terrifying first chords of Nessun Dorma. I can treat him to La Boheme if he won’t get out of the bath.

I feel hopeful and refreshed, like I’ve been given a brand new toy full of crispy-cold Prosecco. Let the games begin.

That said, let’s hope he doesn’t push me to ‘Wuthering Heights’. I’m not sure the world’s ready for that.


** his school has a drive-by system of flinging the kids out in the morning, which is rather convenient. Parents drive in one direction around the neighbouring residential streets, and stop only briefly to allow our kids to disembark in the presence of a teacher.



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