It was the best of days and the worst of days. I'd planned for everything except the weather. Do you remember last Saturday? There were rivers running down the streets with the kind of rain that would make a duck paddle for shelter.
In between, the sun shone. Making everything pretty and blindingly silvery and shiny. Perfect for an anxious 23 year old sitting her driving test for the first time, no?
I should have been anxious too, but special needs means that I savour these 'normal' parenting moments. I felt competent and caring and capable of being the mum she needed me to be.
The details of these landmark days stand out in sharp relief don't they? The smoker in the booth at the gate, the 80s music in the waiting room (Smiley was not impressed. Before her time, dontcha know), the coffee hut across the flooded road. Friendly conversation: I'd say he chats to anxious parents all day. Lovely coffee too and delicious brack.
Your daughter being called - by her second name. Confusion, then she gets up, straightens her shoulders and disappears into the inner sanctum.
Finally that same door opens again. You hold your breath. You scan her face. For a second it's inscrutable. Then she smiles and waves a piece of paper at you.
"I passed, Mum!"
And your heart feels like it will explode with pride.
Being Ireland, it doesn't end there: she still has to go to another office to get her certificate and then source and purchase 'N' plates to let other drivers know that she is still a novice at this. Maybe not such a bad thing, if it means that other road users give her a bit of space and time to get used to driving independently. Because passing the test does not mean you are safe to drive. In fact, many accidents happen when new drivers exuberantly take the wheel just after passing their test!
My job is not over either. She still needs to learn about driving on country roads and motorways, about driving hazards and good road manners. Basically all the stuff you don't learn by spending 20 minutes in a housing estate, which is what the test involves. But then she knows more than me about the rules of the road, and sometimes the poor design, lack of visibility and behaviour of other drivers still scare me. Even after almost 40 years on the road.
So the learning isn't over either, perhaps it never is.
But you could say that we have learned how to pass the test, so here are some of our top tips:
- A good instructor - my daughter's first one was rubbish.
- Ask other parents for advice if you feel that your child is not improving.
- Practice until your child feel confident. Every day if necessary.
- Practice the test routes - ask the driving instructor for details.
For the test:
- Clean the car.
- Fill the tank with fuel.
- Check that all other fluids are topped up too, e.g. windscreen wash.
- Check that all lights are working, tyres properly inflated etc.
- Take the test in a familiar car.
- Wear comfortable clothes.
- Bring a drink.
- Bring glasses and sunglasses.
- Put the phone on silent.
- Try and relax.
And after you've passed the test: