On Being a Mummy TaxiLately I’ve been ferrying a five year-old grandchild to preschool, joining the ‘Mummy Taxi’ fleet that clogs our roads and schools in the mornings and afternoons. Like many, I have railed against this practice, which can result in neurotic, overweight, gormless children, fraught mothers and unnecessary traffic congestion. My childhood experience was far more robust, requiring a walk to school of some three kilometres in outer suburban Sydney, with a gang of kids incessantly exploring and acting the goat. We would catch cicadas, peer into drains, float leaves down gutters and occasionally blow up letterboxes with fireworks (they were legal then).
Times change; the world has become a smaller place. I roll with the punches. I do what grandfatherly duties I am asked to do with grace and joy at being useful. I bite my tongue except when it comes to requesting no screen time en route – I want the little darling’s undivided attention.
The first task of being a Mummy Taxi is ensuring the bag with spare clothes, drawing implements, water bottle, lunch and snacks is in the car. Then there is the rocket ship booster chair and seat belt to strap him into. Fortunately he is a happy traveller, confident with the destination. This process is a little nervy for me as it’s the acid test on his happiness at kindy. I don’t want a fight.
It took me no time at all to start loving being a Mummy Taxi. I know to wait, not push the chat, and soon little observational bursts of wonder erupt, at a poster, a flock of birds, people at a bus stop chat- ting on phones rather than to each other. “How many are there? What shoes are they wearing?”
He shows me things I wouldn’t normally see. It’s like a theme park ride for him. Life is full of wonder. We talk silly stuff, sing songs, enjoying the bubble of warmth and familiarity we are in. He never gets impatient like me. He is in the moment where I should be, instead of in the past or future where my thoughts need rescuing from.
I don’t even curse the traffic. I love being with the little bloke. We tool around to find a car park; he is my cockatoo, the spotter. Then it’s the merry skip with classmates, the sign in, the parent-teacher chat full of glowing optimism and devotion to young beautiful life. I leave him feeling enriched and don’t care about the traffic congestion.
But deep down I have some- thing in my craw, a niggling stone in my liver. Coming from the Greek traditions of town planning, free thinking and the arts, I am sure we would all be better off without being enclosed in the Mummy Taxi mobile box. The streets would be safer with less cars, more bikes and people on foot. There would be healthier children and mummies. Communities would be more cohesive, jointly caring for our children. Their imaginations, social skills, self-reliance and limbs would all be far better for the walk, as would mine. Bring back school catchment zoning, I say. ‘No Stopping’ signs outside schools. Restrict the free choice mantra; it’s killing the planet.
Most importantly, mummies need to have lives too, so they are better at being themselves and at being mummies. They need help. Think of all the other Mummy Taxi functions that overwhelm them (and the dads, de factos, grandparents, etc.). The extracurricular dancing, sport, tuition, parties and so on.
As much as I love being a grandfather Mummy Taxi, I still reckon they should walk. Kids need to be kids.