When new parents moan about the cost of having a baby – buying a push chair and a car seat and a cot and so on – I nod sagely and hide a knowing smile. ‘Just wait,’ I am thinking, ‘until that baby is 17.’
For non-UK readers, 17 is the age at which our young are let loose on the road in cars. Even if you manage to resist the constant nagging to buy a car (‘Everyone else’s parents are buying them cars. Why are you too tight to buy me a car? It’s not fair!’), the expense and organization involved with making this happen is phenomenal.
First there’s getting a provisional licence. Then the wallet-sapping experience of driving lessons. Tests to pay for and arrange, of course (though you can now book these online – but always go to the direct.gov.uk site, there are rip-off sites that charge a fee). And did anyone mention insurance? Still, it’s all worth it when they pass the test, rip up the L-plates (more expense) and you can see the smile on their faces. Well, no, it’s not really worth it – but there is the consolation of not having to drive them all over the place any more. There’s just the matter of forking out for petrol, servicing and, yes, even more insurance.
Still, once they get to this stage you can relax, and this is exactly what we did with the daughter who has passed her test. Until the day we got the call saying, was it okay, she just wanted to drive down to Bristol. Okay, fine. Some trepidation. But it wasn’t until a little later that a horrible thought occurred to us. What if she broke down? Because we had thought we’d arranged everything, but not breakdown cover. High speed resorting to the internet and a few minutes later she had this too.
Please don’t tell me if I’ve forgotten anything else. I really don’t want to know. But excuse me next time someone tells me how much you have to sort out with a baby if I burst into hysterical laughter.