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One benefit of driving children to and from school is you get to be the metaphoric “fly on the wall”. To be that fly, you have to be in that very narrow bandwidth in terms of your child’s age. The cute toddler just off to kindergarten is going to demand your attention, for it is the age when you are their fount of all knowledge. So you buckle him or her up in the car seat, taking the opportunity to shower the sun-reddened cheeks with kisses, get the chubby paws wrapped around biscuits and toys and once you are buckled in yourself and out on the road, you hold a lengthy conversation in motherese about the day in school.

At the other end of the spectrum, is the “taller-by-the-day, angry, young” teen, who will condescend to treating you like his or her chauffeur if you are not careful to periodically assert your position as the parent with rights and not just duties, thank you very much!

They leisurely step up to your car while you are double-parked precariously on the edge of the road, proceed to stow their bits and bobs on the car floor before draping themselves on the seats. All the while you urge them to hurry. “Take all the time you want, but AFTER closing the door!” you might say with gritted teeth.

No sooner are we off, than they fish out their phones — their ear candy is anyway dangling out of their shirt collars — and off they go into their own world, shutting you out completely.

Within this spectrum dwell the 9, 10, 11-year-olds, most of whom DON’T own mobile phones, although not one day goes by without their expressing their dire need for one. Of course they have other digital devices, at the very least an iPad. They do their best to get it out and try their luck at playing “... just one game, come on ...” or “... it’s a red signal, can I just check something ... it’s really important? ...” or “... I need to show you something, and then I’ll switch it off...”

All permutations and combinations exhausted, and provided you didn’t allow yourself to be worn down by their arguments, comes your reward. You get to become that “fly on the wall”! The children actually begin to talk in the backseat of your car.

Very distant academic point of view

Much of it will centre on the ‘game of the month’ and YouTube videos.

So you will have Forza Horizon, Fortnite, Marvel Superheroes, DanTDM and countless others, all taking a bow from time to time. If these don’t interest you, except from a very distant academic point of view, then you tune out and focus on the road, your thoughts and your to-do list.

However, I don’t know how, but your attention is back at its desk whenever some gems surface.

Such as when my son’s friend spoke indignantly of how his mother called him from the room next door just to switch the light on! Outrageous! “It’s right next to her,” he said, his voice rising.

“Don’t worry, when you become a parent, you can get your kids to do the same,” was my son’s sage advice. “No dude,” said his friend. “I won’t treat my kids like that. I’ll get my employees to do it!”

And then the other time, when we were all discussing our names and what they mean, my son’s friend piped up: “My parents put my sister’s name as _ _, which, you know, means nice and good ... Of course they weren’t to know that she would be the very opposite of what her name stands for!”

Maria Elizabeth Kallukaren is a freelance journalist based in Dubai.