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17th Jul 2012

Baby On Board – Evanne Ní Chuilinn on her Little Man and the Open Road

TV presenter Evanne Ní Chuilinn assumed she'd love road-tripping with her new son. Instead, she has discovered baby Séimí's first enemy... traffic lights.


I love driving, I always have. When I moved to Galway for a Post Graduate course, I argued that because there was no direct bus route between Kilkenny and Galway, I’d have to buy a car. I found a little old Nissan Micra, and although I never give my cars a name, I should have called that first car, “Independence”. Coming from the country, where a trip to the local shop or to basketball training meant calling on ‘Taxi Daddy’, I couldn’t wait to get on the road and fend for myself. When I started working, I loved that my job involved seeking out every single GAA ground in the country. And when I got pregnant, I couldn’t wait to have a car seat fitted, because baby and I would be doing great travelling, wouldn’t we? 

My attitude to the open road has changed dramatically. Last week I drove around for 4 days with what I can only assume was the steam from the last remaining droplets of fuel in the tank. I was well intentioned every time I sat into the car. “I’ll stop on the way there, or the way back”. But nobody tells you that everything, including filling your car with petrol, is entirely dependent on the mood of your baby as you pass the petrol station. Several times last week, I simply had to keep moving. There was no way I was dealing with the backlash of stopping the car and either a) waking a baby that hadn’t slept for 4 hours and had chosen this precise moment to take the nap that would make him a lovely giggling bundle again, or b) jolting a wakeful baby out of the peaceful trance that only a humming vibrating car engine can master. 

I also have a new appreciation for the colour green. I can’t tolerate red, and orange sends a wave of adrenaline over me. “Do I have the guts to go for it?” Traffic lights. Back in the days when I had the car to myself, I was relatively patient when it came to traffic lights. I would only ever roar expletives if I was about to miss a deadline, or a throw in time! I could handle it when the person in front sat for 10 seconds before acknowledging a green, or worse still, slowed down, knowing an orange was imminent.  Now though? Different story.

I’ve done the legwork. It takes 1.5 seconds for my little man to lose the plot when I stop at a traffic light.  If he’s asleep, there is a good chance he’ll wake up, and if he’s awake, he’ll roar. And it’s not a gradual whinge either. It’s a very sudden wail, directly proportionate to the number or milliseconds that have passed since the car has come to a stop, and this wail would go through you. 

I’m sure I’m a sight to behold, clutching the steering wheel, shoulders clenched, squinting out through dark sunglasses, trying to pre-empt what a collection of colourful bulbs at the side of the road are going to do. If I see a red light up ahead, I’ll slow down to a crawl, hoping I’ll reach the lights on time for the green light. If I see a green, I’ll speed up to make sure I won’t miss it, and if I see orange, game over. Pedal to the metal and pray for no penalty points. I’m sure this is tip of the iceberg stuff. I can only imagine how my driving experience will change when the little man wants HIS music blared in MY car. But for now, be warned, traffic lights are not our friends.