At Braking Point

‘Can you smell that?’ I asked, as we all bundled into the minivan and I turned the key.

Ewwww,’ Jayden – my youngest – said, pinching his nose shut.

I was reasonably sure that Jayden could not, in fact, smell anything.

‘What is it, Mum?’ Kelly asked me, frowning next to me with her specific brand of teenage seriousness.

‘Like a burning or smoking kind of thing,’ I turned my nose up slightly. ‘I wish I had time to go to that great mechanic near Ringwood to look at my car.’

‘Are we going to explode?!’ Petey nearly threw himself into the front seat with the force of his question, until Kelly pushed him back with a grimace.

‘No way!’ Jack gasped, hanging off of Petey’s every word.

‘We’re not going to explode!’ I frowned in the rear-view mirror. ‘Petey, don’t stress out your brother like that.’

‘It might be the brakes,’ Allie mumbled quietly from her spot in the very back of the minivan. I was going to respond until Jane threw a stuffed toy at Jessie and all hell broke loose in the second row.

‘That’s it!’ I yelled, pressing on the horn to shut everybody up. ‘No more speaking until we get to school!’

‘But—’ Michael went to interject. I cut him off with a glare.

‘Nope. Zip it!’

They kept quiet.

‘Alright,’ I sighed, smoothing my hair and finding my inner calm. ‘Now let’s try get you to school on time. My hand cramps whenever I have to sign that many tardy slips.’

We drove in moderate silence for a minute or two, until I had to brake suddenly at a red light and a loud screeching tore through the van.

Owww,’ Robbie whined, pressing his hands to his ears. His younger siblings did the same – his older siblings rolled their eyes.

I turned to James, my eldest, and sighed.

‘Remind me, I need to find where in Richmond I can get a brake replacement.’

He nodded and scribbled it down in his planner.

I looked back over my squealing car and a strange thought crossed my mind.

Do I have too many kids?