My Car Doesn't Corner Well
Our discussion topic, Gentlemen, at today's meeting of the "Men Secretly Meeting To Discuss Their Feelings, Although We'd Rather Be Caught Dead Than Admit We Have Them When Women Are Around" club is coping when our children live down to our lowest expectations.
In particular, last night I loaned my car to my teen aged son.
As a family, we had been out at the tennis courts hitting some balls around, and when we got home, one of my daughters announced that she'd left her sweatshirt at the courts. Now, understand, the courts are less than a mile from our house, on the remotest of NH back roads the whole way, and my son has had his learners permit for over a year now. What could POSSIBLY go wrong? And yes, I know all of us first-time-fathers-of-teenaged-drivers can answer that question with a litany of fears (and the experienced fathers of first time drivers just rolled their eyes and snorted a rueful half-laugh at my naivete), but the truth is that sooner or later the kid's gotta solo, and there are far worse places I could have started him. The autobahn, for instance, or on the Indianapolis Raceway.
Still, in fairness I should report that he made the trip down and back completely safely. He then proceeded to make a decision that was ill advised. My son has never put a car into a garage before. I'd just assumed that he would come back home and park the car in the driveway, where it had been when he started his journey, and then come ask me to put it into the garage, but apparently his brain, addled in a way that only adolescence or severe doses of narcotics can, decided to "do me a favor" and put the car away.
Unfortunately, no one ever explained to my son that the phrase "drive the car into the garage" does not mean "drive into the actual building", and so with the best of intentions, my son did significant damage to my less-than-one-year-old Toyota Prius, to say nothing of the garage, his pride and my blood pressure.
But here's the key, gentlemen: We're fathers. We need to be prepared for certain little bumps in the road, things like pregnant girlfriends and scientific curiosity satisfied by taking apart our brand new iPad to see how it works, leaving us with a pile of random, unidentifiable parts that do not behave in the slightest way as an iPad is advertised to. And the endless series of car repairs we're going to have to shell out for between the time our child becomes old enough to get his or her learners permit and the time, three months later, when they stop driving our car after it gets repossessed to pay our delinquent car repair bills.
In fact, experienced fathers whose younger children reach driving age learn to budget their finances more creatively, as follows:
Mortgage 20% of income
Food 7% of income
Clothing 5% of income
Misc spending cash 2% of income
Utilities 12% of income
Car repair 273% of income
Savings Yeah, right. As if.
Then, by the simple step of making sure you begin earning slightly over three times your current income, you can keep in the black. And here's a tip: Some auto repair shops will give you a discount if you agree to the simple expedient of having your paycheck automatically deposited in their corporate account.
But to be momentarily serious here, here's the truth: My son has probably cost me somewhere on the order of $1,500 and $2,000 with that one little mistake, and if I take the proper fatherly perspective, I'm happy to pay it, because he did not, in the process, lose a limb or a life (his or anyone else's), and if this little mishap causes him to be a more careful driver throughout his life, and never succumb to the standard teen-aged belief that they are bullet proof and a better driver than the morons who actually get into accidents, in short if this accident saves his life later on, then a few thousand dollars will have been a price well worth paying.
You will not, however, catch me admitting that to my son. At present, he's sitting at home wondering what new and creative punishment I'm going to administer when I get home. Images of thumb screws and bamboo shoots are probably going through his head, along with the fear that I may come home and have decided to disown, disinherit, or simply disembowel him. And while it may make me a bit of a sadistic S.O.B., the truth is that this day or two of sweating is a far more effective punishment than any I could dream up.
So, to sum up, what lessons have we learned today? First, that a good father expects these sorts of events and thus doesn't let it divert him from the path of good fatherhood. Second, that sadism can be an important (as well as rewarding) part of good parenting of teen aged children. And third, that finding some excuse, any excuse, to never let any of your children get drivers licenses is perhaps the single most profitable investment choice you can make.
Copyright © July 2, 2010 by Liam Johnson. http://humor.liamjohnson.net