Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

The Texas Legislature, in between food fights and intern chasing, decided that driving was less important that Art History and Football Studies. They took a limosine to a 6th Street bar, huddled up over a few (pitchers) of beer at happy hour, and voted to take it out of the public school curriculum. Cheers, have another round.

To make up for the lack of state-sponsored driving education, they handed the responsibility for our lives and insurance rates to the least trained and poorest qualified instructors on the planet.


The same people who have a hard time keeping their four-year-old quiet in a restaurant now have the duty to teach their teenager to operate 4,000-lbs of Death on Wheels, at speeds approaching escape velocity. The same people who can’t signal, merge, stop, yield, move out of the left lane when not passing, are the ones who will assume the wise mantle of a driving expert and put their equally inattentive, ADD-rattled child in the driver’s seat. Do what I say, not what I do. And don’t do what I say, either.

Instead of learning – like we did – on some bunker-buster of a car, with squealing power steering, drum brakes and a cracked windshield, today’s teenager gets to learn behind the wheel of your only means of transportation. The one you insure and pay for. Instead of sitting in a darkened trailer behind the wheel of a vehicle “simulator”, they learn by doing everything wrong, in traffic, at full speed. Unless they’ve stopped dead in road, frozen and unable to move because the parent is screaming in one ear, horns are honking in the other, lights are flashing, guns are going off and it’s generally like any other rush hour in a big city.

Accepting this responsibility for two teenagers in a row is Yours Truly, arguably the best driver on the planet. The Best Driver knows how to teach kids. He has patience. Nerves of steel. Fully paid life insurance.

Dad: Turn right here. No, the other right.
Dad: It’s best to stop before you enter the intersection.
Kid: Oh. Yeah.
Dad: Continue to the stop light and turn right.
Dad: That was the curb, try not to hit those. Now accelerate and stay in this lane. Speed limit’s 40.
Dad: Speed limit’s 40, not 50.
Dad: Speed limit’s 40, not 25
Dad: Speed limit changed to 30.
Kid: When did it do that?
Dad: Just now, when you passed the speed limit sign, and cop sitting under the tree.
Dad: That’s the lane divider. Stay in your lane.
Dad: Curb! Watch the curb!
Kid: Don’t yell at me.
Dad: Don’t hit the curb!
Dad: Lane…
Kid: I know, Dad! You don’t have to tell me.
Dad: Stay in this lane. This lane. No! This la–
Dad: Never mind.
Dad: Speed limit’s 30, not 139.
Dad: If you hit the goddamn curb one more time!
Kid: I’m sooorry! Stop yelling at me!
Dad: Aye, Jesus! Pull over! Stop! Pull off the road!
Kid: Why? What’s wrong?
Dad: I have to clean my pants.
Kid: Why are you shaking so bad? Here, I’ll pull into this parking lot.

All those in favor of adding driving back to the school curriculum, raise your shaky right hand.

So, when was the first time you realized you could beat your dad at something?  Anything?  I mean really beat him and not because he let you win, but because you had grown up enough that your skill level had surpassed his.

How old were you before you thought you could take him if you had to?  Sixteen?  Twenty-four? Fifty?  Did he have to be in a wheelchair first?

As boys, those of us lucky enough to have father’s in our lives are constantly using the Old Man as a measuring stick to evaluate our own growth.   At some point, you realize that the list of things that dad does better than you is getting shorter.  But no matter how short that list gets, does it every really disappear?  There are so many things that I will never do better than my father.  Tune an engine.  Follow a schematic.  Bluff with a busted flush.

These days, I seem to be working harder to keep my list of things I do better than my children from vanishing entirely.  Suddenly they grew up to be competent and able and smart  and really strong people. 

When did that happen?

However, occasionally, on days like Father’s Day, I am reminded that I am still comparing myself to my father and coming up short.  I remember him, sick as a dog, ill from a stomach issue, building a pool in the summer heat of Texas because I whined about wanting it.  Helping me buy my first car.  Taking me to the hospital when I wrecked it.  Patiently explaining, again, the need to turn off the breaker before you work on electricity.

I look back at those days and know I’m not doing half as good a job as he still does.  I snap at my kids too often.  I have to call a tow truck instead of showing my son how to tear down an engine block and replace a timing chain or repair the brakes.  The list of things I do better than they is growing shorter daily.

So maybe, instead of asking what would John Wayne do,  I should be asking instead: 

What would Dad do?