BABY YOU CAN’T DRIVE MY CAR

 

If you have survived teething, the terrible twos, potty training, kindergarten, elementary school, high school and think nothing could be worse. Fasten your seat-belt! You are now about to put your $20K vehicle, with the pristine paint job, and a 120-horsepower engine in the hands of a sixteen-year-old who’s diaper you changed.

 

Teaching your teen to drive is akin to training orangutans to load the dishwasher. They might possess the dexterity and coordination for the task, but their lack of focus and reason will create a morass of broken dishes and bent silverware.

 

LIFE IN THE FAST LANE

 

This voyage will be long and arduous and someone’s going to end up crying, even though you promised yourself you wouldn’t cry. It will test your sanity and the relationship you have with your teen and quite possibly your spouse. If at all possible, move out of state until they pass their driver’s license test. In lieu of that, here are my ten tips for teaching your teen to drive.

 

  1. If you have a choice, don’t. Honey, how about you teach him how to drive and I will do the laundry for the remainder of our marriage? Seems fair.
  2. Try to switch-pitch them and focus on the positives of mass transportation. No car insurance, car payments, lots of time to reflect, no parking issues, gas pumps or tune-ups.
  3. Warn neighbors, relatives and friends to stay off the road during your lessons. No witnesses!
  4. Borrow the oldest automobile you can from a colleague. No sense in denting the family car.
  5. Start slow, very slow. Like in an empty parking lot, in the middle of the night, with no driving impediments, dogs, cats, humans or other vehicles within two hundred yards.
  6. Take your BP medication as prescribed.
  7. Remember how much you care! You’ve been through a lot together, they’ve seen you through good times and bad, they’ve been your support when you needed it most. Besides it’s paid for. You also care about your teen.
  8. Focus! Do not check your text messages or answer that phone call. You need to pay attention every second they are learning to drive. Your teens average attention span teeters around fourteen seconds so you need to constantly remind them to focus on their driving.
  9. There will probably come a time when you will need to: a) grab the wheel or b) scream. Believe me, this will probably occur at least once during your tutelage and you will need to go with your instincts if the situation warrants.
  10. Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

    Try to be empathetic. There was a time you didn’t know how to drive. Of course, we learned on a stick shift, in the hilly streets of San Francisco, dodging tourists and cable cars, all while trying to parallel park your dad’s Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. They’ve got it easy!

 

THE END OF THE INNOCENCE

 

I could see the trepidation in his eyes, and, for the first time, I could do nothing to alleviate it. He knew it and I knew it. It wasn’t preschool where I could just take him home if he was having an off day…or a rough tee-ball practice when I could give him a treat…or a trip to the park ending in a scraped knee that always felt better after one of daddy’s milk shakes…I could offer little comfort today. This was the beginning of Reality 101 (inasmuch as a parochial kindergarten can be reality).

 

Somehow, I felt this was tougher on me than on him. He did not comprehend the realities that begin with school: homework, 17 years in the classroom, teachers, bullies, the wonders of the universe, computers, painting, art, science, math, history, camaraderie, girls, crushes, crossing guards, recess, lunch, field trips, and everything in between.

 

ADVENTURE TIME

 

To him it was the beginning of a new adventure, as it should be. To me it was the end of an era. Our direct daily dominion was now being supplanted by a myriad of outside influences, all of which were out of our control.

 

As my wife and I lay in bed before the boys awoke that morning, she traced our oldest sons six years of life by recounting brief memory shards. Focusing on the highlights, wonders and joys inextricably connected with that first child. I marveled at the love in her recollections and I visualized each moment as she described it.

 

MEMORIES

 

As he climbed into bed with us before his first day of kindergarten, the innocence that comes with the initial half dozen years of life was beautifully reflected in his eyes. As he put on his school uniform, so painfully similar to the one I had donned for eight years, I flashed-back to a hundred different grammar school memories, a few of them were even positive! Hopefully his experiences would be better.

 

As we approached the school my son spotted some of his friends from preschool and they chatted excitedly about the new path on which they were about to embark. I looked around at the other parents, all looking around at the other parents, and the realization of this new journey struck like a fastball to the gut. The teacher made a very subtle overture for the parents to leave, “I need all the parents to please leave the classroom!” But being the product of a rebellious youth, we ignored her.

 

DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU

 

“Please now, say goodbye, we need to begin our day,” the teacher tried again. Photos were taken, hugs exchanged, and we made our way out the door. As the parents all shuffled down the stairs, I told my wife I was going back in for one final pat. My son patted me on the hand and assured me everything would be all right.

 

I could see the trepidation in my wife’s eyes, and I could do nothing to alleviate it. It was time for our son to begin a new facet in his very young life. But the remembrances of his first six years will live forever in our hearts, replaying like a favorite old film offering comfort and joy.

 

NESTING, IT’S NOT JUST FOR BIRDS

 

My wife is less than two months away from giving birth and just today she has mentioned a variety of projects that “we” should finish before the baby arrives. They are (deep breath) sweep the garage, add molding to the family room, clean up the backyard, buy and assemble a play structure, paint the kitchen, re-grout the bathroom, cure prickly heat and something to do with organizing an international backgammon competition in Haiti.

 

In short, let the nesting season begin! Just this week I have moved the sofa from one side of the room to the other, sampled three different brands of baby food, re-seeded the lawn, moved the sofa back to its original location, hung some pictures, relocated hung pictures, spackled over the holes where the pictures had hung, painted over the spackle marks that contained the holes where the pictures had hung, and then moved the pictures back to those original locations. “Honey, WE need to take care of these holes in the wall.”

 

I AM NOT PANICKING

 

Basically, the nesting season is the sense of panic your wife feels right before the baby arrives. The house could use a fresh coat of paint, the fixtures need replacing, the cabinets aren’t baby proofed, there aren’t enough flowers in the front yard, I could have done better than you, and on and on it goes.

 

It is difficult to convince your wife that the baby will not be mobile when it initially arrives at the house and flowers in the front yard will not be his primary concern, but you can try. The truth about nesting is that it does not end with the state of the house and surrounding gardens, no-no-no-no.

 

YOU’RE WEARING THAT?

 

Nesting can include the pile of magazines on your dresser, your clothes in the closet, your e-mail, computer files, soda cans, yogurts, streaming taste, music choices, tee-shirts, sporting goods, you name it. Nothing is off limits during the runup to birth.

 

The nesting season makes the first trimester seem like the Commodores fifth studio album, easy like Sunday morning! Every day, every hour, of every minute your wife has an idea for something “we” should do. There is just something you need to keep in mind when your wife is eight months pregnant, there is no we. Because, even if you acquiesce and let your wife do something, anything, everyone will think you have about as much class as Yasiel Puig.

 

IT NEEDED MOWING!

 

For example, my wife, now eight months pregnant, is very active and likes to take care of the garden at our house. The other day she was mowing the lawn and our neighbors started a petition to have me evicted. It took me two hours to convince them she likes working in the garden. My wife was unable to plead her own case at the time because she was putting in  plastic water pipes underneath the house. Did I mention she likes plumbing?

 

One other concept that will elude your wife during the nesting season is “later”. There is a definite immediacy to the nesting season. Nothing can be put off, shelved or delayed, it is like being married to a twenty-four second shot clock.

 

“Hon, why don’t we clean the top of the refrigerator?” your wife asks.

 

“Let’s do it tomorrow,” you reply.

 

At about 2:30 in the morning you get up for a glass of water and find your wife standing by the refrigerator waiting for you. It’s a little unsettling!

 

SHOWER THE PEOPLE

 

There are not too many things you need to really fear before the baby is born. Most of that will occur one millisecond after birth. But there is one occurrence that will send your mind reeling for the best excuse you have manufactured since that dent in the family Buick during your junior year of high school: Showers. Not the kind that cleanse, the kind that bequeath.

 

Bestowing blankets, outfits and bassinets; conferring rattles, diapers and receiving blankets (are there kicking blankets too?). Then there are the other items you are given that bare a slight resemblance to some of the crude instruments they used in Quest For Fire.

 

MYSTERY GIFT

 

With these you are expected to proudly hold them up and profusely thank the gift giver. This becomes very tricky when you do not have a clue what is in your hand and you are not even sure you are holding it up correctly.

 

The worst part is, everyone else in the room appears to be very aware of its function in the new baby realm. Well, that is except for all the other men at the shower who have gravitated to the family room and are watching the Warriors versus Lakers game. Warriors up by 7 with three minutes left in the third, Draymond has 4 fouls.

 

GAME TIME

 

And lest we forget the games, ahh the games. Unbelievably tedious contests that are designed to reduce all the participants brains to marshmallow parfait. Word games, name games, something strange that involves sleepwear and another one that incorporates newspaper, a baby rattle, some twine and a colander.

 

It is at times like this when you learn who your real friends of the alternate gender are. Your true female allies are the ones who do not throw a co-ed baby shower. Forget rattlesnakes, scorpions and the HR department, this is truly one of man’s biggest fears.

 

CO-ED SHOWER

 

When you see these two words you need to come up with some of your more creative, full proof excuses. “I don’t want to go” will not work when the spouses of some of your wife’s best friends are going. It needs to be solid and irrefutable. “I will be on a plane that day to negotiate a peace settlement between Ernst and Young…Bumgarner is having trouble with his hanging slider and Bochy needs me at the ballpark that day…My boss says we have to work all weekend on our presentation… what was the date of that shower again?”

 

In the end you will probably go to the co-ed baby shower, and toil through all the various festivities. How bad can it be? You posit that other friends have survived, and you will too. That’s the spirit. Be brave!

 

A LITTLE TIME FOR DAD

 

Life in the throes of Dadlands is all about giving. Giving of your time, patience, money, sanity, energy, freedom, extremities, soul. But there are instances when you need to make time for yourself, even if it is to accomplish the most mundane of tasks such as going to the bathroom, washing your hands, getting dressed, finding your contact lense, taking your medication, showering, yoga, meditation…

 

To that end, here are 4 tactics for surviving fatherhood that will allow you to carve out a little time, even when you’re in charge and the nearest alternate adult is the cat lady up the street.

 

  1. Naptime – It’s quite possibly the best 1-2 hours of the day. Not that you don’t love spending time with your little guys, but now you can have a moment to yourself. The tricky part occurs when you are driving home for naptime after an exhilarating park excursion and they start falling asleep in the car. This cannot happen because even five minutes of dozing in their car seat will find them feeling refreshed and energized. But two hours later this non-nap child will be your biggest challenge since that college calculus course. This is when your creative juices need to flow. Start talking to them, rolling down the window, singing along to something on the radio or your best acapella rendition of “Thunder Road.” It is crucial that you keep them awake until you get home.
  2. Quiet Time – You’re the dad, so one of the fringe benefits is declaring what event is next on the agenda. There are other fringe benefits such as… uh… we’ll come back to that. But at any given time of the day you have the ability to declare, “Now it’s quiet time. Grab your favorite book and read it to yourself quietly for a while.” If your kids are as precocious as mine this will probably buy you four minutes tops because they typically will reach for the same book and bedlam will ensue. But sometimes four minutes is all you need!
  3. TV Time – (At this point you are probably catching on to the theme here!) Pick their favorite program and start the show. This will probably only produce twenty-two minutes without commercials, but that is five times longer than Quiet Time!
  4. Stroller Time – While this doesn’t exactly provide you with an opportunity to accomplish anything, it does give you fresh air, exercise and the chance to clear your head. Sometimes that is all you need. Plus, once they are strapped into the stroller you have approximately 7.89 seconds to do something before your children will start calling your name. Plenty of time to brush your teeth or comb your hair, but not both. You will have to choose!