KIDS THE BASICS
We were on a family vacation in the mountains last week with
all four of our grown children. As my 36 year old daughter climbed into a
motorboat with me, she offered a cheerful comment.
"You're a failure of a father," she sweetly said.
"Thank you," I replied. "And why is
"You never taught me how to drive a boat," she
replied, getting warmed up. "And you never taught me how to drive a
stick shift, and you never taught me how to jump start a car with a dead
She was right. I had failed miserably. As I took the controls
of the boat, leaving her clueless once again, I considered my retort. I
could only come up with one.
"I bought you a AAA roadside assistance card," I
offered. "That's got to count for something."
"It's not the same," she replied as she stretched
out on the back of the boat and soaked up the sun. "A father should
teach their kids the basics."
That night at dinner I decided to press the issue with my
other kids. I told them I was going to write a column about my failures as
a father and I wanted their input.
It was like reporters at a presidential press conference, with everyone
shouting at once. I selected my 27 year old son to go first.
"I hope you're making it a series of 12 columns,"
he suggested. "You'll have a ton of material to report."
The little cretin thinks he's funny. But he had a point, so I
told him he had to limit his complaints to two.
"OK, I'm going with not knowing how to drive a car with
a manual transmission and not knowing how to clean a fish."
"Your sister already complained about my failing to
teach you how to drive a stick shift," I countered. "And my
answer, now that I've thought about it, is that all cars will soon be
driverless, so it would have been a waste of time."
"As for cleaning a fish," I continued,
"perhaps you're forgetting about the family fishing curse. On the
rare occasions we go fishing, we never catch one, so how was I supposed to
teach you to clean one?"
That logic shut him up. Next in line was my other daughter,
who is in her early thirties. She chose to complain that I had no interest
in her academics because I was obsessed with athletics. After describing
how she would come home with news about a final exam and how I would be
more interested about how the game or practice went, I told her she had
run out of whining time.
"Where's my credit for teaching you how to shoot a
reverse layup?" I cried. "You always had good grades. You didn't
need help at school---you needed help with your jump shot. A good father
knows where he's needed."
While she pondered that explanation, I turned to my other
son, who is 28. He actually knows how to drive a stick shift, thanks to
me, so he couldn't list that as one of my failures. Unfortunately, he had
I was ready for him, though. "I don't think I know how
to change a tire," he said as I held up a AAA roadside assistance
card. "Or put on chains in the snow." (I pointed out he's always
had a car with four-wheel drive.)
"You're striking out, and you've had your two
complaints," I said, feeling secure and benevolent. "Go ahead
with one more, though."
"I've always wondered how birds have sex," he
answered after some thought. "You never taught me anything about
stuff like that. That's the kind of thing a father should teach his son.
You've failed me."
I leaned back in my chair with a big sigh. He had me there. While I
had taught him how humans have sex, I was delinquent in teaching him some
basic scientific facts that every child should know. I had failed as a
"You're right," I admitted. "I should have
taught you things like that. But it's never too late for me to share my
wisdom. This discussion we've had tonight has inspired me to teach your
sister how to drive a motorboat and to educate you as to how birds have
"So how do they?"
I pulled out my iPhone. "I have absolutely no idea.
Let's Google it."