TEACHING YOUR
 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 that?"
   "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 battery."
   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 other options.
   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 father.
   "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 sex."
   "So how do they?"
   I pulled out my iPhone. "I have absolutely no idea. Let's Google it."
 

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