"Dad! I've decided what kind of car I want to get when I'm 16! Look at this!"
"Eric," I said, brushing away the copy of Car Trader he'd stuck in my face, "I've told you a hundred times, I'm not buying you a car when you turn 16. Look here! Read my lips! I'm not buying you a car when you turn 16."
"I've told you why not."
"Yeah, but why not?"
"Because I've told you why not."
"But, can we talk about it?"
"We've talked about it before."
"But dad, can we talk about it today?"
He wouldn't give up. He started in on me when he was 14 and kept it up relentlessly for two and a half years. I mean everyday. And everyday I told him he wasn't getting a car.
"Because you won't need a car of your own, Eric. We have two cars. You'll be able to use one."
"Right! The station wagon! Forget it! I won't drive a station wagon!"
"Well, Eric, nerd sort of runs in the family. I was a nerd, you know. It's probably inevitable - genetic, even - you'll be a nerd, too, sooner or later. If driving a station wagon doesn't do it, wearing glasses will."
"I don't wear glasses."
"Then you have to drive a station wagon. It's either one or the other. We nerds don't have a lot of options."
"Will you buy me a car when I'm 16?"
My reasons for why not were philosophical (Giving a 16-year-old a car served only to reinforce, one more time, to a kid already firmly convinced it was so, that something could be had for nothing), ideological (parents who bought cars for their kids were indulging their children's capitalist/ materialist/bourgeois obsessions) and psychological (buying a teen a car
was a way of compensating for never having spent time with the kid when the time really mattered.).
And finally, I had practical objections, firmly rooted in reality. (I didn't think I could afford it.)
Then, 16 came and so did the driver's license and Eric started driving my car. (He was true to his word - he wouldn't drive the station wagon.) And it was inconvenient and it was irritating to get in my car after he'd driven it to find the seat pulled up under the steering wheel and the rear-view mirror aimed at the floor and the gas gauge on empty. And he couldn't get a job because he didn't have reliable transportation, which meant I had to pay for his gas and insurance. And so, tossing my self-righteous, pompous principles out the window, I broke down and bought him a car - a completely restored 1966 mustang. It was the car I wanted when I was 16.
I surprised him with it during our summer vacation at the beach. You should have seen the look on his face. It was worth every penny of it.
And, I've since concluded, it was one of the best moves I've ever made.
I put the title in his name, you see, and I said, "This car is yours, lock, stock and barrel. I bought it, but you have to pay for the insurance, the gas and all repairs. Welcome to responsibility!"
Eric got a job soon thereafter. He was never late with an insurance payment, never late to work, and kept his car clean. He grew up two years in nine months.
And, man, was I happy! Not to mention proud.
Copyright 2018, John K. Rosemond
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