I’m recalling a moderately distressing experience that started with a phone call. My wife was about to return home from a shopping excursion at a mall about 30 miles away when her car wouldn’t start. She asked me to drive to the mall to give her a jump-start, because it would be quicker than waiting for roadside assistance.
Thirty minutes later, I had my jumper cables out and got her car started. She asked me to follow her back in case something happened along the way. Everything was fine until she turned off the Interstate at our exit and stopped at the intersection. The motor stopped running again and wouldn’t restart. This was distressing because this intersection is one of the busiest in our area, and it was at the end of a day of Sunday water recreation for many (drunk?) drivers.
Fortunately, the left-turn lane was blocked off for construction, and I maneuvered to the left of her car so the cables would reach. I got the car started again, but while idling it quit again. With more stoplights ahead, we realized that we might not be able to drive the car home. So we called our insurance company for a tow truck to take it to the dealership. I instructed my wife to put the car in neutral so I could push it out of the traffic lane. We then had to wait for over an hour until the tow truck arrived. Even though the dealership was closed, the driver knew how to leave it in the service area for us.
We didn’t make it home until after 10 pm. The next day I found out that the battery had to be replaced. It was a seven-year battery that had been in use only two years. New battery, service and tax came to $170. And so it goes. We put a positive spin on the experience. My wife said, “It was a good thing the car quit right next to an unused lane.” I remarked that yes that was lucky, but it was the “it could have sucked worse” kind of luck.
The ordeal reminded me of another bottom line: Life is hard. It’s not easy to create a life for yourself, have a family and hold it all together. A million crises just like this one are standard issue. Dealing with this incident took more than money. It took effort, rationality, composure, patience, decisiveness, optimism and maybe one or two other personal strengths.
I thought: The real purpose of being a parent is to prepare kids to handle domestic crises like this when they’re grown up and on their own.
And this: You don’t prepare your kids for real life by giving them everything and doing everything for them.
They learn to solve problems by solving problems. They acquire a work ethic by going to work and earning a wage. They get stronger by doing hard things. Love is good. Shelter, clothes, food and safety are good. An education is good. But beyond that, kids have a lot to learn – the kind of skills and behavior patterns that you learn by doing them over and over. And the kids who aren’t learning these things aren’t preparing themselves and are going to be at a serious disadvantage in the adult world.