Red Haired Step Child
I am now the official owner of a red-haired step-child… It’s sitting out in the driveway and I am sure those who pass by exclaim, “My, now that is one homely red-haired step-child”. It was not always this way. My red-haired step-child USED to be a natural child of the family, but once teens started driver’s training, and borrowing the car in the evenings, mysterious abrasions started to appear. “I swear Dad, that wasn’t me. Must have been my sister, honest.” Now I must distance myself and disown this embarrassment or it will give me an ulcer.
My car has always been the mule of the family. No one dares to ask for my wife’s van. Mine is the one the kids refer to as THE car, as if no one really owns it and its status as perpetually up for grabs. Hence they argue about who is taking “the car” today. Luckily for them, I work from home and have not driven my car much the last few years though I am the one who pays the bills and takes care of maintenance. At their semi-adult stage the two still at home need my car for University classes, and for work. They cannot afford a car of their own, but if my car is sitting at home, it becomes hard for me to deny them unless I up my parent game and get a little meaner.
My second daughter rear ended someone on the highway last Friday. I have to restore the OTHER guy’s car. Mine will end up bearing its battle wounds given its age and mileage. Hence the red-haired step-child demotion. I note that the front trunk is a bit wonky, but still latches. The car now looks like a one-eyed Cyclopes since the VW medallion at the front was punched out on latest impact, leaving a gaping hole in the front. I’m tempted to actually just buy a new medallion, epoxy it into the hole and call it a day.
In theory, red haired step children ARE supposed to take a beating and keep on ticking. Hence the phrase… “beaten like a red-haired step-child. But of course it goes without saying that it’s better if red-haired step-children didn’t get beaten at all. They would last longer.
Natural justice dictates that teens with lots of enthusiasm but little driving experience, should really be driving a beater. Last Friday, that maxim came true. My car is now a beater. It doesn’t much matter here on in, how much uglier it gets. I’m not suggesting that they should become more careless drivers. I am just saying that bad drivers will end up with cars that match their driving habits, and they cannot sport much pride in the arrangement. Humility comes calling because the car they are driving is what they have wrought.
Something has flip flopped this last generation. Kids’ needs have become more sophisticated. The circumference of their routine has come to suppose that a car is necessary. Nobody would consider having to bike or take a bus. It would be too demeaning and perhaps moreso in Oakville. If I am to judge by the local news, Oakville has become a bit famous for street racing teens. Daddy’s luxury sports car either ends up in the lake after a night on the hooch, or impounded when the teens are caught by the cops going 200 km/hr or better on a visit to their friends. My car of course is not a sports car, it’s a bit more humble but let’s just say those Oakville kids are what my own kids see as the competition.
I should have known better. I already lost one car to daughter number one, who took it upon herself to offer a lift to a friend at 12:30 am, home from a party. My daughter was obviously overtired so what could have been the price of an uber or bus ticket for the OTHER kid became the cost of a new car for ME. Though the car was in good shape and could have served my needs for years to come, the insurance company handed me a very small cheque and told me to start over. Salt in the wound is that I had just put two grand of preventative maintenance in the car the month before, and spent another thousand dollars on new snow tires. The lawyer and the ticket were also costly, as was my insurance three and a half years running.
Someone noted to me that it boils down to how kids now think of “stuff” as in, it’s JUST stuff. It comes and goes and there will always be more stuff to be had cheaply and freely. I hear this batted about in conversation.
“I’m going to James’ cottage this weekend!!!”
My response: “James owns a cottage? WOW. How old is he?”
They cluck their tongues at me. “OK, well, it’s his PARENTS’ cottage. What does it matter”
I guess it matters if you’re the one paying. Otherwise it’s true. It’s just “STUFF”.
One day my daughters will buy cars of their own and on that day I think they will truly become adults. I’m also sure at that point they will become very careful drivers.