Thursday, September 23

Wheels and Air Filters

When my oldest son was 16 or so, he bought himself a car for $400. He didn't have a license yet, so the most he ever did with it was run it in the driveway so that he could sit in it when he wanted to get away from the rest of his moronic family in the middle of the winter. It turned out that the car had problems that meant it was really only good for parting out, and so my husband helped him sell almost enough pieces to recover his initial investment.

Then they towed the rest to the dump, all except for a set of almost brand new tires. So last summer when one of his friends had a birthday, Andrew gave him the tires and rims as a birthday present. This friend drives the same model car, but it had tires that had seen a lot of better days, and he was thrilled to have the almost new ones. The only problem was that he didn't know how to change the wheels.

So one day the friend brought his car over and Andrew changed the wheels for him. A car load of Andrew's other friends showed up to watch. The five friends sat on the grass in the sun and watched as he rolled out the tires, jacked up the car, and changed the tires one by one. They were so impressed that they took photos. It turns out that none of them would have known how to change the wheels either.

Andrew gets calls for help when their mowers need air filters changed. These are smart young men, decent young men, but they know how to do nothing when it comes to these sorts of practical things--the sorts of things that keep all our conveniences running from day to day. I have no doubt that their dads know how to do these jobs, but they don't.

My girls' friends may not know how to sew much, or can, but they can do the basic practical things around a house. (I take that back a bit. My oldest daughter did have one friend who baked her Rice Krispy squares. They all thought that was hilarious, though, because they didn't understand how someone could not know better than that.) A few of those girls could probably even change the air filter on their mower.

So many parents push academics as a priority for their children because a strong academic education is seen as the ticket to good jobs, but if all young men are like my son's friends, then maybe the real ticket to a secure income is learning how to change air filters in lawn mowers.