“Warning Sign” by Alex Panoiu

Unless you are the parent of a sixteen year old girl, you probably don’t know how stupid you are. Fortunately for my wife, Marianne, and me, we raised not one, but two sixteen year old daughters – one to make the initial prognosis of terminal stupidity and one to confirm it a few years later.

Apparently, much of our ignorance came from the fact we grew up in the Dark Ages before teenage angst was invented. Fossils that we were, we could not possibly relate our experiences as teenagers back then to the slings and arrows suffered by the modern teenager.

A typical conversation went like this:

Concerned Parent: “What’s wrong?”

Tearful Offspring: “You wouldn’t understand.”

Concerned Parent: “What wouldn’t I understand?”

Tearful Offspring: “Anything.”

Thus enlightened, I tended to get own with my day.

Marianne, on the other hand, refused to leave it at that. She pressed for details; her motherly concern operating on all eight cylinders. With a little coaxing she managed to extract the details of whatever crisis was occurring. Then, despite her advanced age and ignorance, she somehow managed to come up with advice that helped smooth over the incident and right the world that revolved around our teenaged victim.

I was a total failure with our daughters in the parental advice category. Apparently, in matters of the teenaged female heart, “To hell with him” was not the appropriate answer. I was much better with my son. My parental advice with him was generally something along of the lines of “Don’t let your mother find out…”

Trust me, the best parental advice a father can bestow on his son is, “Don’t let your mother find out.” You can try stuff like, “Knock that off or I’ll kick your…”, but if you think for a minute your son is going to knock off whatever it is you want him to knock off, you are woefully mistaken. The best you can hope for is he does as good a job of hiding it from his mother as you did at that age. Bear in mind, your ultimate goal with fatherly advice to the boy is to watch the game in peace without your wife interrupting it with comments like, “We need to discuss that son of yours” or “You need to have a talk with…” or “I believe our son is…”

The less she finds out about what her beloved child is doing when he is out of sight of his parents, the more tranquil life he and his father will live.

My Dad was a pretty good dispenser of parental advice back in the day. He grew up in the coal mine camps deep in the Appalachian regions of Kentucky and West Virginia. Life was simple and direct when you grew up in a coal mine camp and so was the life lessons you took from it.

After I got in a schoolyard scrap in grade school he advised me, “If I hear tell of you starting fights, I’ll whoop your tail when you get home. If I hear tell of someone starting a fight with you and you don’t end it, I’ll whoop your tail when you get home. And, if your mother finds out you’ve been fighting, you’re really gonna get it.”

He passed that one down from his father.

Another time he told me, “Never drink and drive. If you ever get too drunk to drive, call me and I’ll come get you. I don’t care how late it is. I just want you safe.”

I was shocked. “You mean you won’t kick my butt if I call you drunk?”

“Oh, I’m gonna kick your butt,” he said, “but I’ll come get you. And,” he added. “You better hope your mother never finds out.”

Thus encouraged, I never called.

Still, he meant well.