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Man of the House by Chris Erskine

Yikes, I'm driving Miss Daisy

The teen's bucking for an Audi; her brother's bucking the system. Buckle up!

September 13, 2008|Chris Erskine

PERSONALLY, I find this whole parenting thing to be hugely overrated. Have you met many of today's kids? Total doinks. Let me give you some examples.

It's only September and ours have already broken out the Christmas mugs, guzzling big vats of hot chocolate, sometimes laced with coffee for added energy, sometimes laced with other stuff to calm their jangled nerves. Parenting tip No. 1: Lock the liquor cabinet. Swallow the key.

"You been drinking?" I ask the little guy the other morning before kindergarten.

"Dad?"

"Huh?"

"You think anybody could live here sober?" he asks.

Well, those weren't his words exactly, but that's the drift. He's had his frustrations lately with home and school. Kindergarten is so regimented. The lines of authority too rigid. At home, things are more fluid -- no one really seems to be in charge. But at school, there are rules everywhere and a tendency toward "group think."

So we now walk him into class each morning, forgoing the carpool line and hoofing it to that shining schoolhouse on the hill. In the first week, we discovered that if you don't walk him personally to the kindergarten door, he will somehow wind up down at the local supermarket, ordering deli food. That's just Manny being Manny. Like his father, the little guy's not much for foolish structure.

"Maybe we should home-school him," I tell Posh after the first week.

"Spl-WHATTTTT?!!!" Posh says, doing a spit-take with her first mimosa of the day.

Then there are the other kids, his big brother, who is taking a video class at the local college, "because the world can never have enough video," as he explains it, and his biggest sister, the lovely and patient older daughter. She's grown up so fast. She is now older than me.

In fact, it turns out that the little guy's kindergarten teacher, Miss Price, went to high school with his big sister (Miss Priceless). As I've noted before, we appear to be having our own grandchildren.

Then there is the little girl, now 17 and the only senior in her high school without a brand-new Audi A4. This has left her with two unappealing choices: She can either take the bus to school, or I can drive her. So far, she's opted for me.

"I'm driving Miss Daisy?" I say excitedly at breakfast. As we adjust to the new school year, our mornings resemble a jailbreak at a high-security prison. The only thing missing is the guard towers and any sense of camaraderie.

"Eat your breakfast!" Posh is telling the little guy.

"CAN WE GO NOW?" screams the little girl, still a little upset that she doesn't have her own Audi. (We're taking donations, by the way. Screw the whales. Send money to help the little girl drive an overpriced German sedan.)

"OK, Miss Daisy, let's go," I say, and we pile into the car for a cheery, fun-filled ride to school.

Like always, our conversations on the way to school are pretty one-sided. I say things. She doesn't respond, or just barely. I ask her how she likes her teachers. She says fine, they're brilliant. How Oxford let them get away, she'll never understand.

"Good," I say. "Because you deserve the best."

"Yeah, an Audi," she mutters.

Then I entertain her with some of my observations about the world. I have this whole shtick going lately about table salt. You know, how you can count on table salt. Always tastes the same. There's never a bad harvest of salt, as there is for grapes or barley.

"Salt may be the only thing we can truly count on," I tell her.

"That's interesting, Dad," she lies.

"I like things that always taste the same," I explain.

Unlike my wife, whose moods and flavors are constantly changing. The other day, I went to kiss/taste her -- to comfort her during the difficult moments of early September -- and she actually flinched. She raised her hands and took a step back, as if I'd drawn a gun.

"You surprised me," she explained.

"You actually flinched," I said.

"And you have milk all over your face."

At the time, I was still chewing cornflakes, and a little milk was likely dribbling down my chin. Posh now has a new rule: no touching till sundown. You know, unless you're a billionaire or something.

"Then I'd make an exception," she explained.

By the way, can you imagine how thirsty-hungry the very first guy to ever try milk must've been? Can you imagine the courage it took . . . first, to get under the cow with your Dodger glass, then to squirt the milk into your glass and guzzle it down before the cow kicked you in the head? That, my friends, was a very brave person.

I feel the same way about eggs. Can you imagine the courage it took to sample the first eggs Benedict?

Which reminds me of the old joke.

Me: Sweetie, how do you want your eggs?

Posh: Unfertilized, please.

Ba-da-boom.

--

Chris Erskine can be reached at chris.erskine@latimes.com.

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