Sunday, July 20, 2014

The 12-to-20 plan, Part I

As soon as my daughter was born, and we cut all the cords and the nurses wiped most of the gunk off her body, my wife and I contacted our advisor. Before the girl was back from her APGAR tests, we had signed her up for the 12-to-20 plan. It's the best thing we could have done as parents. Here's why: (Cue the "Robert Wagner explaining reverse mortgages" voice...)

The 12-to-20 plan allows parents to skip the 7 most trying years of the entire experience by immediately advancing kids' ages from 12 to 20. On the 13th anniversary of their birth, your kids will wake up moderately well-adjusted, mannerly, post-pubescent young ladies and gentlemen. This affords the parents the opportunity to live life without worrying about what time the kids will be home, whose car they'll be taking, what crowd they are running with, and the PSATs. And sex. And a whole host of things that haven't been invented yet. Things like Venmo, which I just heard about yesterday and which scares the shit out of me. Resolved: My daughter will not own so much as a checkbook until she is old enough to be the Speaker of the House.

But there's a twist. You have to give up one seven-year span of your own life in the process, but it can be any seven-year span. I chose the last seven years of my life without hesitation. There's really not much use in me screwing up euchre games in the home by forgetting that the jack of clubs is actually a spade, or boring the staff with tales of my hardscrabble youth of Apple IIc computers and mice with cords. I'll take my chances in exchange for not having to apply air brakes every time my daughter nearly drives into the local pond.

Simply put, teens can be some of the most ignorant, indignant, insolent, impudent, indifferent, indolent people in society. And then they turn 14. So they're all those things but at a rate of a box of cereal and a gallon of milk per day. By 15, they are eating entire pizzas, box and all, folding them over each other into sliders. All the while, you send them out for the mail and they come back smelling like french onion soup. Yet somehow they are still having sex...

Then the next year they drive. Abrasive yet timid, all-knowing yet green, hormonal yet even more hormonal, we try to teach them to operate large metal vehicles and then trust them to do so after they practice driving between some cones. By 18, we're letting them help us elect our next president and buy lottery tickets, probably the same thing. At 19, they are starting to round into shape, sometimes literally, but just as you think they're ready for some adult conversation-- and you ask them about, say, their career goals-- and they become indignant, impudent, insolent...

And I was one of the better kids...*

*probably because I was minus the sex part.

But as I lay in my hospital bed in our (at the time) brand new birthing room, somebody's voice, maybe Robert Wagner's, maybe Morgan Freeman's, or maybe even the voice of the impossibly calm and-- not gonna lie-- slightly pretentious Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reminded me:

"What if your parents had gone 12-20 with you? Think about all the people in your life you would have never met. All the people who shaped your life. They'd be busy shaping other people's lives. Sure, you could have avoided that time you had to call the maintenance man to shut the water off in your apartment, (lefty-loosy, buddy) but think where you'd be right now without those people. Some of the best people in your life would be gone. Even the people you knew before adolescence wouldn't be the same people without those shared experiences.

"Then think about if your in-laws went 12-20 with your wife. While you were busy picking your nose in Gen Psych as a 20-year-old, she would have been 25 years old, started her family with someone who could actually turn her water off, and this precious bundle you're holding would never have been. OK, bad example, I realize she's screamed and cried for all 34 hours she's been alive so far while your pupils are the size of pinheads, but work with me.

"Now think about years from now when you guys go to buy a minivan. Don't look at me like that, just think about it. Or you go to get your wills done. Or, a longshot, what if you try to have what they'll call years from now a 'date night.' Who do you think will watch your kids? A teenager. And she'll be really good at it, and your kids will absolutely love her. (OK fine, start over, imagine you're going to buy a Porsche, tough guy, whatever. Get over yourself.) Then of course, you'll be responsible for properly schooling your child on everything they've missed since 6th grade, so I hope you're still good at trigonometry and the leading causes of World War I and whatever "physics" is. Who will cut your grass? Who will show you how to work the electronics on the technology thingies that you won't understand? Nobody. Are you sure you want to go through with this?"

So it may have been just delirium from no sleep, but Master Splinter talked us in to backing out of the 12-20 plan at the last minute. Even though we're still 6 years away from worrying about any of that--maybe sooner if what I read about "those hormones" they're putting in "those animals these days" is true-- we're pretty sure we made the right choice. We'll just have to remember some important rules:

1. No drinking.
2. No sex.
3. Be home by 11:00.
4. We reserve the right to change our mind and reinstate 12 to 20 at any time without notice.
5. The jack in the other suit of the same color as the trump suit is the second highest card in the deck.
6. When you're stupid and forget rules 1-5, we'll love you unconditionally anyway.

Want to know what other Dads think ? Read Part II, then!

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