It only took 26 years.
My Dad complains the only reason people call him is when they have a problem or need advice. I'll be the first to admit that's pretty much true. I mean, there have been a couple times I called him to celebrate in ridiculous excitement (because Mom didn't pick up the phone), but he's right. Most of the time, I have a problem. Some are stupid. Some are crushing. And some are legit "how-the-heck-do you-(insert problem here)?"
I'm conditioned to ask my parents for help. (Damn you, millennial tendencies).
My immediate reaction when I have a problem I can't solve is "DAAAAAD!" Am I right? Seriously. I think every child and young adult goes through this -- and some daily. We automatically throw our problems onto someone else to solve. In short, we give up. I give up. And I shouldn't.
I want to tell you a story.
When I signed the lease on my apartment two years ago, I bought a couch. When the couch came in, I brought my Dad to get it from the factory back to my apartment. We drove the SVU over together and I helped him load it into the back of the car.
But, how was the couch going to stay in the car?
Knot tying blows my mind. And (from his college sailing days) my Dad knows every knot. Me on the other hand?
I can tie my shoes.
He got down on the ground to tie a trucker's hitch - in fact, multiple - to the car. A couple huge loops around the roof-rack and through the car to finish up and we were good to go. When he was tying the trucker's hitch, I said something I always think about when I call him with a problem:
"Dad, if you were hit by a truck right now, I would be so screwed. I don't know any of this stuff."
He looks at me with a smile on his face. "Yep."
This goes beyond knots. It includes all the stuff he knows about solving life's problems. Like, McGuyver stuff. You know, all those school projects our parents helped build, all the car maintenance, and even simple tasks.
Let me tell you another story.
Last week, I traveled to NYC with my parents on "business" (aka eat the biggest gyro of my life). The first morning, I went to take a shower. The shower was ancient. It had 4 knobs to turn. Without hesitation, I yelled "Dad, how the heck do you turn the shower on? There's 4 knobs!"
"Just think" he yells back.
I stared at the four knobs (granted, I didn't have my contacts in so I couldn't read a thing). A couple seconds later it hit me. The top two knobs were hot and cold for the shower head. The bottom two? Hot and cold for the bathtub part. It was a successful shower.
The bigger lesson hit me when I got home. I could eliminate nearly half the calls to both of my parents if I just thought about it first. It sounds stupid and well, it is. But, seriously.
Think about it.
Whatever the problem, try to solve it first before you call anyone. Because, you know what? There's going to come a time where your parents (who by default know absolutely everything between the two of them) aren't there to solve your problems.
And to those who haven't grown up with Mom, Dad, or either parent, you kick some serious butt every day. You're the best problem solver out there. I think we use our parent's as a crutch to get ourselves through life. (Mom and Dad, I'm still coming over for dinner - especially when steak is involved).
Since things are always better in three, here's my final story:
Last night, my vacuum stopped working. Through hell or high water was I going to use the hose extension to vacuum my apartment. I reached for my phone. I could hear the conversation playing through in my head "Dad, my vaccuum's broken. What the hell." "What's wrong with it?" "It won't vacuum."
I mentally slapped myself in the face. You moron. That won't help at all.
I flipped the vacuum over and checked to see if the brush was clogged. Nope. Then, I noticed 2 screws holding the bottom together. I got my screwdriver and loosened the screws. The cover was not coming off. Turns out I missed three screws. Ok, the cover is off.
I unclog a couple parts and then see the belt. It's broken. Now I know that if the motor in the vacuum is running, it's probably a clog or a broken belt. Broken vacuum belt. "Dad, how do I....." --- No. I was so close. I was going to solve this by myself.
"Broken vacuum belt" -- TADA! It showed me how to replace the belt, how much it's going to cost (~$4) and where to buy them. Thank you, Google. You're like my Dad, but digital. (Not quite).
I scribbled the part number down, the vacuum brand and the model number. I'm all set for a trip to the hardware store in the morning to solve the whole broken vacuum problem. And Dad wasn't needed. Boom!
So, what's the point here?
I hope you don't think the point here is that I'm an idiot. Yes, I should know how to solve these everyday problems. But there comes a time when I don't know how to solve a problem.
For 26 years, my parents have been trying to teach me to JUST THINK. You have a problem? Solve it. Other people won't be there for you all of the time. Soak it all up when you can. Know that a tire should be at 30-35 PSI. Know how to fix a vacuum belt. And know how to design a boat to win your kid's 5th grade boat race. Think about it.
I know this sounds simple. But, all too often, I want to throw my hands up in the air and quit. The problem has beat me. Time to call my parents. They'll know what do. Well now, I'm going to consciously try to beat the problem.
Photo courtesy of Martin Abegglen