The state of my car is appalling.
Dog hair and detritus everywhere.
I'm not even going a hazard a guess as to how to classify the sticky substance between the middle row of seats or what solvent would make it disappear.
I had been in the car by myself for the better part of an hour, driving from one errand to another, listening lazily to the sounds straining out of the pop music radio station my daughter prefers.
I might have been amused by the constant banter of the DJ duo discussing bad dates with their listening audience. Everything about it felt familiar. Even the talk formula, intermittently interrupted by one of seven hit songs, presumably played in rotation, seemed like old hat.
But as I drove, my mind was churning a mixture of past, present and future banalities as anesthetizing as the airwave testimonies fueling this perennial battle of the sexes.
Truthfully, I hadn't been paying attention until I hit snow. (Yes, there was actual snow ... this winter refuses to retreat) but it was the radio static that transformed figurative pain into literal pain.
I changed channels.
A woman with precise diction and a chuckle in her voice proceeded to lay out the problems with kids today:
Snow plows ...
We know where we are on the spectrum.
A part of me wished I was not white-knuckling behind a steering wheel so I could let my eyes glaze over.
I could tell from the way her words flowed with a practiced flair into clear and chiseled points that this was more than a radio interview. Perhaps it was the subtle, yet distinctive sound of live studio-audience laughter punctuating her pauses that made me realize I was listening to a clip from a TED Talk.
I briefly wondered what the speaker looked like, imagined her pacing a stage wearing elegant but comfortable attire. I made a mental note to listen for the host to repeat her name so I could Google it later.
I never caught her name, but I imagined if I scoured the Interwebs for any of the above-mentioned search words I'd find no fewer than 7,000,010 potential scholars.
Far too few of us, our esteemed speaker noted with observances during her years of experience in academia, can walk sturdily in the place we need to be as molders of the future: a narrow little pathway she called “Authoritative Parenting.”
Usually, we end up on either side of the divide: the strict disciplinarians wind up on Authoritarian Avenue, and the friend-zoned parents wind up on Doormat Street, both of which are presumably dead ends in the game of Chutes and Ladders to Success.
Authoritative parents, however, are perfectly balanced between dictatorship and fairyland, which might mean they rule their little fiefdoms with a magic wand.
Not that I would ever bet bitcoin on any of that being even remotely true.
But as a person of a certain age, with a certain set of expectations and cultural pressures, I have continued to listen, hoping this stray voice in the wilderness will hand over the key to the universe, and she does: All we need is unconditional love … and chores.
Chores, like taking out the garbage or doing the laundry.
Paving the driveway. Anything that teaches children to look at their surroundings and predict what needs doing.
Look junior, a pothole. Fill it with tar.
It couldn't be easier. Chores! A simple and attainable plan.
I don't need to sweat all this big stuff. I don't have to worry that colleges won't accept my children if they walked out of school to protest gun laws when they were in middle school. Or that life won't be worth living if they don't play a sport or learn a second language while they play piano and develop a scalable model for a disruptive economic driver using only code.
I just need to get them to clean my car.