So when my great kid decided to drive across the country to head back to school after his Christmas break, he – by his own admission – overestimated his stamina and his judgment in thinking he could make a 2500 mile trip in about 4 days or so. And I’m not sure he would have admitted said overestimation if he hadn’t gotten a speeding ticket along the way, a ticket which was mailed to our home address, which is why I saw it. A ticket he says he got because (pick one) the middle of the country is too boring to look at so he wanted to get where he was supposed to be more quickly or he was too tired and really need to get to his hotel to go to sleep or maybe he just plain ol’ drives too fast. In fact, don’t just pick one; you can pick all three, as I think all of them are true to some extent.
In any event, he didn’t have the option of paying said ticket online so he told me he’d send them a check. Big mistake.
Like any Generation Y kid, he had lived his life using a debit card (sometimes his, sometimes mine but that’s another story). A check was the equivalent of using a VCR instead of streaming video on demand, at least in his eyes. He didn’t know how to write one. So he asked me what to do and I told him – or at least I thought I told him – how to do it. (And I know this makes him sound kind of dopey and he’s really a bright kid so, if by chance he’s reading it, I’m sorry for making you sound dopey!)
Done and done, he told me, and we thought all was well. Until about 3 weeks later when a lovely letter arrived from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania suggesting they might want to suspend his driver’s license since he hadn’t paid his ticket. I couldn’t reach him so I gave them a call and asked them to double-check the check. Oh, we got the check – the lovely lady on the phone told me – but we couldn’t cash it because he didn’t sign it so we sent it back. Sigh.
All’s well that ends well with that story but it got me thinking that maybe in lieu of – or in addition to – all the history and geography (do they even call it that any more?) and other subjects they teach in grammar and high school (and even college), maybe we should be pushing our educators and our schools to teach our kids some life skills. Balancing a checkbook doesn’t always come naturally, nor does filling out a job application, or writing a college essay, or applying for auto or health insurance, or any of the other tasks that we as adults have (hopefully) mastered. These types of skills are not intuitive.
We as a nation have already learned the value of teaching art and music in our schools (and my darling cousin, Dan, does that for his students exceedingly well). It’s a matter of record that early exposure to the arts while in school helps students in all kinds of areas of their life, including math and reading and critical thinking. (Unless, of course, you’re the geniuses at the New York school who just cancelled the kindergarden show because – to paraphrase what their acting principal said – it takes up valuable time that could be used preparing 6 year old kids for college. Save us from people like this).
Anyway, if we know that teaching the arts to our children helps them become better and smarter people, why don’t our educators realize that teaching our children some life skills will also help them become more rounded and better able to navigate the difficult world they’ll all face one day? (And, yes, I know that we as parents also have to teach our children life skills but teachers and parents should be partnering on efforts that will ultimately benefit our kids).
And my great kid now knows how to write a check properly. Let’s hope the next one he writes is for a far greater purpose than the one that the fine folks at the DMV in Pennsylvania got from him.