On Gender Equality, Monster Trucks and Making Everything Complicated

Dec 20 2011

Every time we have a car mishap, whether it’s our van spewing its transmission guts all over the roadway or that one time FOREVER AGO (last Tuesday) when I bumped into a car or two in traffic, my dad-in-law graciously loans our menagerie a vehicle. We’ve borrowed our current loaner at least thrice this calendar year, and Dave deserves an enormous pat on the back for his generosity. In fact, I’m almost positive he owns his giant Yukon GMC just so I’ll have something to drive at times like this.

As we loaded up – again – into Grandpa’s SUV this morning, Cael, one of our 5-year-old boys, said to me with awe in his voice, “Mom, do you know how to drive this big, huge car?”

Given recent events, I can hardly blame the kid for checking.

“Yes, Cael,” I replied. “I can drive this big car. In fact, when you learn how to drive, it means you know how to drive lots of different kinds of cars and trucks, not just one.”

That’s when Cael’s twin brother, Cai, piped up.

“Really?!” Cai said incredulously, clearly impressed. “Do you know how to drive a monster truck?” Monster trucks being the penultimate driving experience to a 5-year-old, I suppose.

“Probably,” I said.

Cai’s disappointment in my lack-luster response was palpable.

“Probably? ‘Probably’ means you don’t know, right, Mom? You don’t know if you can drive a monster truck.”

“Right, Cai,” I confirmed. “I guess it’s technically correct to say that I don’t know if I can drive a monster truck.”

Cai sighed and his shoulders dropped. I could tell he’d already suspected that his mother was pathetic, but this evidence was almost beyond bearing.

He was quiet for a long time, and I could see his brain working furiously.

Finally, from the row behind me, Cai said, “Mom?”

“Yes, Cai Cai?”

“You know what you could do about that monster truck thing?”

“What can I do, Cai Cai?”

“Well, Mom. You could ask a guy to teach you how to drive one.”

I confess; my gender-equality hackles stood straight up on end. A guy? I could ask a guy to teach me how to drive a monster truck? Sheesh! I mean, I fix walls all by myself; I don’t need no stinkin’ guy to teach me.

But I knew my sweet, darling, baby boy deserved the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he meant the more generic “guy?” As in “Hey, guys!” And “What’s up, guys?” And “Guys?! Who used all the toilet paper and didn’t refill it?! Seriously! Guys! Someone answer me. I’m kind of stuck here, guys.”

So I clarified.

“Sure, I could ask a guy about a monster truck, Cai. OR I could ask a girl. Right, Cai? I could ask a guy OR a girl to teach me to drive a monster truck?”

Cai thought about that.

He pondered.

He deliberated.

He mulled.

And then he said this:

“Well, Mom, I guess you could ask a girl. But only if you want to make everything very – VERY – complicated.”