When I think about the important benefits of parenting, one of them really stands out above the others: cleaning up excrement at 2 a.m. while your child screams at you.
No! I'm just kidding. That's one of the many downsides of parenting, the others being riding an airplane while your child screams at you, going to the movies while your child screams at the babysitter, and of course returning home from a business trip to discover that your living room sofa now features a rather large Kool-Aid stain … and your child is screaming at you.
But today I'm going to talk about another major issue in the world of parenting, namely that you should buy a car for your teenage son or daughter. Really, I believe that this is something that every parent should do: take a large chunk out of your savings and spend it on a 3,500-pound movable object for someone who can't even wake up in time to go to school.
Now, before I get started with my reasons for this point of view, I should mention that I know exactly what you're thinking, and that is: Doug, you jackass, I don't have a teenage son or daughter! I'm 19 years old for chrissakes! The biggest responsibility I've ever been entrusted with is my iPhone, and I cracked the screen four days after I got it! To which I would respond: Did you just say "chrissakes"?
Actually, I would respond by saying that this advice isn't just for current parents, but rather for future parents, as well as future aunts, uncles, grandparents, and basically anyone who has any sense at all. So let's get started with my reasoning.
1. Safety. All parents are obsessively concerned about safety. I'm not a parent myself, but I know this because I've been around parents, and safety is the only thing on their minds. You'll be sitting in their house, discussing major world issues, such as cheese, and their child will start to crawl. Suddenly the parent is no longer interested in the conversation. They're watching the child like a hawk, trying to make sure he doesn't run across an errant butcher knife, somehow left on the floor even though the cabinets are all baby-proofed to the point where, when you come over for dinner, it's easier just to bring plastic utensils.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the number one reason you should buy a car for your teenager.
You see, if you make your teenager buy a car using his (or her!) own money, what will happen is he (or she!) will get some menial job, possibly at Dairy Queen, where he (or she! Can I stop doing this now?) is making $7.35 per hour and working for a 37-year-old assistant manager named Jimmy.
So he toils there for an entire summer and he ends up saving $2,400, of which $400 goes to the government, and another $400 goes to typical high schooler things, such as textbooks, and musical instruments, and honor society dues. (Of course, what I really mean here is "pot.") So that leaves him with $1,600 left over for a car.
The problem with this is that a $1,600 car is pretty much the worst thing you can buy, when it comes to safety. Spend $1,600 on a car and you'll probably end up with one of those 1980s GM sedans with a red interior and that steering column where it looked like the entire purpose of the design was to punch you in the face in the event of any sort of accident, or strong winds.
But if you, as a parent, help your child buy a car, you'll find that the options are considerably safer with a larger budget. For example: increase things to eight grand, and you can easily get side airbags and ABS. The question you must ask yourself, of course, is whether you even want your child to be safe, after all those years he spent screaming at you.
2. Reliability. You'll also want to buy a car for your teenage son or daughter because it's important that any teenager is driving something reliable.
Now, at this point you might be thinking that you don't want your teenager in something reliable; you want him in some sort of beater where he'll have to perform basic maintenance and figure out what to do when it breaks. The problem here is that modern teenagers don't want to do car maintenance. What they want to do, and I base this completely on things I've heard from Bill O'Reilly, is play violent video games and send naked pictures via text message.
The primary reason you should buy your kid something reliable is that you don't want him to get stranded in that $1,600 Oldsmobile Ciera he bought with his Dairy Queen money. This isn't a safety concern, though: no one's going to screw with a guy in an Oldsmobile Ciera. You see an Oldsmobile Ciera on the side of the road, and you don't think: Let's rob this guy. You think: This guy has a body in the trunk. Maybe two.
No, the reason you don't want him to get stranded is that he's going to do precisely one thing the moment his car dies: he's going to call you. And then you're going to have to go pick him up in some bad neighborhood, on some weird side of town, which strikes you as sort of a strange place to have to pay your honor society dues, but whatever.
Of course, there are many other reasons to buy your kid a car, namely that it will spark an interest in cars, and that you won't have to drive him around everywhere, and – most importantly – he won't be driving your car when he inevitably rear-ends a pregnant woman while texting. But I think we can all agree that I've covered the basics here. And so, for those of you out there with a new baby, just remember this the next time you're cleaning up excrement at 2 a.m.: in 15 years, you're going to have to buy a car for this child. No matter how much he screams at you.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.