Not many parents know this, mainly because they spend most of their time in the car, but on the same day that Henry Ford manufactured the first automobile, his wife asked him a very important question: "Could you pick up the kids at school this afternoon?"
From that day on, Ford and his wife couldn't leave the house without driving their children somewhere.
Now, nearly a century later, millions of American parents find themselves in the same situation: We have become full-time chauffeurs for our kids.
This, of course, is now the greatest of all parental responsibilities. Feeding and clothing your children are not nearly as important as driving them all over town every day, sometimes to so many different places or events that you could probably become a millionaire in just one week if only you had the nerve to install a meter in the family car.
Then again, you'd have to spend the money on gas.
At this moment, our family car, a 1991 Ford Taurus, has 36,926.9 miles on it. I would conservatively estimate that 33,527.2 of those miles have been put on while driving our two daughters--and sometimes their friends--to and from various destinations and important engagements.
These include--but are not limited to--school, the mall, the library, the ice-skating rink, friends' houses, school dances, local hangouts, field hockey practice, field hockey games, basketball practice, basketball games, softball practice, softball games, band practice, football games, drama club, tutoring programs, religious instructions, the movies, the video store, the corner store, the school-supply store and, eventually, back home, only to turn right around and go out again.
It's a wonder the car doesn't explode.
To this day there are some people who think I am only 3 feet tall because the only time they ever see me is when I am sitting in the car. These same people, by the way, think my wife is 1 foot 10.
Of course, my wife and I are not in this alone. We are merely one small part of a vast network of parents and grandparents whose main mission in life is to provide transportation for teen-age and preteen children, who often show their appreciation either by fighting in the back seat or by switching the car radio to some god-awful station that plays music by body-pierced devil worshipers.
The invasion of Normandy was probably easier to plan than a typical day of chauffeuring. Here is a chilling example.
My wife: Can you pick up Lauren at school today? She gets out at 2:30.
Me: I guess so. But doesn't she have drama club?
My wife: That's Wednesday. Today's Thursday.
My wife: Drop her off at home. My father is taking Katie to her tutoring program. I'll bring her home after that.
My wife: Katie.
Me (confused): I thought she was going to the mall.
My wife: I took her and Traci there yesterday. Traci's mother drove them back.
Me (more confused): What about Lauren's basketball practice?
My wife: She goes to basketball Wednesdays at 5:30. After that I have to pick her up and drop her off at religious instructions at 6:30. You pick her up at 7:45, remember?
My wife: Katie has band tonight at 6. Katalin's mother is taking her. Can you pick them up at 8 and drive Katalin home?
Me: I thought she had band on Tuesdays.
My wife: She does.
Me (utterly confused): But you said today was Thursday.
My wife: It is. She has band tonight too. They have to play at the football game tomorrow night.
Me: That's Friday.
My wife: No kidding. It's also the night you have to pick up Lauren and Farha at the rink. Farha's mother is driving them over there.
My wife: Any questions?
Me: Just one. What day is this again?
Don't worry, parents. This constant chauffeuring won't last forever. One day, sooner than you think, our children will get their drivers' licenses.
Then we'll really be driven crazy.