The grand bargain

Today’s mail included a note from a grateful mom and dad. It had a vintage car on the cover, and the message made me smile: “Thought you should know. Ryan graduated last weekend, thanks to your grand bargain. We - including Ryan - can’t thank you enough.” It was, indeed, signed by both parents and Ryan.

At his annual well visit in October of his junior year, his mother had been very upset that his grades had tanked, along with his attitude. He had been a solid B+ student and a varsity starter in a sport every season (soccer, hockey, track) but was failing everything but health at the end of the first set of grades and had been told by the soccer coach to turn in his jersey since he had missed two consecutive weeks of practice. 

She said she knew what the problem was but didn’t know how to fix it. That summer they had purchased him a car for his birthday to help him get a part time job and to relieve themselves of having to drive him to and from practices and games. After school, he drove around with his friends, usually showing up in time for dinner, and often going to a friend’s house or bowling after dinner. He was doing nothing but socializing on four wheels.

After checking to be sure that the car registration was in the parents’ names, I suggested the following plan, which I called a grand bargain. They should sell the car before the end of the week, put the money in the bank in a separate savings account, and at the end of each grading period deposit $25 for each passing grade and $50 for each A but withdraw $100 for each failing grade. At high school graduation the money would be his.

I wrote the plan out so she could present it to her husband at dinner. (It had been his decision to buy the car in response to her complaints about the burden of transporting Ryan hither and yon.) She was worried Dad would not be willing, but Ryan’s fierce glare at me as he left reassured me that he knew Dad would sell the car.

When I saw him last Octrober for his annual visit, Ryan was a senior, passing everything with a mix of mostly Bs and a couple As and was playing varsity soccer and second highest scorer on the team. In response to my question about dating, he said he was not - and pointed out with some emphasis that it was my fault, because now he had no car. But then shrugged and said, ‘But my grades are wicked good.’

After I read the card, I checked the chart and was thrilled to see that he is scheduled for a ‘college physical’ in August. I wonder if he will drive himself to the office in a newly purchased vehicle?




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