Golden rules may not go the distance

Time, technology proving adages wrong

September 15, 2010|By Susan Reimer

It comes to us from The New York Times that it is no longer necessary to change the oil in your automobile's engine every 3,000 miles.

Cars manufactured in the past half-dozen years can go 7,500, or even 10,000 miles, under most driving conditions before an oil change, Alina Tugend wrote this week in the Times.

I am sure this comes as a complete shock to you, as it did to me. I have been preaching the 3,000-mile doctrine, which I learned at my father's knee, to my husband and children for all these years, and now I realize they have been right to consider me compulsive and controlling, and I have been wrong to think of them as careless abusers of expensive machines.

Now, of course, I am wondering what other rules I have been wrong to enforce. What new information am I lacking that would, for instance, make flossing simply optional?

I am feeling as if my authority as family conscience has been irrevocably undercut. After all, if I have been wrong about oil changes, what else have I been wrong about?

"Please," "thank you" and other assorted manners? "Save for a rainy day," "wear a jacket or you'll catch a cold" and "don't talk with your mouth full"?

I have been nagging my husband and children for more than a quarter-century to put the dishes in the dishwasher instead of the sink and to hang up towels to dry.

What if I have been wrong all this time?

(Speaking of dishwashers, the same New York Times reporter has written that it is no longer necessary to rinse the dishes first. Will no one corral this rogue journalist?)

I feel the bulwark of civilized society giving way under the waves of so-called new information. What if I have been wrong about unprotected sex and driving drunk, too? What if these rules are no longer applicable because of changes in technology and manufacturing? The mind reels!

We were all there when "clean your plate" was discredited by childhood obesity and eating disorders. "Because I said so" has become a sign of poor parenting skills or, at least, chronic fatigue. And "stop crying or I will give you something to cry about" is now illegal in most states.

But we parents believed there were some things, like the 3,000-mile rule, that would withstand the test of time and changing values.

There is only one way to preserve my authority in the family, and that is to pretend that I am the change agent. That in light of the Gulf oil spill, I have decided that it is environmentally irresponsible to discard the perfectly good oil in the family cars so frequently, and that we can certainly go 7,500, or even 10,000 miles, before doing so.

But, I will tell my husband and children, don't even think about putting those dirty dishes in the dishwasher without rinsing them first.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

twitter.com/@susanreimer

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