Men get confused easily. We need things to be divided into coherent blocks of information and then presented to us in order, one at a time. This is why children overwhelm us. I stood at the door of parenthood and expected a slow progression of parenting knowledge to pile up as my children grew up. Instead parenthood burst through an open window screeching like a monkey swinging an AK-47 around with its tail while throwing poo like confetti. I stood there like an idiot thinking, “Wow. I wasn’t expecting this.” Meanwhile Janice has already contacted the local animal control, filled a bucket with soap and water, and scheduled rabies shots for the kids. I’m lucky to even survive the encounter because monkeys with guns are really unpredictable. I’m not sure there was ever a study done on the survival rate of such an encounter but still, we can’t just hide behind the couch and fret about the poo all day. As the dad in your family, you need to develop a Child Maintenance Program (CMP) that tames the chaos keeps your children clean, maintained, and ready to move out of the house as soon as they’re eighteen.
Where do you start, though? Here’s a few tips…
Remember, not all makes and models are the same.
As an airplane mechanic, you wouldn’t use a Cessna manual to fix a Piper. Neither should you use an Elliot manual to fix an Adilene. They’re two different models. For example, an Adilene will require a lot of maintenance since she develops squawks easily. She always needs an adjustment here or there but once you get her airworthy she’s an easy flier and very docile. An Elliot, on the other hand, is fast and reliable and even takes off without you sometimes. But then he has a tendency to dive bomb straight into the ground because you let go of the control yoke for two seconds. So you need to develop a different maintenance plan for each child you have in your hangar.
On the plus side, there are some similarities between the models. For example: A Band Aid is the only sheet metal work required for most repair jobs on any brand.
Cleaning and corrosion control should not be overlooked.
Cleaning and corrosion control is an important part of any maintenance program. Corrosion, if let untreated, can weaken structural members and eventually lead to catastrophic failure. We all know the parents who had kids who seemed reliable and airworthy until suddenly a wing broke off and they showed up to the family reunion with a Joe Biden bumper sticker on their car. Turns out there was corrosion in the structure but no one ever bothered checking.
Some methods of corrosion control are obvious. Brushing teeth, baths, and changing diapers are routine maintenance. But we should be proactive too. Once our children leave the hangar, they’ll be exposed to salt, grime, exhaust fumes, and dirty fuel. We should give them a good coat of quality epoxy primer and keep their fuel strainers and oil screens clean. As a rule of thumb, the most important screen to inspect is the one hanging on your living room wall.
Read all the manuals, even the silly ones.
Once you have a child to maintain, you will notice that your bookshelf will fill with manuals. Some of these manuals you’ll have to refer to often, several times a day in fact. Your child will bring them to you and insist that you read them again, and again, and then later once again. After several hundred recitals, you may be tempted to skip some pages because you know exactly what it says already. Or you may be tempted to insert information that isn’t actually there just to make it interesting. However, your child will notice whenever you screw it up and will let you know by throwing a rod, seizing up, and refusing to start again. The only solution is to grab another manual from the shelf and fix the problem. So it’s important to use the manual, no matter how silly and boring and horrible the illustrations may be. And chances are, your child will prefer the manual that you hate the most. This can be frustrating so it’s nice if you have someone to share the load with.
Listen to Your Flight Instructor.
Sometimes you get tired of fighting with the controls and the next time the child is in a dive, we’re tempted to just let the child crash.
“Mayday! Mayday! 182 Juliet Golf to Tower. I’ve done everything I can do but this child just won’t listen. I’m taking my hands off the controls and I’m going to observe what happens.”
That’s when you need a flight instructor to scream in your ear, “Pull back! Pull back! Pull, you fool!” We all need encouragement to keep working on our children and not give up even though we doubt we’ll ever get them flying right.
Of course, we won’t know that the airplane isn’t flying right if our instruments are all out of calibration.
Calibrate your instruments.
Sometimes you get a little lost in the clouds. Research shows that an untrained pilot who flies into a cloud has only a minute and some change before he’s so disoriented he flies straight into the ground. A perfectly maintained airplane is useless if the airplane flies straight into the round spherical thing known as Earth.
It’s important to observe and calibrate instruments so they respond properly to atmospheric conditions such as storm clouds, headwinds, turbulence, and cold fronts. I realize we aren’t talking about canoes here but sometimes the only tool you need to recalibrate the instrument is a paddle – applied properly of course.
Apply the proper torque.
Airplanes are full of bolts. Some are big, some are small. If you apply too little torque, your airplane falls apart. If you apply too much torque, your airplane falls apart. The key is to apply exactly the right torque.
If you spend time reading the boring, repetitive manuals (like I previously mentioned) chances are you’ll find that, nine times out of ten, you don’t need a four foot extension on your wrench to apply torque. As a mechanic, your goal is not to break things but to keep things in their proper place so they useful to the Pilot. Spend time learning about your model of airplane so you know how and when to apply the proper torque and everything will function better, smoother, and last longer. You’ll know when to apply the large calibration paddle and when to simply apply a slight torque to loose nut. Unless, of course, you’re distracted and aren’t paying attention to loose nuts.
Don’t be distracted.
A good mechanic quickly turns into a bad mechanic if he lets himself get distracted. When you’re troubleshooting a missing engine or performing a major overhaul, the last thing you should do is hold a wrench in one hand and your phone in the other. Once the engine is all back together and taxing down the runway, we’ll realize we have a handful of gears and screws left over. Don’t worry, I’m sure once the airplane crash lands in a cornfield and the Pilot realizes what happened, He’ll forgive you because He’ll think the video is funny too.
A good maintenance policy is to spend less time on your phone and more time reading those silly manuals we think don’t matter.
Maintenance is messy.
It’s important to have a good supply of oil absorbent mats in your shop because children leak a lot, even if they’re just sitting there doing nothing. I recommend Kirkland Signature baby wipes. You can buy them bulk on Amazon and it comes out to like $0.026 per wipe. I figured it out one day because I accused Janice of using too many. Never accuse a mom of wasting money on cleaning products while she’s cleaning poop. She’ll hand you one baby wipe and walk away with the rest.
“Here. You do it.”
After that ordeal I realized that they are, in fact, quite the bargain.
Communicate with the Pilot.
And remember, it’s important to communicate with the Pilot who flies the airplane. He knows exactly how he wants it. And, unlike many pilots, he actually knows more about maintenance than you do.