She's Got Problems With Her Ex

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Dear Jack,

My son is 16 and lives with his father, whose house is in a good school district. Almost two months ago, I bought my son a truck to drive to school and to his part-time job. He pays for his own gas and I pay half his insurance, his father pays the other half.

Last week, I learned that his father and older step-brothers have been driving the truck. They used it to pull his father's bass boat on their fishing trip. This fishing trip didn't include my son. Needless to say I was furious. True, he had to work that weekend and couldn't have gone on the trip, but I'm not sure they even asked if he wanted to go. They just took his truck and left him one of the step-brothers' junk cars, which broke down, which is how I found out because I had to go pick up my son from the side of the interstate.

I have told him that I don't want anyone else driving that truck. He says he doesn't mind them driving it, but I know how his father is. The man will take what he wants without even asking. The step-brothers bully him constantly. He's afraid to tell them no.

I'm tempted to take the truck back, but that will only hurt my son. If I say something to his father, the step-brothers are bound to hear about it and will make his life even worse than it is. I wish I could have him living with me, but that would mean changing to a different and much worse school - I can't afford to live where his father lives. So how can I stop them from driving the truck?

Angry Mother

Dear Mad Mom,

Your first mistake was buying your son a truck. If he were paying the notes on it, he'd be much less inclined to let anyone bully the keys out of him. I've had five cars in my lifetime. The first two were given to me and lasted a little more than two years each before they were ready for the pull-a-parts yard. I bought my third car myself and drove it for fourteen years, until the doors literally fell off. Then I had a windfall of money and bought a new car, which lasted less than a year before the lawyers confiscated it. I'm still driving my fifth car, which took me six years to pay off, thanks to the fact I no longer had a windfall. We value most what we pay for with our sweat. Also, ex-wives generally don't take eight-year-old Saturns in the divorce.

But now that you've given him the truck, you can hardly take it back. It's his to do with as he wishes. Just because you bought it doesn't mean it's still yours, even if you didn't buy it for his father to drive. Do you think my uncle, a contented old bachelor who worked like a dog all his life so he could retire to Spain and be dead within a year, would have willed me his fortune if he thought I would burn through it in less than a year on blow and hookers? Ok, so that's a bad example, though to be honest I only spent half of it. The other half was taken by my other half, even though she didn't know the man existed until the day the estate lawyer called from Barcelona.

You can't stop his father from driving the truck. The only card you have to play is your half of the insurance payments. You could offer to let his father pay the full cost of insurance. No doubt he will pass that cost along to your son. I doubt you want that to happen. All you can do is let your son know that you don't approve, and then drop it. Forget about it. Try to look at the good side - at least his bimbo isn't driving it, right? Life's too short to be obsessing over the actions of your former spouse. Don't let your continuing ill feelings toward the man damage your relationship with your son.

Also, if you really want your son to live with you, look into optional schools. He's old enough to drive himself to school, and now he has a truck to drive. Hopefully the optional school program will last long enough for him to graduate.

Got a problem? Let Jack Waggon set you straight: jack.wagg@gmail.com

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