Some days having mechanical knowledge can be a real help.

First race meeting since the COVID restrictions came into play. When I unpacked everything after the last race meeting at Bathurst it was all working fine. So Saturday morning I go to load the race car, and the hydraulics on the trailer won’t work! I have owned that trailer for five years and it’s never let me down. At the very moment I need to load and get to practise, the darn thing carks it.

Now, this is not a box trailer. When fully loaded with car, tools and spares, this thing weighs something like two and a half tonne. It has to be right, or things can go very ‘wrong’ very quickly. So after a lot of mucking around, I got the car on to the trailer and tied down. Basically, I backed the trailer into a scoop drain down the paddock and ‘flat loaded’ with the ramps. I still only had sketchy ideas about how I would get it off at the other end, but hey, let’s face one problem at a time.

Turns out that by removing the front of the car I get more clearance and backing the tow car up onto ramps gets you close to the right angle. Turn 500+ horsepower loose in reverse, and Bob’s your uncle! The rest can be repaired.

When I got the trailer home after the weekend and had a good look at it, there were a couple of things that had just been waiting to go wrong. The first was the way the electrics from the hydraulic pump had been wired up. The system relies on a relay at the pump, figuring out when the trailer is supposed to go up and when it is supposed to go down. The fuse protection in the wiring harness was wrong, and there were joiners in the active side of the system that just increased the risk of problems. For those glazing over about now, just hang in there for a few more sentences! The second problem was the hand controller you use to operate the trailer’s hydraulics. I’m not sure which part of Guatemala it was manufactured in, but let’s just say ‘quality control’ was not at the top of their list of things to manage during manufacturing. So there were two separate problems that had fallen into place at exactly the same time.

I’ve now re-wired the pump, and put fuse protection into the system so an ‘electrical short’ won’t turn the hydraulics into a Roman Candle as we drive down the Hunter Expressway! I’m in the process of building my own electrical control unit because the ones I looked at are rubbish, with dodgy cheapo switches and fuse holders that were already falling apart despite having not even made it out of the shop! Besides, I like the challenge. So I sourced high-quality aircraft switching, will custom make the fuse protection and casing, and permanently wire it into the system. If I ever decide to tow the car to Mars to race, we can just load it on to the Space Shuttle and it will be all good!

If putting cheapo switches and rubbishy fuse holders into a trailer seems like a dumb thing to do, why do we think that grabbing the nearest easy-option solutions and chucking them into our parenting will not lead to problems! And just to make it really clear that I am speaking to ‘us’ and not just ‘you’, remember I am still a parent. Once a parent, always a parent! I am speaking to all of us here. The collective mass that every day wrestles with the consequences not only of our children’s choices but those of our own choices.

Now you’re wondering why the trailer introduction, aren’t you!

Well, the key line is, “When I got the trailer home and had a good look at it, there were a couple of things that had just been waiting to go wrong”. In forty years as a parent, I have never actually had one day where I had only one thing I had to get right! It would be simple if each day you just had to deal with one decision, but parenting (and life in general) is not like that. It is complicated, relentless, and sometimes exhausting. It has these moments of incredible ‘highs’ and then there is all the rest of the time. And like my car trailer, I sometimes have to deal with problems that are the end result of other people’s choices. Oh, there are plenty of times when it’s my own silly fault, but working out who to blame is a bit pointless, because as a parent, the responsibility sits with me to be the ‘solution’, even if I wasn’t the original problem. Basically, who cares who made the first bad choice, it’s the next choice that really counts! And that, my friends, is the job when it comes to parenting!

I often hear some of the advice parents have followed when making their decisions. Can I just say that experience tells me that your five-year-old is probably not the best source of wisdom when it comes to parenting? Neither is your fourteen-year-old son’s girlfriend. Probably best to avoid doing most of what the boys at footy tell you is the way to go and don’t get me started on Dr Phil! Although he did have some pretty good things to say about curing rashes, but that’s another story!

So here’s my point. Don’t focus on the problems, focus on the solutions. Choose who you will take advice from and when it comes to parenting, talk to the guy that designed and put the whole thing together! God knew what He was doing and how parenting works. Kids need parents. They don’t need you to always be their best friend but they do need you to teach them how to do life. And remember, they’ll do what you do long after they’ll do what you say! (I think that was Dr Phil…).

Have a great week.

Geoff Brisby