While culturally I became a man at age 13 (and then, the next day, went back to seventh grade), personally, I only started growing up in my late 30s – just because my children made me. In fact, I can pinpoint my exact crossing into maturity: the first time I pulled over the family Forester and yelled, “Hey, you kids, quit screwing around back there!”
Sure, two miniature copies of myself had been calling me “dad” for years, but not until that moment did I truly become “Dad.” Once you take that kind of hard-line stance against horseplay, there’s no turning back.
Simply put, there’s nothing like tooling around in a car full of kids to make a person feel like an adult. Muscle cars, sports convertibles, monster trucks? Child’s play. It takes a real man (or woman) to drive a sensible crossover SUV with multiple car seats and greasy little handprints on the windows, just like it takes a real man (or woman) to change poopy diapers in the hatchback. Talk about “tailgating.”
When you’re at the wheel of the family car, you’re the captain. For those miles – and possibly only those miles – you, alone, control your family’s destiny.
You also decide whether to stop for doughnuts. And you get to choose the music. But a good captain also makes the crew happy, so every once in a while cue up the soundtrack to “Annie” or some hip-hopping dinosaurs or something. Nothing quashes a backseat mutiny like hip-hopping dinosaurs.