10 Must-Follow Rules for Riding in a Dad Car

by Harry H Harrison Jr.

Moms don’t understand this, but dads know there is simply no way to enter the perils of childhood with one car.

Unless it’s dad’s car and mom takes the public transportation system, two cars are mandatory for the happiness of the marriage and the colitis of the father. Moms only see that dad’s car is newer and are mystified why he never drives it to soccer games. But dads have to be as protective of their car as much as they are of the remote control. The truth is, should a hurricane be bearing down on the neighborhood and only dad’s car has enough gas to get out of town, he will have to seriously weigh the consequences of putting the kids in his car versus putting them on the roof of the house.

What’s the big difference between mom’s car and dad’s car? Well, even if mom’s car is older, it has to be stronger. I bought my wife a Volvo figuring it was the most indestructible car on the market.

Here's what every mom should understand when it comes to dad’s car:

1. Food is never allowed in dad’s car,

Food is seemingly manufactured in the back seat of mom’s car, but it is not OK to eat in dad's car. I remember finding no less than seven McDonald’s wrappers, a few pieces of buns, numerous empty plastic cups, and not to mention chocolate stains in the mom Volvo. Nothing swallowable is allowed in dad’s car, especially cups or coke or milkshakes. That’s why even the cup holders are virgin territory. My wife was always threatening to grab the kids, plop them in my car and go through McDonald’s drive through if I forgot to do the dishes on “my” night. I regarded that as unfair fighting.

2. Dogs are never ever allowed in dad’s car.

Moms’ cars are typically covered in dog hair, leashes, dog biscuits, and reek of that enticing wet dog smell. This is bad enough but that smell is also competing with the small of uneaten McDonald’s burgers. Moms don’t notice this smell, but dads have to lean their heads out the window to keep from passing out.

3. Puking is absolutely, never ever allowed in dad’s car.

In fact, we had puking lessons for that rare time I would be racing a sick child to the doctor at 10 pm in my car. Only then he would have the biggest bowl in the house on his knees and he wouldn't be allowed to lift his head out of it. Puking was never encouraged in the mom car. But when it happened, she wouldn’t pull over to the side of the road, pull the sick kid out of the car seat, deposit him on the side of the road and frantically try to scoop up the toxic poison out of the seat with the owner’s manual --like any right-thinking dad would do. I found her inactions to be incredible, but she also seemed to think my actions were of a deranged human being.

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4. Dad cars have their oil changed every three thousand miles.

Our Volvo was proof a car can make it 50,000 miles before any maintenance was required. Why would I risk such a thing? Because to take in her car would mean I would have to leave my car at home and subject it to the mercies of her and my four- and six-year old. Other dads understand.

5. Only surgically ready sterilized children are allowed in dad cars.

Dirty, mud-soaked, wet kids are always allowed in mom’s car. My wife wouldn’t even put a towel in the back seat! I would quiz her how such a thing could happen and she would ask me if I really wanted our children left at “Waterworld?” It would take a couple of minutes but eventually I would spit out “No,” but she and I both knew I was lying.

6. There is absolutely no coughing, gum chewing, nose picking, touching, talking, drinking, eating, or complaining allowed in dad’s car.

As my kids grew older and I was forced to drive them to school, there was no touching the radio nor commenting on my 70’s and 80’s music. Mom’s car however had radio buttons stuck together, chewed gum on the floor and five years worth of nose extractions in the middle of the back seat. There was not the slightest possibility of me ever riding in the back seat.

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7. Dad cars are kept spotless and clean.

I would wash my car weekly. I tried washing the Volvo one day and after $10 in quarters, I assumed she had been off-roading with windows rolled down because there was still mud on and in the car. I even found hardened dog poop in the back seat. My wife’s explanation was she thought the dog had sucked it back in. I never bothered to wash it again. Dad’s car could carry only two things: a briefcase and an athletic bag. Bleach, laundry detergent, dishwasher soap, mops, tomatoes, meat, groceries – anything that could smell or leak was consigned to the mom car. I would go the pharmacy in my car as long as I wasn’t picking up liquid medicine. Now in the mom car, that stuff was not only carried, but of course, eventually spilled or leaked. It was a mom car. It was a Volvo. I didn’t care. I expected those stains. It was her car.

8. Dad’s car is never, ever put in the hands of a teenager learning to drive.

I would sit in the mom car, inhaling chemicals, food, poop and God knows what else, and know that if my son failed to remember what to do at a red light, we would live and even more important, my car would be safe. I’ll let him drive my car when he’s thirty-five.

What are the rules for the dad car in your family?

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Harry H Harrison Jr. is a NYTIMES best selling parenting author with over 3.5 million books in print. He has been interviewed on over 25 television programs, and featured in over 75 local and national radio stations including NPR. His books are available in over 35 countries. For more information visit www.fearlessparenting.com.

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