A few years back, my sister-in-law had her second kid, and the arrival of baby number two brought a vehicular change as well. Out went the Nissan Pathfinder, in came the Chevrolet Suburban. At the time, I mocked her for SUV overkill.
I was one of two kids, and our parents always had Subaru wagons. Back then, we didn't need rear-facing child seats. Or air bags. Or shoulder belts. Or ABS. Or much protection from rollovers or side impacts. Come to think of it, it's amazing that anyone born before 1980 ever reached adulthood. Our '69 Chevy C10 pickup was even more dangerous. The interior was made entirely of jagged metal, and it took until about 1990 before truck designers thought to put a barrier between your skull and the rear window. Truck cabs were so lethal that kids were often relegated to the safety of the cargo bed, where impacts might be cushioned by a bale of hay or a fat schoolmate.
My point, and I have one somewhere, is that our changing mores toward safety helped dictate ever-larger vehicles, along with child seats of such size and complexity that they look like they could eject from an F/A-18.
If you've never used one of these devices, just get in your car and adjust the front seat as if Albert Haynesworth is sitting behind you. Then move your seat forward a few more inches. Then, when the steering wheel is nestled between your lungs, you could almost fit a rear-facing child seat behind you. That example, by the way, is based on a BMW 750Li. Anything smaller than that and you might actually have to hire an off-duty jockey as a chauffeur.
Parenthood has reshaped my big-car snobbery. I now understand my sister-in-law's move to the Suburban; in fact, if you have one kid, you need a Suburban. If you have two kids, you need a long-wheelbase Dodge Sprinter. If you have three kids, you need a Ford E-450 airport shuttle that's towing an E-250 Econoline. Four kids: probably something made by Prevost. And with five kids and more, you should only visit places served by heavy rail or deepwater shipping lanes.
Before Kid, I talked a lot of game about how parenthood would never change my priorities. If I want a Corvette, I'd say, I'm gonna get it, and the kids can go in a trailer or on a roof rack. Well, I recently drove a BMW M3 convertible, which I figured would be an excellent venue to give the young 'un his first exposure to the soothing sounds of a V-8 at 8000 rpm. After all, the M3's back seats will fit adults in a pinch, so I thought they'd be fine for a baby.
Not so. The M3 discourages you from even trying to install a child seat, since the anchors for the seat are hidden behind spring-loaded plastic doors that play killer defense. After a half hour wrestling with the mammoth seat platform, you realize that M3s hate babies. I still hung my awesome new Baby On Board sign in the back window, though. Just so people would know to drive extra carefully around me.
Even if I somehow managed to fit the progeny in the back of the M3, there would've been no room for any of his accoutrements -- the various "portable" strollers and cribs that, through an elaborate system of finger-amputating struts and hinges, neatly fold down to only 87 percent of their original size. And you must get this stuff into the car -- all of it. As one fellow dad told me, "You never know which piece of crap that you bring will be the thing that makes your life a lot easier." We've taken one trip so far as parents, and we filled a Mitsubishi Outlander. And a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Which was towing a boat. Which also had stuff in it.
People say that having kids changes your entire worldview, and that's absolutely true. You realize that you'll subjugate your needs to those of the child. And that really sucks when you're as selfish as I am. Perhaps I need a minivan, but I still want 500 hp. And so, among all the other shocks of fatherhood comes this one: I actually understand what Mercedes was thinking with the R63 AMG.
Written by: Ezra Dyer Illustration by: Tim Marrs