Driving While Dad: You’re Doing It Wrong.
One of the most surprising parts about getting your own baby is the vast difference in how fast you drive to the hospital when your wife is in labor compared to how slow you drive on the way home once you’ve got your baby in the backseat. This realization soon gives way to the realization that you will be spending the foreseeable future driving alone in the front seat while your wife and baby sit in the back. This then goes hand-in-hand with not being able to listen to the radio station you want to, not being able to carry on a conversation and not understanding how driving could feel this uncool without the involvement of a wood-paneled station wagon. Now that I’m almost seven months into being dad, I’ve gotten pretty used to this chauffeuring career that most people refer to as fatherhood. Along with this comfort has come three other realizations:
Baby on Board signs are neither as stupid or pointless as I once thought. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been glared at for driving too slow or been cut off by a maniac driver while it’s just me and baby Rosalie in the car. When this happens I want to scream at them, “I have a baby in the car that you can’t see! She’s very little and just the fact that she’s not crying at the moment is a minor miracle that I would prefer not to disturb with excessive speeds or evasive maneuvers!” I need one of those yellow signs not because I feel bad that I drive like a 90 year-old man when my baby is in the car, but because I’m tired of being judged for it.
Those stick figure family bumper stickers are as stupid and pointless as I once thought. The whole need for a “Baby on Board” sign is that other drivers can’t see that you have a baby in the backseat. Once you’ve got kids big enough to be represented by stick figures, these kids are big enough be seen by the driver’s of passing vehicles. You don’t need one of those stick figure family bumper stickers to explain to others why you drive cautiously – your minivan and the fact that you are wearing socks with Teva sandals do that just fine.
You can drive in the carpool lane when you have a baby in the backseat. It took a few times of sitting in the regular lanes and watching cars fly by me in the HOV lane before I realized that, wait a minute, I have another human being with me! Finally, a benefit to having a baby! Pulling into the freedom of the carpool lane was even more awesome than usual. To the cars around me (who couldn’t see Rosalie’s car seat), it looked like I was breaking the law. To me it felt like I was doing something really crazy – and it was exhilarating. Out of my way people, I’m doing something crazy here! I guess when you spend all of your time trying to be as responsible as possible, the mere appearance of impropriety feels like you’re living on the edge – and it feels goooooood. Wait, maybe this is why so many dads wear socks with Teva sandals?
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