Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
July 10, 1960 - July 3, 1960

Sunday, July 10, 1960

A 1959 Triumph TR-3 with state-of-the-art child seats

. There may come a time (hard to imagine but conceivable nonetheless) when parents are so buffaloed by misguided, evolving mores that they begin to coddle their children and treat them as the most important members of the family. I wouldn't propose such a ridiculous hypothesis if it weren't for the post-war phenomenon of what I can only call spoiled children. These are tykes who act as if the people who conceived them, reared them, and look after their every-day care and instruction are somehow beholden to them, as if they should alter their very lives to ensure the moment-to-moment gratification of youngsters who are barely conscious. Sadly, many current "experts" and magazine writers seem to be promoting this folly.

I've been particularly distressed by the recent proliferation of automotive travesties called 'station wagons.' Look at this hideous beast:

It's true they don't show the children in the ad, but who else would need such a giant, ugly conveyance? Any fool can see that the entire back end of this enclosed truck is destined to be jammed with superfluous toys and all the other impedimenta that go with over-indulged offspring. I can only imagine the noise that must resound in that cavernous, echoing interior. It's beyond adult toleration. I know otherwise reasonable men who excuse their purchase of such vehicles by asserting their belief that children are somehow safer in a back seat where they can cavort and play and yell as if they were in their own living rooms at home.

Well, that's bull (excuse my French). There's a time for yelling -- a very very short time each day -- and there are many occasions when children are obliged to behave like grown-ups, regardless of their age. When adult company is on hand, the best place for children is bed, quiet, asleep, or pretending to sleep, as I used to do. When neighbors are outside or on their porches, particularly elderly neighbors, children must play quietly, which is hardly an impossible feat and excellent training in the manners all people need to be considerate adults. In automobiles, children need to be aware that Daddy needs all his concentration to maneuver the family vehicle from one place to another without incident. The only real safety on the highway is accident avoidance, not tank-like invulnerability in the event of a crash, and the sooner they learn that, the sooner they can be trusted in other situations requiring judgment and restraint.

The new fad of station wagons is simply bad business and a wrong example. It's also damaging to fathers. It does them no good at all to begin perceiving themselves as chauffeurs for small, ignorant persons who have no appreciation of shifting through the gears, cornering, calculating precise apexes on twisty roads, heel-toeing, and the other finer points of driving. Children learn best by watching, not by nattering, and they learn nothing when they are insulated by mere capaciousness from the experience of piloting a high-powered motor vehicle to something approaching the limit of its capability.

In short, I believe it's imperative that more modern-day fathers of young children acquire the smallest, most powerful sports cars they can afford and accustom their children to the discipline of driving as skillfully as possible. I hasten to say that it would be wrong to buy sports cars lacking in child seats -- such as Jaguars and Austin Healey Sprites -- but a good parent can always make the sacrifice of purchasing an Austin Healey 3000 or a Triumph TR-3 instead. Both of them come equipped, standard, with excellent child seats located just behind the driver and front passenger seats. Their superb designs allow just sufficient room for two children under the age of twelve to sit quite comfortably with their knees slightly apart behind the front seats, and at a slight elevation over the front seats that permits close observation of the actions involved in driving.

These child seats are even comfortable over long distances, provided there's no active movement of limbs or other tomfoolery. I've taken my own children on weekend trips up to three or fours hours away (and back again) with nary a complaint. It's not as hard as you think to teach children to sit still and occupy themselves with what the adults are doing and talking about. I know that my seven-year-old son has paid such close attention on motor trips that he already thinks he knows how to drive. When we make the weekend jaunt to the general store, he basks in his special spot in the front passenger seat and urges me to "hit the redline" in third gear, which I'm usually happy to do because the TR-3 sings like an angel in third gear. Then I shift into fourth and we sometimes hit a hundred, which we've both agreed never to share with his mother.

I asked him once if he'd rather have a station wagon. He tells me he wants a Jaguar. I tell him to be patient, but he already knows what the 150 in XK-150 stands for. He's also polite when company comes.

I rest my case.

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