When Dan Zevin was young, he often found himself riding in his dad’s traveling think tank:
In my dad’s generation, a man’s car was his castle. And his kids were his captive audience. We listened to his music. We answered his questions. We stared out his rhombus-shaped windows as he shared fatherly wisdom that we’d later refer to as “The Tao of the Monte Carlo.”
“In life, you will find there are always people ahead of you and people behind you.” (What he told us whenever we were stuck in traffic.)
“Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.” (The line he’d repeat no matter how often we heard it on his Eagles “Greatest Hits” 8-track.)
“Remember to follow through.” (The advice he dispensed while driving us to tennis.) “And I’m not just talking about swinging a racket,” he’d add. “I’m telling you how to succeed in the world.”
When I take my dad for a spin in the Maxivan, he seems rather freaked out. It’s like he’s stepped into an alternate universe where parents think it’s their job to do whatever it takes to keep their kids happy. The truth is, I’m following a very old-fashioned tenet of parenting: Children should be seen and not heard. And thanks to that fully loaded Maxivan, my kids are not heard. They are not heard shouting at each other, fake-belching at each other or telling on each other. Contained in their captain’s chairs and distracted by “Toy Story 3,” fingers will not be inserted into neighboring ears, Goldfish will not fly, chaos will turn to quiet.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I wasn’t supposed to be the dad who disciplines his kids by making them watch DVDs.