Bark's Bites: All Kids Love Fast Cars

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth
barks bites all kids love fast cars

On the rare occasion that my schedule gives me the flexibility to do so, I am always thrilled to pick my son up from school. It’s such a treat to see the little ones with their faces pressed against the glass of the exit doors, bursting with the excitement of the end of the school day, counting down the seconds until their teachers finally open up the proverbial floodgates and unleash them into the waiting arms of their parents.

My son is usually among the first to bound out of the building, and when he sees that I’m the one who has the happy job of retrieving him for the day, his eyes always light up just a little bit more. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with his love for dear old Dad.

And if I, for just one second, happen to think that he might be particularly excited to see me, he always puts an immediate pin in my balloon with the following question:

“Did you bring the Mustang today?”

As a parent of young children, I find that much of my responsibility in life is to eliminate as much of the disappointment from their lives as possible. Unfortunately, the older that they get, the more challenging that becomes; there are already disappointments from which I have no power to shield them. So when I have the power to make them happy, even in the smallest of ways, I try my best to do it.

I have long since learned answering the boy’s question with, “No, I brought the Fiesta,” brings a swift and severe look of disappointment to my little guy’s face. Therefore, even though it’s a hassle to put the car seat in and out of my Boss 302, and even though I have to contort myself into poses that would make Tony Horton proud of me on “Yoga X” day just to buckle my son into his seat, the look on his face is all worth it.

But one might expect the son of an automotive enthusiast to also have a passion for cars, so there’s nothing terribly unusual about that. No, what has always struck me is the way every single child in that building responds to a pony car that wears a paint scheme normally reserved for a vehicle that’s much more common in a school parking lot.

When the Boss is on the scene, my son makes sure to call out a hearty “Bye!” to all of his friends, just so they can see him getting into the car. The reactions I’ve heard from them are not only universal, they’re priceless:

“Wow! That car is awesome!”

“Hey, Mom — can we get one of those?”

“Aww, man. Your dad’s car is faster than my dad’s car.”

One particularly sunny afternoon, I parked next to a shiny, candy apple red Prius with temporary tags. The owner, a rather peppy-looking grandmother, was excited to show her grandson her new car when she picked him up. He took one look at the Prius, looked at my 302 sitting adjacent to it, and treated us all to a dose of that glorious honesty that all children of preschool age possess in spades:

“Nana, can you take it back and get one of those instead?

And it’s not just a Boy Thing, either. Now that my daughter has begun preschool, she’s made her preference for her afterschool chariot known as well.

“Just don’t go super fast on the way home, Dad,” she reminds me. “I kinda like going fast, but I kinda don’t.”

Seeing the purely visceral response that all of these ten-and-under boys and girls have to a car that sometimes seems like it was visually designed to impress ten-and-under boys and girls makes me wonder: At what age does society request — nay, require — us to take a more common sense approach to cars?

After all, it’s not like the other parents couldn’t afford a Mustang. In the sea of Tahoe LTZs and Explorer Limiteds, one could make the argument that the Boss 302 places right about in the middle of the parking lot’s economic strata. There’s one other somewhat older dad who picks his young son up in his gorgeous green Boxster, but the rest of the vehicles are nondescript variations of the same silver, white, or black CUV.

On some level, there’s a practicality that exists in a CUV that simply isn’t found in my Mustang. Yet I still manage to pick up two children, place them safely in car seats, put their backpacks in the trunk, and head home. One dad approached me and asked me if there was enough room in my car for kids and all their stuff. I replied that I wouldn’t necessarily want to drive to Disney World in it, but that it worked just fine as a daily commuter.

“Good,” he replied. “I really want one of those Shelbys.” Then he grinned and walked back to his Traverse. That was over a year ago. He still has the Traverse.

My guess is that he just couldn’t sell the idea to his wife — or, more likely, that he just couldn’t sell the idea to himself. Back when I had my G8, I remember feeling almost sad for a coworker who had his young son strapped in the back of a New Edge Mustang — like maybe he couldn’t afford a proper family car. Society has us all convinced that we need to make safe, easily defensible choices when it comes to our cars. Just as I’m entirely certain that every kid in that parking lot loves the Mustang, I’m entirely certain that nearly every parent judges me for putting my kids in it. Society tells us that we need a crossover for our family lives, and as the owner of one, I’m not entirely convinced society is wrong.

But you know what? I’m not entirely convinced that society is right, either. Because along with that judgment comes a piquant hint of envy. Maybe it’s a longing look from a guy who traded in his Camaro on a Grand Caravan. Maybe it’s a smile from a woman whose boyfriend used to take her out in a convertible V6 ‘Stang back in high school — or maybe she had one of her own. But, at some point, almost every right-thinking adult took that lust for a fast, loud, brash car and shoved it squarely into the deepest recesses of his brain. So, after a momentary lapse of reason, the envy goes back to that limbic part of the brain, and the cerebral part goes back to justifying the smart, sensible choice of buying a Ford Edge.

Well, I’m here to tell you that sometimes your cerebral part of your brain betrays you. Sometimes it’s okay to go back to being that nine-year-old boy who wants his car to go fast. Maybe you don’t have to go Full Mustang. Maybe you can get a slightly bigger engine in your Camry or Accord. Maybe you can look at a Charger instead. Maybe your CUV can have a Hellcat engine.

Let your inner nine-year-old out. Then, when your nine-year-old child hugs you just a little tighter for bringing his favorite car to pick him up, you’ll both be reminded why you loved cars so much in the first place.

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2 of 66 comments
  • Senna1 Senna1 on Aug 31, 2015

    This editorial hits many feels... As the father of a 6-mo old son, the limitations of my Mustang as family car have become starkly apparent. We've still taken it on several road trips, rear-facing car seat and all. But I'm under no illusions; if our other car wasn't a station wagon that serves primary family vehicle duty, the Mustang would be gone. And kids almost universally adore pony cars. About 3 weeks after I bought mine, I parked it downtown; a block from the White House. The car was immediately set upon by 3 very excited boys from Holland - whose embarrassed teacher/parent/chaperon explained had 'never seen a real Mustang' before. A 'real Mustang' WAS America to them, forget the WH down the road...

  • TOTitan TOTitan on Sep 12, 2015

    Twenty years ago I had a Ferrari Mondial Cabriolet. I would occasionally pick the kids up from grade school in it. Talk about a couple of happy/proud

  • El scotto Another year the Nissan Rogue is safe.
  • John R 4,140 lbs...oof. A quick google of two cars I'm familiar with:2017 Ford Fusion Sport - AWD, twin-turbo 2.7 V6 (325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque)3,681 lbs2006 Dodge Charger RT - RWD, naturally aspirated 5.7 V8 (340 horsepower and 390 lb. -ft. of torque)4,031 lbs
  • FreedMike Ford "Powershudder" DCT? Hard pass...with extreme prejudice. The only people who liked these were the class-action lawyers. With a manual, it'd be a different story.
  • Cprescott I blow on a pinwheel....
  • Jkross22 Looks good in and out, but pricing is nonsensical. Anyone spending in the low to upper 40s and wanting something like this would be better off in a Stelvio and anyone wanting a small, fun SUV would be better off in a Q3, X1 or even X3. All hover around that price.Dodge is getting high off its own supply.