In our parents' day, the father usually did the driving - but what if you keep bashing the car while attempting a simple parking manoeuvre?
You have not experienced true, gut-flipping terror until you have a tempted to wedge a huge people carrier into a tiny parking space at a children's soft-play centre.
For the uninitiated, soft-play areas are industrial units transformed into 'magical' wonderlands for the under-10s via endless foam padding and plastic slides with tiger stripes. Spending longer than 10 minutes in one may impinge on your sanity (the hearing is usually the first thing to shut down, I find). But that is as nothing compared to the challenge of stashing the car beforehand, especially if your driving skills are, shall we say, at the more rudimentary end of the spectrum.
If I sound traumatised in pointing this out it is because of years of unhappy almost-accidents while trying to ditch the motor and transport my flock to the bouncy delights beyond the front door (and the always rising admission prices). There have been several near misses in which I almost - almost! -scraped the bejaysus out of an adjoining car; once, I crumpled my fender against the business end of a truck (who brings a truck to soft play? I've no idea).
The issue wasn't so much my driving as the fact our family car is built like a Soviet T34 tank: though you could plausibly fit a baby rhino in the boot, good luck trying a three-point turn on the school run.
Nowadays, my view is usually from the passenger seat. Following one parking scrape too many, my significant other has prohibited me from driving the family wheels. A deluge of bashes and quasi-bashes convinced my wife that my causing serious, this-is-going-to-cost-us damage, was a matter of 'when' not 'if'.
Life wasn't always so complicated. Back when we had just one child, there was no such thing as a 'family' car. Not being too fussed about these things, I had never taken the trouble to learn how to drive with gears - the clutch obviously being the most pointless invention ever - so borrowing her tidy saloon wasn't an option. Then, cue sound of lurching record stylus, we discovered twins were on the way: clearly our transport needs were about to change drastically.
The biggest headache was finding a car in which you could securely attach three kids' booster seats. Initially, such a thing seemed not to exist: that's what several salesmen assured us, at any rate. Sloping away from yet another forecourt, disappointed and not a little panicked, we would invariably run into other parents with three young children, in the same conundrum.
Were we some shameful minority, unworthy of the motor industry's attention?
Eventually, a nice man at a Volkswagen concession reached for a brochure and pointed to a picture of the VW Sharan. None was to hand - however, an import from the UK could be arranged. The only catch, he said, scratching behind his ear, was that the the car was automatic. That's fine, I sighed. We'll make the best of it.
If you haven't had the pleasure to drive a people carrier (ours transports seven if you utilise the boot and has sliding doors, just like a van) is to enter a reality incrementally but meaningfully detached from that of other motorists. You must possess superb powers of spacial awareness, to say nothing of devil-may-care brio (especially when cornering in a multi-level carpark).
Looking back it was probably unwise to select a journey to Cork as my test-run. I'd never driven all the way south before and, halfway through, found my attention wandering a tad.
I didn't crash, as such. There WAS a precarious wobble after the toll plaza as I tried to simultaneously change a CD, polish off my coffee and unwrap a bar of chocolate.
In my other car, I'd have pulled this feat off effortlessly. Guiding an Optimus Prime- proportioned chunk of Teutonic precision, things weren't quite so straightforward, as I realised when my heavily pregnant wife emitted what probably qualifies as a lung-bursting scream. Top tip: if behind the wheel of a seven-seater best not to attempt steering with your knees.
So far so terrifying. Scarier yet was our dash to the hospital as the missus was very literally in advanced labour.
You will be familiar with those Hollywood movies in which the wife is having contractions as the husband whizzes through traffic. Well, it was a bit like that.
Actually, it was exactly like that: at one point my wife - in the midst of giving birth to twins lest we forget - had to calm ME down after an altercation with a lunatic in a Toyota on the M4 slip ramp.
We laugh about it now (by "laugh" I mean shake our heads and shudder).
Eighteen months on, I am rarely (that is, never, under any circumstances) entrusted with the Sharan. This is by far the most expensive car we've owned and we're stuck with it for the next five years, minimum. Understandably, my running a gauntlet of iffy parking spaces is off the menu.
What do people think when they clock me in the passenger's berth, my wife at the wheel? Actually I don't imagine I stand out terribly. Hopefully we're well past the days when there was any novelty in a wife driving as the husband busied himself trying to find a decent radio station and tried not to spill his eggnog latte all over the driver (who are you calling emasculated?).
Sometimes I make noises (meek, frightened noises) about taking over the driving again -an offer firmly, politely rejected. That isn't to say I won't ever sit behind the wheel of the Sharan again - inevitably, a situation will arise in which there is no other option.
Thus, this article constitutes a public service warning. If you clock a sheepish chap in a huge, ungainly car trying to park next to you, kindly leave extra room. Otherwise we'll probably both regret it.