We Are Both Right

If Driving a Minivan is Lame, I Don’t Want to Be Cool

I love being a mom. Even the dorky parts. I embrace them all. The jeans. The hair. The car.

© Volkswagen

© Volkswagen

I drive a minivan, and I’m proud.

I must confess that I am a minivan convert — not because I didn’t like them though. A minivan was never in our vehicular plan because we never we thought we needed one, not when we drove a big SUV.

In fact, with a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old, we thought maybe our days of big, boxy autos were done. Gone were the days of carting around Pack N’ Plays and strollers and booster seats and other assorted baby gear.

Heh.

During the summer of 2008, when gas prices were at their peak (the first time), in the name of being eco- and wallet-friendly, we traded in our gas-guzzling SUV for a smaller sedan. At the time, it was a responsible decision. A family of four did not need a vehicle that could seat eight, tow a small building and transport all of the contents of a mid-sized country around with them. So after ten years of driving a truck, we downsized. And we were happy.

And then we found out we were unexpectedly pregnant. What was I saying about cars and mid-sized countries?

For a while, T. and I were in denial about our car needs. Our car, a mid-sized sedan, would hold all of us just fine, we reasoned. Sure the back seat might be a little cramped with three kids in it and we might have to sit on the trunk to get it to close, but we’d manage.

About two months before S. graced us with his presence, as part of our getting ready for baby undertakings, T. decided to install the car seat in order to a) be prepared and b) make sure we had enough room. At first everything seemed OK. Despite their very close proximity to one another, the kids were getting along just fine. Great!

Then five minutes later the novelty wore off.

“He’s touching me.” “She looked at me.” “His butt is touching my butt.” As the litany of complaints went on and on, T. and I realized we had only a few options:

  1. Ignore them and hope S. could sleep in the car despite the squabbles.
  2. Invest in one of those privacy screens that you find in limos.
  3. Buy a new car.

Option one was incredibly tempting (heck, we started to price out option two), but we realized we probably weren’t being very fair to C. At the time he was eight years old, 4 feet, 8 inches tall (and growing) and weighing in at about 75 pounds (and growing). Tall and lean, with long legs, he was literally folded into his meager space like a Jacob’s Ladder, crushed between two car seats.

Minivan city, here we come.

I loved it the second I sat in one in the showroom. The extra space. The third row seating. All the randomly placed places to put things. Anything — your cup, your change, an industrialized size tub of butter. (The kids were excited too, until they discovered that we in fact, did not order the model with the space-age entertainment system.) I loved it all. And now, nearly two years into driving it, I could care less about the stigma that a minivan carries with it (along with its stow ‘n go seating).

I love that when we go on road trips, I can pack with reckless abandon, bringing whatever it is I think we may need. That I can go to the wholesale club store and not give a second thought to whether or not the ultra-big package of 100 paper towel rolls on sale for $5.99 will fit. That I always have a private place to change S.’s diaper (or get changed myself if need be). Breastfeeding on the go was never a problem, as I positioned myself way in the back, tinted windows working their privacy magic. When it rains at C.’s little league games, the minivan is our (large) refuge, with plenty of space for toddler S. to move around.

(That I can’t hear the children fighting when I’m driving and they are sitting all the way in the back.)

What kind of car do you drive? Suzanne drives a minivan, but she’s less than thrilled — it reminds her a bit too much of her teenage years.

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