We Are Both Right

Finally Saying Good Bye to the Minivan?

To borrow a segment from Sesame Street: “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong. Can you tell which thing is not like the others, by the time I finish my song (blog post)?”

High school senior. New driver’s license. Cruising with friends. Minivan.

Clear as day, huh? So was the oversized windshield on the late model maroon Chrysler minivan my parents let me borrow for my road test and every weekend after I got my driver’s license. I guess I was lucky just to have a car to drive, but a minivan? Way to torture a teenager.

I’m trying to recall if my friends ever insisted on spending their own gas money, just to avoid the humiliation of pulling up in a minivan. Then again, I do remember picking up and dropping off enough extra passengers that I occasionally missed my curfew.

Some good fortune changed the tide though. I got a full scholarship to college and my parents were able to justify buying me my own car because, as my father put it, I wasn’t going to cost them anything more.

Glad to ditch the minivan for a somewhat cooler blue four-door sedan, I never looked back. My new wheels saw me through college and ended up being our ride home the night of our wedding. A few years later, we traded that car in for a used Ford Explorer (my all-time favorite vehicle) just in time for our cross-country road trip. Then came the GMC SUV and a Saturn sedan, which was the car M. drove the day we brought our son home from the hospital.

No sooner was our firstborn walking that my husband decided a minivan was in order. I can’t tell you exactly how he talked me into it, despite my insistence that we didn’t need a large family car, with just one small child and plans to wait at least a few years before trying for a second.

But then I got a call at work, asking what color I wanted our new Toyota Sienna to be. He was standing in the dealership. The next night we picked it up. I didn’t even have time to make peace with my new status — because before I knew it, I was a full-fledged suburban soccer mom. Aggghhhhh.

At least the color was sophisticated — a charcoal grey. But really nothing could disguise the sloped nose and bulk of my automatic-sliding-door-equipped mom-strosity. I was far from sleek or chic, or any other form of hip mama that I strived to be.

I can swear that I got sideways looks at our day care center of all places — the kind that insinuated I was out of my mind to have one child and be driving a seven-passenger car. On the way to work, I would have flashbacks to my high school days and calculate how soon we would be through this phase, only to realize we were in it for the long haul. We had bought, not leased this car — er, minivan.

Seven years later and 134,000 miles in, I am still a mom with a minivan.

© Sean Dreilinger

In hindsight, it wasn’t such a bad call on the part of my husband (who had wanted a minivan ever since we were in college — only because his hockey bag full of equipment was a tight fit in the trunk of his two-door coupe). I’ll give it to him that the minivan did make it easier to travel with our dog in her crate, as well as a car seat, stroller, and all of the other paraphernalia that comes with a baby.

And before we knew it, Baby #2 had arrived. I still remember piling into the car at the hospital, looking back at our two children, and saying to my husband, “We’re finally using this car to its fullest potential.”

But before he could utter an I-told-you-so, I reminded him that he also doesn’t drive it every day. He’s not the professional woman whose first impression screams “mommy” when she picks up a consultant, visits a prospect, or heads out to a tour — all with a portable potty in the back seat. As if the spit-up on the shoulder of my suit didn’t already give me away, the minivan sure did.

And so my love/hate relationship with the minivan is still going strong. There are days when I praise its functionality, like when I can hop into the car during a blowing rainstorm, buckle in the kids, and climb into the driver’s seat without getting drenched. It also holds our groceries snuggly in the well behind the third row of seats, so that I never have to worry about a gallon of milk knocking around and busting open like I do when driving our SUV.

My favorite thing about our minivan is that it’s a room on wheels. We can use the aforementioned potty seat at football games and while out shopping, all in the complete privacy of our folded-down seats turned bathroom. I can also let S. run around and play in the same space when L.’s football practices turn especially cold and she’s had enough of being cooped up in her car seat.

But lately, I find myself cursing its shortcomings. Both passenger doors always freeze in their tracks, conveniently on the way to work when I don’t have time to wait for a car to defrost. It’s not the best ride in the snow, and I can’t continue to justify driving 50 miles a day by myself in a car made for seven.

As much as I’ll hate to give up my fully paid minivan when it bites the dust, I’m thinking along the lines of an all-wheel drive sedan — a Subaru maybe. Not exactly the fast pass to being a cool mom, but at least I’m making progress.

Amanda’s more at peace with the idea of a minivan than I am. At least for now.

Is a minivan your dream ride or more like your worst nightmare?

Leave a Reply