I’m not going to say that I was cool before I had kids, but I definitely showered and wore pants more often. I also didn’t struggle to complete sentences. With the birth of my children, certain standards for “cool” have taken a back seat role. A third row minivan back seat, to be precise.
When I was newly pregnant, we agreed I would just keep my Ford Taurus. As a practical, safe, mid-sized car, this made sense and didn’t require purchasing a new vehicle. Fast forward a couple weeks to when the ultrasound tech dropped the “I see two” bomb. My mind immediately began to process the logistics involved with mothering, feeding and transporting two newborns, two infants, then two toddlers. Initially we were in denial; we could still use the Taurus! She was so reliable and large enough for two car seats! But then what do you do if someone parks too close and you can’t get the door open? Put one baby on the roof, back out of the tight parking spot, and then open the door, remove baby from roof and secure into car seat base? It stopped making so much sense. Then we rationalized an SUV – so much more room! Lots of cargo and hauling space, but yet, the unable-to-open-doors-baby-on-the-roof problem still existed. Finally, acceptance; sliding doors were a must.
My husband tried to pitch the idea of modifying an SUV to add sliding doors, but shockingly none of the car dealers we spoke with were amused or enthused by the idea. We settled on a minivan. How was this possible? We were so cool! (Kind of.) We agreed that the abomination, I mean, minivan, must have leather seats. The idea of scrubbing spit up, vomit, milk, snacks or any other substance capable of rotting and growing mold out of fabric seats did not sit well with either of us. So the search began.
On Valentine’s Day 2012, my husband called to see if I could check out a minivan after work. After exhaustive research, we had been unable to find a suitable candidate in our area within our price range. This one might be the one. I dolled myself up for our hot Vday date and headed to the Honda dealership. She wasn’t pretty, or new, or cool, but she had automatic sliding doors, heated leather seats and cup holders galore. In the most cliche and poetic fashion, on that Valentines Day, I fell in love.
It was most unexpected, partly because I had been so cool, but also because I’d spent most of my adult life swearing I’d never drive a minivan. I was 7 months pregnant with twins, thus getting in and out of the Taurus had become both moderately embarrassing and genuinely harmful to the structural integrity of the vehicle. I was immediately pleased with the lack of bending, grunting, and hoisting required to enter and exit my minivan. Maybe it was the ranging pregnancy hormones, or the doors that opened with a push of a button, but I was head over preggo-belly in love.
My love for my minivan grew along with my children. Once #3 joined the family, we removed one of the captain’s chairs to better access the toddlers in the back seat. Oh, glorious convenience. Don’t get me started on the DVD player, which makes our 3 hour drives to Nana and Papa’s a breeze. Apart from the obvious reasons I initially fell for my Golden Gal, (OK, I won’t lie, gold wasn’t my first choice, or even on my list) she continues to surprise me with new traits well-suited to my new motherhood lifestyle. I don’t want to make all you non-minivan driving Moms feel uncool, so I’ve abbreviated my list to the top five reasons I love my minivan.
#1. The doors, obviously. With two infant car seats, all you need is one free finger to open the doors. I have since honed my skills, and I can haul #3, a purse, drag two toddlers and open the doors with just my teeth. Now that my babies have mutated into toddlers, the doors are amazing because it prevents any little mischief makers from opening their door smack into another car. I’ll chalk that off as a car insurance win.
#2. No one expects you to look good. You see an SUV rolling down the road, you expect a clean cut and well put together soccer mom with cupcakes in tow. You see a gold minivan screech into the parking lot, it’s no surprise that when the door conveniently slides open, 37 broken toys and crumbled goldfish crackers cascade into the parking lot. It’s also no surprise that my hair may still be in the same messy bun I went to bed with last night and I’m attempting to pull off yesterday’s mascara. I’m not pretending to have it all together, and the minivan serves as your advanced warning.
#3. It’s basically a giant diaper bag. I was super organized when the twins were babies. I had a neatly packed diaper bag with any conceivable necessity. By the time I had three in tow, I was literally just chucking a couple diapers and a pack of wipes into the backseat. There is a first-aid kit under one of the seats and probably a couple changes of clothes in there somewhere. An emergency might require that I hike out to my minivan to obtain proper supplies, but there’s a solid 98% chance that what I need is in there.
#4. No one questions why you are weaving in and out of lanes. If you see a vehicle failing to staying within a given lane, you might assume the driver is drunk or texting. As you pass them you may give them a salty look or curiously examine what they are so irresponsibly doing that would result in such careless driving. You see a minivan weaving in and out of the lanes, you say a prayer for the poor mother because you know she’s yelling “DO NOT MAKE ME TURN THIS VAN AROUND!”
#5. Need a snack? Check the floor. It’s a smorgasbord of tasty toddler treats. We can’t promise it won’t be stale or previously nibbled upon, but in a pinch you can satisfy a craving. Just make sure it’s food before you give it a taste.
It’s not where I imagined myself five years ago, but life has a funny way of changing all your expectations. I might not be “cool”, “well-rested”, “organized”, or “wearing real clothes” but I never once had to put a baby on the roof of my minivan.