A couple years ago, when my 20-year-old SUV finally collapsed and died in the middle of the road, I convinced my husband that we needed a minivan. I knew this would come as a struggle for him, another nail in the coffin of his ever-fleeting coolness.
Yet, my resolve remained, and I persisted. My main objective: To be able to drive my kids, the grandparents, and a friend or two, all at the same time.
Always struggling against his slow, painful transformation from trendy city-dweller to suburbanite, my husband put up a brave fight. He tried employing logic to prove we did not need a minivan, and set about exploring every possible alternative. Wagons, SUVs, crossovers and sedans — we looked at them all. He researched reliability, safety, cubic capacity, gas mileage, leg-space, and more.
Ultimately, he convinced himself that, in fact, a minivan was not just an acceptable option, but the only suitable choice for our family.
And so, we came home with one. Complete with 17 cup holders and heated seats, we learned to barely squeeze it into our 50’s vintage garage bay.
I could hear the mad scientist cackling, “the metamorphosis is complete!” as my husband gripped the steering wheel in, dare I say, enjoyment.
Yet, he drives our economy car to work, and I have become the queen of the mini-van. Bovine in nature, bulky and utilitarian, the status symbol of those embracing parenthood, the van is my daily ride.
My vehicle is huge, but is able to blend so completely into its surroundings that it can be hard to find in the sea of gray minivans found in most parking lots. I’ve unknowingly gotten into the wrong van on multiple occasions. When I do, it’s often the smell, or the unfamiliar trash on the floor, sports equipment from a sport my kids don’t play, or some other lived-in quality that alerts me to the fact that I’ve invaded someone else’s vehicle.
We regularly cram our van to capacity. I relish telling other parents that I’d be happy to drive the kids. ALL the kids. They pile in, laughing or arguing, and I tool them around town. I crank my 80’s satellite radio station and smile when they can bust out the lyrics to my favorite songs from my youth.
The best conversations have taken place when carting around an assortment of kids. They forget I’m there— the invisible driver as they banter and laugh.
“I think I’ve figured out how to create a time warp,” I heard one say.
“I can’t wait to get home and put on my ‘comfort suit,’” said a kid who planned to go home and put on his snow pants.
“The bravest thing I’ve ever done is fart in class,” I heard the other day.
It probably won’t be long before we don’t need our minivan. It’s a temporary implement, only useful as long as lots of people need rides, and only as long as we travel in a pack. My kids will be driving themselves before long, they’ll be going places without me.
Someday soon, I won’t spend my afternoons listening to silly chatter. I won’t make afternoon stops at the custard shop with my kids and their friends. Time will tick on, and we’ll be able to return to impractical cars that can’t haul much.
It makes me sad to think of this time passing. It’s such a fun time, filled with togetherness and laughter. Good times when what matters isn’t our appearance, but our growth. Our family.
Oh, speaking of time, it’s time to go pick up my carpool!
Reach Overland Park mom Emily Parnell at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter:@emilyJparnell.