Sitting in the Target bathroom, I blinked at a bright blue plus sign. Suddenly, all of my plans for waterpark season passes, taking up roller derby, and sleeping — like ever — disappeared into that Clearblue. My husband laughed when I told him why our Whole 30 diet had made me so sick — and so fat — we were pregnant with our third child. Surprise!
As we digested the news, we looked around at our world and realized how small it was. Suddenly, our three-bedroom house wasn’t enough. My precious Subaru had to magically produce a third row or find a new place in the driveway. I was destined to become a mini-van mom.
A Blast from the Past
My first car was a Ford Aerostar van. Picture a giant, tail-less rat with wheels. It was even rodent grey and made a sound that landed somewhere between a dentist’s drill and an industrial fan. In high school, however, a mini-van was a different creature: It meant a place all my own; it meant mine was the car we took through the Wendy’s drive-thru; it meant freedom. My friends jokingly dubbed it the “Shaggin’ Wagon.” The name was unfounded, but we did rock some Ludicris and Prince through that aftermarket tape deck.
Several years later, the mere mention of the mini-van made me gag. I could practically smell that characteristic sweaty-jellybean and Pampers stink. I could feel the sticky residue on my hands and the red-hot anger of stickered windows. I imagined the Petri dish cup-holders sprouting what I can only assume are more children (because mini-vans are where babies come from, obviously). I cringed at the thought of driving that rolling can of offspring. I began to shop furiously for anything with a third row that allowed me to keep some dignity. There were actually a lot of options, but I quickly learned that you sacrifice space and convenience to maintain your “cool” factor.
My husband dragged me into the Honda dealer, my anti-van attitude on full display. He haggled, and I moped. I walked into the dealership that night with some of my youthful glow intact, and walked out holding the keys to lame suburban adulthood.
Then, it happened. I pushed a button and choirs of angels sang as doors glided open — and I burned exactly zero calories making it happen! The warm, welcoming glow of 10 overhead lights invited my children to find their own space; one where they couldn’t poke, or scream, or look at each other. I pushed another button and the back hatch of my new magic-mobile slowly closed itself with a soothing *click* letting me know it was ready to roll. My buns hit those heated leather seats, and I was a new woman!
Screw being cool. I was gonna rock this high-class shaggin’ wagon like it was 2001!
If Love Makes a Subaru, Family Makes a Mini-Van
This vehicle is a mommy Swiss army knife. I have compartments of all sizes to store (or hide) anything I could possibly want. It even has a compartment that cools beverages, which, by the way, can find their homes in any one of 15 cup holders! I have room for eight people — you know, for when the petri dishes do their thing or when a friend wants to tag along. There is even a stealthy rearview mirror just right for giving kids the stink eye.
The biggest reason for choosing a van over an SUV is the space. The third row in most SUVs requires all humans over the age of eight to ride with their knees at their chin. While the SUV sits higher and doesn’t scream, “I live to procreate!” it also doesn’t leave room for all of that ridiculous gear tiny humans need to survive. In my van, I have emergency diapers, paci’s, snacks, sippy cups, and clothing stashed in every nook and cranny. I can carry a stroller, three large car seats, my 100-pound snow-beast of a dog, and still have room to snag that coffee table my neighbor put out for big trash day! Not only that, but I have room for me! Date nights are open to a completely new world of possibilities; one in which my husband and I can fold down the seats and crawl in the back to do what we used to do every day before having kids . . . nap!
I thought driving a van would define me as a woman. I felt it signaled to the world that I was one-dimensional, merely here to cart around screaming minions in my stretchy pants.
I was wrong. The van gives me freedom. I push the button and two of my children can load themselves, leaving me hands and sanity to gather the baby and myself. Bonus: This car is teaching them independence! Family vacations aren’t so cramped and frenzied because our car feels like a roomy spaceship. I love being able to pick up my girls’ friends or ride in the same car when out-of-town family pays a visit. My van is an extension of my community.
Buying a minivan wasn’t a parental rite of passage; it was simply a way to equip myself to do what I love most: Be mom to my girls. When a job is this hard, why wouldn’t I want a tool that is not only convenient, but also spoils me a little too? One day, all too soon, I will have the option to trade in my slimy cup holders and Goldfish floor mats for a smaller, cleaner, quieter model. Truth be told, that now sounds like a sad day.
Until then, watch for me, I’ll be blasting 90s rap in my mini-v, kids napping in the back — happy, because that’s exactly where I want to be.