Monday, July 1, 2013

These Are Our Dream Cars

No use trying to clean this, she'll just keep kicking me
Kids, as you probably are aware by now, are an inquisitive bunch. But if you ever feel like your kids aren't asking you enough questions on a given day, just take them to drop the car off at the shop with your spouse. Then be prepared to answer the following, at a minimum:

Where are we going?
Well then where is Mom going?
Why is Mom driving a different car?
How is Mom getting home?
How will the other car get home?
When will the other car get home?
Will Mom be there when we get there?
Are we going to beat Mom there?
Why can't Mom go in the same car as us?
Why is the car sick?
Will Mom stay all night with the sick car?
Will Mom fix the car?
Can I have a juice box?
Are they going to fix the radio?

Repeat the above list once for each speaking child in the household.

The last question may be a bit specific to our gang, since we have one car with satellite radio and one without. Every time we take the latter to get an oil change or tune-up, it is assumed among the younger set that the [terrestrial] radio will be "fixed" because "it sounds like the radio is blowing its nose." That's before we even travel through the barren radio wasteland of the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, when it sounds like the radio has incurable sleep apnea.

The cars in question at our house are a crossover (healthy, with satellite radio) and minivan (sick, though not "sick" in a twenty-something good way, with terrestrial radio, creaky brakes, and one remote-controlled automatic sliding door that doesn't automatically slide anymore.)

Yes, we own a minivan. The great necessary evil in families of five or more. I have nothing to add to the whole van discourse other than my Liechtensteinian neutrality. We have one minivan, and it is absolutely vital to carrying three kids and all their stuff while keeping them at arms length from each other. We don't pretend it's cool, but we do recognize that without it, we'd have needed to give one of our kids away by now. Those who go out of their way to remind me they'd never be seen alive in a minivan, it's been noted. More than once. You're welcome to sit in the back; the windows are tinted so dark, nobody can see you anyway.

That said, when child number three arrived, I had every opportunity to turn us into a two-van household, and I shied away from it. There's no need for two minivans in this family any more than there is for two rotary telephones. (The fact that we bought our first van three months before our first child was born in retrospect seems steeped in paranoid over-preparation. We had a minivan before we had a bassinette. So we could transport baby home uber-safely, then make her sleep on the couch.)
Instead, we got a "crossover," a vehicle that reinforces the feeling you're still really cool but without all the uncool things now associated with an SUV, like tipping over on highways and embarrassingly low gas mileage. The primary downsides to a crossover are the dirty seat factor from when your daughter tramps through her fairy garden right before entering (see above) and the too-much-togetherness factor, especially when we put the two boys next to each other, and even more now that the 1-year-old is nuanced enough to pester the bejeezus out of his older brother by kicking his arm gently while he tries to maneuver his LeapPad. Therefore, we use the crossover for local trips only, and we usually keep the youngest home on those trips, just to keep tempers under control.

Neither of these would be what most consider a "dream car," but when you grow up like I did not knowing a crankshaft from...uhhh...any other important car part, you don't really care what you end up driving, as long as your kids are safe and you can get to Point B without too much worry, especially when Point B is home. You don't need to go from 0 to 60 in any specific amount of time. Even the backs of our cars are pretty expensive logos, no stick family lined up neatly in height order, no destination ovals, no tributes to dead relatives, no precocious boy urinating on a rival's insignia. None of that makes a car a dream car. Just satellite radio, so the radio can breathe a little, that's all anybody's asking for.

The three car-seat alignment...1-year-old (backwards) on left, where he can kick 3-year-old (middle) while 6-year-old plays with her window control

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