Have Mini-Van, Will Travel

Today we traded in our mini-van.  I have waited a long time for this day!  Can you tell by the big goofy smile how I excited I am?  Then why does it feel like some sort of bittersweet moment and significant passage? Because it is.  

As we cleaned out the mini-van we found pacifiers that were once used by the kids who now tote around sports water bottles.  We stumbled upon long lost DVDs filled with smiley, happy characters and lyrics, that after hearing them fifteen times in a row, we once cursed.  Those DVDs have been replaced, first by Leapsters, and later by activities on the iPad…that after hearing detailed descriptions of the games, we now curse.  (Maybe we shouldn’t have been so hard on The Wiggles.  Are they really any more annoying than a Minecraft creeper?)

While the kids are occupied with such devices, its in the mini-van during long drives back and forth to our home state of Ohio that my husband and I usually do most of our life strategizing.  Once upon a time, during one of those big life-planning/decision-making conversations, we broke down childhood/parenthood into three 7-year stages, each with somewhat different needs:

  1. The young kid stage.  In this stage, the main concerns are safety and survival.  Your eye is trained to spot every uncovered electrical outlet in a room and you cut all food into small bite sized pieces.  You’re tired and messy in this stage and so is everything around you…carry baby wipes.
  2. The school-aged kid stage.  In this stage, the main concern is hauling everyone around to various activities and events. Well that, and trying to foster a connection to family all while laying the groundwork for social emotional confidence for the upcoming teen years.  If anyone has any tips for me on how to achieve both, those important touch-point family dinners and an evening sports practice, please do share.  You will spend a lot of time sitting in school and sportsplex parking lots in this stage…carry a magazine.
  3. The teenage stage.  I’m not here yet, but I for one am just planning to hold on tight, buckle-up and know that I once again won’t sleep, but for different reasons.  I can think of about a half dozen things I anticipate carrying at this stage…none of which are entirely appropriate to mention right now.

Those are our stages and that was one of our more productive road trips.  There have been many.  From New York, to Florida, Boston, to Ohio, Chicago, to Washington DC, and Canada, in the seven years since we’ve had it, our mini-van has logged 134,000 miles…its got some distance under its wheels.  From Times Square to the preschool carpool line, the mini-van has not only been our shuttle for great family travel adventures, its also been our carriage for that first, young kid stage.

From nursing, to potty-training, teaching the ABC’s, explanations about dinosaur bones and Heaven, discussions about medical decisions, and inquires about homework.  I guess in the last seven years as a parent I can say I’ve got some distance under my wheels too.

When we first surrendered to the idea of those convenient side sliding doors, I was just transitioning from East Coast urban (self-proclaimed) big shot career woman in her twenties to Midwestern suburban stay-at-mom in her thirties.  Lets just say the transition wasn’t going so well and a mini-van didn’t exactly help the identity crisis which was underway. 

We made jokes with our friends about our big purchase and called it GABI for ‘grin and bear it’.  We laughed about our sixteen (16!!) cup holders and even told the poor, confused kids working at drive-thrus about them as we smiled and handed back the cardboard drink holders they tried to give us.  

I watched the viral videos spoofing mini-van parents and half laughed, half cringed.  After a while I accepted my mini-van lifestyle and even told friends about its attributes once they found themselves in the market for this vehicle that they too said they’d never buy.  And believe it or not, I eventually grew to be grateful for the mini-van — because I was very grateful for the reason that we needed a mini-van.

But the time has come to part ways.  And while the kids are a little messy with sentimental thoughts for the mini-van, I’ve had my moment to give thanks for the many safe journeys.  For the long journeys, short journeys, literal journeys and figurative journeys.  Thank you.

So now, as we embark upon the car that will carry us through this next stage of parenthood, I’m making a few rules of things I would like to strive to not do in this next car…or this next stage, for that matter (true stories: all of these things did indeed happen in the mini-van…yep, its a good thing that we’re all growing up and moving on):

1.  No fruit snacks.
2.  No stickers.
3.  No coffee (boo!)
4.  No Diet Coke (double boo!)
5.  No french fries.
6.  Lets just go big and say no drive-thrus.
7.  No screaming during left hand turns.
8.  Every Elmo song will be immediately followed by a Wilco song.
9. All potty moments will happen outside of the car from now on. 
10.  No cracking the windows, and letting the kids play inside the car while I sit on the porch steps and read a People magazine.
11.  No breastfeeding…parked or moving.  Yes, proud to say in a moving car, child still in the carseat and no, not as the driver.  
12.  No playing with rear overhead lights, causing them to be left on overnight.
13.  No raccoons in the car (side sliding doors don’t pinch fingers, but they do have an unexpected hazard when you forget to close them overnight).
14.  No squirrels in the car (see #13).
15.  No mouse in the car.  Don’t know how it happened, but it did and that’s a post for another time.

XOXO to my GABI:  well beyond just grinning and bearing it, I think I can give you credit for several full-on belly laughs over the last seven years and 134,000 miles on the road trip of life.  Ahhh shucks, I never did use all sixteen of those cup holders!

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