I know a few moms of young kids (Sydney, ahem) and a few moms-to-be who are still young and idealistic enough to say "I will NEVER drive a minivan!" We've all been there, we veteran minivan moms, back in the day when we had a cute body, a cute baby and a cute little car to drive around. Then came more kids. And let's face it, once you hit three kids, you NEED a minivan.
Why? you ask. Let me tell you a little story. Back in 1995, when I was nearly nine months pregnant with my second child, I was driving around a Honda Civic with no air conditioning. I loved that little car, and the gas mileage couldn't be beat, but I was very pregnant. It was summer. I was hot and cranky. I wanted a new car. Being proactive and a planner, I researched my options and VERY reluctantly decided on a minivan. It was all the rage. My friends had them. Why not join the club? Except I said I'd NEVER drive a minivan. So, to console myself, I bought a red one. Red means fast. Red means cool. Red means "look at me, I'm a mom in a minivan!" So much for planning.
But then.....I started to like that minivan. Plenty of room to buckle kids in and out of car seats, plenty of room for the arsenal of diaper bags, snacks, activities, extra blankets, stuffed animals and pacifiers that accompanied us on a long trip to.....the grocery store. Plenty of space in the back for the burgeoning grocery load that came along with my growing family. Plus, the seats folded down for that occasional trip to Home Depot for a large piece of plywood or Toys R Us for that big swingset for the backyard. Handy!
But the true beauty of the minivan is...........the road trip! We started to drive to Idaho a lot to visit family and there was plenty of space for all of our travel needs and then some. As the kids got older, camping trips were included. That van was packed to the gills with camping needs, kids' feet perched on sleeping bags, a cooler separating squabbling siblings. We even added a car-top carrier! Modern-day Beverly Hillbillies.
We still drive that red minivan, although it's on its last legs (wheels?). We upgraded to a brand-spankin' new minivan in 2007. That van has doubled as a bus, a camping vehicle, a hotel, and a truck. On long trips, there's nothing more peaceful than space between siblings and a DVD player. It has something like 843 cup holders and all manner of pockets and compartments in which to lose mittens and french fries. The seats fold down and stow away in the floor of the van. The back has a recessed compartment deep enough to hide a teenager crouching down, waiting to scare the bejeezus out of her unsuspecting siblings when they settle themselves in the back seat. The doors slide open and shut with the touch of a button and there's one on BOTH sides of the van (unlike our older van which has just one, manual sliding door. A neighbor child once stood on the side of the van with no door looking confused and asked how to get in the van. When I explained there was only one sliding door she looked at me disdainfully and said "Oh, you have one of those oldy-timey vans!").
With a minivan, we can cram eight kids, four days' worth of camping gear and three dogs into it's cavernous interior. We can haul six teenagers and two adults to a football game. We can put a movie on, flip a switch and have the kids don wireless headphones while we adults up front indulge in our favorite music or enjoy a conversation in complete peace. If it only came with one of those handy dividers like taxi cabs, we'd be set! The kids could beat each other senseless in the back seat and we'd be none the wiser in our soundproof booth up front.
Our minivan has a handy rack that can hold four bikes, a top that can support two kayaks, and a hitch that can pull our camper over hill and dale to various destinations. It's essentially our second home. I have stashed in the van both food and water, extra makeup, first aid kits, enough reusable grocery bags to last a lifetime, an arsenal of DVDs and CDs, sunscreen, a garbage bag for each row, extra gloves, napkins, an emergency kit, extra dog leashes, coupon books, flashlight, multipurpose tool, extra coats, beach towels and handiwipes. If needed, we could live in the minivan. For six hours. Give or take.
I normally drive the nice, newer minivan, but I occasionally find myself driving the old one. It's the same age as my high school junior. That van holds a lot of memories. Driving my newborns home from the hospital. The time my oldest got mad at me and threw her entire orange soda at me while I was driving (there are still stains on the ceiling). The time I slammed the van in park in the middle of traffic to rush around, yank the sliding door open and kill an ant that was threatening the life of my toddler (or at least it seemed so from the screams). The van that was so stuffed with crap on a trip across the mountains that one of the kids accidentally kicked out a Nintendo DS into a parking lot, never to be seen again. The van that suffered a broken headlight the first month we owned it (likely from someone backing into it in a parking lot) that has NEVER been fixed. That van saved my freezing ass more than once on a camping trip when I was so cold I thought I'd die and retreated to the relative warmth of the van (and it's inadequately long bench seats). I've spilled more coffee in that van than I care to mention. I've hauled so many kids on so many trips - to the beach, park, playground, vacations, school. I once drove that van away while my own daughter was putting her backpack in it, thinking she was already in the car!
The van was purchased when my oldest was just two and it became her first car. I don't even want to know what all went on in that van before she left for college, but I will say I've never seen a dirtier vehicle, nor found so many disgusting things in it (two month old Taco Bell anyone? It's just a little fuzzy). It smelled like a rotting corpse. My daughter consistently ran it out of gas and was involved in a four-car accident last Valentine's day. But the van is still going strong. Scars and all. It has a cracked engine head......so it could "die" at any given moment, but we rather enjoy limping it along until it craps out on the highway one day.
My point is this: if you have three or more children, get a minivan. For your own sanity. So they can bring friends along. So you can drive the carpool. Invest in an entertainment system. So, when you're hauling your offpsring along on a 300 mile road trip, you can enjoy the open road while they are glued to a DVD. It's peaceful. It's fun. It's roomy. Get over yourself. Just get a minivan.