Sample responses from family and friends upon learning that we traded our Civic for a minivan:
“Oh, that’ll be…different.”
“Is it a Honda Odyssey or a Chrysler Town and Country? Those are the preferred ‘cool mom’ vans at my office.”
As a matter of fact, it is a Honda Odyssey. And I love it. But apparently there is still a stigma associated with driving a minivan. Really?
My favourite celebrity gossip blogger (yes, I have a “favourite”) refers derisively to the “Minivan Majority” – the collective of minivan-driving moms who idolize celebrity moms and loathe Angelina Jolie for breaking up Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. My much-younger sister won’t be seen in my vehicle now. Even my husband – whose hard-earned dollars bought the damn thing – won’t drive it to work. “I’ll bike,” he said.
But…it’s so roomy! It has two climate zones! There are 10 cupholders! What’s not to love?
It guzzles gas, you say. Take the bus, ride your bike. Ok, I agree with you. I love the idea of active transportation. Unfortunately I live in a city that has not quite embraced this yet. Winnipeg, a city of 700,000 people, does not have a subway or light rail. We have buses; not the long “articulated” kind that look like caterpillars and could accommodate my giant stroller. We have small buses that would require at least 6 people to give up their seats so my stroller could come for the ride. And at night and on Sundays the buses run about once an hour. Oh, and did I mention it’s regularly about -25 degrees celsius here in the winter? And that winter lasts 6 months? Okay, that’s the end of my rant. That’s why I drive a car.
Correction: why I drove a car. I now drive a van.
My Civic was great on gas; that’s why we owned three of them in succession. However, it was not so great with carseats. J and I are not tall people. Well, I’m tall-ish for a woman at 5’9″, but not supermodel tall (I am not supermodel anything). Anyway, to accommodate two rear-facing carseats, we had to shove the driver’s seat and passenger seat so far forward that I was hitting my knees on the steering column when I drove. And with the stroller in the trunk there was no room for anything else. I would shop for groceries and have to cram rolls of toilet paper and bunches of bananas into the crevices between the carseats and the floor.
(Can I just mention here that none, not one, of the many, many “so you’re having twins” books that I read pointed out this very basic fact: TWO carseats do not go into a car the same way ONE carseat does? A car that will comfortably accommodate one carseat in the centre may not do so well with two seats behind the driver and passenger. I guess this is supposed to be obvious. But when I was pregnant with twins I spent most of my time pondering things like the disappearance of my ankles, and should not have been expected to have been thinking of things like how the carseats would or would not fit in my vehicle. That’s why I bought the books.)
I love my new van. It has a backup camera. I once backed our first Civic straight into the wall of our own garage: I am not great with spatial awareness (my husband is reading this and laughing, as “not great” is a significant understatement: count yourself lucky you have never had to move furniture with me); you could even say I lack a general awareness of my surroundings. I used to hit inanimate objects quite a lot. The backup camera should help.
It has built-in Bluetooth and a USB port where I can plug in my iPhone to play music. This is standard on all Hondas now and it is brilliant. Plus, the plug is nowhere near the driver’s seat, which is good. I would never text while I drive, but there are those who would.
It has an automatic transmission. Based on this blog post – in which I resemble a blundering buffoon of a driver – you might be surprised to learn that until now, I have only ever driven standard. Being able to drive a stick was a point of pride for me. In the van, I keep trying to shift into second gear as I round turns. I look like I’m miming driving a stick and I’m glad the boys are rear-facing so they can’t see their mama looking ridiculous.
It does not have a DVD player. J and I reasoned that we got through our childhoods without in-car entertainment; our children will too. In fact, I recall the many hours I spent staring out the car window as some of the happiest times in my childhood. (I also remember my parents having to demarcate “my” side and my brother’s side to stop the bickering. I didn’t want his grody Ninja Turtles touching my Barbies, okay? My van has captain’s chairs in the back. Problem solved!)
My point is, this van is awesome. To my fellow parents who are clinging to your former child-free identities in cars that are just too small: come join us on the dark side. We’re reclining our seats and stretching our legs, toting seven passengers plus cargo with ease. We’re comfortably parking in narrow spots because we have sliding doors. We’re not a target for car thieves because our vehicles are so damn uncool. We’re folding seats up and folding seats down just because we can. We’re driving minivans. And we love it.
At least it’s not this: