I've always been struck by the number of minivans and SUVs that live in the parking lot of our family's chosen gym/family recreation center/huge absorber of our time and money. It is a family-oriented establishment, after all, so it shouldn't be surprising. The American family chooses to tote its younguns around in the safety and comfort of larger vehicles.
Yesterday I actually got a case of the heebie-jeebies when I noticed that, on the way to my own car, I passed not one, not two, but three identical white Toyota Sienna minivans. Two of them were parked right next to each other, and the third was a mere two spaces down. They all had those little cling-on sports stickers on the rear window advertising the resident children's names and sports affiliation. You know the ones; they have a little picture of a soccer ball, or pom-pom, or baseball, with the kid's first name underneath so the world knows that little Drew plays soccer! And Maggie is a cheerleader! If my parents had ever been into this, they would have had a little sticker in the back of our Chevy Cavalier showing a skinny girl with arms akimbo getting her feet tangled up in a track hurdle, or a logo of a geek in glasses holding a clipboard and "managing" her high-school volleyball team, because those failed attempts at organized sports were about it for poor little Cranky.
I could almost feel those three Siennas watching me as I finally found my car hidden between a Hummer and a Lexus SUV. Seriously, there is something creepy about seeing three identical vehicles parked close together; you feel like something is going on and it might have something to do with a mob. As I pulled out, I passed yet another Toyota Sienna in my row of cars (mercifully, another color) and then saw, pulling into the parking lot...you guessed it! Another WHITE Toyota Sienna. That's it! They're taking over!
All I could think, besides that it's alarming that Toyota would manufacture that thing seemingly in, like, two colors, is how I swore to anyone that would listen through most of my 20s that I would never, ever own a minivan. I remember when I was a poor grad student living in Lexington, knocking back beers with B.R. and D.R., thinking I knew everything about what my future as a parent would hold, and condemning the people like my sister who sold out and gave in when they had kids and no longer had any social lives to speak of other than attending tee-ball games and academic team matches and chauffeuring the kids around and throwing chicken nuggets at them in the back of the old minivan on the way home from this practice or that game.
Oh, to be young and know everything.
Now most of the people who I used to tell that I would never own a minivan have kids themselves and own either the minivan or the SUV. Let's face it: with more than one child, you kinda have to. And I have been tempted. I liked driving the "Canyonero" we rented when we went to Disney (though we chipped away at our life savings and the ozone layer putting gas in it), and I have witnessed the powerful sway our friends' built-in DVD player has on Ainsley and the fact that, when we visit them, their vehicle will fit all four of us and our three combined children comfortably.
And what kind of rockin' car do I drive now that I live in the real world of parenthood? A Vibe. Which calls itself a "crossover" vehicle and tries to pose as a small MPG-friendly SUV, but mysteriously transforms, with the addition of a child safety seat, into nothing more glamorous than a compact station wagon. It's a total mom-mobile. Complete with empty juice boxes under the seats and Happy Meal toys flung back into the hatch.
The only thing missing are a few sports-logo stickies on the back window.
It's truly amazing how we all picture adulthood and parenthood before we actually cross those thresholds, and how little time it takes for common sense and practicality to rule the day. At 25 years old, I thought I knew exactly how the next 20 years were going to look, right down to what kind of car I was going to drive and what activities my kids were and were not going to be tied down to and how many servings of home-cooked vegetables they were going to be offered every night of the week. Now I know that the only thing you can predict is unpredictability.
And, as more of us slacker gen-Xers or gen-Yers or whatever we are settle down and have kids, a lot more white Toyota Siennas.