I drive a minivan. There. I said it. No more skulking around in parking lots to disassociate myself from the vehicle. No more looking away from others at stoplights in case they know me.
The one body-style of auto that I pledged I would never drive is mine now. Any cool factor I had – though highly doubtful there ever was any, really – is officially gone.
I prefer to think of the switch to a van as a lateral move, into another category, rather than a sinking lower. It was the pragmatic option after having our second child less than two years after our first and in the same year as my parents moved to town. Two very little ones, all their stuff and four adults have somewhat limited options for convenient, collective-outing transportation.
Reality seems to be setting in that we truly are in another class of parents. We realized it last night. This was after a family dinner out for the four of us at 4 PM, timed perfectly to avoid the crowds and to keep bedtimes. This was followed by a family excursion to Target… where we ran into other parents with the same slightly-disheveled, child-and-gear-schlepping haze that we can recognize from the mirror.
We connected with those random parents with a smile and a knowing look. It was a tribal greeting of sorts. Like Jeep drivers finger-wave at each other over the steering wheel, or Harley riders flash low to the side. We were greeted by and answered back to those parents of multiple littles with a secrete salute because we are now in the same club.
Life changed very quickly. Three short years ago we thought we were cute and fun, globe-trotting while we worked and played away. Two years ago we were a tag-teaming duo, proud of being able to figure out by ourselves how to keep some sanity and space on the journey into parenthood.
Now, we are in a whole different league with two small children. We are in a constant game of two-on-two. For a while yet, we’re in a bit of a survival stage. It is not unenjoyable, it is just a fact. And we are still figuring things out.
Statements of our reality: Our bed is made far fewer days than not. Laundry might live on the couch for days until it is folded and put away. I regularly make judgement calls about acceptable levels of milk on me or stains on the baby because I ate over her while also helping her brother. Our meals are sometimes odd combinations if I haven’t planned or prepped well. Working mainly from home, I may be in yoga pants for days since the webcam shoots shoulders up. We both work creative schedules to allow maximum interaction with our kids and minimum outside help. Instead of waiting for the next flight out of town, during the week we look forward to the next in-person meetings at the office. Dates are frequently like last night, processing our new life while eating what we couldn’t finish quietly at the restaurant. And our favorite meet-up plans are with others who don’t mind negotiating time on the day we get together.
I know there are different philosophies for parenting, and we’re still working to define ours. Much of this new life is a product of choice. We are biased toward togetherness, structure and overprotection of our kids at this young age. Soon enough our culture will force that to change. But for now we’ll err this way until convinced better. We want to be the strongest human forces in their lives. We choose to wholeheartedly take on our caregiver roles and both pour out and soak up everything possible.
Soak up, because we do daily have amazing discoveries. Like surprisingly how much it didn’t disrupt to have not one but two little guests in our bed night before last, snuggling from both sides. And how fun it was to watch our toddler act all grown up while enjoying a new dine-in restaurant. Or how we laughed with our baby girl’s shrieks through the store while strapped to my chest, facing outward. And how nice it was to open the mail yesterday and find the rest of our record tax refund after adding another child last year.
This phase – the minivan phase – will pass all too quickly and, if God allows, we will have the rest of our lives to enjoy what will be the fruit of this season. When we’re old and gray, what matters most will be the return on what we have invested into this family we have made, not the actual work and sacrifice that it took to get there. I look ahead and pray over those future relationships and values I believe we’ll share as a product of going all-in from the beginning.
But for now and until then, I’ll drive my van with my head held high. And I’ll thank God once more for the double blessings that ride with us behind those wonderfully practical, sliding side-doors.