Although I understood the reasoning for buying a minivan, I really didn’t like the idea because buying a van made me feel like a 30-something, nerdy, father type. Which I admit, I am — but I don’t want to look like one. I still want to feel “with it.” I want young people to look at me and think that I’m cool, or sexy, or cool and sexy. I want to feel young, but I don’t want all the hassle that comes with being young. I’m comfortable in my marriage and my job, but at the same time, I still want to feel fancy-free. And I think that’s the problem with buying a minivan. At least, it was for me.
Buying a minivan felt like I was giving up something that I couldn’t really define. My youth? My coolness? I didn’t really know, but what I do know is that during the drive to the car lot to shop for a van, I felt nervous. I tried to tell myself that it was because we were planning to make a major purchase, but honestly, I don’t think that was the problem.
We bought our first minivan, a Mazda, in a town 30 miles away, and as I drove it home, I felt horrible. I wished we’d just gotten a bigger car, or perhaps an SUV of some kind. Something with 4-wheel drive. Something a little more bad ass. But we had three kids, and cramming them all in our small Protege felt like cramming clowns in a Volkswagen bug. It just wasn’t working, and although I didn’t feel as nerdy driving our car around town, the fact was, it was impractical (like most things that are cool).
And I suppose that’s the hardest part about getting older. You start to value what’s practical over coolness. It seems like everything I do now is practical. All of my decisions. Just a few weeks ago, the Misfits, one of my favorite punk bands, reunited in Chicago. And I will admit, I honestly thought about going. Sure, the whole band is close to 60 now, and I’m confident I’d have left with a sore or perhaps permanently injured back. But it would have been so fun to just cast off my obligations and fly to a big city to see a band I really loved. But then I started thinking about how we were starting to save money for Christmas, and ultimately I imagined a conversation with my children where my wife had to lean forward and say, “We had plans to give you a wonderful Christmas, but Dad spent that money seeing an old punk band in Chicago. Now he needs back surgery.”
What a dickhead move that would’ve been.
But ultimately, these are the decisions parents have to make. They have to sit down and think about what’s best for the family, even if it means not going to see some concert, or buying a dorky ass minivan because it’s the most practical way to get all three of your kids to soccer practice.
Ultimately, though, two weeks into having a minivan, here’s what I found out: Although I looked like an old fart in the damn thing, I’d never felt more comfortable traveling with my kids. We had room for all their crap. We could seat them far enough away from each other that they couldn’t kick or punch or touch. When it rained, I could climb in the sucker to help buckle the kids and not get wet. I could fit all my groceries in the back, along with a stroller. The sliding doors made it easy to get the kids in and out, and no one had to crawl over a sibling when exiting.
It was a wonderful decision to get one, and although it feels like I made the transition from fashionable clothing choices to SAS shoes and suspenders, I don’t know how I’d ever live without the thing.
But this is the definition of adulting. This is what it means to let go of your youth and settle into being a parent with children. It doesn’t actually look like having children. It looks like buying a minivan. It looks like settling into affordable polo shirts and cargo shorts. It looks like yoga pants and Crocs. It looks like making practical and comfortable decisions rather than coolness factor decisions because they will, ultimately, make life with children easier and more manageable and bolster the overall happiness of yourself and your children.
So my advice is this: Dive in. Don’t fight it. Buy the van. It’s all good. It’s all worth it. You are a parent, so own it. Make parent decisions, even if it makes you look like a dork.