The Family Van

Let me begin by saying I have no ties to feeling cool or hip. I don’t need my car to look good or flashy or even go very fast. But, I do prefer my car to get good gas mileage. I find it really, really awful that we aren’t doing better with fuel efficiency for family vehicles. Years ago, I wrote an article about cars in India powered by air! How is it that in 2008 we had some cars on the market getting 100+ mpg and today’s minivans get around 20mpg? fam'ly minivan / mother helps girl to enter / the swagger wagon

And that’s the tricky part for us, about to have our third baby: we need a minivan now.

Of course, I realize there are plenty of people who fit three car seats in the back of Honda Civics and I know I could get an SUV or station wagon and get slightly better fuel efficiency…and maybe have an easier time parallel parking.

But here’s the reality for my family: both of my older kids are still prone to running into traffic. Who do I leave on the curb while I load the baby and one big kid into a car without sliding doors? Do I sacrifice the two-year-old or the five-year-old? I’d like to keep all of them.

It’d also be fun to be able to invite friends along with us to play with our older kids, too. Or carpool from preschool.

I like to go out and about with my boys, and a minivan allows a lot of space for me to sit and nurse my wee one while the big kids climb around the car, not escaping or wandering into traffic. Yes, we have a family theme: keep the kids from wandering into traffic.

So when we found out we were expecting, we knew we needed a van. We knew we wanted one very specific type of van and we went to test drive it. I was struck by how amazing the technology was inside the van: it had a vacuum cleaner built in. I could plug my smart phone into a hookup in the glove box and stream music from my apps. How could such fancy technology exist and yet the vehicle only gets about 20mpg?

Anyway, the car we’d be trading in for the van is only in my husband’s name. The responsibility is fully on him to obtain our new vehicle. The problem with this is that my husband dilly-dallies.

By early spring, I was largely pregnant and we were no closer to having a van than we were in December. I began to fret to my friends.

Our primary car is a Prius, which is not a great car to drive in Pittsburgh because hills. So many hills. And the interior of a Prius is pretty small. We literally cannot fit another human body in the back between our big kids’ car seats.

Our other car is a zippy Mazda 3, which has a surprisingly roomy interior, but can’t fit three seats across unless we shell out another few hundred beans for more Radians.

My due date approached and we did not own a vehicle in which we could transport our family. What the heck were we going to do? What had my friends done in situations like this?

One friend texted me a picture–her husband was on the phone with the car dealership while she was getting her epidural for her third baby; he was taking notes on the back of the consent form.

Another friend’s husband had to duck out of the hospital the day she was being discharged, to pick up their van, which he returned with in just enough time to install the infant seat and meet her wheelchair at the door.

So I’m not alone when it comes to this family vehicle conundrum. Dilly-dallying husbands seem to delay minivan purchases left and right as their pregnant wives get more and more anxious! We learned that the type of minivan we want is hot, hot, hot in Pittsburgh. Dealers can’t keep them on the lots. One friend went to test drive one, popped across the street to discuss over coffee, and came back to find it had been sold. This only added to my worry about transporting my family.

Finally, at 37 weeks pregnant, I got a cervical exam and found out I had begun to dilate and efface. I called my husband and told him this news, then said, “You need to get the van now.” He agreed it was time.

Except, he asked, couldn’t we wait until the end of the fiscal year?

A week later, he went to the dealership after work to fill out some paperwork, discuss financial options (he’s a CPA, so he always has to discuss options in great, great detail), and put down a deposit. 

As I write this, 38 weeks pregnant with Braxton Hicks contractions of increasing frequency, my husband thinks he might go and pick up our van tomorrow. Probably, he says.

I’m trying to be zen about it. Worst case scenario, we’ll zip to the hospital in our Mazda and only worry about transporting the baby home. It’s not like we’ll be going anywhere soon as a unit of 5. My mom can stay home with my big boys while my husband drives me and baby to the pediatrician or my own follow-up medical visits.

Hopefully we don’t have to start relying on the bus!

As much as I’d like this baby to come Earthside, I’ve been asking him to please wait just until Daddy picks up the new minivan. We shall see which arrives first.

Did you have to upgrade vehicles as you had more children? Leave us a comment to share your experiences. 

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