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Sunday, Apr. 10, 2005
I was idling through a blog post this morning written by a Dad-to-be, and he was wondering aloud which sort of car would be appropriate for two adults and a new baby.

Now, it goes without saying that taking this into consideration is a fine thing. Advance planning and all. Sounds like the responsible thing to do for a young father. But he blew it with me when he revealed that: 1) The wife isn’t even pregnant yet, and: 2) His car choices were ranging along the lines of BMW, Infiniti and Cadillac.

Sheesh. Just when you thought they weren’t making yuppies anymore.

He got a lot of comments about this. Horsepower ratios, coolness factor, safety issues, etc. Somewhere toward the end of the comments the voice of sanity (and no, it wasn’t me) waded in. “Git yerself a damned minivan. What the hell do ye think they’re made for, anyways? And plenty of trash bags and carpet cleaner, too. Git one that‘s American made, so when it breaks down 50 miles from nowhere and your wife calls in with a screaming kid in the background you‘ll at least have the peace of mind that Cletus the tow truck guy will be able to find the parts.”

I have three kids. I’ve had many cars. I can say without hesitation that I’m an expert on this subject. No, make that the Zen Master. For a lot of reasons.

Ally and I had kids so close together in age that there was a two or three year period where we never went a week without buying diapers. We had a long work commute for 7 years and the kids went on every one of them. A commute that didn’t end even when a tractor trailer ran over Ally’s car one morning, with the three kids in it.

For a little while after that wreck, I was blessed with the duty of kid transport using only the front seat of a pickup truck. Three kids, let’s say ages 5, 4 and 2. Baggies full of Cheerios, sippy cups on the dashboard, 6 pm and an interstate rush hour in the dark of winter. A wife on the mend back at the house. I clearly remember more than once, as the three of them screamed in unison about the unfairness of it all, that I screamed right back at ‘em. Tossed the damned Cheerios out the window rather than spend one more second trying to referee a grab match at sixty MPH. And don’t even get me started on soiled diapers, a 30 mile trek and a pickup truck with the heater on.

This was slightly before the time of mandatory fitted restraints or car seats for everyone under the age of 8. You either learn to be a Zen Master or wilt into someone ready to be fitted for a constrictive jacket.

We went through minivans. Couple of them, in fact. The horror that ground itself into the carpet of those things still brings me bolt upright at 3 am sometimes.

Yeah, go get yourself a nice BMW pal. With leather and pile carpet and a DVD player for that poor deprived urchin in the backseat.

Just make sure you’re ready to write about the 71st time little Ashley launches a sippy cup full of milk from high atop the Gucci car seat and you don’t notice it until you’re in the driveway. Or she toddles through dogshit and the smell doesn’t hit you until you’re doing 70 on I-95. Or the DVD crapping out right in the middle of her favorite, the one you’ve already heard ten dozen times.

Oh ye of yuppie enlightenment. Trust me, the first time you find yourself draggin’ out the hose and aiming it on the interior of that Beemer, I won’t laugh but a little.

You’ll just be turning the corner. You’ll be growing up, if only a little slower than the miniature version of yourself. Just mind that you take her out of the car seat before you turn the water on.

Although come to think of it, there was that one time there . . .

I won’t hesitate to add that there are times I miss those days of small children. I miss the small moments, in between the outrageous mess that a war party of 3 feet tall savages can create in cars and homes. We have a picture of Maggie and I, and she couldn’t have been much more than 2, standing in the kitchen right after her bath. She’s wearing a towel and I’m holding her, small arms around my neck, and we both have this winsome look that says “Boy, wasn’t this a day for the book?”

I can smell her damp hair and feel a skinny heel digging into my belt for purchase even now. The unconditional love that goes without saying, because I can tell you that the hurricane of having 3 children, the madness, was something all of us came to understand in some tacit sort of way. It’s as if that picture summed up some sort of philosophy that could be shared by a 30 year old Dad and a 2 year old girl. “You made me. Yes, I made you. And we’re in this together, and bath time is over and it’s time for footy pajamas now, and a story, and ending another day where everything and nothing is new, and so shall it ever be. I’ll always be this little. Yes, you will. Kiss for Dad. Kiss for Mom. You’ll be here in the morning. Yes, I always will.”

I don’t remember all of those days. In some ways they were always the same, and not to be remembered because that’s just the way things were. It’s very hard, when they’re small and swimming in a tiny backyard wading pool on a hot summer day to think of them as large people who drive cars and need help with taxes and court dates. Ally and I spent an interminable amount of time talking about them, usually after collapsing into our own bed and wishing aloud “C’mon, c’mon, get bigger already. Get taller, get out of diapers, get stronger so you can cut the grass or do the dishes or help your little brother with his math. This is work here, these children who sleep near us.”

I don’t know of a parent yet who wouldn’t trade one day of having the grown ones, the teenaged ones, for one minute back in the smaller days. One single minute, when hair was damp and thin arms went around your neck so quickly.

Beth the Eldest called yesterday, a coy and bubbling Beth. “What are you guys doing in September?”

Debtors prison? Moving into the YMCA? It’s unknown, Beth.

“Well, I know what you’re going to be doing. I know, and you’re going to do it and Maggie and Ben are going to help you do it. You’re going on a cruise for a week. The Caribbean! St. Thomas, and the Cays! You guys and me and (Ally‘s sister and brother-in-law) and . . .” She went on and listed a small mob of people we somewhat know, friends of Ally’s sister primarily. A 30ish crowd of beer swilling dock workers who do this sort of thing on a regular basis.

After I got done momentarily choking on the insanity of it all, the expense and logistics and timing, Ally’s sister got on the phone. “She’s dead set about this, and we are too. Don’t worry about the money right now, you guys are going. We’ll front you! Deposits! State rooms! Make sure you‘re tanned before you go! All you gotta pay for is your bar tab!”

I kinda looked at Ally after the call was over, and she looked at me. We barely have reason to hope that we’ll be anywhere at all in September let alone on a floating luxury casino off the shores of Cuba somewhere, and we said as much.

“They’re really planning this thing,” Ally said with just a touch of wonder, and a look to me. “They’re serious about this.”

“Awww, these kids. They’re always on about one thing or another.”

“My sister went on one two years ago.”

“Yeah, but geez, how in the world . . .”

“We could go, maybe? Don’t you think? Beth will be 21 by then. Says she could have a beer with you in one of those cute old-men‘s bars onboard instead of hanging out by the pool all day.”

“Now there’s a thought. Me, buying beer for her. Now I do feel old.”

But on the flip side, I don’t have to stay up at night wishing they were a little older, a little stronger. Or a little more independent.

I’ve got the feeling I just got strapped into a car seat and had a bib tied to my neck. My daughter is going to take me for a spin around the Caribbean and put my Coors Lite in a sippy cup for me.

Lord. Is she ever in for a rude awakening.

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