The Minivan Identity Crisis

Minivans are not sexy. No girl anywhere ever said to herself, “I can’t wait to drive a minivan when I grow up.”

Minivans are not sexy. No girl anywhere ever said to herself, “I can’t wait to drive a minivan when I grow up.”


Today at the dealership the kids ducked in and out of the doors and scrambled on the seats of the used slate-grey minivan as if the entire structure were their personal gym. I yelled at my son through the cracked window not to honk the horn again as he pretended to drive. Standing in the car lot, hands on my hips, I inspected for dents and scuffs. Leaning inside, I noted a tinge of the kid smell that would just continue if it became ours. The van seemed bulky after only ever driving a smaller Civic or Corolla my entire adult life. The entire thing was too big and too loud. “Here comes a mom!” it seemed to scream at the world. If I had any residual aspirations of feeling cool as an aging 30-something, they would be wiped away with one large check and a few hours of paperwork.

“We’ll be in touch,” we said. Buckling the kids in their car seats, we ducked under the exploding blooms of the flowering Crab apple tree in the crowded car lot to rush off to our noon lunch appointment. After lunch at our new Chinese friend’s house and speeding home for the kids to nap (which they didn’t), we decided to buy it.

We strapped everyone back in the car. The sky grew black with rain as we drove the 20 minutes through open fields beginning to glow green and moody mountains catching the last remnant of sun. I tried to talk myself into being excited. More space! More features! More cup holders! At a good price, low mileage and being nearly spotless even though it was several years old, it was perfect for our growing family. But the entire concept threatened not only my ego, but my identity as an independent, adventurous woman. This felt like yet another tick in the “ordinary” box I had avoided my entire life.

My husband parked under the same tree that was now raining pink petals that stuck to our windshield and decorated the jet black tarmac of the parking lot. We prayed in the car for the second time that day. Wisdom. Discernment. Not our will, but yours. Adam went inside to find our car salesman, Ace (seriously), and do some haggling. In the car, I pacified the kids with books, obnoxious kids’ music and finally, with food. Adam texted that the man was checking with “the boss” about our offer. Soon after, he jumped back in the car to discuss the counter-offer. We decided on a firm price. “This, or we walk away,” he’d say. “We have five months, after all, and can wait for what we’re looking for.” It’s strange how hundreds of dollars become arbitrary when it comes to bargaining for a car worth thousands.

Ten minutes later, the text came in. “They took our offer!”

We had a mom van of our very own.

So the kids and I did what you do after you buy a minivan. We went to MacDonald’s. In my defense, I’ve only ever taken the kids to “Old MacDonald’s,” as my son calls it, one other time. Before that, my husband and I would get ice cream or fries at the drive thru and we’d congratulate ourselves when my son would ask, “What restaurant was that?” But now, I admit that (apart from the nasty burgers) the three dollar Happy Meals complete with a chintzy toy, a handful of fries, a bit of fruit, and milk have swayed me to the dark side. The one closest to us is very clean and has a great play area for toddlers and bigger kids, so it didn’t take much to sell my soul. Plus, my guard was definitely down.

My husband came home when it was dark and I had already put the kids to bed. I feigned excitement, but he saw through me. We did what you do in marriage as I assured him that he had gotten a fair price on the car and he reminded me that it’s just a car—a thing—not the essence of my being. But up in the bedroom as we started doing the other thing married people do, I just couldn’t stop giggling. It turned into the belly-laugh-till-you-cry type of laughing that began scaring him. “There’s a minivan in my driveway!” I finally roared. He looked at me like I was crazy. “I just don’t feel that sexy with a minivan parked in my driveway that belongs to us,” I said. And it’s true. Minivans have a way of wrecking your libido.

I don’t have any deep life lessons or spiritual epiphanies yet. I really just needed to put this into print because I kind of don’t believe it myself.

We bought a minivan.

Thank you to those women out there who still remember what it feels like to shrug reluctantly into the skin of the stereotypes of our age and position in life. It helps to know that there are still a few women out there who will give me an empathetic pat on the back as I shake my head and say, “We bought a minivan…a MINIVAN,” and not wonder why I’m not jumping for joy.

“In acceptance lieth peace,” Amy Carmichael wrote. And it really is a pretty nice vehicle—for a minivan. 

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Minivans are not sexy. No girl anywhere ever said to herself, “I can’t wait to drive a minivan when I grow up.”

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