Mom’s Voice: Our Minivan’s Major Role

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Dodge Caravan at Smithsonian
Dodge Caravan at Smithsonian

When I bought my minivan 10 years ago, we had three kids (7, 4 and 2), and one on the way. Clearly the target market for this type of vehicle, I proudly took my place, with my bulging belly, behind the wheel and have never looked back. Well, except when in reverse.

For a decade of our lives my van has hauled kids, stuff, more stuff, different stuff, and friends’ stuff. The van has been filled with everything from suitcases to sports equipment, groceries to garments.

The 125,000 miles were racked up on road trips to visit cousins, early morning donut runs, school drop offs and pick ups, Girl Scout Cookie deliveries, playdates, doctor and dentist appointments, and more.

It is low enough for the most stubborn toddler and the most feeble grandma to get in and out of with relative ease. When the kids were little, being able to stand inside the car to buckle their car seats, and having doors that slowly slide shut so no fingers get smashed by accident were just a few other perks. Seats disappear and reappear depending on how much storage is needed.

It has been 30 years since Chrysler rolled out its first minivan, which changed mothering forever. It was first touted as the “magic wagon.” I’ll vouch for that. When our car was brand new, one of the kids slid a quarter into the CD player making it disappear forever. The CD player hasn’t worked since.

Although new models and styles of minivans were rolled out and sold by the millions each year, a backlash, counter culture grew. Somehow, a car designed with the needs of a family in mind, a car to make moms’ lives simpler, began to be seen as too mom-ish. Am I missing something?

These anti-minivan moms felt that driving a minivan was the symbol of motherhood – but not in a good way. These moms swore they would never drive one, as doing so would be the final nail in the coffin of the pre-mom, sexy, hip days of their youth and by golly they weren’t going to let a car rob them of the last shred of it.

Considering I wasn’t very sexy, hip or cool before motherhood, these were not factors when choosing a car as a mom.

Frumpy or not, I can’t fathom the last decade of my life without my minivan. In fact, my husband bought a second minivan six years later. Yup, we’re now a two mini-van family.

The Smithsonian Natural Museum of American History houses a first generation Dodge Caravan and visitors read can read the description of this genuine wood paneled artifact: “This minivan was owned by a Michigan family. They bought the minivan because their family car was too small for family vacations. They used the minivan to travel, run errands, transport their children to and from sporting events, and move their children back and forth to college.”

Recently our teenage son Payton inherited my minivan. Would he rather have a sportier, newer, or cooler car? If so, he knows better than to look a gift van in the mouth. As a mom, it’s my job to make sure of that.

And so the magic continues for the next generation.



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