"My other mini-van is a choking hazard."

November 10, 2012

Notable Stats

Coolness Reduction Rate (CRR) – The pace by which your macho coolness is being eroded by driving a mini-van as a function of age. For example, each year you drive it, your pant legs go up an inch as does your blood pressure.

Yellowing Acceleration Quotient (YAQ) – The level by which your mini-van smells “stank.” If you have a port-a-potty on board like we do, this quotient is tripled.

Stainproofing Multiplier (SM) – A multiplier used when calculating how well your mini-van carpet protects against food, blood, mud, and of course, insanity.

Reachable Radius (RR) – The range in which you can put snack food so that your child can reach it. Once a micro-inch outside this range and you are inviting complete system meltdown. This is measured in goldfish crackers (GCs).

Now you have really done it. After the dealer handed you a set of keys that powered your new mini-van, you felt the chill go down your spine. It wasn’t the chill that reminded you of that perfectly cooled glass of orange juice; it was the chill you get when you underestimate the depth of that ice puddle, and its frozen contents pour into your shoes. Life has changed; you will be driving a condo on wheels, and in the realm of parenting multiple beings, a condo on wheels may be one of the top five most necessary elements in your life. Embrace it.

Sure, I was a big league ballplayer at one point. I drove a Lexus GS that went from zero to 60 in 0.0005 seconds. I drove a Range Rover that, with the push of a button, would “hydrolic up” and laugh at snow. But now, my wife looks at me sideways because of my genuine excitement that I am driving a vehicle that has real outlet plugs all over the place. I could toast Pop Tarts in my car!

But that is what it takes. You cannot hold on to coolness, look to impress the Joneses, or heaven forbid, be in a clean smelling environment in your car. That was yesterday, you have to be broken down, beat down to the point where you beg to have doors that slide to avoid the tenth consecutive day that your son closed the door on your daughter’s head. Parental necessity is like pledging. First it has to wear you down to the nub, then it builds you up into thinking that having a double-digit number of cupholders is near Nirvana.

After your post-childless reincarnation, you stop caring about certain things. The fact that we have a portable toilet inside our vehicle is completely normal. Even the fact that 22% of what was supposed to go inside of the bowl ends up “missing the target” leaves you unfazed. We know that a mini-van’s carpet is made out of the same material that NASA uses to resist the heat of re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. So bring your dogs, cats, toddlers, recyclables and old pizza. All is welcome.

Speaking of food, if you do not detail your mini-van every day, you may mistake that three foot fungal growth stuck to your back window as another child. It is important to do a purge, preferably with a substance that is so stringent that it has a warning label that says “Be sure to wear gloves because if you don’t, you will never need gloves again.”

We all know that a toddler eating food actually has a field goal percentage attached to the process. If he can get more than 50% of what he is eating into his mouth, he is considered “advanced.” Why do we let our kids eat in the car, you ask? If you ask that question, you don’t have a mini-van.

Of course that is if you can actually get the food to them in the first place. Once you hit the three-child mark, it may become necessary to place one of the three in the back row. It takes a rocket launcher to get a bag of fruit snacks to my four-year-old son. And no matter how much you load them up before you shift the mini-van into Drive, someone will drop their snack on the floor (after the incessant bickering ends about who gets to sit in the back). Once everyone is finally seat buckled in and you have built a fort around each child to keep the food inside their reachable radius AND you have put on their hats, gloves, and jackets, they will finally agree on one thing… that they all have to go to the bathroom.

Now Dads, keep in mind you have engineered this seating chart. You are the carseat expert by default. It is your job to know that LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) like you invented it. For those of you who do not know it, it is the standardized system of attaching child safety seats to the vehicle. It is said that about 75% of car seats are installed incorrectly, so basically, it is probably your fault.

Keep in mind, our mini-van is our mobile home. So when it is not transporting infants, it could be re-purposed to bring in that six burner stove you found on Craigslist. But guess what? You have to move the seats around. Fold a few, unlatch some car seats, and of course, peel the mystery layer of something unimaginable from the headrest so you can fold it out of the way. When it is all said and done, fathers would have spent 16 days of their life reconfiguring their mini-van. (OK, I completely made that up, but I am probably pretty close).

Keep in mind you can escape its clutches. Being responsible for three people under four feet tall, it is more accurate to say you need to “jettison” yourself out of the mini-van. There is no gracious exit anymore. You don’t sexily turn off the ignition and slide out (in fact you NEVER turn the car off if someone is napping in their car seat). You sprint out of the driver’s seat to prevent your son from stepping on his 10 month old sister as he crawls over her car seat. You rush to unbuckle your daughter knowing that her bladder is the size of a sunflower seed and she is demanding to use the potty (in-van or not). You dive over your spouse because your infant daughter somehow grabbed one of the six thousand pieces in and around her world that is considered a “choking hazard.” As an aside, I am confident 90% of the world is a “choking hazard” including the entire mini-van itself.

Fathers, do not sweat any of it. Pick up the mini-van anyway, you will be thankful. It is intuitive; it allows you to basically carry your home around with you. Keep in mind I work at ESPN where the security team around campus all drive the same mini-van I drive. At first glance, you would ask, “What are they going to do to the suspicious character in the parking lot? Throw a sippy cup at him?” But, those who know the power of a mini-van would know this is the best security vehicle ESPN could have chosen. Because in the end, I am highly confident that if a herd of three-year-olds can’t destroy it, it must be indestructible.

- Doug Glanville

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