Why a girl shouldn’t love her minivan

I realize that in the grand scheme of things, what I’m about to say is small and insignificant, but I’m going to say it nonetheless.

I’ve never been a girl who put too much stock in her ride. As evidence I submit the list of cars I’ve driven since I got my license in 1991: Ford Tempo, Dodge Neon, Chevy Corsica, Plymouth Neon, Kia Sedona. These cars were all perfectly adequate for what I needed, but certainly nothing special– most had automatic transmissions and windows that cranked up and down.

Then, two years ago, I fell in love. Only a mom would fall in love with a Honda Odyssey, but I’m a mom, and what can I say? The van beckoned. It felt like a living room on wheels, and it had a DVD player and a mini refrigerator. I signed my name on the dotted line less than a month after the new model was released, and I became as anally-retentive about keeping the van clean as any mom of five small children can. Before we got out of the car, I’d make everyone sweep through and pick up trash. I was a frequent visitor at the car wash down the street. We even had it detailed, which for me, was a big deal. It smelled all fresh and clean and new again. We even used my car, the Mom Van, on our dates.

And then, last Friday night, we took the kids to the baseball game. My husband drove himself, and the kids and I met him there. My car may be clean, but it’s also noisy– my oldest daughter likes to play pop songs on the radio at full volume. My boys were wrestling in the backseat. My middle daughter kept asking me questions over the din. Yes, I’m making excuses.

We pulled into the parking lot with plenty of time to get into our seats when the game started. The lot wasn’t too full, but I decided that I “must be in the front row” and pulled out of the space I’d originally parked in, attempting to pull into the spot diagonally across from mine. So we could save ourselves a dozen steps, you know. I didn’t check my mirrors, because I thought I had enough room, but then I heard the sickening crunch that was the panel of my door hitting the metal bumper of the giant truck next to ours.

It could have been so much worse. The monster truck didn’t have a scratch. The kids weren’t hurt– in fact, they didn’t notice that we’d hit the other car until I hopped out of the van, screaming, to survey the damage. The only thing that got hurt (besides the door) was my pride.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but my pride IS hurt. I hate that my spanking new, just detailed, perfect car now has a big scrape down the side. It probably will have a big scrape down the side for a while, because my folly just happened to coincide with the start of a big landscaping project in our backyard, which will be sucking away any money that could go toward fixing the dent for the foreseeable future. Mostly, I hate that I can’t just say (or at least say truthfully) that some jerk hit me. Because I’m the jerk. I’m the one who wasn’t careful.

And even though I know that in my brain, seeing the physical imperfection every time I walk toward my car, still bugs.

I’ve decided that I won’t let myself get it fixed until it stops bugging me, until I can look at the dent and say, “I screwed up, and that’s okay.” I hope I’m a quick study.

How about you? Would a dent in your van bug because it’s just one more thing to get fixed? Would it hurt your pride? What are the external things that you want to have “just so”?

About Shelah

(Editor-in-Chief) lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and six kids. She has a BA in English Teaching from BYU, an MA in American Culture Studies from Washington University in St. Louis, and an MFA in Creative Writing at BYU. Her work has been published in Dialogue, the Mormon Women Project, Irreantum, BYU Studies, and Segullah. When she’s not writing or wrangling, she can often be found running through the city in the pre-dawn darkness.

11 thoughts on “Why a girl shouldn’t love her minivan

  1. Good for you for figuring out what’s going on inside your head!

    My vote: YES! Leave the scratch there until it no longer bugs you. Embrace your imperfect van and turn it from an object of your affection and into a solid resource that you use to help the people who are the objects of your affection.

    You are so, so, so lucky to have done this now and have the opportunity to go through this transition with your thinking about a car when your children are young rather than waiting until your children are teenagers and putting dings and scratches in your car as they learn how to drive.

    Smartest things we did with driving teenagers: We didn’t fix any minor body damage (other than touch up paint to prevent rust)until the last one was off on her own. The decision my husband and I made to embrace the fact that we were all imperfect and so were our cars eliminated an immense amount of unnecessary stress during those years. I heartily recommend becoming a person who isn’t phased by scratches , dings or dents.

  2. I took out our fence with my minivan a couple years ago. The last section of it near the road is now in my backyard, Where I delude myself into thinking I will repair it someday. There’s a big scar on the side of my car that screams WHITE TRASH when coupled with the lack of any hubcaps. Alack! It’s just transportation. And far cooler than much of the world has available to them. Someday I’ll have a different ride, But for now this is more than enough. ♥

  3. I put a nice scratch and dent in the side of our garage door frame, and every time I see it it drives me nuts. And yet, I have no clue how to fix it. To be fair, when I scraped it with my Durango side mirror, I had been up since 4 am waiting for the doctors office to open so I could take my baby who had an ear infection to the doctor, and this was right after my husband had come home from the hospital after an 11 day stay in the ICU where he almost died, so I was very run down and sleep deprived. Still, the scratch is there, noticeable and mocking me for not paying attention when I was backing out of the garage.

  4. It’s because the van was new. If you’d had my last ratty van with peeling paint and rust on the roof, one more dent wouldn’t have mattered.
    Your van has character now. ;)

    By the same token, I get a little irritated when someone spills something on the floor I just mopped clean. Eh.

  5. I, too, fell madly in love with my first Odyssey. It was 12 years ago, and my “incident” still haunts me. I took my beautiful and perfect new minivan through a car wash a month after driving it off the lot. The exit of this wash was a bit different than most as you had to turn at almost 90 degrees immediately as you left the exit door. The brick edge of said exit door completely destroyed the sliding door on my pristine new van. I completely freaked out. The fact that I was two weeks from delivering my second child didn’t help the freak out, though it was a factor in my sweet husband getting that door fixed right away.
    We are currently on our second Odyssey. I still love it, but the honeymoon is over. Three messy boys have taken the shine off an interior that will never be the same. The result is that I am now far more relaxed about the condition of my minivan, however, taking it to the car wash is now my husband’s job. There’s still too much trauma in it for me!

  6. i’m always harder on myself about things like that than i am on my husband or the kids. my husband hit a post with our new-ish van this last week and i shrugged it off like it was no big deal. had it been me driving, i would have bothered me for weeks.

  7. I love that your husband shrugged it off like it was no big deal, Debra. Reminded me that that’s how my Mr. reacted when I took off the side-view mirror of our new corolla a month after we got married. Such a loving, generous response when I thought for sure he was going to kill me. Or at least freak out. (my parents would have).

  8. My car has a big scratch/dent in the driver’s side that was totally my fault. That happened 3 years ago when it was brand new and I felt bad about it for a while. I also feel bad about the ice cream stains on the seat from the time I foolishly let kids eat ice cream in the car. At least when I think about these things I don’t feel too bad and I consider that a good sign that I’ve relaxed enough in my life not to beat myself up about them.

  9. Too funny! And I can so relate! I drive an old car. I always drive an old car mostly because I tend to keep my cars for a really long time and Mr. is a highly skilled mechanic. I have almost 300,000 miles on my latest “new” (’98) car. But my car has to be dent, scratch, and sticker free or it drives me bizzerk! Alas, someone took a swipe of paint off my back bumper last week at the grocery store and now I fixate on that imperfection (ha!) As if it’s all that to begin with. It is from the previous century!

  10. I feel your pain. When my husband put a dent into my brand new (to me anyway, we bought it used) RAV4, I had to keep remind myself that it is only a car, only a car, only a car. Still waiting for that message to kick in.

  11. We purchased our 1996 Dodge “Grand” Caravan in September 2002–people couldn’t believe it was six years old… I think they can now, as we have since filled it to capacity with children and added a lot of character in the meantime.

    Quite some time ago, I wrote on the subject. In case anyone might be interested…

    http://www.ramblingsofapapergirl.blogspot.com/2011/03/one-word-c-h-r-c-t-e-r.html

    But believe me, I KNOW Character!;) Thank you so much for sharing. I remember too well the sickening scrape on the side of our minivan, thanks to a pipe sticking out of the backend of a truck–that driver heard it too, waved at me, and kept on driving… that window hasn’t worked since. It does help keep things in perspective.

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