Diary of a Marriage: The Slow Descent to Minivan-Dom

J.’s Volkswagen Jetta is on its last wheel. Which means it’s time for the unthinkable: A family car.

J.’s car is dying. It’s a slow death, and just when we think she’ll make it for another few thousand miles — usually after we’ve plunked down a thousand dollars to fix a pipe or patch a leak — something else falls apart or breaks. After her latest trip to the shop, J. and I looked at each other the way I imagine pet owners look at each other when the vet tells them it’s time to consider “other options.”

“I think it’s time,” I said gently. J. loves this car. It was his first big purchase. He used to clean it once a week, before I came along and coated the gray interior with makeup. Then he just gave up.

J. nodded in agreement. I think he’d been prepping for this for a while. He was ready; resigned: “I guess we’ll have to look this summer.” We both left the rest unsaid, because it was too big and daunting and scary to address…

… Our next car would be a family car.

We knew this day would be coming at some point. We just weren’t prepared to have to give up our tiny four-door sedans quite yet. But, even though parenthood is still a very, very distant possibility, it seems only logical to invest in a car that we’ll need if ever we decide that we’d like our family to have more than just the two of us in it. And that’s terrifying, at least to me.

J. doesn’t seem to appreciate the gravity of the situation, the fact that when we go looking for a car, we’ll now be looking for things like whether or not the back seat is big enough for a car seat, or whether the upholstery is washable in case there’s an apple juice spill, or how good the childproof locks are. And then, when we have the big back seats and the childproof locks and the washable upholstery, maybe then the car will start to feel empty, and we’ll feel a need to fill it with people who sit in car seats and drink apple juice and need to be forcibly locked in.

It’s possible that I’m getting ahead of myself, and it simply boils down to this: We’re buying a new car. A new car that will be bigger than our old car. End of story. J. seems cool with it; he’s not making this some Big Pivotal Moment. So maybe I just need to calm down.

But some nights, my mind wanders to the image of a driveway — our driveway — in which there is parked a hulking slab of maroon metal, gleaming in the sun. It is a minivan. Sometimes in these visions, the minivan is forest green. Sometimes there’s a Baby On Board sticker on the back. In my worst nightmare, our back window is covered with those annoying stick figure stickers people slap on to let every driver on the road know exactly how many people are in their family. Stick figure mom, stick figure dad. Five stick figure kids. A stick figure dog and two stick figure cats.

I guess this is how it goes, though. You get older, your cars get bigger, until you’re retired in Florida and you’re tooling around in a white Buick that’s roughly the size of a small tanker.

Anyway, as J. reminded me the other week, two couples we’re friends with have ventured into this world of family cars, and they haven’t changed. Their new SUVs are actually even kind of cute, in all their spacious, childproof-locked glory. We even drove in one of them to a bar. How un-kid-friendly is that? This made me feel better, and I even started looking forward to weekend jaunts to dealerships. Maybe I’d even wear a pencil skirt or something, so I’d look no-nonsense when I demanded they give us a better deal.

And then my new-SUV friend called me, mere weeks after purchasing that black Jeep Grand Cherokee.

She is pregnant.

What about you? Did you ever make a dramatic mountain out of a not-significant molehill? Have you and your husband or fiance made big decisions like this with the future — and a family — in mind? Am I weird to be freaking out?

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