It was 2007 when my wife, Kate, and I needed to replace one of our sedans. Something roomier seemed to make sense.
It was 2007 when my wife, Kate, and I needed to replace one of our sedans. Something roomier seemed to make sense. Our son was only 6 months old, but we planned to have at least one more kid.
Plus, we had a 90-pound Labrador retriever who had an understandably difficult time sharing the backseat of a Toyota Corolla with an imposing infant seat - especially on those eight-hour trips along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Watching our dog attempt to get comfy back there was like watching an offensive lineman ride shotgun in a Mini Cooper.
Like most guys who don't know how to do anything with cars beyond refilling the wiper fluid, I wanted a vehicle that would require little maintenance and would last forever. So we started out at Toyota and Honda dealerships to peruse SUVs. Minivans were out of the question since, well, that would just be embarrassing. The soccer-mom stigma was too much for me to overcome.
At the Honda dealership, Kate stayed in the car to nurse Liam, and I went in to get the lay of the land. By the time she joined me inside, I was selling her on why we should get a Honda Odyssey. A minivan.
From a practical standpoint, there was a great deal on the few remaining 2007 models, and why would we pay more money for a less roomy Honda Pilot? Plus, the dealer had a black Odyssey with leather interior and an entertainment system on the lot. (Driving a baby-blue or violet minivan was too much for my 20-something ego to handle; black was important.)
Kate was surprised at my quick conversion but has been utterly practical since birth. So just like that, we joined the throngs of minivans populating every Target parking lot from coast to coast. We were part of the anonymous uncool.
Our Odyssey is about to hit 100,000 miles, and it probably took about 50,000 to reach the point where I wasn't a little embarrassed to be using automatic sliding doors in public. I think the turning point was when I took out the bucket seats, folded down the backseats and used it like a work truck during a house renovation. We bonded over sheets of plywood and drywall.
Car companies have made efforts in recent years to battle the stigma of minivans. I don't think that's the right approach. Minivans are not hip and probably never will be. But neither are sweatpants, and that's what I'm wearing while I write this. (Don't worry; I work from home.)
Parents don't have to completely surrender their sense of style once they become parents, of course. If you ever see me in public wearing a fanny pack and a stained Walt Disney World T-shirt, please schedule an intervention. But having kids does require more selflessness than most parents ever had to muster previously.
I do think the minivan stigma is starting to wear off as more and more parents succumb to its siren song of ample space and kids in screen-zombie trances watching DVDs on road trips. At this point, my parents and Kate's dad - all empty nesters - still drive Odysseys. My brother and sister both own Odysseys. (We even lined them all up for a picture over the summer. So dorky.)
Our neighbors just bought one, too, and their kids are so smitten they've requested joy rides around the neighborhood. Friends who swore they'd never own minivans have relented just like we did. And while I could do without those stick-figure decals, I feel a warm sense of solidarity when I park next to another dad in a minivan. But that could just be the heated seats.
-Joel Oliphint is a freelance writer who recently shattered his minivan's side window with a soccer ball. Columbus Crew, please direct all inquiries to email@example.com.