Oh Good She's Writing About Not Sleeping Again That's Always Fun

Riding In Cars With (Too Many) Boys

When I was a kid, my family had one car, a Ford station wagon. My family also had seven children. So I remember riding in between my parents on the front bench seat (whatever, it wasn't like there was an airbag or anything, just the comforting safety of the AM/FM radio knobs), while three of my older siblings sat in the back, and three of my even older siblings rode in the trunk, careening around like loose tennis balls and making faces through the glass at the cars behind us.  

I do remember eventually sitting in a little pleather-covered plastic booster seat with a lap belt; enough of my siblings had survived childhood by that point that a space opened up in the back seat. I of course wanted NOTHING MORE IN LIFE than to ride in the way back, in the trunk, and I think my parents did indulge me a couple times, at least until they traded the station wagon in for a Ford Escort in the late 80s and had watched enough news segments about how your child is probably dying of a car crash RIGHT NOW, AS YOU WATCH THIS, and thus became big sticklers for seat belts and safety. 

These memories randomly struck me the other day, when the minivan needed to go in for some routine maintenance and I had to figure out the logistics of getting all three of my children and their carseats to the dealership in Jason's car.

(Which is a small sedan. Four doors, but cozy. A "sporty" [BLERK] four doors, if you know what I mean. A flashy-yet-sensible red compromise on the two-seater convertible he REALLY wanted, because didn't we deserve something fuuuuuunnnnn to drive in when we're not with the kiiiiidsssss and the minivaaaaaaannnn? I pointed out this EXACT SCENARIO as my argument against such a tiny car, plus dude. Duuuuude. You need to be able to drop off and/or pick up a child from places sometimes. Otherwise we will have countless offspring scattered and abandoned at schools and extracurrircular activites across the greater metropolitan area.)

Dropping the car off in the morning wasn't a problem; we were down one child thanks to camp and Jason's car has more than enough room for one carseat and one booster. But the car wasn't ready until camp was over and...hmm. Wait. Okay.

Ike's carseat is your typical convertible monstrous monstrosity, Ezra's still in a big high-back, harness booster, and Noah's big-kid booster is really stupidly wide because it has CUP HOLDERS. (Why why why with the cup holders? You know where else I have cup holders? IN MY CAR. And do you know who doesn't ever use cup holders? MAH KEEDS. THAT''S WHAT THE FLOOR IS DER FUR.)

I'm not entirely sure how I did it, and I make zero claims that I did it up to carseat/booster installation code standards, but I managed to mash all three seats into that backseat. It was great achievement. A great, neurotic and very sweaty achievement. 

Then I added my children and everything went to hell.

Noah couldn't get the seatbelt buckled because the armrests from Ezra's seat were blocking his way. Ike quickly discovered that he could wrap his legs around the headrest of the front passenger seat. Ezra probably could do the same, except that the driver's seat was crowding him so tightly that he just held his knees to his chest and whined. 

The dealership is only seven minutes away from our house, but in those seven minutes my children — who are used to being too far away from each other in the minivan to even make eye contact, much less touch/tickle/poke/prod/pull/punch/kick each other — began to basically thunderdome it out in the crowded back seat with much, much delight. 


Longest, LOUDEST seven damn minutes of my entire life. And then it turned out that the car wasn't actually quite ready yet.

I almost took a picture of them, all squished together in that backseat, all up in each other's bizzznaassss, a jam-packed row of gleeful little nesting dolls who were totally enjoying driving each other crazzzzzy, but I didn't. Even though we were parked I'm pretty sure that photo could've been used as evidence of at least 14 different moving violations. 

Jason finally got everything sorted out with the service shop and came back to ask who wanted to ride home with him in the minivan. And for the first time since leaving the house, there was total dead silence coming from the backseat.

And then:

"I want to stay in the red car."

"Me too."



(Guess which answer was mine.)

So I drove home in the minivan, enjoying my seven minutes of silence and calm. At a red light, I pulled up next to them and looked in from the outside. Noah was talking and making big sweeping gestures with his hands. Ezra was laughing and banging his head against the sides of his seat as fast as he could. Ike was kicking the passenger seat with all his might. Jason was glancing back with a tired half-smile and trying to get Ike to stop. Watch the upholstery, maaaan. 

Jason noticed me and pointed me out to the boys, who all started waving and smiling with great delight, because OMG I KNOW THAT MOM HEY HI HI OVER HERE!

I smiled and waved back. "Those are mine. Those are all mine," I thought. "My whole life is in that car." That's weird, almost morbid-sounding thought to have, but it wasn't. Not right then, anyway. The boys stopped waving and started making faces at me through the glass. I laughed and then gunned it as the light changed. I knew if I beat them home they'd all be fake-angry at me, especially if I retroactively declared that the winner got to tickle all the losers, so line up, monkeys. 




Yay, tickles!

Our "other car" is a beat-up ancient smelly Corolla. The children think getting to go in the Corolla is the biggest adventure EVER.


"began to basically thunderdome it out in the crowded back seat with much, much delight." Made me LOL.


Love it. Especially the my life is in that car bit. I watch my husband with our kids and feel like my heart could explode with the sheer awesomeness of them all x

Jessica V.

Wow - way to take me from giggling maniacally to suddenly tearing up! I can totally picture this scenario in my head...I did take a pic of my 2 boys crammed into one of those grocery store car/cart things recently. Longest and loudest shopping trip of my life. "STOP TOUCHING MEEEE!"


My son's booster had cup holders that closed. After months and months of being closed up, but never used, I decided to open it up to clean out the stray crumbs. I won't say exactly what I found in there, but it rhymes with gaggots.


The Bubble Bum booster is great for cramped backseats, but it's backless. It's inflatable and narrow.


I laughed so hard at this. Because, dude, I know. I KNOW! I was so happy to only have one kid left in a booster. And with the minivan, the kids could all be separated, 2 in the middle, one in the back. Life was good. Trips were quiet. There was none of that "someone is touching meeeeeee!" "OMG! Now they're breathing my air!" It was great. And then? Then I got divorced and remarried to someone with a toddler and then I got pregnant. So now, I'm back to 3 car seats. The rear facing infant seat and the forward facing seat go in the middle, since neither of them can fasten themselves in. Which leaves the kid in the booster, the tween, and the teenager in the back. "My iPod is almost dead, it's my turn to use the charger!" "Stop looking at my phone!" "Quit reaching over me; keep your drink in your lap!" My van needs a warning label: "Car trips may cause aggression, anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide." I need to invest in a bus. Or Xanax.


I currently have my 3 kids convinced that we are making the 13 hour drive to the beach this summer in "daddy's" Elantra with busted A/C and a horrid smell (courtesy of some spray my FIL gave us to keep the squirrels from eating our pumpkins. It would have been so nice if he'd actually closed it before putting it in the trunk). Anyway, it's fun to watch their horror at the thought but I imagine they will actually be disappointed to hear we are taking the brand new minivan :)

Courtney Tucker

This post makes me think of the song "Brothers" by Big Bang Boom. If you haven't heard of them it's Chuck Folds' band (brother of Ben Folds) and they're awesome.

Love your title, btw.

Donna P

I love this little 7-minute slice of your life. Great post!


No one writes about the day-to-day like you, not even close. Whether the topic is socks, how much your kids eat, or a trip to the dealership -- you take those ordinary strands and spin them into gold.


Yeah, this happened to me a few weeks ago, when some random road debris caused my minivan to go kablooey. I spent a full week trying to Tetris three kids (same ages as yours) into the backseat of my husband's car (I finally broke down and bought a Bubble Bum). I'm sure the Honda dealership guy was weirded out by my squeal of joy when he called to tell me my car was finally fixed.


I've come to the conclusion that booster seat manufacturers make them unnecessarily wide in order to drive up sales of minivans. I too can *just* get three car seats in the back of our car, but I'm pretty sure it does neither the car nor the seats any good.


The Way Back! That's what we called it too. And now my own kids look at me like I'm nuts when I call the cargo space at the back of my RAV4 that. Sigh.


Great post!!! Your fan from Chile.


"thunderdome it out" = comic gold.


I just dropped a grand on new carseats so that I could avoid having to go minivan.

Well, really just because I loves my wee car. And I don't want to give it up just yet. And they just don't make stick-shift minivans.

But thank goodness the cupholders on these puppies were removable, because ain't no cupholders fitting when you're doing three-across in an Aveo.

(side note, did you know that the Radian has space for FOUR cupholders PER carseat? There are three cupholders in my ENTIRE CAR. Why would a single child need FOUR?!?! To hold extra lattes for later? To make a cupholder shaped crayon out of old broken crayons (holy shit I just figured out what to make for next year's valentines cay cards, eat it pinterest)


I know this is going to sound strange, but this entry gave me a sense of peace. Wonderful imagery, Amy.


Going to make my husband read this. We had to go with the Pilot over the minivan, and this is my day to day life. 3 boys, 2 in boosters, 1 in carseat in the middle. The older 2 love to steal the little ones shoes to get him to stop flailing his crazy long 3 year old arms-you can imagine how well that goes over. A minivan could have solved this???
Also- best thing you have written in a while- sleep deprivation is like your drug I guess. :)


Awesome - that last paragraph? Gold. So sweet.


My parents also traded in the station wagon for an Escort. It was sort of light aqua and said ESCORT all jazzy across the side. This would have been - '84 I think. They also got a Dodge Caravan, poop brown. When I was younger, my parents always had the worst possible color cars, it was only later that I realized that's because they're cheaper!


My (maternal) grandmother has bought the same car for forty years: a Ford Fiesta in red. Every seven or eight years she buys the new model and gives the old one to my parents.

She is also a terrible driver. So an awful lot of my childhood memories happened in a beaten up Ford Fiesta. Apparently there was a mighty family brawl once my parents were both making enough money to turn around and tell my gran that they were going to buy a new, roadworthy runaround and she should sell her latest destroyed car for scrap...


"Thunderdome it out" is the best description of riding in cars with boys. Whether my three or any combination of them and friends. That's exactly what it's like almost all the time. LOL


When my first daughter was born and she was a few weeks old, I had to take a taxi home with her from a doctor's appointment in London. My husband, who had to return to his office, leaned in the window and said to the cabbie, "Drive carefully, my whole life is in your car."


PS: Agree w the commenter above who said you are so good at writing about moments. So true! Happy anniversary!

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