I knew instantly that I would love Kristen Howerton when I read her bio, “In the spring of 2010, Kristen lost her long and passionate battle against the minivan. It now sits in her driveway covered in crushed cheerios and remnants of her self-esteem.” I too have lost the battle against the minivan.
I think we all have said it at one point in our lives, “I will never drive a minivan.” I grew up in a family with two kids so there was no need for a larger car. My own mom never drove a minivan. My dad drives a VW bus that is older than I am- and just as stubborn.
I became a foster parent at the ripe old age of 27 years old. I was a newly-wed enjoying decorating my first home with fresh wedding photos. Although it has only been two years, I look back at baby-faced pre-fostering Kaley with love and nostalgia. She was so naive, so unaware of her fate – the greatness that lay ahead and also the destruction of all the foolish pretty things she once believed would be true about her adult life.
Young newly-wed Kaley believed that her next few years would be professional ladder climbing and swanky date nights with her new hubby and fun friends from work. She enjoyed happy hours and sleeping in on weekends. She wandered the aisles at Target with abandon and joy. She planned spontaneous weekend trips and still drove her beloved first and only car that had traveled with her across the country from California.
I look back at young newly-wed Kaley with love and nostalgia, but not jealousy. I am so grateful for my new life that includes almost none of those things. I have a job that I love and I am passionate about, but date nights look more like watching Parks and Rec in bed with the ice cream I hid from the kids in the back of the freezer. My fun friends from work are still fun and I have a whole new community of foster friends that keep me sane; but, friendships are more often forged on the playground than at happy hours. Sleeping in and Target shopping look a lot different – I am happy if I can sleep in until 6:30 am or even step foot in a Target unaccompanied. Spontaneous trips to the splash pad have replaced far-off destinations. And a new-to-us minivan has replaced my well loved CRV.
The day I bought a minivan was a strange one. We had borrowed another foster family’s minivan for a week while we had a new placement and were trying to figure out car seats and daycare drop off routines. By the end of the week we knew that our current cars weren’t going to cut it so we crammed into my husband’s car and headed to CarMax. I told Greta, our Sales Consultant, explicitly that at 27 years old I would not be driving a minivan. I was simply looking for a third row of seats. Bless her; she was so patient with me. Her smile told me she had heard that line before- and she had. We walked the aisles and tried to fit in three carseats and the double stroller into multiple cars before she convinced me to just try a minivan (for the heck of it) and she how it felt.
I knew as soon as I sat down in the driver’s seat that the battle was over. I had lost. I was won over by the automatic sliding doors, the plethora of room for car seats and strollers, the seats for eight. There were so many cup holders I wanted to cry with joy. The real kicker was the back-up camera. They know how to sucker a mom in!
My husband drove the boys home for a much needed nap while I finished the paperwork. As Greta handed over the keys and asked for mine in return, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I couldn’t describe what I was feeling except that I was simply overwhelmed. She walked me out to my new shiny minivan with a giant red bow on it. I tried to rush through the pleasantries because I knew the water works were coming but I didn’t understand why. I tried to get out before she saw me totally lose my cool but I wasn’t fast enough. She offered to take my picture with my new car, as all the other happy car buyers were doing all around us, and I broke down in tears – right there in public. I told her I was sorry and I couldn’t believe that I was saying goodbye to my faithful CRV, the only car I had ever driven, a gift from my grandfather after high school graduation. And that I would be driving a true “mom car,” a minivan.
I declined a photo of myself and opted instead for a picture of just the car with the giant red bow. I sobbed my way out of the parking lot and had to pull over to call my mom.
I just bought a minivan. I’m not even thirty and I bought a minivan. What is my life?
She laughed and assured me that a minivan didn’t mean that life was over. It didn’t mean that the best was not yet to come and of course she was right. I’ve asked myself multiple times since then, “what is my life?” I never pictured myself where I am at not-yet-thirty. Foster care does that. Sometimes I do miss the life that I never actually lived- the one that doesn’t have foster care in it. The one that is a little closer to what everyone else my age has. The one that doesn’t include driving a minivan.
And I feel terrible for grieving that life. Because I have the choice to choose that life. I have the choice to give it all up and live a different life. But I would miss so much. I would miss the amazing kids that have come into our home and the possibilities of all who have yet to enter. I would miss the thrill of making up new beds for new kids at a moment’s notice and at the same time I would miss the mixed emotions of packing up bags with cherished belongings and celebrating reunification. The lessons learned about humility, patience, and understanding. The friendships formed in solidarity with other foster mamas, case workers, advocates. I would miss the snuggles and kisses and the warmth of a baby pressed against my chest. I would even miss folding tiny socks. And I promise you that I would freaking miss our minivan.
Young pre-fostering Kaley had it good. But fostering Kaley has it even better. I believed a lot of foolish things about what life would be like and what I was in control of before I became a foster parent. I had bought into the American Dream of have-it-all, do-it-all, be-it-all. My new dream is a little different. My new dream is to have faith, do justice, be mercy. It’s a much better dream!
Do you have a minivan? A twelve-passenger van? What does it take to fit your fostering family? We want to know!