Fatherhood Adventures

Are we a mini-van family?

It was a question my wife and I confronted a couple months ago while shopping for a new vehicle. In the end, we decided we were not at this point, but it was not an easy call because mini-vans have come a long way.

When I was growing up, I was a mini-van teen-ager. While friends were driving around Jettas, Mustangs, Corvettes, Accords, Tercels and Civics, I was driving a used Ford Aerostar van. I still have a picture somewhere of me standing next to my proud “baby” the day I turned 16. It may have been cherry red and more suitable for a soccer mom, but it didn’t matter to me because those were my wheels and the radio had a tape player and I got to put a “lacrosse, the fastest game on two feet” sticker on the bumper. I was cool.

Looking back, I didn’t realize how strange it was for a teen-ager to be driving a mini-van. I was too busy thinking it was the best thing ever, which, of course, it was not. It was just about having a license and being able to drive myself to wherever teen-agers go. It really did not matter what I was driving.

When Pam and I started looking at vehicles at the dealership a couple months ago, we thought seriously about a mini-van, specifically a black Chrysler Town and Country. We were imaging what life will be like as Beckett grows and we knew our current, anti-baby vehicle would not make it much longer. It was time to upgrade, but how to do it was the question. At least taking the time to look at the mini-vans seemed the responsible thing as parents to do.

By name alone, these vehicles are mini-vans, but they look more like deluxe mini-buses. They feature 360-degree rear swivel chairs, a table, two rear DVD players on the back of the front seats, a navigation system and comfortably seat seven. All the seats and the table somehow fold down into the floor of the vehicle, allowing for easy hauling of who knows what.

We were tempted by this vehicle, particularly because I am a sucker for the cool techie gadgets and the swivel chairs that disappear when desired, but we opted for a Chevy Tahoe instead, knowing in the back of our heads that someday we would be a mini-van family. We just were not there yet. If we are fortunate enough that our family expands in the future, we will more than likely join the mini-van world and do so proudly. I can imagine chauffeuring the road trips now.

There are many times when you are a new parent when you are reminded your life has changed. It’s a strange feeling because, of course, I am aware I am a father and have a son. It’s these rare occasions like walking around a dealership for a new vehicle when I find myself saying, “oh yeah, I am a father and I have a son.”

The vehicle needed to be something my wife could drive comfortably, be safe in with my son and not break the bank every time she hit the pump. It didn’t need to be the fastest, the sleekest or the biggest. It needed to be a smart buy, not exactly how I would describe my consumer habits in the past. It had to be something she could get the little guy in and out of with ease. Unfortunately, that last part has proven to be a little problematic. She had no problem with it at first, but now that he has surpassed the 20-pound mark, it’s beginning to be quite a chore to get the car seat in and out and wreaking havoc on her back.

For the most part, we like our Tahoe, but we now have at least one more reason to think mini-van next time.

One of my favorite parts of watching my son grow is his changing facial expressions, which run the gamut from hilarious to scary. Interpreting exactly what is going on in that little head of his at any given time can be a challenge. It’s a guessing game some times, while obvious in other moments.

It’s pretty easy to determine what’s going through his head when he’s getting a bottle, staring intently back in my eyes (or straight up at the ceiling) and aggressively moving his arms up and down in a haphazard fashion. It’s apparent he’s excited and digging what’s going on. Along the same lines, there is no mystery he enjoys himself in his jumper when he’s laughing hysterically, bouncing frantically and muttering strange sounds that can only be taken to mean good things.

It’s the other occasions when he gives you a strange look here and there that make you wonder exactly what’s on his mind. When he has a nose tightly grasped in one hand and an ear in another and is staring intently in your eyes is one of those times. The same goes for when he has a couple handfuls of hair and starts to yank with force. It freaks me out a little bit to be honest so I quickly remove those powerful little hands and get his mind on something else, like the nearest toy. Some of the strangest looks he gives these days is when anyone is drinking or eating around him. It’s a look of pure envy and admiration, or at least that’s my take. It could also be agitation and anxiety and maybe a little jealously. It’s those quiet, blank stares that perplex me the most.

To be certain, the facial expressions of a little one are worth cherishing. It seems to me that at perhaps no other time do we pay as much attention to their faces as we do at this age. Without words, we have to go by their body language and there’s no better way to get a read on what’s happening inside than examining that face and there are certainly worse things.

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