It looks as if I’ve moved out of the U.S. just in time. That statement has nothing to do with politics. No, it’s much more serious – what shocks me is the declining popularity of minivans.
What does this mean? That my fellow tribesmen, the mommies, I mean Mommies (always capitalized, please), are giving up their identities? What’s next – no more Mom jeans? Letting the kids work it out for themselves at the playground? Blowing off PTA meetings?
I shake my head in sorrow, although not as much sorrow as I felt at giving up my own Mom machine, aka my beloved minivan, when we moved to Spain. But now, oh yes, I am trying to create my own piece of rolling American Momdom in our minivan here. This is despite that fact that we replaced the American (sort of) minivan that we had in California with a Spanish (sort of) minivan here. Which means, naturally, one big change – a lot fewer cupholders.
I can live with the cupholder lack (breathe deeply and repeat: just don’t think about it, just don’t think about it) but somehow the whole tribal identify thing doesn’t seem to work here. I just don’t get the same sense of fellow Momness among us minivan drivers.
Somehow, and maybe I’m being a bit too sensitive, but somehow I feel that when Spaniards see a minivan their first thought isn’t “Mom,” but rather “not a Mercedes.” Maybe I’m wrong.
But OK, if American Moms are deserting me, I can try to seek out my tribe here in Europe. So I keep an eye out for that Mom identity American Moms pull on like a stained t-shirt and elastic waist pants – half reluctantly, half relievedly, maybe another half with a sort of pride, and how about another half because it’s the first model at hand. (A Mom identify, besides increasing minivan sales, can also on the positive side be tapped for political efforts.) But somehow, I don’t see any other Moms with “sensible” haircuts who might want to commiserate about how they never have time to shower. I mean, I bring up the shower thing with other moms here and they sort of take a step back. I don’t know why.
So maybe Moms in hospitals here get a bagful of their own cute clothes back instead of a coupon for a free “Baby Can Be a Genius If Mom Works Hard Enough” class. (I’m betting this is true in France too.) But I know there’s gotta be some other connection among us Schooner of the Road skippers. Still, looking around, I do sometimes see driving Moms, or dads, or maybe even Dads…smoking. Or with kids…in the front seat.
The Mom code of conduct requires strapping those kids in the back seat until they’re 20. (The side benefit of this practice is that you can implicitly criticize lots of grandparents, who raised their kids (you and your partner) pre-car seats and just let them rattle around in the car. Safety and a family dig – who doesn’t love it?) And no smoking is allowed, but periodically bags of fast food picked up at a drive-in window should be tossed back at the little creatures, especially when they start to struggle at their restraints. That doesn’t work here so much; see above re: fewer cupholders, not to mention fewer drive-throughs.
California, for example, just enacted a law banning smoking in cars when there are kids in them. Spanish parents certainly worry about their kids’ safety, but they’re not quite as…um…militant, let’s say. There’s lots of safe driving practices campaigns from the government, but even with something like drinking and driving, you still have a certain percentage of Spaniards – including possibly a former prime minister who said he should be able to drink as he sees fit – who think it’s their right to drive back and forth from a big Sunday lunch washed downed with an appropriate amount of wine. Especially if Mom’s cooking.
My minivan here is fine, maybe not so beloved, but fine. But the Metro system – now that’s something to catch the eye.