Girl drama

My daughter is going into 6th grade this year, which means I will have two—TWO—kids in middle school at the same time.  What a fabulous time to be alive.  I’m putting my therapist is on speed dial.

I remember being that age and how hard it was.  Everything is changing, and it’s scary, embarrassing, confusing, exciting,  weird, all of it.  It is all of the emotions all of the time.  It is angst.  It is change—good and not so good; physical, emotional, circumstantial, social.  Side note:  my mom talked with us very openly about puberty changes from a young age, so though I was mortified by what was happening to my body, I wasn’t surprised.  My mom used to always say, “You’re developing“.  Over and over, I kept hearing that I was developing.  God, I hated that word.  I still do—there’s just something about it, the way it sounds in my ears.  Probably because of the subject matter attached to it.  I guess it’s better than blossoming, or flourishing.  Blech.  I have trouble even using it in other contexts, like a developing news story a developing idea, a developing country.  Anyhow, I think I have mostly been using the words “growing” and “changing” in our little girl talks, but my girl has made it clear that she DOES NOT WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT.   She does this by covering her ears and running away, or sliding down in her chair and escaping under the kitchen table at any mention of the subject.  It’s going well.

Side note number two: Why isn’t anyone around me telling me about what’s happening to my 40-something year old body?  It’s equally weird and alarming. I think I’m developing again.  Or maybe un-developing.  Something like that.

Anyhow, as a parent, I knew that once we crossed the middle school threshold that we were in for a bumpy ride.  I was ready for the fact that there would be girl drama.  We girls know all about it, unfortunately.  What I wasn’t prepared for was that it would start so much earlier than I was anticipating.

Right around the middle of the school year in fifth grade, it began.  Tears as she ran off the bus, telling me about how this friend did that, and then that friend told the other friend about it, and on and on, round and round.  The players changed almost every week; I could hardly keep up.  My emotions would flare as she recounted the details, and I wanted to just go over there and give those girls a piece of my mind….

But wait—she was telling me things that did not compute in my brain.  These interactions were happening with her little group of sweet girls that she had been friends with since early elementary.  I have known them all for years.  They come to my house for sleepovers, birthday parties, and playdates.  They wave happily to me in the hallway whenever I happen to be at school.  I love them.

And yet, she is telling me that sweet little so-and so, who I would have thought could never hurt a fly, is pulling these power plays at school.  Or sometimes it’s not that so-and-so, it’s some other what’s-her-name, and I’m just….horrified. Confused.  Starting to relive my own repressed middle school trauma.  I started to check myself (before I wrecked myself, ’cause I’m bad for your health, I come real stealth, dropping bombs on your moms…).  Sorry Ice Cube, I’ll stop now.

I coach Girls on the Run every spring, and I had an opportunity to watch these situations play out first hand.  It was awful.  These girls that I have coached for years suddenly seemed to have zero interest in participating in the running and character building activities, choosing instead to dissociate themselves from the girls not in their social group and divert their attention to whatever social drama had been playing out during the rest of the school day.  I started to see patterns—one girl showing up as the leader of the pack and the others following.  I didn’t know what to do.  Was I supposed to do something?  Would that even interrupt this emerging (developing!) social order?

So I did what I always do.  I bought a book.  A very brilliant book called Queen Bees and Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman.  Anyone who remembers the movie Mean Girls from 2004 might be interested to know that the movie was based on this book.  With great insight, the author details the sophisticated nature of cliques that emerge (develop!) during the teen and preteen years, with girls falling into very predictable roles:

The Queen Bee:  As the name suggests, the Queen Bee is the leader of the pack.  The popular one. Not only do the other girls follow her, the Queen continually exerts her power over the other girls to maintain her status and keep the others in line.

The Sidekick:  The second in command and the Queen’s loyal subject.  Though she is the Queen’s bestie, she does not have quite as much power as the Queen, and is still subject to the Queen’s authority.  However, together the Queen and the Sidekick appear to rule the social world.

The Banker:  This girl is a clever one.  She manipulates other girls in a way that gets them to confide in her, and then she uses that information in order to strengthen her own social status and embarrass, cause conflict, or kick other girls down the popularity totem pole.

The Floater:  She seems to be friends with everyone, often floating around to several social groups.  Floaters tend not to engage in the power plays going on in a particular group, but they are well-liked, confident, nice to everyone, and sometimes will stand up to the Queen Bee if needed.

The Torn Bystander:  As the name indicates, this girl wants the social status afforded to her by being in the clique and in the Queen’s good graces, but at the same time has internal conflict about doing the right thing.  She will often get caught in the middle of conflict but is too scared to stand up to the Queen, choosing instead to try to accommodate everyone and try to get everyone to get along.

The Pleaser/Wannabee/Messenger:  Wiseman says that most every girl will fall into this role at some point.  Sometimes she’s in the clique, and sometimes she’s not.  The Queen and the Sidekick will often use her in their power plays, getting her to do things like spread gossip.  She is ever loyal to the Queen in an effort to remain in the clique, but she is easily dropped from the social group, which keeps her motivated to do things that will maintain her social status.

The Target:  The one chosen by the queen to be mocked, excluded, and set up to be the victim.  Targets outside of the clique are what the group considers to be “losers”.  They are the Marty McFlys (McFlies?  McFly’s?  Grammar girl, help me!), the Ronald Millers (oh Patrick Dempsey, you were so super cute in the 80’s!), and the Napoleon Dynamites of the social order.  Targets can also be a girl inside of the clique if it is felt that she needs to be knocked down a peg.

As I read Wiseman’s theory about teenage social order and the different roles that girls play within it, I started to see my daughter’s world with new eyes. The next GOTR practice, I watched.  I saw it.  It was painful.  I began to see who was who.  As tearful stories continued to come home from school, I was able to see them through a different lens. And I started to wonder:

“Where do these girls learn this stuff??”  Not from me.  I hardly even have any friends, let alone enough to form this kind of a complicated social structure.  I also wondered, “What is my daughter’s role in her social group, and what is she doing to others to maintain it?”  She can’t be innocent.  Can’t be.  If all of these not-so-little girls that I have watched grow up are capable of these things, surely so is she.  I mean, she is a delightful cherub and all, but still.

My next questions are:  What do I do??  Can I stop this cycle that has been going on in the world of middle and high school girls since the beginning of time?  How do I know what is really going on when I only hear one side of the story?  When do I intervene, and how?  How do I help her?  What do I say?

I don’t know any of it.  I’m only part way through the book because I started reading it in May, which is the worst time of year to try to read a book because of all the end of school year activities, and then I got distracted by another book.  I am sure that there is no easy answer though.  If there were it wouldn’t keep happening, because none of us want our girls to endure such things.

What I do know is something that I could have never known when it was happening to me.  It is all motivated by fear.  Fear of being an outcast, not fitting in, being ostracized, not having anyone to sit with at lunch or hang out with on the weekends.  Fear of sticking out.  Fear of being different.  Fear of setting boundaries.  Fear of what will happen to their own social status if they stick up for someone else.  Fear of the next move in this crazy chess game disguised as a popularity contest.

I can’t make that fear go away.  The desire for belonging and acceptance in a peer group is a developmental need in this age group, just as urgent as the need for parental connection during infancy and, later, the need for exploration, autonomy, and mastering new skills.

If I hadn’t known them since kindergarten, it would be easy for me to dehumanize these girls and say things like, “Never mind her, she is a b*tch and you should stay away from her”.  But remember, we are talking about sweet little so-and-so or adorable what’s-her-face, girls that I know and love and care about.  So I can’t say that, nor should I.  That’s someone else’s little girl and, just like I would want another parent to be able to see the sweet kid behind the newly estrogenized creature that is my daughter were she to do something mean, I have to try to do the same for her friends, enemies, and frenemies.  As to how successfully I am carrying this out, all I can say is that I’m trying.

A parting thought, from the wise Glennon Doyle (you guys all know she is my favorite):

“Horseshoes are better than circles.  Leave space.  Always leave space.  Horseshoes of friends > circles of friends.  Life can be lonely.  Stand in horseshoes.

I think it can take years for us to unlearn the social hierarchy we find ourselves caught up in during our teen years.   I think some people never unlearn it, and continue to create drama and circles, gossip and outcasts.  If I am to be honest, I think that one of the reasons that I self-identify as an introverted, slightly awkward, party-averse kind of gal is because of some of my own baggage that I carry from growing up and coming of age.  I can tell you that I am all of those things about myself and it protectively excludes me from being subject to any pecking order that some person or group may try to impose on me.

But I like the idea of horseshoes instead of circles, and I am trying to teach this concept to my daughter.  I would join a horseshoe. Maybe not if it was a big horseshoe party because, you know, baby steps.

I don’t know if hearing this message from me will be as powerful as the need to fit in within her peer group, but it’s worth a try.  And maybe, just maybe, if we all do it, do you think it is possible for us to raise a kinder, more inclusive generation of girls?

Maybe. Maybe not. But I’m going to try.






The worst part of parenting (so far)

I just found out what the absolute worst part of parenting is.

It’s not the lack of sleep, picking up your crying baby every 90 minutes and just praying to God that this child would sleep for more than 2 hours (though that’s terrible, no question).

It’s not the terrible twos, (or more often, the terrible threes), complete with tantrums and potty training.

It’s not being home with two kids in diapers and feeling like all you do is change them, feed them, watch annoying TV shows, and try to get them down for naps so you can have a break or take a shower.

It’s not being at work and worrying about whether your child is doing OK at daycare, and feeling sad about all the milestones and precious moments you may be missing.

It’s not disciplining your child over and over for the same thing, wondering what you’re doing wrong.

It’s not sweating over 5th grade math homework or being a chauffeur 24/7 to all your kids’ activities; being the warm body that seems to be there only to fulfill everyone’s desires for food, clean laundry, entertainment, and transportation.

No, it’s none of those things. The absolute worst part of parenting is that first time your kid pushes you away.  The first time you go in for a kiss on the cheek and he turns his head.  Or the time you ask for a hug and, for the first time in his entire life, he says “no”.  And you know the little boy who used to run to you when you came in the door, or cried when you left the house, or kept stalling bedtime for just “one more hug” is gone.  The little one who needed me to “put kisses in his pockets” so he had them if he needed them at school is no more. The sweet kid that always wanted to be within arm’s reach has vanished into his bedroom, the door closed.

Now I’m a nag.  I’m annoying,  My silly jokes and songs are no longer needed or appreciated.  I don’t get to sing him to sleep, give him a bath, or hold his hand (though admittedly, how weird would that be to still be doing that with your thirteen year old?). When was the last time I washed his hair? When did he last sit in my lap? What was the last bedtime story I read to him?

I know he loves me.  I know it’s just different now.  I know that I’m still needed, even if that doesn’t look the same as it used to.  I know I just need to ride it out, let him come to me, and be a constant source of love and encouragement in the background, even as he pulls away.  He needs to pull away.  He needs to become his own person, figure out this strange new world he’s in, become independent, and be with his friends.  We all did it, I know.  I know.

But today I didn’t get a hug.  And it was the worst.


May madness

Is is possible to die from parenting during the months of May and June? Because I think I’m on my deathbed.  You will soon see my obituary:  Tracy W., 1975-2019.  Died from an accumulation of band concerts, field trips, doctor’s appointments, laundry, and yard work.  Survived by her equally haggard husband and two cranky, overstimulated children.

I am a zombie.  A mombie.  I am the walking dead.  I am broke.  I am a victim of noise pollution.  My body hurts.  I fall asleep the moment I am horizontal.  I want to eat things but I don’t want to have to make things to eat.  People keep saying words to me and it’s just too much.  I can’t be expected to listen to all the words.  All talking should cease after 7 pm so that the swelling in my brain can recede before morning.

My mind is a swirling tornado of information, mental to-do’s, plans for tomorrow/next week/next month, shopping lists, and fantasies of spending a whole day on the couch doing nothing.  I am physically unable to be in all of the places that I am required to be.

Last week my husband had to go to a training on Wednesday night.  Now, Wednesday night is our run-around night.  My daughter has dance from 6:30-7:30 pm, and my son has karate from 5:30-7:30 pm.  Usually the hubs and I divide and conquer, but last week I was on my own.  So, no biggie, it’s just one week, I got this.  Jeff was able to take Nate to karate on the way to his training, so I took Leah to dance, and my plan was to hang around during her lesson and then swing around and pick Nate up on our way home.  WELL.  They put a new Home Goods store right next door to the dance studio!  I had brought my computer and planned to get some bills and banking done, but then I said to myself, “Self, here is an opportunity for self care.  Let us go browse in Home Goods and we will declare this activity to be self care“.

So I had just passed the ottomans and was looking at the drapes when my phone rang.  It was Nate.

“Mom, my blue belt graduation ceremony is happening right now.

“What??  I had that on the calendar for tomorrow!”

“No, it’s happening NOW!”

“Oh, ok, well……let me check to see if one of the other moms can bring Leah home or, I don’t know…ummm, gahh….”

“Mom, it’s OK.  It’s OK if you can’t come.” (this was sweet of him, but that almost made me feel worse about potentially missing it)

“I’ll see what I can do.  I’ll try my best to get there!”

So I sent a few texts to my fellow moms, but finding a last minute ride for Leah wasn’t happening.  There I sat in the parking lot, feeling terrible, frustrated with myself for writing down the wrong date, impatient for Leah’s class to be over so we could zip over and maybe catch the end of the ceremony.

We blew into the dojo at 7:45 pm.  My heart sank when I saw the almost empty parking lot–we most definitely had missed it.  We ran in the door, and there sat Nate, looking calm, cool, and collected.

“We’re so sorry honey!  I tried so hard to get here but…”

“Oh, it’s OK mom, you were right, it is tomorrow.  Sorry.”  He shrugged nonchalantly, completely oblivious to the stomach ulcer that had been forming within me for the past 45 minutes.

My face is still clenchy from that.  Or maybe it’s not from that, specifically.  Who can know these things, really?  I looked at my calendar, and during May and June we have:

  • 11 Girls on the Run practices
  • 7 dance practices
  • 1 dance rehearsal
  • 1 dance recital
  • 1 DARE graduation (we asked Leah, “What did you learn in DARE?” and she said, “um, I don’t know, I think be nice to people.”  “Didn’t you learn anything about drugs?”  we inquired.  “Oh, yeah, don’t do drugs!”)
  • 1 parade in which all of the DARE graduates wave at the crowd from a float, even though most of them can’t remember what they learned or what DARE stands for
  • 1 moving up ceremony
  • 2 5K runs
  • 2 plays
  • 2 band concerts
  • 3 field trips
  • 2 orthodontist appointments
  • 1 dentist appointment
  • 2 eye doctor appointments
  • 3 haircuts
  • 1 bikini wax (self care!)
  • 3 graduation parties
  • 1 van repair after the automatic door blew a gasket
  • 1 central A/C replacement after the old unit crapped the bed (preceded by 2 appointments for estimates)
  • 1 driveway sealing appointment
  • 1 roof tear-off/replacement
  • one husband who is going back to school full time and has a full summer course load
  • Our 20th anniversary (Honey, I got you a new van door, a central A/C unit, and a roof! You’re welcome!)

And a partridge in a pear tree.

The end.

If you need me, I will be in a padded room.


Middle school: The purgatory of parenting

January is really the most un-wonderful time of the year.  The weather stinks, I’m still tired from the holidays, AND it’s that very awkward and terrible time when all of the Reese’s peanut butter trees are no longer in the store, but it’s too early for the Reese’s peanut butter eggs to come out.  I sat in the parking lot outside of a Five Below last week and wondered–where do all the trees go?  Because all of my local chocolate peanut butter tree selling retailers seemed like they had an abundant supply of them the week before Christmas.  Now there are none.  I can’t figure out the math on that.  Why no leftovers, Five Below?  You didn’t put them back in the stock room for next Christmas, did you?  ‘Cause that’s not fair.  I’m not sure how I will live until the retail stores decide it’s almost Easter.

Speaking of things I may not live through, it occurred to me just this week that in approximately 8 months, I will have two middle schoolers in my home.  TWO MIDDLE SCHOOLERS.  Can’t. Breathe. Must. Eat. Reese’s. Peanut. Butter. Chocolate. Trees.

I know some of you have younger kids, and aren’t there yet.  You are still in the thick of diapers and preschool and early morning wake up calls, and can’t imagine a day when you will sleep past 6 am on a weekend.  Or some of you more experienced parents are far enough away from it that you forget what it’s like, and the pain has dulled with time.  Some things are difficult to fully convey in words, but let me see if I can paint you a picture of these special, special years.

Having a middle schooler is like picking up your mail, casually opening it just like every other day, and then realizing that one of the envelopes had white powder with anthrax in it and now you have a huge crisis on your hands and also probably you are going to die.  And then 10 minutes later everything’s “fine” and the person who laced the envelope with anthrax is sitting on your couch with a headset on, happily playing a video game, while you continue working on your newest hobby which happens to be deep breathing and growing new grey hairs.

Having a middle schooler means that there are lots of tall-ish people with long limbs, big shoes, and questionable hygiene in your house, and you have to feed them pancakes a lot.  And they eat your pancakes but they don’t make eye contact with you.  And they wear a hood for extra protection indoors in case of leaking ceilings or splattering pancake syrup, I am assuming.

Having a middle schooler means that you are no longer funny.  You used to be very funny, maybe let’s say, just last year or the year before.   In fact, you used to be able to make certain people laugh hysterically just by playing peek-a-boo!  But now you’re not funny.  And every time you try to use any humor of any kind, someone in a hoodie yells, “STOP!”.

Having a middle schooler means that you question the very foundations of your education, as you stare mutely at your 7th-grader’s homework on algebraic expressions or some such, hoping to forestall the meltdown that will inevitably ensue should you be unable to not only figure out how to do it, but also figure out how to show your work using a simple 13 step process that, in your day, was a two step process.

Having a middle schooler means that you will sometimes have your sweet baby, who now weighs 100+ lbs instead of 10 lbs, come over to snuggle with you like a fully grown St. Bernard who thinks he is a lap dog.  And you love every second of it, even if his knee is in your spleen.  You don’t even care about your spleen right now, because you know that once the magic passes, your sweet, oversized baby will disappear underneath his hoodie for an indeterminate amount of time.

Having a middle schooler means that you have lots of toys, but no one plays with them.  But they also won’t let you get rid of them yet.  And they are unfortunately old enough that they notice when you try to sneak the toys out of the house to take to Goodwill.  Ah, how you miss the days when they didn’t have object permanence, or even those good times when you could trick them into thinking that if they couldn’t find a certain toy it was because they probably lost it, so maybe they should take better care of their stuff next time.

Having a middle schooler means that instead of dealing with diapers, field trips, potty training, preschool, and playdates, you now must face “crushes”, sex talks, friend drama, eye rolling, snarky comments, and poorly developed sarcasm skills.  You may really want to help them with this sarcasm piece since you know that you are so much better at it, but this is not advisable.

Having a middle schooler means that all important problems, questions, and/or feelings will absolutely need to be discussed at 9:30 PM, when you really thought you were crossing the finish line for the day.

Having a middle schooler means that your child will come home and tell you the things that happened at school, and you realize you have to relive all of the horrible things that happened to you in middle school.  Except now it’s worse, because it is happening to your tall-ish, constantly hungry, hoodie-clad baby.

Having a middle schooler means that you kind of want to call your mom and dad to complain, but you don’t because you’re pretty sure that they will laugh maniacally at you.

Having a middle schooler means that all of the above can happen to you in the span of one day, and just when you feel completely beaten down, you still get to be the soft place to land.

Having a middle schooler means that as bad as it seems for you, you know it’s worse for them.

Having a middle schooler means that you will need lots of Reese’s chocolate peanut butter trees.



Uterus on Wheels

I have a love-hate relationship with my minivan.

It’s mostly love.  Ninety percent love.  OK, eighty-five percent.  I remember being in my 20’s and scoffing at the 30- and 40-somethings around me who had embraced the minivan stage of life, and thinking, “I will NEVER be that person.  There is no way I will ever drive a minivan.  Ever”  And yet, here I am, rocking my 2011 Honda Odyssey.  Black, because that makes it look sexy.  Power doors, so that they can magically open with the light touch of a button on my key fob, fascinating and delighting my children time and time again.

My two work BFF’s and I used to have matching Honda minivans, parked side-by-side in our parking lot at work, announcing to the world our position in life without a word. My one friend coined the term “Uterus on Wheels” (UOW) when referring to her minivan, which is the most sad yet accurate description I have heard yet.  She once threatened to hang a set of truck nuts from her bumper to balance out the estrogen that seems to ooze from every crevice.  Instead she traded her UOW for a sporty little BMW.   Mid-life crisis if you ask me, and unwise at this time when storage and function simply must take precedence over vanity.

I was recently at my local Honda dealership for a service appointment, and while I was there one of the salesmen was trying to talk me into buying a new car.
“What are you driving now?”, he asked me.
“A Honda Odyssey”, I replied.
“You got kids?  Married?” he inquired, and this is where I gave him the side-eye.  I mean, does he know a lot of single gals without a partner and a gaggle of kids who drive around in minivans for giggles?

My husband was devastated when we first took the plunge into minivan-land.  We were both 32 at the time, with a 2 year-old and another on the way.  The day we picked it up and drove off the lot, he appeared humbled and ashamed, his manhood challenged.  Would he be strong enough to drive a UOW?  Could he withstand this assault on his testosterone levels?  He started calling it the “family mobile”, and I told my 2-year old that our new van was a “cool car”.  He repeated the phrase “cool car” in his cute little toddler voice which always intoned upward at the end of every phrase, so that each time he said it, it sounded like a question.  “Cool car?  Cool car?”  Allllll the way home, we rode in our cool car (?), our toddler repeating his mantra from the back seat as if to convince us both that if you say it enough, it must be true.

But my new van WAS cool, especially with my pregnant belly and a toddler in arms.   I no longer had to bend over and strain my back as I once did in my 4-door sedan to buckle my little one into his car seat.  Loading up the trunk after my weekly grocery haul was a breeze, and we had room for all the toddler and baby paraphernalia on our road trips to see family.

My kids are bigger now, but the UOW is still working overtime.  My husband has since bought a Toyota Tacoma for him to drive, likely an effort to recover his manhood.  He looks really cool in it, but guess what?  It still doesn’t haul as much stuff as my uterus.  Anytime he has to haul a big load, the uterus gets it done.  Road trips are always a job for the UOW, which easily accommodates all of the suitcases, coolers, bikes, toys, and people that we need to bring with us.  The man-mobile just can’t manage quite as much.  There may be a metaphor in there.

All that said, my UOW is not without its faults.  Her turning radius–not so good.  I had an angry man in a little compact sedan flip me off the other week when I underestimated the breadth of my turn while coming out of a school parking lot onto a narrow side street, causing him to have to hit the brakes.  Never mind that he was barreling down a side street adjacent to a school about 30 miles over the speed limit. Jerk. Move out of the way, dude–my uterus is coming at you!  Your compact sedan must yield in my wake!

Parking can be a challenge. It’s kind of like trying to wiggle into a pair of skinny jeans one size too small. On a good day if you come at it from the right angle, it’s possible.  But it’s uncomfortable, and sometimes once you get in, you can’t get out.  Then you have to open the door a tiny crack, suck in, and scootch out, praying that the person beside you won’t leave an angry note on your windshield.  And parallel parking?  Fuggeddaboutit.  Just don’t.

She’s looking a little beat up these days, my UOW.  She is bearing the scars of life with a young family.  In this way, I feel like we understand each other.  She has some exterior scratches, and the other day she had an unfortunate encounter with a deer.  She tries to be pretty, but it’s really an uphill battle for her, what with the constant stream of Goldfish crackers getting ground into her upholstery and the dead bugs freckling her front-side.  Her windows hide secret messages and pictures that can only be seen from the inside when the glass fogs up.  We could probably survive at least 2 days after an apocalypse in there between the snack remnants that have fallen between the seat cracks and the half-empty water bottles camping out in all of the cup-holders.   No one cares about washing the UOW consistently, though sometimes she is the recipient of a homespun car wash in the driveway, with kids in bathing suits who only manage to get her streaky-clean at best, and even with that her upper third goes completely untouched. I don’t think the UOW cares, nor do I, since we both know it is just a matter of time before the rain comes to wash away the soapy streaks.  She is the embodiment of functionality.  And I love her, streaks and all.

The other day, hubby said that we probably won’t need our UOW much longer, now that the kids are getting older.  He proposed getting a bigger truck for him, and downsizing my car.  “But, what about all the high-school friends I will have to shuttle to and fro?  And the family road trips?  What about college move-in days??”  He’s clearly not thinking this through all the way to the end.  We’re not ready for a vehicular hysterectomy quite yet, in my opinion.

So in the meantime, I shall drive my uterus proudly through town, racking up the miles and the memories, angering hurried men in compact sedans and inciting jeers from twenty year-olds who look upon my streaky, bug-speckled van and say, “I will never drive a minivan.”