By Guest Blogger Alyssa Tabacca, author of Driving the Big Van
Parents talk about buying their minivan as a right of passage. I could tell you about the day we realized we’d outgrown the mini and traded up to a Big Van. When our wonderful #5 was born we realized we could no longer carpool or pack for trips. It was time to upgrade.
When we started our family, we lived in a small town in Ohio. Five kids and five colleges later, we have happily landed at Wake Forest University. As a football coach’s family, our life is a little crazy. Lots of travel. Long hours. And the awesome opportunity to get to be a little part of something big.
This time of year when I mention my husband’s hours I often get “even though it’s not football season!!??” as the immediate response. Yep. Even in the “off season” alarms sound at 5am. My husband grabs breakfast and a cup of coffee. We don’t talk to each other because my husband knows and loves me. I am not a chatty morning person. He leaves in silence with a pot of coffee waiting for me. True Love. I navigate that silence like a ninja by the light of my phone screen … because the dark house and the quiet hour before my kids start their days is golden. In that time I get to workout, write, make lunches, cook breakfast and hear myself think. As soon as 6:40am hits, feet hit the floor and the day really begins.
Parents with one child often wonder how big families manage. I’m going to let you in on our best secret: the kids entertain each other! I worked hard to teach my oldest how to play and use her imagination. I made NASA Mission Control computers out of shoe boxes and aluminum foil. I drew pirate maps for our errand days. And now I reap the benefits. My big kids are like tiny little camp counselors. They provide the best entertainment and help with our youngest. Even when they leave for school they have started asking him to “baby-sit” their stuffed animals and leaving lists of the pet tiger’s naptime and favorite games and activities. We have four school-aged kids, who all happen to attend the same elementary school for this one magical year. One start time. One drop off. Moms get it: this year is a Unicorn. The bus stop is my driveway. The kids just have to line up and climb on the bus and my “get the kids to school” task is complete.
Thankfully, my youngest son is still a daily napper so I get a minute to gather my mind, figure out what to feed the crew for dinner, and look around at the picked-up house … knowing that will come to an end the second the Big 4 come barreling off the bus. Within two minutes there are backpacks and homework assignments spread on all level surfaces. Shoes fill the entryway and the Alexa is playing something peaceful like “Baby Shark” on repeat.
If we aren’t in the midst of a hurricane or active lightning storm, I send the kids back outside as soon as possible. The power of sunshine and fresh air leads to energy output and cooperation. We play outside until the last possible minute before dinner, homework, and organized activities. Between dance, softball, and baseball most nights we load up the van and head to the sidelines. We are the loud family at the ball diamonds … and dance rehearsals … pretty much all places. Usually our loud is the fun kind of loud. Songs … competing stories of the day … and shrill screams and accusations that one child is “Breathing At ME!”…just normal family fun.
7:30pm is my version of Cinderella’s midnight. The magic that was holding us together starts to fade and clothes are torn apart, shoes are lost, and only bad things happen. So whenever we can, we try to be IN BED when the clock strikes half after 7pm. I had a friend ask me once about bedtimes and how we could possibly read to all the kids still, but the truth is that’s my mom-strength. I’m good at quiet and reading. I’m good at routine. Some moms do crafts. Some moms do themed birthday parties. I do great bedtime reading. I think that’s the part of parenthood that our Pinterest Parenting Era has cost us. We forget that we aren’t all supposed to be doing everything well. That’s impossible. But we all have a “best” thing and if we do that, whatever it is, we are doing something right.
Our family may be big and loud, but we have filled this life with a lot of adventure and a lot of love. And we fit perfectly in the Big Van.
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