By TMoM Team Member Laura Simon

I recently bought a new minivan, and I was insistent that I needed a model with eight seats. I could see the salesman counting and recounting my children: one…two…three. Why on earth would I need eight seats for three kids?

Those of you with elementary kids and older probably know the answer. I carpool.

In this crazy post-Covid world with reduced capacity and smaller groups, suddenly getting everyone to all the things has gotten ten times harder. On any given day, the scenario looks something like this: Mom A drops two kids off at Site A. But the third kid needs to be at Site B at exactly the same time as Site A will finish. So Mom B drops off one kid and picks up someone else’s child and takes her kid and that other kid to Site B. Mom A picks up all the kids finishing at Site A and meets up with Site B mom at some random location in the city. And that’s not even factoring in the the kid who was dropped off to Mom C on the way to Site A because Mom C is driving to Site C and…well, you get the idea.

So yes, I need eight seats. In the first week of owning the van, I’d used every one of them.

But here’s what I didn’t anticipate: I love driving the carpool. Kids are funny. I should probably start wearing Depends because at some point, I’m going to pee my pants. So many times, kids want to hang out just outside adult earshot, but there’s no such option in the car. Instead, I get a (literal) front row seat to the hilarity.

Case in point: the other day, during a vigorous discussion about Minecraft, my nine-year-old kept talking about going to the lavatory to make potions. Finally, someone asked, “Do you know what a lavatory is?”

“Um, yeah,” he responded. “It’s a place where you mix chemicals up to make new chemicals.”

“Nope,” she responded. “That’s a laboratory.”

“Oh, yeah, same thing.”

And that’s when I had to tell him: “A lavatory is a bathroom.”

And then we howled. Because you do kind of create potions and things in a lavatory. But nothing that will turn you into a frog.

These kids talk about books (Harry Potter!), sports, family stories (that time Uncle Joe blew up the kitchen making donuts), and weird injuries (one of my children was born with a sixth finger, so he wins this one every time).

I learn about their friends, their teachers and their interests. They are gracious enough to ask me questions and actually listen to my responses. My kids see me in a new light: I get to be Mrs. Simon the English teacher again. I’m just holding court in the minivan and not a classroom. But sometimes I do offer grammar advice, and one time I tried to teach a poorly received business lesson. We all practice conversation. We all learn to be interested in new things.

I did not expect this. Certainly not during the toddler years, when playdates took years off my life. I had no idea elementary kids were so fun.

It is possible that they stink, but I’ve always had a really poor sense of smell. I suppose God knew all along what I needed.

That extra seat in my minivan? Tell the salesman it was worth every penny.

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