A few years ago my wife and I took the parental plunge and purchased a minvan. At the time, she was driving her four-wheel-drive SUV and I had a four-door sedan.
The sedan was just shy of 100,000 miles, and it was becoming less and less reliable on the road. On top of that, our family of four just wasn't that comfortable in it anymore.
So like I said, we went full suburb and got the van.
Since then it has more than justified its purchase. We moved houses, picked up furniture, packed it to the brim with other stuff, and managed to fit just about anything that belongs in a home in its rear thanks to the folded down seats. There is plenty of room.
Plus, just two years after the van purchase, when we went from a family of four to a family of five, we were already set vehicle-wise. One child sat in the rear, another in the middle, and the youngest in a car seat in the middle. Sure there are instances of "He's looking at me!" or "She's looking out MY window!" but they aren't as prevalent as they would have been in a much more compact space.
But our chariot - the "Balavan" I like to call it - has another purpose: Dad's taxi.
In most families where a parent spends most of his or her time at home, it falls on that parent to play the role of chauffeur for their kids as they progress through life's adventures. In summertime it is no different despite there being no school.
For instance, five days a week our two oldest children are driven to swimming lessons. Once a week, our son plays golf. Three times a week, our older daughter goes to a theater camp in preparation for a show in August.
Of course, thanks to the luck of the draw, not all of these times are ideal all the time. Last summer, the two older kids swam at different times. This summer, thankfully, they are at different levels but those levels are offered at the same time, thus saving a trip.
In terms of golf for our son, it's only once a week but he's had to miss a few scheduled days already thanks to a variety of different circumstances. He's a young trumpet player, so he was thrilled to participate in the Medina-Lyndonville-Albion Summer Music Fest last week. That was three days in a row, followed by a concert on day four. And in another week he'll miss again because of an three-day science and engineering camp on the Southern Tier (where he and a friend will stay at my mom's, otherwise known as Bubbie's Bed and Breakfast).
Through it all we, the parents, are there playing the role of taxi. Most of the time it's me doing the driving since I'm the one with the most "free" time. And this is only the summer.
Parents look forward to spending the summer with their kids, but then we also look forward to them participating in activities that keep away these dreaded words: "I'm bored."
Those words still creep in from time to time. But just think - there are fewer than seven weeks until school starts up again, and a whole new taxi schedule must be implemented.
In our house, dance classes and evening/weekend religious school get added to the calendar. The school-age children bowl, and our youngest will likely participate in some sort of something, be it at the library or somewhere else. That's up in the air.
Again, though, parents play the role of taxi. The miles add up eventually.
One of these years those miles will mark a time for a new vehicle. And since carpools are inevitable, you can be sure that there's another Balavan in our future.
Howie Balaban is a stay at home dad who is grateful for powerful air conditioning in his van. These are his adventures.