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Also Not Really About Cars

Also Not Really About Cars

By Mir Kamin

I finally did it—I bought a new car. It’s a Prius C (“That stands for City, not Compact. A lot of folks don’t know that!” the chirpy salesguy told us with great pride) and her name is Gemma and I love her. We sold my old Corolla to my oldest (for about fifty cents on the dollar; we’re not monsters, but we did want her to have some significant skin in the purchase), and now every licensed driver in the house has their own car.

My history of anxiety when it comes to money is long and rich and well-documented in my writing. It doesn’t matter how much money I make or how much I have squirreled away in the bank; spending makes me nervous, always, and I could easily write a novella on the process between “let’s start thinking about the next car” and the actual purchase. (Remember my range anxiety? That was back in August, and we’d already been talking about a car for months by then.) Understand: it would be a boring novella, full of angst and ridiculousness, but the point here is that I’m going to spare you the parts about how difficult it was for me to actually do this, actually spend a not-insignificant amount of money on something nice for myself. All of that is a whole ‘nother topic.

No, rather than my mental illness relative to money (haha), today I want to talk about the weirdness of preparing to live a different sort of life.

I can still remember that point, so long ago, when I had two tiny kids and a minivan was the obvious next step. I know some people feel like buying a minivan is akin to putting one foot in the grave, but I loved it. It was fancy! And huge! We could pack up enough gear for a small army, and getting kids in and out of carseats was easy, too. No, I had zero “Oh no, I’ve become the sort of person who drives a minivan” moments in that vehicle. I thought I’d arrived, in part because it was the nicest vehicle I’d ever owned, and in part because of how I felt about motherhood in general. I probably would’ve driven that van until it died, if not for the fact that it was impractical in an icy climate when I no longer had a second vehicle at my disposal. After my divorce, I ended up trading it on for a small SUV with 4-wheel drive to get me through the remainder of my single years in snow country. It was more practical, but still had plenty of room.

Over the years, I’ve rotated through various vehicles, always with the underlying theme of “what do we need to accommodate the kids.” Our cars got bigger, then a little smaller. Leg room in the backseat became a consideration as the kids became adult-sized. By the time I bought the Corolla, we already knew it would go to one of the kids down the road. It’s a super reliable car, but frills-free (it doesn’t have cruise control, for example). And it’s a decent size, neither large nor tiny. I feel like Goldilocks would approve of the Corolla. It’s an ideal first car for a young adult.

When we went shopping for the new car, the original idea was that I would look at the regular Prius. I did—we wove our way through the lot, checking out various used cars and discussing options. But once I saw the Prius C I realized that I really wanted a smaller car. What do I need a big car for, anymore? Most of my driving these days is just me, or maybe me and one other person. My daughter has her own car. My son will be driving soon (we hope). And eighteen months from now, both kids will be off at college. The Prius C is plenty big enough for what I need, and yes, the backseat is not going to be as comfortable for adult-sized people, but… who cares?

I got my little car. Did I mention that I love it? I’ve had it for… oh, close to a month, I guess, and I’ve put exactly $5 worth of gas into it. (I didn’t even need gas. I just filled up out of curiosity.) I find it fun to drive and after years of wanting a hybrid, I never tire of checking the MPG calculation to see how fuel-efficient it is.

“Oh!” my daughter exclaimed, the other day, having just realized something. “Does this mean I can put stickers and stuff on the Corolla??” She was so excited. I couldn’t stop laughing. And I knew why she was asking, too—her enrollment packet from her college came with a big car decal.

“Of course,” I said. “It’s your car. You can do whatever you want.” I tried to keep a poker face, but her delight was amazing. Remember how exciting it was, owning your first car? It’s kind of cool that she’s experiencing that while I’m rediscovering a sort of “wow, this is just fun!” car excitement for myself.

I don’t know if it was buying the car or something else, but it feels like everything is starting to be broken into WK and AK, now (With Kids and After Kids). It feel like my entire life has been spent raising the kids (of course it hasn’t, but who can remember the Before Kids parts after raising kids exhausts your brain? Not me!) and now this whole mythical “empty nest” thing is imminent. I can have a little car, because I no longer drive around hordes of children (my own, their friends, other random kids) every day. My husband—world’s most patient stepdad, to be sure, but also the saint who has never had a life with me without the kids—brings up necessary home repairs or potential trips and wants to debate the pros and cons of how we plan. If we take care of that repair that needs to be done in the upstairs bathroom while we’re still WK, well, it’ll take some maneuvering, but we’ll manage. But if we wait until AK, we could do it whenever, because we don’t use that bathroom. If we want to visit this particular place, maybe AK because the kids aren’t interested? Stuff like that. We never used to talk about “when the kids are gone,” because it may as well have been a thousand miles off. But now, it’s almost here.

On the flip side, of course, we’ve had the “Is this house too big for just us?” conversation, knowing full well that the kids are just “gone” and not really gone until they’re out of college, or maybe even later. So it’s not like we’re planning any drastic life changes just yet. We will not be purchasing two-seaters and a condo in the city, or anything. We’re not made of money, nor is our parenting over. Still. Changes are afoot. Gemma is just the beginning.

About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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  • Stephanie too

    January 5, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    I have two teenagers, too.  My daughter is a senior and my son is a freshman this year.  And I’m starting to think in the same way about some things.  Kind of looking forward to not having teenagers in the house–because, let’s face it, teenagers kind of suck sometimes.  But also a little melancholy about the prospect of my daughter leaving.  It’ll be very quiet around here without all of her passion (and drama).  And we have this very large house–what will we do with all of the space?  But then I think about being able to enjoy my husband without all of the kid-related distractions and I look forward to a new chapter with the man I chose to spend my life with. 
    Change is scary, sometimes, but it’s often good, too.  
    I really enjoy your writing and it’s so nice to have a voice like yours addressing the unique challenges and joys of parenting teenagers.

  • Lisa R

    January 5, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    I can relate to so much of this! We’ve been thinking about a new car for almost a year now. I also know a minivan will be want I want eventually, but I love our little hybrid! So at the moment I’m leaning toward a Prius V as our next car, and a minivan after…

  • […] I bought a new car. Did I mention that? I bought a new car and then I wrote all about it, sort of, so if you’re into that sort of thing, you could go read about it. I love my new car. It is […]

  • Otto

    January 6, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Wait, a two seater is an option …? The new Miata is getting rave reviews … and of course the new Acura NSX is coming out next year, but that costs as much as our house, but it is a hybrid just like Gemma …

    • Mir Kamin

      January 6, 2016 at 11:27 am

      Hush, you.

  • Lucinda

    January 6, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    I frequently talk about “in 5 years” around here because in 5 years, my youngest will be a high school senior.  My husband’s job is very physical (it’s starting to wear on his body), and I’ve been home with the kids this past 15 years.  Now we are planning an exit strategy that will (hopefully) be fully implemented “in about 5 years” when our needs and our kids’ needs will be different from now. We have been fully absorbed in parenting and I want to know that as my kids start their exit strategy, we have our own strategy in place to cope with the void they will inevitably leave.

  • Tenessa

    January 6, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    My oldest is 14 and my youngest is 8 so I’m not quite at the “when the kids are gone” phase of thinking about the future (although to here my kids tell it: 14yo will be moving into the basement (which we haven’t got so we’ll need to get right on that?), 10yo will be purchasing a “tiny” house and parking it in the backyard (I don’t think HOA bylaws allow that so another thing to get to fixing?) and 8yo has no future plans. But my Pilot (which seats 8) is almost 9 years old and we’ve tossed around when to replace it and what would that look like? If we replaced it before 14yo is an adult, it will have to fit 5 adult sized people comfortably because I’ll be driving it for the next almost decade. Here’s the kicker, I don’t want to drive a giant vehicle into my 50’s. I mean if it was a VW bus referbed to be awesome, I could get behind that but I’d prefer a smaller car. So we’re just gonna drive this Pilot til the wheels fall off and can’t be reattached for a reasonable price. Then hopefully I can get a car I really want.

    The point is, yay, Gemma!!

  • Mom24

    January 6, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Congrats on the car! So exciting and shiny!!! I have literally, it feels anyway, had kids my entire life. I’m 49. My kids are 31, 23, 15 and 13. I’m starting to see those glimpses of the life you’re coming up on and honestly, I’m not so thrilled. It’s a little terrifying to me when I’ve been a mom first and foremost literally all of my adult life. Also, for us, there is no downsizing. Our oldest is married with two kids now, our next oldest is dating and the day is coming when she’ll take that next step. Our house is already small and boy does it feel tiny when we’re all together! I’m so happy for you all. I know how hard you have worked, some of the journey you’ve been on and you all have earned this place in your life.

  • Anna

    January 7, 2016 at 1:51 am

    Mir, I loved this post, and I hope you keep blogging after the kids go away to school!! You just seem like such a good person & mother.