Hooray for summer vacation!
Or, not so much? Yeah, I hear you. Extended breaks can be trying for any parent, especially with kids at home milling about, aimlessly. This is especially acute for special needs parents.
Like many kids with autism, Jeremy does well with structure. He flourishes at school because of predictable routines, visual schedules that account for every minute, and a highly skilled team of teachers and therapists who are well-versed in each of his academic goals and idiosyncratic behaviors (and are charting each Bx on an ABA chart.) The team also includes a dedicated, 1:1 aide who keeps him on track with all this, whom I implicitly trust like a third parent. This A-Team commands instructional control over his learning environment, dedicated to moving him along the continuum of progress with utmost speed and accuracy.
Um. Not so at home.
Home is not structured. Home has no graphs or charts; no highly skilled professionals or educators. Just a frazzled mom who struggles to get dinner on the table, much less with instructional control. Home is just home. And Mom is just mom.
“To the wind with instructions!”
Whenever I do a class observation, I’m always incredulous at how calm, compliant and productive Jeremy is. Whose kid is this? Surely, not the free spirit I live with. Whatever gravitational force that keeps Jeremy grounded at school, inexplicably becomes undone once he gets home. In the free orbit that is home, Jeremy is prone to float, flutter and flit. Anything but stay on task (What task? Did someone say task?)
So when summer comes, we go out a lot. And I mean, a lot. Because sharing our happy chaos with the world is far more generous than hoarding it all to ourselves. That would be selfish. Bouncing off the walls –and off each other– like pinballs, and getting on each other’s frayed nerves (Ok. My nerves. Jeremy’s nerves are just fine) for three steamy months, is just a No Way Jose.
Gettin’ Hip To Da Swagger Wagon
Have you seen this video? It’s a spoof by Toyota celebrating (mocking) the rite of passage from urban hipster to (sub)urban hipster parent. It’s a must see for anyone (I’m talking to you, Dad, whose machismo had been cruising along at maximum torque until you got throttled by the speed bump called (gasp) “Minivan Ownership!”
Did you click on the link? If not, stop. Do not pass Go or collect $200. Go back and watch it or else you won’t be appropriately set up for the rest of this article.
We good now? Arright then, let’s roll (and feel free to let the video loop as a background track, if it pleases you.)
The Kim Fam Tricked-Out Van
Every June as we cut over from the academic year to summer break, our minivan transitions with us. It’s not just the family wardrobe that gets swapped out for warm-weather garb. Over the last handful of years, I’ve developed a carefully crafted system of Summer Survival Strategies, starting with the family van.
Like winter feet pedi’d in preparation for sandals season, our trusty 2002 Odyssey is treated to an automotive spa treatment and makeover. It’s an annual ritual to usher in three sacred months of sand, sunscreen, sweat, spills, and stickiness.
Fasten your seatbelts, friends. We’re popping the trunk and sliding open the auto-doors. Welcome to an up-close and intimate look inside the Kim Fam Tricked-Out Van: Summer Survival Edition.
Priming: Cleanliness is close to godliness
We begin with a thorough purge of the interior. Much redemptive work happens at this stage: joy at finding missing buttons and collar stays; the thrill of victory at rediscovering lost homework assignments; the satisfaction of dislodging pulverized Cheetos dust or mummified french fry nibs. So much transformation and change! And I mean, literal change. Enough to consolidate into bridge toll or vending machine fare.
It’s almost a spiritual experience, the magnitude of redeeming so many Formerly Lost Things. A year’s worth of mysteries unearthed: relics of a bygone era (1st and 5th grade, that is), that rival the greatest archaeological digs of the ancient world.
The upholstery and flooring can now be memorialized for the vibrant textures and tones they once were. And only now –once the interior has been purged– are we ready for a car wash. After all, I have a reputation to uphold before Lozano’s Car wash as an elegant and meticulous homemaker and minivan owner; one with instructional control over her well-mannered children.
I know they’ve come to expect this of me, so I dare not disappoint the people’s eager anticipation of my annual visit. Homegirl couldn’t possibly roll up in my righteous hoopty without some regal priming.
Turn This Mother Out
As every well-groomed woman knows, any reputable spa treatment begins with a luxurious soak accompanied by elegant spa fare. Our local car wash provides free lemonade, coffee (caff and decaff!) and fresh popcorn. Sometimes, when mood strikes, I leave the van at home and walk over with the kids, just to partake of the delicacies and watch other people’s cars roll by on the conveyor.
What boy doesn’t love that? And what cheap skate mom doesn’t appreciate free, boy-oriented entertainment with snacks? Don’t knock it ’til you try it.
But wait, there’s more!
Because as Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) said, “There are Humvees, and then there are Fun-Vees…” Mrs. Kim is in the serious business of Fun-Vees.
Once thoroughly cleaned, inside and out, I then turn down the rear seats (bench), for the next phase of total van transformation. After much trial and error, I’ve concluded this configuration enables maximum flexibility and functionality for summertime recreation.
How so? You may wonder…
Stay tuned for the next post, “The Tricked-Out Van Checklist,” where I detail the goods.
- Do you know a parent trying to survive summer? Especially if they drive a minivan, Share this post.
- Do you have a summertime ritual?
- Do you have a picture of the family car you’re willing to share? Don’t “prime it.” Just post it. There’s power and solidarity in authenticity. Come on. I double-dog-dare you…
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