A mother’s car has to be able to take a beating

My husband and I have officially traded cars. That’s because I looked up my aging sedan on Safercar.gov and freaked out. Three stars for safety? I’ve been driving my kids around in a tin can!

I knew my car didn’t have side-impact air bags, but that didn’t seem like such a big deal when I bought it used almost a decade ago. Plus, I could put our only child’s infant seat in the middle of the backseat (the safest spot). Now we have two kids and that trick no longer works.

So my husband and I have switched cars for the foreseeable future, because his is newer and safer. But I couldn’t just hand him the keys to my car and say “Let’s trade!” because that would be cruel.

If there’s a spectrum of mom-mobiles that goes from “This car is spotless!” to “What’s that lingering smell?” my car would fall somewhere in the middle. I never leave food in the car (knowingly, at least), but there are about 10,000 socks in the backseat. They are usually small, pink and ruffled.

Then there are the floating toys; books, action figures, squeezy things and anything else that might entertain kids on the fly. I keep meaning to donate Buzz Lightyear to Goodwill, but he’s still back there.

I think Buzz knows I’m planning on deserting him, too, because sometimes he randomly turns on and starts talking when we drive up a steep hill. “Be on alert! Adventure can come from any direction!”

De-momming my car took a lot of work. But after extensive cleaning, my sedan was ready to trade with Dad, and I started driving a not-exactly-fancy, but whole-lot-safer SUV.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I drive my spouse’s car I feel like I’m sneaking around, even though half of that car is technically mine. There’s an evil laughter soundtrack in my head and I think, “Ha, ha, ha! I wonder what the kids will do to this backseat.”

My husband wonders about other things, like what will happen when I try to park his car in the garage next to all the bicycles. As soon as he handed over the keys, he hung up a tennis ball. I would have been offended except that I’m aware enough of my own parking ability to know that a tennis ball is a really good idea.

A week into this trade, I’ve got the parking thing down. The backseat is just barely in the OK range, but the kids are making an effort to clean up their act, too.

In the meantime, I’m scouring The Herald for car advertisements and watching crash test videos online until my eyes bleed. I’d like to give my husband his car back sometime soon.

I’m also asking myself the tough question: Am I mom enough for a minivan? Oh, crud. I think it might be time.

Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at teachingmybabytoread.com.

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