“When did we become these people?”

Scott said to me as he tossed a handful of used, dried up wet wipes at me to throw in a garbage bag.

“What people?” I replied, wiping the sweat from my brow while watching Kendall jump around the 110 degree garage from the corner of my eye.

“You know, the people who have shit and junk and cracker crumbs and,” he paused to emerge from the car with a sippy cup containing mystery contents, “and sippy cups rolling around the floors of their nice cars.”

“Uhh… that would be May 2, 2008, when I pushed our first born out of my vagina,” I said with a smirk.

When I turned 16 I didn’t get a car. My parents simply couldn’t afford it. I don’t hold it against them now, although at the time it was terribly tragic. Many tears fell and “THIS IS NOT FAIR!” was shouted excessively. In fact, I didn’t even have a car by the time I went off to college. My dad used to always tell me that if I was just handed a car, I’d take it for granted. He promised that I would take much better care of something I paid for myself. While I can’t say for sure that I would have neglected a brand new car handed to me at my Super Sweet Sixteen party, I can say that I did, in fact, cherish the first vehicle I purchased.

It was the summer after my first year in college. I saw it sitting on the side of the road with a For Sale sign in the front window. *Gasp* “That’s PERFECT!” I squealed from the passenger seat of my best friend’s shiny red Mustang. When I got home I ran into the house, not even taking the time to shut the door behind me, and demanded that my mom get in the car RIGHT. NOW. to go look at it. It was mine in a matter of a week. With the help of family, I was able to put a down payment on it and to sign on the dotted line for a $8k loan, knowing full well this meant I HAD TO GET A JOB the minute I got back to Columbia, MO where I attended college.

That ’94 Jeep Cherokee was my pride and joy. Never a piece of trash did land on the floor for more than a minute. I had a designated small trash bag stowed away in the console at all times, which I emptied constantly. I frequently (like, weekly) took a wad of my tip money from that job that I did land the day after I got back to school as a waitress in a sports bar to the car wash to scrub, polish, shine and vacuum my Jeep inside and out. When I took Cleo, our first puppy and adorable yellow Labrador, to the hiking trail only to have the sky open on us unexpectedly, I was so disturbed by the muddy puppy paw prints all over the back of it that I took my Jeep to the car wash detail place and shelled out $30 that I surely didn’t have at the time to have my seats and floors shampooed.

I literally drove that Jeep until the door fell off. Not at all kidding. My first day at my first really professional job when we lived in Northern Virginia I had to make the choice to pull up in either my husband’s ’93 F150 with no AC (it was May, by the way) or in my Jeep, which would mean I’d have to crawl in and out of the passenger side door because if I unlocked and opened the driver’s side door it would actually, truly fall off. I chose the F150 with the windows down. I was wearing a skirt that day and thought it would be the least ridiculous option.

After a couple real paychecks from that real job rolled in, we decided to treat ourselves to a shiny new Jeep Grand Cherokee. A really super fancy, over the top, ridiculously frivolous model complete with massive car payment. Although I was heartbroken to see my first Jeep go, the second was a fantastic replacement and I quickly got over my heartbreak. Shortly after, we replaced Scott’s F150 with an Infiniti G35 and our car payments then, in total, equated a modest mortgage payment. But we were both working professionals, pulling in enough money to afford them, figuring if we couldn’t ever afford a nice house in NOVA, we could at least drive around in nice cars. Plus, I figured by the time we got around to having kids we’d be done paying them off. Ha! Yeah, that’s back when I was on my “five year plan,” meaning we would have kids five years from whenever somebody asked me when it would happen, even if that was a year after the last time they asked me. In short, it was before the Baby Rabies kicked in.

We took damn good care of those cars. They were washed and vacuumed frequently, nothing left inside, not even so much as a jacket. Even our trunks were organized. I cried like a baby the day my husband accidentally spilled Karo Syrup in the back of my Jeep (used to boost our diabetic English Mastiff’s blood sugar when it dipped too low) on a trip to St. Louis. I knew that was a stain we’d never get out, and it was the first blemish on my immaculate, shiny new vehicle.

Fast forward nearly 5 years later and you’d think our floor boards are where Goldfish Crackers go to die, and a foster home for all dysfunctional and leaky sippy cups. That Karo Syrup stain? Hidden by the layer of embedded dog hair that I haven’t been able to successfully pull up from the carpet in over 2 years. It’s truly the least of my concerns now when I get down about how dirty my new Jeep is.

“We’ll NEVER let *our* kids eat in our cars,” I can hear our younger selves chiding.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. HA.

“Why are parents incapable of cleaning their kid’s shit out of their cars? Seriously, just don’t put every f-ing toy the kid owns in the car. Clean it out every now and then. GEESH,” we would say like we had, in that moment, simply solved an issue that plagues all parents I’ve ever known- how to contain the explosive mess that is a CHILD while in the confines of a vehicle.

Now, I can come up with a laundry list of excuses as to why our vehicles get the way they do, but I’ll just boil it down to this. I don’t have the energy to care. That is, until it’s finally so terrible that I’m corralling renegade toy cars and rolling Snack Traps every time I open the back door to retrieve Kendall from his car seat. Then I usually hit a wall where I become so disgusted by the state of my once shiny vehicle, so disgusted with myself that an IMMEDIATE intervention is necessary.

That leads us to today. We opened up both garage doors and filled a laundry basket full of random crap from both cars. We pulled a small trashbag’s worth of garbage out of both vehicles, then loaded up and headed to the car wash. After driving through the washing bay, we parked next to each other at the vacuums and took turns watching Kendall run back and forth between our two vehicles. At one point Scott shrieked, “Ewww! NO!” Over the sound of my vacuum I mouthed, “what??” Through screaming and miming, he conveyed to me that he caught Kendall letting the vacuum suck on his tongue. I had to laugh. That kid really knows how to push his dad’s germaphobe buttons.

As a side note, and maybe this is a sign of the downtrodden economic times, when the HELL did it become acceptable for random people to come up and start washing my windows (after they’ve ALREADY BEEN WASHED) as I mind my own business and vacuum my car? Oh, they aren’t doing it out of the kindness of their heart. One was looking for a tip from Scott and another was trying to sell me windshield repair. We haven’t had random people wandering up to our cars to clean our windows, unsolicited, and demand money since that one time I flew into Midway at 2 in the morning.

The cars are as clean as two people responsible for keeping a 2 year old alive at a car wash can be. I still have fantasies of getting my Jeep detailed after we send off the last car payment next month (I got Scott a car detail for Valentines Day last year and it was, hands down, the most excited he’s EVER been about anything I’ve given him, except a baby… it was a close second to a baby), but I have a feeling that money will go toward other things, like registration for Soccer Tots in the fall.

I guess we really did become those people we openly mocked 5 years ago. Oh well, what’s new? I look forward to the day Kendall is old enough to clean the cars out for us. It will, for sure, be a requirement to borrowing one someday, which, in a perfect world, would be one of our current cars. We won’t be missing those car payments!

Kendall is 2 years old. Thinking of it as him having only 14 years until driving age is a tad terrifying.

Hey, hey, hey! Guess what? I was nominated for a SocialLuxe BlogLuxe award in 2 categories- Funniest and Blog I’ve Learned the Most From! You guys are awesome. Thank you for the nominations! I’m up against some ridiculously talented competition, who I have no grand ideas of beating, but it would be amazing to be a finalist. Voting is open until July 12th and you can vote once a day. You have to provide your email address and enter a verification code, so it’s a little more involved than just a click, but it would mean the world to me, if you think I’m worthy, if you could take a couple minutes to vote. Here is the link. Thank you, thank you in advance! Winners will be announced at Blogher, the blogging conference I’m attending in August in NYC.

  • sam - Really great! Expecting more blogs like this.ReplyCancel

  • Liz - I just laughed so hard picturing Kendall putting his tongue up to the vacuum!!! Also had a ’94 Jeep–loved that car!ReplyCancel

  • J - I totally know the feeling! We can’t even see the floor in our SUV at the moment. Every time I clean it out I wonder how a 3 year old “needs” so much crap!! Then I remember the need for our sanity while driving…resulting in food, toys and who knows what else that accumulates back there!ReplyCancel

  • Sandy - Soo would it make you mad that I also have a 2 year old and the car is the one place I dont let get dirty? He has “car toys” and that’s about 5 little trucks, etc that he plays with, he rarely eats in the car, the car is clean! Pretty much always. My house on the other hand? Let’s not go there! :0)ReplyCancel

    • Jill - Not mad at all, ENVIOUS! And determined. After today’s cleaning episode, I’ve made a promise to not let it get that bad again. We’ll see how that goes.ReplyCancel

  • Susan - My dad always says “children have a way of humbling their parents.” I have to agree with him.

    I used to think “who doesn’t have time to clean a few cheerios out of the car?” and now I’m just glad when I manage to carry all the groceries and my 2 year old up from the car. I’m not about to shlep myself all the way back down to the car to clean up food and toys.ReplyCancel

    • Jill - So true. And kudos to you for getting ALL the groceries out of the car. Twice we’ve left a gallon of milk in the trunk overnight.ReplyCancel

  • Avery - I think I was those people at the ripe old age of 16 when I got my first car. It’s wasn’t a fancy brand new one, but one suitable for helping chauffeur my 4 younger siblings and living out of to and from school and ballet.ReplyCancel

  • Joanna - I don’t even like to think about what my car looks like these days. Even when I clean it, it is a disaster days later.

    I voted for you and did you see I was on there? I’m not even going to blogher. I’m under most inspiring. That’s a joke- I’ll get one vote, my own :)ReplyCancel

    • Jill - Oh my goodness! Yay! I’ll vote for you :) You are inspiring.ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - Ugh, the yuck in my car is bad! Just wait until you have another one eating snacks… awful! :)ReplyCancel

  • Megyn - Man, oh man do I feel your pain! Our car always looks like Toys’R’Us threw up in the back. Our 2 year old always has that one special toy he just has to bring with him, but by the time we make it back home, he could care less about the thing, and frankly I don’t want to cart another thing in- a toddler, newborn, diaper bag, and any other shopping bags is more than enough. Just wait ’til there are two back there!ReplyCancel

  • Miranda - This has just called up images in my mind of the wayward cheerios I KNOW are in the back floor of the car. And those are the cheerios that I swore would never be there.

    I did, however, veto milk sippies in the back seat. And juice. Water only. The last time I gave him a sippy of milk, he tossed it and the damn thing leaked and stunk up my car. And I live in GA. And it is freaking hot here. EW.ReplyCancel

  • Brett - I read this earlier but wanted to comment and say I loved this post. There was something different about it… can’t put my finger on it. Maybe the storytelling aspect?

    Anyway – we totally are those people right now that you guys used to be. I have visions of keeping my new Volvo clean and though I try to never say “never”… I’m pretty sure it’s all really inevitable. :) But I’m looking forward to it.ReplyCancel

    • Jill - Thanks, Brett! Only time will tell. Enjoy it nice and shiny clean while you can just in case.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - First, congratulations!!!!! You must be so proud. Way to go.

    And on the dirty car thing – I do think a lot of comes down to what kind of kid you have. We don’t have a ton of kid crap, but Ella is pretty mellow in the car. We don’t need to bring much in there. Pretty much her one toy she’s loving that day and then it goes back in the house with her. I remember the horror stories of Kendall and the car and it’s no surprise you need a full arsenal with you.

    Of course, we do have the cheerios and goldfish crumbs, but that’s a given, right? Those aren’t even worth mentioning, right?ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - Hey, and when do we get to see the new pics? I’m so jealous you have a good and justifiable reason for professional pics. Is it really so much to ask that I have professional lighting follow me around constantly? I look so much better with it.ReplyCancel

    • Jill - Hopefully soon! I’ll admit, it was wonderful to treat myself to getting my makeup done and new outfit. I felt pretty and not at all mommy-ish that whole day :)ReplyCancel

  • So Maybe I’m the One Who Needs To Be Trained? | Baby Rabies - […] the cooler for an ice cream cake before I risk a treacherous drive with an undiapered toddler in my newly clean car to get one. Kendall’s pulling on my legs, WHINING, spouting off things like “snack bar, […]ReplyCancel

  • Laura - Don’t sell yourself short…I think you have a chance at winning!ReplyCancel

  • Our Goals as Parents…..But, We’ll See! « The Un-Coordinated Mommy - […] Our Goals as Parents…..But, We’ll See! By Tracy, on June 29th, 2010 Eric and I had a “discussion” last night about our goals and expectations of what kind of parents we will be. This “discussion” stemmed from a post I had read on another blog, Baby Rabies. […]ReplyCancel

  • Chardonnay - Can I just say that I don’t like this new italic font? It hurts my eyes! Just want to put that out there…. love the blog though, of course :)ReplyCancel

  • Courtney - this is funny….after having a second child, our beautiful G35 coupe had to go….my husband is still in mourning. but i totally got all this, it is just like us! detailing is like our special treat to each other…i mean i could try to do it myself but really no thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Maeghan - Aww. As I was reading your post and got to the part about being in college and getting a car I immediately thought of my first car (’94 Grand Cherokee) that I purchased my Jr year of college. Love that it was yours too. I miss that darn car and think that it would be a lot easier to clean out (if I ever did that) then my Passat that is littered with all things babyReplyCancel

  • Inner Smug 24 Year Old Weeps While Toddler Mayhem Ensues | Baby Rabies - […] how I told you all about how we used to meticulously care for our vehicles? How they were so shiny and clean, and how we so harshly judged parents who went rolling around town […]ReplyCancel

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