Embarrassing confession: More often than not, my car looks like a cross between a school's lost and found, a recycling bin and the land of misfit toys…with crumbs sprinkled on top. My kids and I affectionately refer to it as "the junk bus." (My husband, a neat-car freak, does not think this is funny.) I mean the car itself is nice enough—a spacious 2008 SUV—but the inside is, well…. Before I wrote this post, I took inventory of what was floating around in there: Alex's baseball glove, a soccer ball, dirty socks (his and hers), a few dollar bills, a few school projects, half-opened junk mail, a pumpkin, a baby doll, one of those Hallmark stuffed, singing snowmen things that my three-year-old daughter found in our garage (I love Christmas so hearing her lispy rendition of Jingle Bells nonstop hasn't bothered me), a deck of playing cards (52 pick-up style), two not-entirely-clean sweatshirts (his and hers), several empty water bottles, empty Dunkin Donuts Sandwich bags (plural), sand toys, sand, a pile of sea glass (in the cupholder), an empty Pirate's Booty bag, some Legos, empty coffee cups (plural), two pairs of Nora's flip flops, a pair of Alex's sneakers, a loaf pan to return to my mom, all of my makeup (center console) and a Polo shopping bag with clothes to return though it's probably already past 30 days. There's also a smattering of old stickers stuck to the window next to Nora's seat, remnants of a rookie parenting mistake about two years ago. Go ahead judge me. It's gross, I know.
When other parents walk over to chat at the bus stop, I start to sweat. "OMG, my car is a disaster don't even look, it's not always like this I swear," I get out in one breath before they can draw their own conclusions. And the truth is, it's not always like that. But it always gets like that—and pretty quickly. My excuse: We're always coming in hot. Someone has to pee or we have a ton of groceries or the kids are whining or my two hands can't lug all the stuff that accumulates throughout the day. I do have the kids carry in their own crap but rarely is it my top parenting priority to clean out my car the second I pull into the driveway. Then there are days like yesterday when Alex goes from the bus stop to religion class to soccer practice and he has to change in the car. And have a snack. Yes, we eat in the car sometimes. Yes, it always makes a mess. (Though I will say that I never leave perishables in there and my car does not smell…so there's that.)
Here's what makes my lack of car care so baffling: My house is spotless. You could literally eat off my kitchen floor that's how often I'm on my hands and knees wiping it clean. I can't go to bed with any crumbs on my counter and I don't go downstairs in the morning until the beds are made. Each room is presentable and I know where everything is. Not in a Misery/Sleeping With the Enemy way—it looks lived in, don't get me wrong—but considering I have two little kids and a job, I think I do pretty well on the housekeeping front. Because I like order. I don't like clutter. I can't function in messy places. Except, apparently, in my car where I'm kind of immune to it. As embarrassing as it is to be riding around in such sloppy style, I'd be lying if I said I'm losing sleep over it. Perhaps it's the parenting gods getting back at me for being such a clean-car snob pre-kids (I used to make fun of my sister for her junk bus and now look at me…content in my own filth!). Then again, I also brush my daughter's hair a lot less than I would have thought. I let my kids eat pizza and mac and cheese more than I care to admit. I do not make homemade Halloween costumes. We all have to come to terms with the ways we're not quite living up to the unattainable ideal versions of ourselves and the sooner we do, the better.
Plus, the junk bus has its perks. I can always dig up change for a cup of coffee or a parking meter. There is always an extra layer to be found if we get cold on the sidelines. Impromptu trips to the beach are more fun because there are sand toys somewhere in there. Thirsty? I bet there's an unopened water bottle under one of these seats.
So, what does your car look like?