While there may be five stages of grief, I am happy to report there are only three stages to minivan ownership.
It starts with denial
“I’m too cool for a minivan. Those things are clown town, I’ll never be seen in one… it’s just not for me.”
It moves to bargaining
“I may drive a minivan, but only while the kids are young, plus you guys don’t realize just how practical they are– practical, safe and fuel efficient.”
It ends at acceptance
“Who care what anyone thinks?”
And no, this isn’t a post where I tell you all about how I don’t need your acceptance, but I secretly carry a message hoping for acceptance for me an my grocery-getter. This is a post that goes well beyond nerdy automobiles and is really about not caring anymore.
The thing is, the minivan for me is only the tip of the spear. A metaphor for a general need I have to put my lack of caring what others think on steroids.
Look at our kids.
OK not our teenagers, but before that. Kids have way more fun than we do and are open for almost anything. They dance like wild animals, they take risks, they’d watch 20 straight hours of television subsisting on a diet of Easy Cheese if you let them.
They just don’t care.
And I envy them. It carries over into their sports. They aren’t all that competitive, they are just having fun. I need some of that, because while I may roll in a minivan, I’ve still got a real problem with competition.
From board games with the kids to friendly political debates, I take everything way too seriously. It’s gotten marginally better as I’ve aged, but make no mistake, it is endemic in me and a real character flaw. I like to be the best. Not because of a fragile ego (though I’ve got one) but because I just hate to lose.
For me the sting of losing is 10 times worse than the joy I might get from winning.
It is a wholly un-Christian notion, and frankly embarrassing. However because of this, I have refused to compete in activities I don’t excel at. I don’t like failing.
No one does of course, but I’m worse than you.
This is why you’ve never golfed with me– if you had, you’d see it takes every ounce of my being to not throw my clubs. I’m a poor sport.
- I gloat after UNO games.
- I once won 23 straight games of bloody knuckles and I still brag
- 10 years ago I got beat in bowling by my wife and still remember details about the game
This is precisely the type of behavior I would never accept out of my kids, yet it is clear their father is the immature one.
I need help.
So when the chance to help coach my 6th daughter’s hoops team came up, I demurred. Not because I’d go all hockey-dad on them and yell at the kids, or get T-ed up during the game. Rather because I knew couldn’t. I’m no great basketball mind and I knew I’d instead internalize every soul-crushing loss. Pathetic? Absolutely, but a fact nonetheless.
It ended up I was the only option to help with basketball and therefore was forced to deal with myself. So I figured I’d teach them what I could and try to endure. Only along the way, I was the one who ended up learning. I came to love those two words that changed everything– Who cares?
Kids are great at getting us to look at ourselves differently and this is a perfect example. You see, sixth grade girls want to have fun. Period. While they’d prefer to win, if they are enjoying their time, all is good. The second the clock strikes 0 on their game, they shift to what’s for lunch, and a discussion about whether Bieber will still be #1 on America’s Top 40 Countdown.
I was the one dissecting the games, talking about what we did well, what needs to improve, thinking about how to fix it. My daughter recently told me to please knock it off.
She’s pretty smart so I took her advice and I gotta say- knocking it off is liberating.
So we’ve won a few games, lost more, and had a lot of fun along the way. My conclusion from all of this is that I need to find excuses to do more stuff that I suck at and quit caring about the outcome. Golfing, dancing, driving a manual transmission car, freestyle rap, whatever.
In short, failure is no big deal and it’s OK for me to suck.
The clear lesson is that while competition can make you better, it can combine with fear of failure to also make you lame. I need to get out there and try new things and refuse to internalize the results. I can still have fun regardless of the outcome, expectations or how I might look.
At the end of the day, I drive a minivan, no one thinks I’m cool anyway.