I drive a minivan. It's a beautiful thing.
Well, I suppose I consider driving minivans in general to be a beautiful thing. Our minivan's no stunner or anything, but we like it and it works.
It's got two rows of seating and a big space in back. The doors slide open when you push a button (usually), and the two captain's chairs in the middle allow a full foot between my children's carseats, which tends to reduce the chances of them physically annoying each other.
Now, I don't know what you drive, of course. Perhaps it's a cute little hybrid or a giant, grumbly pickup. Either way, if you're driving around with kids in it, I implore you to put a trash can in there. Not just a Target sack hanging from a door handle, and not a cute little reusable mesh bag, either. I'm talking about a solid plastic or metal trash can.
Don't get me wrong: I'm no clean freak. In fact, most of the stuff that SHOULD be in my trash can is usually scattered around on the floor of our van, much to the dismay of my husband (and me in the times that people can actually see into it). See, I'm not talking about consistent, organized cleanliness. I'm talking about the extremes. The "what ifs" that can occur when you've got children in the vehicle.
Even the most delicious of tempting beverages (hot cocoa with marshmallows but NO WHIPPED CREAM MOM ARE YOU KIDDING ME) runs the risk of not getting finished. Maybe you're on a long trip and a kid takes a nap and the cocoa gets cold and you can't convince the kid that "it's just chocolate milk now!" If you’ve got your kids trained to toss their unwanted stuff in the trash, that’s awesome, but a plastic sack alone is not going to cut it. You need something substantial… something that won’t result in a very small leak that doesn’t present itself until two weeks later when a new friend or judgemental family member sits in your car and lets you know it smells "a little bit like vomit."
2. Quick Cleaning
Sometimes you've got to clean the car and clean it fast. Who knows why? Maybe that one mom who seems like she's got it all together needs a ride to ballroom dancing class. Maybe you told your spouse "I swear, today, I'm cleaning the van," and you accidentally fell asleep while folding the laundry because that giant pile is actually super comfortable.
Either way, a solid, sturdy trash can is much easier to fill on the fly. You can also use it to easily and quickly scoop up all of the stale crackers that have replaced your vehicle's carpet.
3. The Call of Nature
Alright, I'll be honest: #3 is the main reason I'm writing this post.
Having kids in the car makes for an interesting journey, and presents a lot of new factors that influence your decisions. Things like being presented with two sleeping children and a very full adult bladder after a long trip.
What, oh what do you do?
While I can't help you in the moment, I can help you prepare. Get an actual trash can.
Two summers ago, my husband worked at the state fair. The kids and I were on our way home from a trip, and it timed out perfectly to pick him up and take him home after the fair wrapped up. Unfortunately, by the time we got there and parked, the kids were asleep and he had about 30 more minutes of work.
And I had to pee. Big time.
So, I think, "I'll just squat between my car and the next. It'll be fine."
I get out, I start to unbutton, and a gaggle of college guys walk up and unlock the car next to my van. I wave awkwardly and pretend I'm checking the tires. I get back inside. I feel a little bit like crying. The car full of dudes drives away and I'm left with the gap between my van and the car on the other side.
I get out, I start to unbutton, and I look around me to realize there is a constant stream of people coming through the fair gates and heading to their cars. There will be no break. There will be no moment of solitude during which I won't risk getting picked up for indecent exposure.
The solution? A real, actual trash can. You're going to want to have a liner in it, perhaps two Target sacks, so that you can pull all the trash out and reveal a hard, plastic container of sweet, sweet relief.
I'm not exaggerating. This is real and it could happen to you.
So, get a trash can. A real one. And maybe don't drink that extra cup of coffee… trust me on this.