I don’t know how many two-income couples in their 30s are still one-car households, but that’s what my fiancee and I were before yesterday.
That’s entirely because I didn’t come into this relationship with a car. I didn’t even come into this relationship with a driver’s license. I know that’s even more rare.
It’s not that I had any legal problems preventing me from driving. It’s not that I had a physical or mental disability. It’s not that I couldn’t afford a car or insurance. I just never got around to getting my license.
Short story long … When I took driver’s ed in high school, my Dad didn’t have a car. For those couple of months during the summer when I was taking the class, his car was broken down and he was borrowing my grandmother’s car. Her car was something from the 1970s and broken down to the point where it came with instructions, tips and tricks that only the owner knew: “You gotta pump the brake three times to come to a stop” … “If you wanna turn left, jerk the wheel to the right real quick and then turn left.” In other words, not exactly the car you want a 17-year-old learning to drive with.
So while I was taking driver’s ed, I didn’t have access to a car at home for practice. The only time I got behind the wheel was during class. I passed the class, but I didn’t feel confident enough that I’d pass a real driver’s test and get my license. So I said I’d wait until I could get more practice.
High school came and went, and that practice never really happened.
My Dad got his car back, but he never seemed interested in teaching me how to drive. I’d find out years later that my Dad secretly didn’t want me to get a license or have a car in high school. His goal — like that of many Black parents — was simply to keep me alive through my 18th birthday. And teenagers die behind the wheel of a car just like they die behind sickness, shootings and suicide.
As I approach becoming a Black parent myself, I totally understand that now.
During college, I kept saying I would take adult driving courses, but depending on the time of year I either didn’t have the time or I didn’t have the money. When I did need to go somewhere that was too far to walk or impractical to take the bus, I had a girlfriend with a car and plenty of friends and family with cars. Or I just didn’t go.
After college, I moved to New York for my first full-time job. No one in New York had a car; at least no one I knew who lived in New York had a car. That was for people who lived in New Jersey. Between the subway, city buses and taxi cabs at every turn (this was pre-Uber/Lyft), no one really needed their own car to get around.
When I moved back to Seattle, I still didn’t need a car. Seattle is another city with a good public transportation system. And contrary to what I thought, not having a car or license never got in the way of finding women to date. It never got in the way of finding a job.
And to be honest, at some point I was kind of scared to drive. Perhaps that fear my father had when I was a kid followed me into adulthood, but I questioned my ability to control a car; I had visions of plummeting off freeway overpasses and veering into oncoming traffic because I made one slight miscalculation of the steering wheel.
But I did tell myself that when I became a father I’d have to suck it up, get my license and get a car.
So when I met Taylisha and we made plans to have children by any means necessary — biologically, surrogacy, adoption or fostering — I had to follow through. I took the classes and got my license just in time for me to drive her around during this pregnancy and run all kinds of errands I wouldn’t have been able to without a car.
I share all of that to explain why we entered the third trimester of pregnancy with one car between us — and that car was her Toyota Yaris. It’s not even big for a sedan; meanwhile we had everyone telling us that with twins coming that we’d need an SUV or a minivan.
We figured we would eventually upgrade to something bigger, but we could afford to wait a bit.
Then one recent morning, I went out to load the car with all the baby-related stuff we’d need.
In the process of making the infant car seats fit in the backseat, I had to move the driver’s seat and front passenger seat up. It didn’t seem like a lot, but when I got in the driver’s seat to test it out, I felt like I was the extremely big dude on “The Simpsons” driving the extremely little car.
Then I tried to fold up the double stroller and fit it in the trunk. Not happening.
I took off a couple of wheels from the double stroller and tried to fit it in the trunk. Not happening.
So I took off a few more pieces, and by the time I got the double stroller all the way into the trunk, I felt like I’d just stripped it for parts.
But I wasn’t done.
I still had to find space in the car for our hospital bags, a.k.a. the luggage you pack to bring to the hospital when it’s time to deliver the babies, knowing you might be there a few days.
The backseat was a non-starter. There was no room back there with two infant car seats already installed.
The trunk and its new wheel-less tenant barely had enough room for a small backpack. That was definitely not gonna work for a suitcase, duffel bag and diaper bags.
How was this gonna work? And after we had the kids, how was this gonna work with grocery shopping or any other time we needed to carry the kids, the stroller and something else in the car?
Less than a week later, Taylisha and I were on a car lot, buying a new SUV.
Priority No. 1, obviously, was size and storage space. If I can offer any advice to new parents, it’s that you’ll probably be fine without an SUV or minivan for one kid, but for two or more, you’ll want something big. We needed to comfortably fit two infant car seats and a double stroller in the vehicle and still have room for things like groceries. Ideally, we’d also have room for an adult to sit in the back with the kids.
I was fine with a minivan, but she wasn’t going for it. “Minivans are ugly,” was Taylisha’s mantra as we did our researching and shopping online.
We settled on a 2019 Dodge Journey SUV.
Now we have to learn how to drive it. She’d only driven something this large a few times. I’d never driven anything this large. As much as I’ve gotten comfortable and confident driving the Yaris, that old fear came back when I thought about driving this SUV.
That first test drive went better than expected. Once it sunk in that the SUV was not too big for traffic lanes, and that it could fit into a normal-sized parking space, I felt like I could get used to this.
And we kept the Yaris, so now we’re a two-car household.
Going from no license and no car to two cars in the span of a few months has been weird. But it’s part of the dad process.