When I clean out my car, I do it right.
And there’s always a backlash.
“I’m starving. Where are the snacks, daddy?”
“I’m cold! Where are your sweatshirts, daddy?”
“I need a science experiment. Where’s last week’s Gatorade bottles, daddy?”
I let them down by tidying up.
Hardly any uneaten food. Hardly any.
I’ve never had my car quarantined. No Haz-Mat unit has been dispatched to handle it. We keep uneaten food to a minimum. We occasionally bring in an armload of wash.
As I type this post, my car is “clean,” insomuch as I washed it on Monday, inside and out, and, besides a little road grime (well, a lot – they’ve stripped the nearest main road to repave it, so we’re riding on the concrete ripples and kicking up asphalt dust until further notice), a pair of (clean!) soccer socks and perhaps an empty can of Mello Yello Zero (good stuff!) or two, it’s still “clean.”
So, no embarrassing moments in the car pick-up line when Mrs. Thomas opens the door and sees sunflower seeds plastered to the windows smells last week’s shin guards baking in the sun or watches small reptiles and tiny pie tins avalanche out of the Pontiac.
Instead, it’s a tidy, orderly automobile, not on the order befitting an obsessive-compulsive, or even Jerry Seinfeld, but certainly worthy of lines and quips from those we know, who might ask, “who stole your car and returned it clean?”
Or, “whose car is this?”
Or, “where is Elise’s/Marie’s/Grace’s real daddy?”
I feel taller and more handsome in a clean car, and probably the lack of weight from recyclable bottles, sweaty practice vests and the aforementioned sunflower seeds being removed improves gas mileage and curbs wear and tear on my transmission.
All beneficial results for society, and mankind, right?
But here’s the inside story of why a touch of hoarding mentality can really come in handy when it comes to a car.
1. There’s a hunger-staving snack, often within arms reach.
Kids are hungry. Constantly. Kids of a dad who is always hungry are statistically predisposed to higher degrees of constant hunger. Snack availability is not only a matter of convenience but of responsibility.
The same way white families keep a blanket, canned goods and a good flashlight in their trunks, in case of emergency. (Don’t you?)
A small box of animal crackers or bag of seeds or any such starchy/protein- or carb-packed staple isn’t just a bonus, it’s a key to survival.
2. Sunflower-seed spitting improves mouth-eye coordination.
There’s protein in those little seeds (and a goodly amount of sodium, and more fat than I imagined, it turns out, as I label-read last time I thought of buying a new bag. I put it back. But for purposes of this blog post, we’re going to pretend I’m still in the “Let It Seed” phase of my existence).
And going through the effort of procuring this little seed from this tiny shell is a lesson in perseverance if anything. (We all agree we hate when you accidentally spit the seed and eat the shell).
Not sure where they learned this, but the kids try to fire the seeds at cars in the next lane. They’re getting better at it, but no one’s as good at it as dad. I mean, whoever they learned it from. It’s an acquired skill.
3. Slopped on your shirt? Getting chilly? Forgot your pants? Reach around – there’s something for everyone.
My kids are cute in my shirts.
Cuter than me, in fact.
When they look for my clothes, it’s not to supplement their own wardrobe, it’s to sop something up they’ve spilled before we get to a red light, and I can turn around and see the damage.
There’s a convenience of having hope to find a matching black soccer sock in a moment’s notice that you just can’t foster when your car is as tidy as Mitt Romney’s tax forms.
4. Entertainment is an arm-length away. Usually.
Man, traffic jams. You have three kids in the car, that can be murderous to a parent.
But not this parent. Rather than having to regale the offspring with games of “I Spy” and leading sing-a-longs, I can suggest they root around for a coloring book or Happy Meal toy or dry-erase board to occupy their attention.
It’s often a game in itself to see what kid comes up with what when they jab their grubby hands into the pile. Only a couple have come back up with splinters or insect stings.
5. It simply adds character.
It’s art. Art that changes with the day. One day, there’s a pop-tart wrapper and grocery bags, maybe some crayons. The next, the wrapper might be gone, but there’s a stuffed dog. Next week?
The dog’s still there, and there’s another wrapper, but now, there’s a Zhu-Zhu pet coloring kit out in the back seat.
Usually, the piles don’t reach window-level, and I rarely have anything in there that could cause much bodily harm should we become involved in an auto accident.
If I can keep up with a weekly clean-out, it’ll just inspire my kids to do more. You know, start with a clean canvas, and create again.
Pass the animal crackers up here, will you?