Parenthood Means Kissing Your Clean Car Goodbye Forever

Mom Moment 8

The car I'm driving now -- a 2004 Touareg -- is the first car I ever bought for myself. I got it in 2006, and when I drove it home, I promised that I'd never let its immaculate surfaces become grungy and cluttered. I swore I'd take it to the car wash every couple weeks to keep its sleek black paint job shiny and clean. I carefully hung a tiny faux-leather trash receptacle around the gearshift, dusted off my hands, and marveled at the gleaming expanse of new-car-scented leather interior.

That new car smell must've lasted about a week, tops, before my baby horked a reeking geyser of semidigested milkbarf all over his carseat, which soaked the seatbelt, ran down in foul trickles into the seat cushion cracks, and spotted the floormat.

I don't know how long it was before I just ... gave up on the idea of having a clean car. A couple more years? After I'd vacuumed up the thousand million billionth Goldfish cracker that had been mashed into the seats, maybe.

Now, to be clear, I don't drive around like a mobile version of Hoarders. You know how some people's cars get filled up to the ceiling with fast food wrappers, empty soda containers, overflowing ashtrays, and various fly-specked detritus? My car is nowhere near that bad, I promise. But it's certainly come a long way from that pristine vehicle I drove off the lot seven years ago.

I admit I contribute to some of the mess: crumpled Kleenexes, mostly, and forgotten receipts. My kids, however, are the reason that laughably tiny trash receptacle had to be replaced years ago with a gargantuan always-full bag that practically forces the passenger against the door.

Back when they were unstable babies and toddlers whose moods fluctuated wildly based on their blood sugar levels, I always had snacks on hand in the car. As a result, my car always looked like the bottom of a birdcage -- crumbs and half-chewed mysterious substances everywhere, smears and blobs and random shudder-inducing chunks.

I thought things would get better once they were past the stage where things were constantly going into or out of their bodies, and to a certain degree, that's true. They don't eat in my car very often, so I don't have quite as many biohazard zones. Still, when they DO eat, they're no tidier than they used to be. The other day I found a stash of rock-hard, fossilized french fries next to my oldest son's booster seat, as perfectly and repulsively preserved as the amber-trapped mosquitoes in Jurassic Park.

The floors are littered in a layer of school papers, many of which are perpetually moist from overenthusiastic glue application and shedding glitter. There are tiny LEGO parts everywhere you look. Someone's filthy umbrella is crushed partway under a seat. A tennis ball rolls back and forth during our trips, bonking gently against the doors. Leaves and dried mud and piles of playground sand coat the floormats. Both of the boys' booster seats rattle with god only knows what shoved into the drink holders. The pockets on the back of both front seats are stuffed with Ninjago books and more school papers.

Mysteriously, there is a sole once-white sock in the exact middle of the backseat. "Whose sock is that," I asked irritably the other day. "NOT ME," both children chimed in unison.

Every few months I haul the Shop-Vac out of the garage and I vacuum every inch of my car. I clean the fingerprints and nose-smudges off the glass, I wipe the seats so they're once again fit for human use. For a brief, shining moment, I can see what the interior of my car is actually supposed to look like -- but that would be in a world without two giggling, messy children who often forget to wipe their shoes or chew with their mouths shut. My car is a disaster, and I guess the truth is I'm totally okay with that.

Is your car a traveling mess-heap too?


Image via &koia&/Flickr

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mamav... mamavaness

yes!!!! i hate it! i'm glad i have an older car in that aspect because if it were new i'd be angrier at the kids for leaving messes everywhere lol

Vegeta Vegeta

My parents never allowed my brother and I to bring food, drinks, art supplies, small toys(like legos or the accessories to action figures) in the cars. We had to kick the dirt off of our boots before entering the cars. They were always pristine, and we never went to a drive thru. Now that my brother and I are grown with our own cars, we try to keep them clean. But mostly we end up just using the floor as a garbage and the back seat as a storage unit, and throw everything out at the next gas station we fuel up at.

nonmember avatar Kelly

Just the evidence of all the fun you guys are having. :) And yes, mine is full of stuff most of the time. I try to keep the three seats that are available for non-baby passengers relatively uncluttered, but it doesn't always work out that way.

nonmember avatar Monzie

God yes, my car is horrible! The other day, I threw out about a dozen lollipop sticks that had settled in the crack next to my son's carseat. And the petrified french fries and Goldfish crackers on the floor could feel a small rodent army. (In fact, when I start to think the car is getting too filthy, I take my chihuahua for a ride and she "cleans" all the food out from under the seats.) I'm just about to turn my daughter's carseat forward-facing, so I'm going to remove both of my kid's seats and then take the car in for an interior deep-cleaning before I re-install everything. It might not look nice for very long but it will be nice to get some of the really ground-in crud scrubbed out!

gorge... gorgeousbaby

We're terrible as well. Sometime its a real embarresment when having to take the car to get cleaned. When taking out the car seats you see whats left behind... OI!

Melis... Melissa1508

Sadly, I have to admit that most of the mess in the car is mine, not my kids.  haha  I spill coffee, have rocks and leaves in the floorboards, jackets (probably 4 right now), stroller, papers from school, etc.  It's totally my fault!  :)

Melis... Melissa1508

PS, "horked a reeking geyser of semidigested milkbarf" made me laugh so hard I almost spit out my coffee.

nonmember avatar Amy

Linda, holy cow! I remember reading your blog when you bought that car. SEVEN YEARS? Really!?

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