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Go Ask Mom

Amanda Lamb: Car talk

Posted September 21, 2014 8:45 p.m. EDT

 "Can we all fit in that thing?" one of my daughters asked as she eyed the loaner car from the dealership in our driveway with skepticism.

She was used to my cavernous SUV that always seemed to have room to spare.

"Of course we can!" I replied cheerfully, having anticipated this very conversation. Ironically, I had asked the lady at the car dealership the very same question the prior evening.

"Four kids in a sedan? Sure, no problem," she told me without hesitation. But as I walked towards the bright blue car they were loaning me, I peered warily in the backseat wondering where everyone was going to go. It's just 24 hours, I said to myself. No big deal. They can handle it. It will just be a little tight.

"Where does our stuff go?" one of my daughters asked. I looked at her laden with a book bag, a computer and a sports bag.

"In the trunk, of course," I said popping the trunk lid to reveal a large empty space. They eyed me suspiciously, not used to parting with their bags, and reluctantly put them in the back of the car.

So, my older daughter sat in the front seat, and my younger daughter sat in the middle of the backseat in order to give the two boys we were picking up the maximum amount of room. My daughter and I both pulled our seats up as far as we could go in order to give the boys a little bit of leg room.

"Why isn't the satellite radio coming up?" my daughter asked in the front seat as she punched buttons furiously only to find static.

I snickered while she groaned at each classical music and country station until she finally settled on a local pop station with a deep sigh.
I had to forgo my usual morning call to my office because I didn't have Bluetooth, and I always talk on the phone hands-free.

As each boy got in, I apologized profusely for the car. I looked in the rearview mirror as we drove and realized they were struggling to sit ramrod straight so their knees would not touch my daughter.

And then it hit me. I was a child of the seventies. I had spent many a cramped trip to school, to the beach, to wherever in the back of a small compact car. Back then, we were lucky to have FM radio and a cassette player.

There were no cell phones or GPS devices to guide or distract us. We listened to the banter on the local radio station, sang along to familiar songs in the countdown, rolled down our windows and daydreamed. Yet, our kids know no such unadulterated form of transportation. They think SUVs and minivans are such standard fare they don't even know how to react to a smaller car. In their minds, power windows, power locks, heated seats and satellite radio are all part of the deal.

As I pulled out of the carpool line after dropping the kids off that day, I turned up the local radio station, cracked my windows, and zipped in out of traffic like I hadn't done since I had a small car in my twenties. Maybe this wasn't so bad after all?

I'm in the market for a new car. I might just downsize …

Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.