I drive a 2006 Chevy Suburban.
We got it brand new in 2006 when Number 3 was just a few months old.
Number 4, 5, 6, and 7 weren’t even in existence then.
At the time it was state-of-the-art. It had On Star (which was relatively new) and satellite radio (which was really new) and a built-in DVD player with wireless headphones.
It was the fanciest car I had ever owned.
And, like most of us, I immediately implemented a no-food-and-no-drink-and-no-ANYTHING-in-the-car rule.
That lasted approximately three hours.
Twelve years, four kids, and over 141,000 miles later, my trusty Suburban is still getting us where we need to go.
But it has taken quite a beating.
It’s been puked in and pooped in and peed in. It’s had stuff spilled on every seat and every inch of carpet. The plastic covers have fallen off half the seatbelts so only the metal insides of them remain.
The rear windshield wiper doesn’t work. Neither does the air conditioning in the back. The controls for the radio in the back were completely kicked in by one of the kids — it could have been intentionally or unintentionally — I’m not sure — over a year ago.
There is rust on the front bumper. A lot of rust.
My poor car has taken quite a beating over the past few years.
But when you have between 4 and 8 people going in and out of it multiple times a day, 4,745 days in a row, I think that’s to be expected.
Anyway, when I started writing this post, my intention wasn’t to show you how beat up my car is.
My point was to show you how clean it is.
And clean is 100% relative.
There have been days, and weeks, okay — maybe even months — where there has been enough food in my car to feed a small country for a week.
In fact, about nine months ago, I made this video where I found, among other things, utensils with mystery items stuck to them and a couple half eaten pieces of pizza in the third row seat.
Since we spend quite a bit of time in our car driving anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour each way to and from swim practice five times a week, we pack food to eat on the way there and on the way home, and then there are water bottles and some stuff to keep everyone occupied on the drive, plus there might be back packs and then there are swim bags and sometimes we even take the bikes with us, and, well, a lot of crap can accumulate in the car.
And sometimes we get back after 9 p.m. and it’s late and I just want to get the kids inside and into bed, so I slack on asking them to carry everything they brought into the car back out of the car, and that’s how things very easily get out of hand.
In July, after I had reached a breaking point with the kids not cleaning up after themselves and arguing and just being miserable way too often for my liking (and sanity), we made this chart to help everyone keep track of their contributions to the house:
And one of the ways the kids are expected to contribute daily is to clean the car out.
We’ve been using that chart consistently for a month now, and something pretty amazing has happened.
As you know, last week we took a trip to the Jersey Shore. It was about a four hour drive, and we took our bikes and boogie boards and beach chairs and buckets and shovels and a whole ton of food.
Needless to say, by the time we got home, the car was kind of disgusting.
But instead of the car staying that way for days (or weeks) until I took it upon myself to clean it out, the kids all pitched in when they got home.
Because one thing that has happened since this became a daily responsibility is that everyone has started taking their stuff out of the car as soon as they get home because they know what it’s like to get the car-cleaning job for the day and they know how much harder it is when they have to pick up other peoples’ stuff.
Another thing that has happened is that everyone has learned how to clean the car out.
I have to be honest.
Before implementing the chart, I probably would have had either Number 3 and 4 clean out the car because they are the oldest kids home all the time, or I would have had Number 3 and Number 6 do it because they are the boys, and cleaning out the car is more of a “boy” job.
Rotating the kids through the jobs on the chart guarantees that there are no “boy” or “girl” responsibilities.
Every job belongs to every kid.
The day after we got home from our trip, the car was messier than most days.
The daily cleaning-out-of-the-car job does not entail vacuuming the floor. We probably do that about once every two weeks.
But after we got back from the beach, it definitely needed to be vacuumed.
And since all the kids have now had four weeks of car cleaning experience under their belts, I asked the three girls, who are 6, 9 and 11 to clean out the car.
That meant taking everything out of it and putting it where it belongs, and then vacuuming it.
They have done this enough that they now know where the shop vacuum is out in the garage and where the extension cords are and how to set that up without any help.
A half hour after I asked them to clean out the car, they were done.
And I want to show you what it looks like.
Now that you’ve seen the inside of my car, your expectations should be managed to a lower standard than they might have been before having the car tour.
But here is the second row seat and floor:
I have to tell you that for my car, that is pretty darn good.
Here’s a closer look:
The floor is not perfect, and there is some stuff on the seat, but if you had seen the before picture, you’d be impressed (if you aren’t already).
Here is the third row floor. This is nothing short of miraculous.
It’s not 100% spotless, but it’s pretty darn good.
So the point of this post is threefold:
- When you give your kids daily responsibilities, they start learning how to take care of things and use stuff so that by the time they are teenagers, they will be able to do a job that is good enough to get them hired pretty much anywhere. And they will impress their boss.
- Even a six-year-old can do a kick-ass job of cleaning out a car after two four-hour drives to the Jersey Shore with six people in the car.
- If I had started this whole car-cleaning thing a couple years ago, my poor Suburban might not be quite as beat up as it is today.
But it still gets us from point A to point B.
As messed up as she is, I love my car, and I’m in no rush to replace her.
So we’ll continue to take better care of her. Because I’m hopeful that we’re all gonna make it to 200,000 together.