February 5, 2014 | Volume 8, Issue 2

Smartphone apps, social networking sites can be dangerous for kids; parents need to know the dangers, including bullying

It’s the most disgusting task a parent has to do. Worse than changing diapers. Worse than cleaning the bathroom. Worse than finding maggots in your trash can.

Well, okay, it’s a close second. It’s time to clean the minivan.

There are people who refuse to own the typical family vehicle, even though it is the most practical by far. Refusing to own one, however, doesn’t change the inside of whatever vehicle they decided was cooler. It will look exactly like my minivan after my children have christened it.

If you have kids, the inside of your vehicle has milk spots on the back of the seats from the combination of a sippy cup and a sneezing toddler. It has drool marks on the windows from a combination of overactive salivary glands and a thumb-sucker. In fact, the back seat of a typical family minivan could easily qualify as a biohazard. The high concentration of bodily fluids coating every exposed surface would make a germophobe drop dead if forced to sit back there.

Fortunately, I am not a germophobe… except when it comes to maggots in my trash can.

Also fortunately, my trash cans are larvae-free today, which is a good thing because I know I’m going to fill at least one of them with the fallout in my minivan.

Every parent knows that the best way to create the just-got-hit-by-a-bomb look in the minivan is to provide your kids with a fast food meal while enroute to a soccer game, football camp or a Wiggles concert.

We know this. We will move heaven and earth not to do this. And yet…. Sometimes there is no way around it. Any parent that cares more for their car interior than feeding their children before a sporting event is not a real parent. They are merely pretending. The formula has always been: hungry kids – time = a dirty car.

Furthermore, you may confiscate every wrapper, bag, straw and cup you can find and place it in a convenient trash can at your destination, but you will still find the remnants of a month-old chicken nugget under the seat and petrified French fries in a cup holder.

Putting a positive spin on a disgusting proposition, cleaning the minivan could be described as a voyage of discovery. It is when I discover:

1. What happened to the other flip-flop we’ve looked for since our beach trip.

2. How impossible it is to get melted crayon out of the carpet.

3. Where the six hairbrushes I thought I had bought have been hiding.

4. That the library book that was overdue so long I had to buy it, was in the door pocket all along.

5. That our minivan could be considered a Happy Meal Toy museum. If we stayed in one place for more than a few minutes, we could charge admission.

6. Where my 10-year old’s last loose tooth got off to. Apparently, the Tooth Fairy didn’t actually steal it without leaving any cash.

Almost done now. At least the car smells fresh thanks to a melted deodorant stick I found wedged in the back seat.

I believe that “Empty Nest Syndrome” might more appropriately be called “Clean Car Syndrome.” Some of us would have something to look forward to then.

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