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Life with a smile

A fully stocked car is a summertime necessity

By Kate Snyder

My son had his first swimming lesson last week. Planning ahead, I dutifully packed a bag with swim trunks, towels, and goggles and chauffeured him directly to the pool after school. Upon arrival, I discovered that I had made a serious error in not having him try on his new trunks prior to their maiden plunge. They were so huge that not even a fully-cinched drawstring could keep them up on his scrawny hips. Thinking fast, I told him he could swim in the athletic shorts he’d worn to school. Which was a good solution until he got out of the pool and I realized I didn’t have any other clothes for him to put on so that we could run a few necessary errands I’d planned for after the lesson.

We ended up drying his shorts with a hand dryer in the bathroom, but the point of my story is this: summer is here, people. It’s time to restock the car.

As every parent knows, the contents of one’s vehicle change with the seasons. In the winter, I keep window scrapers, spare mittens, and a folding shovel in the back. I recognize that last item is probably overkill, given that it never actually snowed this winter, but I grew up in the Midwest and can’t quite shake the instinct to over-prepare when it comes to snow.

My car also tends to be full of fruit snack wrappers, picture books, art projects, school worksheets, and random articles of clothing, but those accumulate of their own free will so I’m not including them in this conversation!

In the summer, the necessary supplies are more varied and more numerous. Bug spray, sunscreen, band-aids, a picnic blanket, folding chairs, towels, and a spare change of clothes are all pretty essential. You just never know when you might need any and all of that gear on a moment’s notice in the summer. If you’re feeling really ambitious, I suggest also including sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and a box of graham crackers. They provide good entertainment when the unending sports practices run long and your small entourage gets restless and hungry. Bored and hungry preschoolers are unpredictable and dangerous. Don’t risk it.

Last weekend, my kids and I spent the afternoon at a friend’s house. It was a hot sunny day and she got out the sprinkler. Despite my strongly-worded suggestion that he take off his shoes to play in the water, my son soaked his only pair of tennis shoes because he hates to be barefoot (weird kid). This led to an extremely challenging morning the next day when he discovered he couldn’t wear the beloved-yet-soggy footwear to school and was forced to settle for the Stupid Shoes of Awfulness – also known as his sandals. This meltdown and the gray hairs it gave me could have been avoided had I kept a pair of scrubby shoes in The Magical Car Bag. Lesson learned.

I’m considering creating a separate Adult Car Bag this summer that will include ear plugs, chocolate bars, and a thermos of pre-mixed margaritas. I can think of any number of family summer activities that would be enhanced by this sort of careful forethought.