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Ode to Suburbans

Cleaning of the trough brings eternal increase


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I raised five kids in the second and third rows of a ’97 Chevy Suburban. When we finally bid Old Faithful adieu, it had 394,000 miles on the odometer, permanent car seat indentations in the leather, and the remains of a science experiment gone bad in the cargo area. I pitied the new owner should he ever look under the seats.

The truth is, I didn’t like that Suburban too much at first, which meant my husband had his work cut out for him when he backed it under our carport. Well, what he could of it. “How am I going to drive this land yacht?” I questioned, ungrateful minivan lover that I was. So what if it had nine seats?

Sure, raising kids is messy business. They come here with mess clinging to them.

“You’re going to love it,” my husband said confidently, peering under the pristine hood. When I didn’t respond, he looked up to find me and a measuring tape gathering proof the carport would need an extension. “In this case, more is just … more,” came the redirect. My husband looked over at our children, who were probably hanging from some rafters. “Those legs,” he said, pointing for emphasis. “You do realize they’re only going to get longer, right?”

A comment like that can get a mom’s attention faster than all the advantages of rear air and towing packages combined. Leg room. Elbow room. Space. Yes, my husband had pulled out all the stops and was whispering sweet nothings in my ear. I could feel myself warming to this new half-ton family addition. Maybe “land yacht” had been a bit harsh.

Before long, I could park the big rig with the best of them. We had room to change diapers and catcher’s gear and bad attitudes, if needed. So what if my SUV got 15 miles to the gallon? It had a mega tank that could hold 42. In more ways than one, I was learning to let go of my penchant for compact and controlled and embracing something bigger. Something along the lines of that proverb that weighs the worth of a clean trough against the gains that come with ox ownership.

The daughter who once sat second row, middle, in that Suburban grew up, got married, and happily became great with child. These days showers have themes, and hers was “Welcome to the World, Baby.” Along with all the atlases and globe decorations, a map stretched out across an easel. Its sole purpose was to provide a spot for the posting of parenting advice, which is why my daughter-in-law picked up a Sharpie and wrote the words of Proverbs 14:4 on a blank spot north of Nashville.

I’m guessing most of the attendees had probably never seen a trough, but I think they got the point. You can have an ox, with its accompanying plowed field and crops, or you can have the spic-and-span scenario. Take your pick.

For moms, the temptation is always there to obsess over trough issues—keeping things perfectly tidy, avoiding stretch marks, having sufficient “me” time. The world is big on such things. What we don’t hear much about is the potential for increase, the good stuff that comes from investing your life in something bigger than spotless carpets and your self-esteem.

Sure, raising kids is messy business. They come here with mess clinging to them, and it’s a battle to keep them cleaned up thereafter. They have teeth to brush and mouths to wipe. They step in things they shouldn’t. Their noses run. They produce approximately 104 loads of laundry per year.

And that’s just exterior maintenance.

But somewhere along the way, in the midst of all that scrubbing, moms have the opportunity to wash themselves free of some of the fluff of life and find the layers that really matter. What a gift, because here’s the real rub: If caring for our kids day in and day out doesn’t make a dent in our selfish obsession with clean troughs, that stain just might cling to us for an entire lifetime.

So the trough gets dirty, and we clean it. And the trough gets dirty again, and we clean it again.

I have it on good authority that after years of such mother work, a woman may find herself at one of life’s big moments, say her child’s wedding, and it will be like a slow-motion movie. Kleenex will be involved. And the mom will realize that yes, raising kids was messy, but the increase is quite incomparable. She may even decide she has a thing for Suburbans after all.


Kim Henderson

Kim is a World Journalism Institute graduate and senior correspondent for WORLD. During her career as a homeschool mom, she worked as a freelance writer. Kim resides in Mississippi with her family.

@kimhenderson319

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