Monday, 24 January 2011

How do you get two whales in a mini?

Down the M4...

Unless you live in the Scottish Borders of course, in which case the M4 wouldn't help at all.

Anyway,  I digress.

A more important question. How do you get four children in an ordinary sized car?

I say "ordinary sized", but of course given that we already have three children, our car is anything but ordinary sized.  It looks like this:

It's even that colour.

It's not what you might call a nippy little number. It's not sporty, it's not speedy, it's not swish and it turned out to be rubbish in the snow, but it has one major advantage: you can get three small children, three large car seats and a vast amount of kit in it in (relative) comfort.

Only now we're expecting a fourth.  And I don't know where we're going to put him.

I'm not good with cars.  This one is the first car I've owned and we didn't even get that until just before A&S were born.  At university I had a bike. It was pink and I loved it until it got a buckled front wheel on the way back from my last final, so I abandoned it chained to a bike rack and for all I know it's still there (bad girl).  Then I had a tube ticket and a pair of comfy trainers. Then I had a baby and everyone told me that I'd need a car, but I like the tube, and I don't like driving, so although I upgraded occasionally to a bus ticket (easier for the pushchair) we stuck with the no car and the smug feeling that we were doing something for the environment when really it just suited us fine.

Then they said we were going to jump from being three to five, and I caved.

But, as I say, a mere two and a bit years later, I'm not sure it's what we need.

I've thought about this:

It's called a  multimac, and it fixes into your isofix points and magically turns your back seat into four childseats (with optional clippableonable baby seat).  It's also, while not cheap, significantly cheaper than a new car. Sounds perfect? Well it could be but it strikes me that they'll be sitting awfully close together, and given that any journey longer than about ten minutes with my three already invariably degenerates into a slightly less muddy car-seat reenactment of trench warfare, with endless millimetre-sized incursions into enemy territory met with excessive and violent reprisals, I'm not sure that putting them closer together than they already are is really the most sensible plan. 

So then I thought about putting two of them in the middle seat, and two in the pop up seats at the back. Which could be fine, but what about getting them in and out of the dreaded car seats?  How does that work when the only way at those seats is by leaning over from the middle?

So B says we're going to have to do something like this:

But the thing is, that while I'm not a car person, I'm also most definitely not a van person, and especially not a van that looks more than a little like a hearse.  I realise that having four children means there will be a lot of compromises, but I'm just not sure I want to start this early.

So, is there a solution? Is there a way to transport four children, all still requiring car seats, in comfort and, if not style, at least something that looks like we might have chosen it because we like it?

Answers on a postcard. Or in the comments box. Please?


  1. We have a car that fits all four of our kids AND the dog and lots of kit to boot - it's a Ford Galaxy. It is our second one (the original one we ran into the ground until it nearly had 200K miles on it). Our current Ford Galaxy is 10 years old and has a lot of life left in it. It seats everyone comfortably and the seat arrangement is two up front, three, then two in the back, and all the seats move in and out and around. Plus it's no longer than the average estate car. We love ours so much that both of my BIL also have Galaxies, and when this one dies we'll buy yet another one.

  2. We have the 7 seater Renault Megane (cos we couldn't afford a Galaxy and wanted better than a Zafira) and we love it. It's also a 2-3-2 formation and you can get to the back seats via the boot - the middle seat folds down to a table so when we have four kids in the car we set it that way so as to keep them as far apart (i.e. out of slapping distance) as possible :)

  3. I can't offer any practical help beyond suggesting you either get a trailer or stay in for a while.

  4. are you allowed to leave one at home whenever you go anywhere? It works in the movies.

  5. We have 4 children and a labrador and I was determined not to drive a big bus style car around. We went with a Zafira with just one of the back seats up which means the dog sits next to son number 1. When going on holiday it has a roof box. There is no spare room but it fits us all! x

  6. Volvo XC90 - fab to drive, looks great, hugely robust and practical and there's still luggage space when all 7 seats are in use (though not enough for you all to go on holiday.... for that, you'll be needing the trailer!). I have 2 yr old twins, a 6 year who regularly needs transporting with friends all over the place and the Volvo is FABULOUS. And no, I don't work for them! I just love my car!

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  8. Move to the Midwest (just take the M4 and keep going west), and then you can have a huge people carrier and not feel self-conscious, because everyone else does. And we have huge parking spaces.

    Seriously, we had a VW Touran before we moved, which seemed a good compromise between the ordinary car and the people carrier. The small seats in the third row are fine for small children (though I'm not sure if they'd support toddler or baby seats - you'd need to find that out). We usually had the middle seat of the middle row out, so that one child would go through to the third row, and two others would sit in the second row. Worked well. And if you're ever in an accident, a VW is a good place to be. (I've just thrown another factor into the mix, haven't I?)

    25 JANUARY 2011 13:55

  9. We have a Toyota Corolla, whcih is not very tank like at all but probably no bigger than you have. We had 3 seats comfortably along the back seat for a while and have now kicked JJ into the boot but you will still need a god sized buggy I assume - so actually I think you will have to go bigger. I have a friend with the Ford Galaxy and she loves it.

    I like the ones that have slidy doors at the side rather than open out doors as they are so much easier for getting small kids in and out and you can literally step in the car and do it too. Like the VW Sharon.

    Good luck with choosing. Mich x

  10. Sigh... Children are expensive. I hope you find a good solution!

  11. Definitely leave one (or two) at home whenever you go out!!

  12. I drive a Kia Sedona at home. (Texas). I don't drive in London. Just for fun, have you seen the Swagger Wagon? (That JCPenny commercial is a hoot, too.)

  13. Thank you all!
    Helen - thanks. I've had other recommendations for Galaxies but I think the whole flexible seat thing is one you can't really understand until you've actually played with one. I think we may need to go and have a look at some point.

    Nikki - I have a feeling the Megane is the Renault version of what we have already...but I like the thinking on putting the middle of the middle seat down. If I can work out a way of getting the girls in the back two seats without having to climb into the car waving my arse in the air that might be a way of making our existing car work... Which has definite advantages!

    Anonymous - had a recommendation for a Zafira at one point. Will go and check it out (although Nikki's frightened me off a little!). Thanks!

    Twins Mummy - interesting - that was the one that someone at work wanted me to get when I was pregnant with the girls, but I shied away from it because it was much too much of a "Chelsea Tractor" and we did, after all, live about a mile away from Chelsea and I couldn't bear to be the cliche....But now we're in the country and can justify a 4x4 it's a definite possibility... (ignoring the cost of course!)

    Iota - now you're wanting me to think about all the stuff you're "supposed" to think about when buying a car, like safety, and acceleration, and fuel consumption and things other than "how am I going to get the children into it" and "how easy is it going to be to clean vomit off" (L gets carsick).... Oh help!

    Michelle - I'm with you on the slidy doors. I think, if we do change the car, they're going to be a must...

    Mwa - well, they are, but somehow I was fondly thinking that there would be economies of scale, and given how expensive three are, I thought four wouldn't make that much different. Only now I'm going to have to buy a whole new blue wardrobe on top of everything else!

    Diney, Kelloggsville and Ellen - like your thinking. Am contemplating an Audi TT and a full time nanny.... (or possibly boarding school - do you think 2 is too young?!)

    AH London - It's much easier not to in London isn't it? Even when we did have a car there, I probably only drove it once every couple of weeks. Here, it's more like two or three times a day... Loving the Swagger Wagon though!

    Anyway all, the current verdict is to hang on to what we've got, see how we get on and make a decision later (after we've paid for the building works....) but thanks for all the tips, will let you know if we ever do do anything about it!

  14. I'm still catching up with blogging, forgive me for late commenting but hey, it's not a surprise from me really is it?!

    We strangely have the same car as you, but in black. I'd go with the same car plus biggest child in back seat (extra stickers for learning to do own seatbelt up?).

    My greatest piece of parenting in a car kit EVER though is this...

    I promise it will change your life.

    MD xx


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