I’ve been seeing lots of those stick family car stickers around town, mostly on the back windows of mommy vans and stud-daddy SUVs. Driving to and from Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, practically every van I passed contained a traveling family boldly advertising their family/pet configuration on the rear windshield.
What’s the point of these stickers? What are these folks really advertising? How happy their families are? Is it part of a religious movement? Are they saying, “Here’s my contribution to world overpopulation?”
And why do I care? Possibly because I find the stick family decals both cute and irritating – both creepy and cool. Like bumper stickers, they’re hard to ignore. If you’re sitting behind a soccer-mom in traffic, you have little choice but to examine and contemplate the family stick figures splashed in front of you.
While driving down the highway, I almost wrecked my clunker while trying to see if the families inside the vans matched their window displays.
“Wow,” I’d think. “That family has a teenager, two young kids, a baby, two cats and a dog. I wonder what kind of dog? Is it in traveling with them? Are these people as happy in reality as they look as cartoon characters that my 7-year-old could draw?”
Then I wonder what happens when the baby becomes a young kid. Are the stickers easy to remove and upgrade? What happens if the parents get divorced? Do you just leave a blank space where Dad used to be? When the dog dies, do you just “x” him out, or plan to replace him quickly so the kids don’t cry every time they get in the car?
Also, folks can customize their stick family by, say, having little Addy kicking a stick soccer ball and teenager Jay playing a stick guitar. If these people’s kids change their extracurricular interests as often as my kids do, the stickers must be easily removable and replaceable.
The customization’s intriguing as well. Does young Jimmy get to decide what his stick figure’s doing or does Mom (who’s probably ordering the decals on-line) decide for him? All these questions run through my head as traffic starts moving again, and I try to catch up with another van to check out the real family in front of the stick family.
Turns out, like everything else, the stick family decals have stirred up controversy. Some of them include names, which has upset child safety folks. They say it’s easier for a child predator to gain the trust of a child if he knows the kid’s name. Add in knowing his siblings’ names and mentioning Lassie, and the kid’s more easily disarmed. The kid might think, “He can’t be a stranger if he knows all our names, right?” Wrong. The bad guy just memorized the back of the van.
Of course, statistically, kids are more likely to be hurt in a car accident while being carted around town than they are to be stalked by a child predator who’s learned their names from car stickers. But why take the chance?
I called FamilyStickers.com, a company based outside of Boise, Idaho, because they’re the first business that pops up when you Google “family stickers.”
“We don’t push names being on the stickers from a safety standpoint,” says marketing director Aaron Ellsworth. “But it’s an option.”
Ellsworth admitted to displaying the family stickers himself, although he doesn’t include the names of his five kids.
I asked where the stickers originated, and Ellsworth says he first started seeing them for sale at county fairs and mall kiosks about 10 years ago. But only in the past few years, as companies have started selling the decals on-line, have the stickers gained in popularity, he says.
FamilyStickers.com is a small part of a large company that creates all sorts of signs and lettering. While Ellsworth says the family stickers aren’t a majority of the company’s business, he says they sell well and ship all over the world, although he guesstimates 95 percent are sold in the U.S.
He thinks the stickers are so popular because they give folks a way to personalize their vehicles and show family pride. He said he knows of grandparents who plaster the backs of their RVs with all of their grandchildren-in sticker form, of course.
For $4.75 per person and pet, you too can flaunt your family across the back of your jalopy. And know that, while I won’t be joining you because I’m paranoid, I will be checking out your stickers and your family as I drive by.
Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.