I always get a bit nostalgic around the Fourth of July because my husband, three sons and I always drove to a big family reunion on that holiday. I don’t know which was more memorable — the actual reunion or our eight-hour car trip to get there. But those hours stuck in the car together served as our time to reconnect. We’d sing those silly nonsense songs like “One hundred bottles of beer on the wall...” and “The ants go marching one-by-one…” until we couldn’t stand the lyrics. Then we’d play the license plate game and try to spot one from each state and beat our previous year’s number. We’d keep each year’s record on a ragged envelope stored in the glove compartment for the following year. About four hours into the drive, our middle son Adam would entertain us with knock-knock jokes. On one trip, he went two hours straight without repetition. How he stored that much trivia in his brain is still a mystery. When the kids got really bored, they’d start “mooing” at the cows along the road hoping to entice just one cow to look up and “moo” back. That was our summer road trip. Just doing silly fun stuff that became our family rituals.
Now don’t get me wrong -- our rides weren’t always smooth. The youngest usually got carsick mid-way, the other two inevitably broke into some kind of squabble, and about an hour from our arrival I’d switch seats to physically place myself between them to fend off World War III. But yesterday, when my neighbor described how she planned to survive her upcoming family road trip, I suddenly longed for those good ‘ol days.
The mom of three told me that she planned to survive the nine-hour car trip by purchasing a car DVD player and a stack of her kids’ favorite movies. She figured she’d pull into Grandma’s about the time her children finished the final movie. And she had a backup: each child also had an MP3 player and cell phone to chat with friends.
I know family road trips aren’t easy, but come on! Are our kids so used to being electronically entertained that they can’t spend a few hours just plugging into one another? What are your thoughts?
Later this week I promise to pass on Road Trip Sanity Savers to make your car trips a bit less hectic. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you. What Parenting Secrets keep your kids happy and content in the car?
Michele's latest book is 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know: Getting Back to Basics and Raising Happy Kids.