TRAVEL THERE: ROAD TRIPS WITH MY PARENTS
I’m not a parent, so a lot of people may think I have no right to say anything about what modern parents do to entertain their kids. However, I was a kid, so that gives me some authority. I’ve got an observation to make about kids and videos in the car.
The Video Babyistter
Can you say captive audience? When you’re in the car with kids, they’re at your mercy. You can make them miserable. You can engage them. Or you can turn them over to a video.
OK – some days you should turn them over to the video monitor. You’re tired, they’re fussy and it’s not exactly a teachable moment. However, if you make that video a habit, you and the kids are going to lose out on the opportunity to share some of the best memories you’ll ever have.
Traveling with Ruth and George
All my family did for vacation, before I turned eleven, was jump in the car and head back to Texas from wherever Dad might be assigned at that particular moment. It was a grueling trip, even after we bought the baby blue Pontiac Catalina with air conditioning. Of course, we didn’t have video. It hadn’t even been invented, but Mom did make up surprise bags full of handicrafts and gifts to help entertain us. I remember one year she included some colorful strips with adhesive on them. We could have wrapped our paper chains around the car dozens of times. This was before self-stick adhesives were invented, so my sister and I made ourselves sick licking the glue – but it was fun.
A perennial favorite was a set of bingo cards with little dark windows that slid over the spaces. Instead of numbers, the spaces had license tags from different states that you were supposed to spot on passing cars. My sister and I scoured the road for plates from all the states, but since we were usually on the road between Georgia and Texas, actually having someone see enough different tags to win the game was unusual. We loved the game though, because it was a springboard into great conversations:
“Look, it’s a truck from Wisk- con-sin. I only need one more and I will bingo,” I might say, sounding the name of the sate out with phonetics.
“Which state do you need?” one of the parents would ask.
“Eye-dah-ho.” I’d say. My sister couldn’t read at all, so I was assigned the task of monitoring her card, too.
“That will be a hard one to get.”
Well, it’s on the other side of the country from us and it has a pretty low population.”
“What’s a population?”
Hence would begin a geography lesson, that might detour into sociology, but almost invariably led to history. My parents loved history and passed the love on to me in these chats along the highway – as well as a deep understanding of my faith, an appreciation for my family and an insight into so many different subjects. With these chats, they got a leg up on other folks that might have an opinion they wanted to impress upon me. It was OK if I didn’t agree with my parents, but I’d better be ready to discuss my position with logic and reason. This was an important skill to develop and it helped me when I wanted high heels, mini-skirts and permission to go out of town for a speech tournament.
Sometimes the discussions would end in a joke, intentionally or not. I particularly remember a discussion about Napoleon and the mistake he made letting his troops get caught in Russia in the winter. My dad informed us that Napoleon’s troops ran out of food and “without food you’re nothing.” Coincidentally, it was just about time to stop for lunch.
Yesterday, was Father’s Day. Oh, how I love my Daddy. He’s ninety-one and holding his own, but that’s not to say he’s hale and hearty. He’s got a pin in his hip, a cracked vertebra that just didn’t heal just right, cantankerous knees and a heart that’s old and tired. Last year I moved him to an independent living facility. Thanks to my mom and her loving attentions, it didn’t have to be assisted living.
Recently, I was over at their apartment, about to take Mom on our weekly adventure, and I asked my dad what the facility was having for lunch. I admonished him to clean his plate because “without food you’re nothing.” He glanced up at me and for a moment, that old twinkle was in his eye. If we’d had videos back in my family vacation days, I would have never gotten that twinkle. Don’t forfeit that twinkle for your kids. Turn off the video and talk to them.