Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

We got back from our trip Monday night. All of our bags are still sitting by the laundry room, waiting for the Unpacking Fairy to get around to them. (Unpacking is the worst, because at the end of a trip, haven’t you grown to hate the sight of all your stuff?) But a great time was had by all, and there was only a little whining and angst about being in the car so much. The kids mostly watched dvd’s, or sometimes we all sang along to the soundtrack of Undercover Brother (just the record, not the movie). I must plead total ignorance about why we have this cd. I blame Matt, thanks to whom my Pandora radio thinks I REVERE the entire oeuvre of Lipps, Inc.

On the Undercover Brother soundtrack, Hank really only wants to hear one song: “Play that Funky Music, White Boy.” That is what he means when he yells, “More rock and roll baby!” Play any other song, like, say, “Ladies Night,” and he just says, “What happened to the rock and roll?” or “Play funky music!” His way of singing along is shouting out, “’Til you die!” during the chorus. So this was totally adorable until we were driving back through endless west Tennessee for the second time. And that’s when it hit me; somebody turned around and I felt like I was actually inside the song—that I was imprisoned in the chorus and that we would actually be playing it ‘til I died.

So we boogied our way back home. And on Thursday the kids and I are going to disco up to Washington, D.C. with my parents to see my brother and sister-in-law. We’ll be leaving from their house in North Carolina, but I think we’re looking at an eight-hour trip, easily. It will probably go fine—we’ll get through it the same way we did this weekend. But this brings me to my ambivalence, which is probably familiar to anyone who has a car with DVD or who has taken a portable DVD on a trip: I love love love the convenience and the kid-distracting power of take-along movies. Then part of me wonders, wouldn’t the Good Parent come up with car games for us all to play? Like Hinky Pinky, or 20 Questions, or whatever those dumb license plate games are (I always thought those were boring). Now, interesting a toddler in some of that would be tough, but for him I could make felt scenes on the ceiling of the car and tell stories to go along with them. Or something. Am I cultivating children who require media input to be happy? If only I weren’t so lazy. (Still another part of me also suspects that this very question may be a symptom of overly-indoctrinated, attachment parenting, self-indulgent hand-wringing. There are many parts of me.)

The thing is, I don’t remember that every long car trip in my childhood was an idyll of family bonding. But a couple of them were. I don’t know, maybe if my parents could have gotten a dvd player in their 1986 Ford Aerostar, they would have. It's far from perfect, but I’m thinking that until Hank gets a little older, maybe we’ll just do whatever it takes to survive, which may include watching The Incredibles over and over, tootsie-roll pops, and funky music.

I am open to testimonials and advice.


Anonymous said...

If we had a DVD player in our vehicle growing up, it would have saved a tremendous amount of fighting. Instead, we played "The Cow Game", where my brother and I each counted the cows on our side of the car. When we passed a cemetery on our side, we had to bury our cows and start over. Whoever had the most cows when we arrived at our destination was the winner.

We are now age 27 and age 23, and we still have screaming matches over how much I cheated at the cow game when we were little kids.

Sara Bee said...

We took a road trip in April with ages 6,9, and 11 in a van with a VCR (limiting our movie selection to Legally Blonde & Mr. Deeds, I think.) It wasn't playing continuously, but I still had the guilt. In the Blue Ridge Mtns I insisted that they turn it off & look at the mtns. They were mad bc they were engrossed, but I'm the mom so I must ruin things sometimes. I am not fanatical (there was very little seat belt wearing-for shame!)but I only have fond (selective) memories of our family trips from PA to NC every Summer. We usually travelled in a boat of a sedan with one of us asleep on the bench seat, the floor board, or the back window? My awake time was spent staring out the window or reading, eating homemade snacks my grandmother packed or playing the awful car games. I think it's definitely good for them to have to do at least part of the trip the old fashioned way and good for me to be able to turn on a movie before they tear each other to pieces. I'm a big believer in kids experiencing occasional boredom. And I love your blog!

Becky said...

Thanks, ladies, we are out of here in an hour, so we'll see how it goes! I am definitely introducing the Cow Game, 'cause I love that you have to bury all the cows. Grisly enough to spark a kid's interest, for sure.

And we'll try some boredom too. I also remember fondly the time of no seatbelts--I think it made things a lot easier, I mean, except for the increased risk of injury and death. Ah, the good old days!

Bren said...

I don't know, it's like medication during labor. Boredom on a car trip has its positive points (as does pain during labor) but give me an epidural. I don't like numbing the little ones constantly, as in, popping in the DVD around town, but dang, 8 hours strapped into a seat is asking a lot of a kid, and it's a few-and-far-between proposition.

I say let the guilt go completely. Enjoy the sanity. (This coming from someone who does not have a tv in the house and has never had a dvd player on a long trip. But has more than once WISHED she had a dvd player on a long trip! And may never take another trip unless we have ACCESS to one!)

Here's something, though. Books on CD and headphones have served us extremely well. We've all enjoyed a few library CD books together after the baby has passed out in his car seat or individually, the older two retreating into their own individual stories. Perhaps that's a wee bit less guilt-inducing?

Hootie said...

A thought: why not schedule the DVDs, like in-flight movies? (Although you don't have to choose the film based upon which direction you're driving.) Example: you're leaving the driveway at 8 AM... let the kids know that at 9 AM, The Incredibles will begin. At 1 PM, The SpongeBob Movie will begin. Making the DVD viewing an en route event kinda makes it part of the trip, and you've officially built in non-video downtime. If each kid gets to choose one of the videos the night before the trip, you might eliminate THOSE arguments during the trip as well.

Lorrie Veasey said...

THis is why I never use the word "vacation" anymore. I just call it what it is: TRAVELING WITH CHILDREN. I know you know what I mean.

I am all for the DVD player. If i could meet the person who invented the portable DVD player i would kiss them....with tongue. But I am really a BAD MOM. I'm not above a quarter dramamine in extreme situations. I'm just sayin.

Amy said...

Lorrie, I think we could totally be friends. Amen to the DVD player and dramamine when desperate! That said, I do try to bring other stuff along--coloring books, audio books, etc. But those don't always work so well for my 2 year old! Get this, though. I have a friend who, on their last road trip, had activity boxes for each child, chock full of age appropriate, intellectually stimulating activities. I know. She even made an "I Spy" bottle for each one--a large, empty plastic water bottle that she filled with rice and then tiny objects--little plastic toys and things the kids had to find. It was actually really cute, and I had to bow to her superior mothering. Then I went and popped another dvd in the player.

Hootie said...

A quarter dramamine? Are you kidding? I need at least a full tab if I'm gonna sleep through that noise coming from the backseat.

It's like I always say: "the earliest I want to be woken up in the morning is one in the afternoon."