Too many kids are going to be asking this question much too soon. I recently saw a commercial for Chevrolet, and I was thoroughly disgusted by the message it sent to consumers, parents, and children.
Growing up, some of my best memories are from riding in the car with my family and friends. My big brother and I would ride in the backseat playing word games, the license plate game (yeah, you know what I’m talking about), and anything else we could think of. We also had all these cool travel sized games to play, like mini Connect Four or Quarto. (A fair portion of the trip was trying to squirm around in our seats to pick up that one tiny red checker that fell into the dark abyss beneath our seat.) Bottom line: we spent a lot of time in the car and I loved it. We would look out the window and engage in the moving world around us. I still love road trips because of the fond memories I have in the backseat of our Big Mean Green Machine named Betsie (we couldn’t decide on a name for our beloved minivan…RIP baby girl and captain’s chairs).
Not only did I get to play with my brother in the car, but we spoke to our parents too. Imagine that! We all would play games, tell stories, and talk about life. My favorite past time, and this still is my favorite thing to do in the car with my family, was the Radio Game (clearly we need to improve our naming skills). Basically, we would put the radio on “scan” and rotate who got to pick when it stopped. Once it stopped on a song, we had to listen to the rest of the song and couldn’t change the station until it ended. Let me tell you, this led to some wonderfully interesting discoveries. We got to sing along to classics, hear what music everyone liked, and discover new and exciting tunes that have stuck with our family for years. No matter where we were in the country, we could always play this game and I loved it. I can credit my love of classic rock and (some – sorry mom) disco to this game and the musical preference of my parents.
So, why the long and overly detailed explanation of the interworkings of a Buschman family road trip?
Because it may not be able to be done by the next generation. The commercial I mentioned earlier was ADVERTISING using wifi, tablets, and headphones to SILENCE your children on a road trip. The parents were overjoyed at how quiet their children were as they buried their face in a screen. WHAT??! Am I the only person who was traumatized by this?? I know kids can be crazy and annoying and whatever else in the car, but what parent wants to silence their children? Keeping your kids from interacting with one another, with you and your spouse, and with the world seems like horrible parenting to me. Okay, I know that there are special circumstances and exceptions to every rule. I will probably be sick of my kid kicking the back of my seat or trying to wrestle his brother and encourage them to just sit still and watch Finding Nemo (yes, my kids WILL watch that movie), but I do not want that to be goal of our family time in the car. Road trips should be a fun time to get to know your family, grow even more comfortable with them, and learn how to deal with issues when they arise. It scares me that the media is now encouraging parents to spend thousands of dollars on a car just so their kids will shut up and ignore the world around them.
Now I do not have kids and I don’t see them appearing in my near future (lol you can stop freaking out now family). I am sure I will have plenty of parenting struggles, and I know that I will definitely make mistakes and handle some situations poorly. I am under no illusion that parenting is easy, nor that technology is evil and should be eliminated from the lives of children. Depriving a child of technology today is actually hurting them because they will not be able to keep up with their peers and education as they grow up, but that doesn’t mean it has to replace all the wonderfully spontaneous parts of childhood. Riding in the car, looking out the window, fighting with your 6’5 brother for leg room (a battle I have yet to win, but I will prevail), singing along (rather poorly) to a favorite song, and playing games should be present in the lives of children. I pray that we are not forgetting this in an effort to make the here and now easier.
I am so grateful that I don’t have to ask, “Mommy, where did my childhood go?” because I remember it.