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HOLLENBECK: Today's parents are missing out on car-trip challenges

January 12, 2012

Car trips with kids were a challenge in the
"old days."
I'm talking about the years when my children were little and the ones that followed for a time.
Specifically, I'm referring to the generations that preceded DVDs in vehicles.
I was in the car recently with my 3-year-old grandson, Lucas, and his mom. While Melissa and I chatted about a number of things, we rarely were interrupted by Lucas.
This is because Lucas, like a lot of privileged children of his generation, rides in a car that offers filmdom on wheels.
It's a new day and maybe simpler in some regards. No one is challenged to create entertainment on the spot the way it was when I was raising my children and for the early years of transporting my older grandchildren.
I have fond memories — along with a few horror-stricken recollections — of those dreaded car trips with my three kids who, if they were getting along before we left the house, quickly got over it.
Hate reigns supreme in vehicle excursions.
When Ed and I would take the three kids places, Karen, as the only girl, usually would get stuck in the middle of the back seat between her two brothers. She was the kindest of the three, but even she had her moments and eventually would lash out when two boys against one girl became just too much to stand.
After the grandchildren came along and we took them along on trips, it was the equivalent of turning back the clock a generation. The players were different, but the dialogue was just as I remembered it with their parents.
When there are as many as three, two always join up and turn on the third. The usual conversation would go something like this:
"She's too close to me. I don't want her to sit there."
"She touched me.
"I don't have enough room."
"There's no place to put my baby (doll) if he sits there. Make him sit somewhere else."
"I always have to be in the middle."
"Are we there yet?" (Five minutes after leaving.)
"I'm hungry."
"I need to go to the bathroom."
"I never get to sit in the front seat."
"She's sitting by the window and it's my turn."
"He's got something on his shoes. It's gross."
"He always gets his way."
"Nobody likes me."
"He smells bad."
"I'm thirsty."
"She got to be first last time. That's not fair."
"Why'd we have to bring her?"
Does any of that sound familiar? Anybody's who's had more than one child probably can get the picture.
Even when they got to the preteen and teenage years, the drama continued.
Parents/grandparents had to be innovative to keep peace on journeys. Singing was a popular option in our family.
A few years ago, my spouse found a tape called "Riding in the Car," which obviously was developed by someone who had ridden more than a block with children.
When my daughter's three girls were little, we took a trip with this tape as backup and we sang every song on the tape over and over. It did help for a while.
Our repertoire included "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," "I've Been Working on the Railroad," "Three Little Kittens (who have lost their mittens)," "Oh, Susannah" and more.
My favorite was "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More (cause how in the heck can I wash my neck if it ain't gonna rain no more)."
When the singing would wear thin — and it eventually does if the trip is long enough — you have to become more inventive. Games can be a good alternative — for a while.
Remember "A, My Name Is Alice?"
You go through the alphabet coming up with names in the order of the letters. And of course the "best" players are the ones who can spout out really unusual names.
That can be great for quite a while, particularly if you've got some good spellers in the bunch.
Our grandchildren thought this was really funny when Ed or I would come up with some off-the-wall, old-fashioned monikers like Hildegarde or Eustachia or Ichabod.
It's too bad the old Burma Shave signs have been relegated to history. They were good for hours of entertainment when I was a kid.
For the very young or the uninformed, these advertising signs spelled out silly four-line sayings that actually amounted to a healthy dose of homespun wisdom.
When my cousins and I would take trips to see relatives, we would while away hours reading these examples of marketing savvy.You couldn't allow yourself to become too distracted or you might not see the next sign and then you'd miss a line. And that made the other person seem much smarter.
But now Hollywood on the DVD is at the ready. It probably makes for less parental stress, but this old fogey doesn't think a kid's rearing is really complete without a little dose of highway humor.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of the Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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