Growing up in Ogden, Utah a family vacation consisted of loading the five of us kids into a “champagne colored” station wagon and driving three hours south to a tiny town called Gunnison to visit our cousins. If we were lucky, dad would let us listen to the pop station on the radio. If we acted up, he’d flip it to the oldies station.
But the choice of station didn’t really matter because the broadcast signal wasn’t strong enough to last more than about an hour into the trip. It wasn’t long before Blondie turned to buzzzzzz.
When I wasn’t pestering my sisters, I’d read books, pepper my parents with questions or play games like “Slug Bug” where the goal was to be the first to spot a VW Beatle. I remember several times my dad would be driving up a hill and we’d egg him on to “floor it” coming down. Sometimes we could get him to push the wagon to 75 or even 80 MPH before my mom had had enough and would make him back off the gas. Even as a kid, it just felt cool to break the law. Cue the Clash.
I don’t ever recall a time where there wasn’t something to do, some game to play or some sister to tease. We didn’t have Nintendo or DVD players or iPods. We made up games, sang goofy songs or stared ahead at the scenery while our AC Delco pumped out the tunes.
Things are different today. Now we take vacation drives in a comfortable 7 passenger Honda Odyssey with AC controls three rows deep. Our three oldest kids each have a Nintendo DS and dozens of games to choose from. We have a portable DVD player, kids books, coloring books and sippy cups up the wazoo. We have “travel kits”, and blankets, and pillows and kids CDs. We have more items in the car geared toward kids than what I had in OUR HOME growing up.
One would assume our kids would never get bored, even on the longest trips, given the abundance of stuff they have at their disposal. One would think.
On the drive home from Seattle last week, our five year old son, said, “There’s nothing to do. What can I do?”. He says this surrounded while surrounded by every version of Donkey Kong, Mario and Zelda available for his DS.
This experienced has made me wonder if all this stuff just gets in the way of our kid’s creativity. Maybe the kids get used to all this sensory input in the form of movies and games, and they don’t think of making up games on the fly like we did as kids. My sisters and I may have asked my dad how long till we arrived at our destination but I can’t recall ever telling him we had nothing to do. There was always something to do back then. We just had to USE OUR MINDS.
Maybe the problems isn’t that our kids have nothing to do. Maybe the problem is they have TOO MUCH to do.