We’re on a road to nowhere.
Not quite, but with a stack of books, two DSi devices, and a dozen DVDs waiting in queue in the backseat between my kids, we could be. I don’t think they would even notice, and that’s fine by me.
My, how things have changed.
Thirty-three years ago, at the height of the oil crisis, my dad got rid of his gas-guzzling Buick and bought a used ’77 Diesel VW Rabbit. Tan. Four door. Stick-shift. Plush-velour seats. Eight-track player. Crank-down windows. No air-conditioning. (I remember these details because 1) of a very traumatic summer vacation drive; and 2) this car eventually became mine when I was old enough to drive, and I drove it till it was 12 years old with 186,000 miles and no first gear, and could no longer be driven in the rain without the electrical system shorting out, making stormy-day commutes to my first post-college job rather stressful).
My dad loved that car. And the fuel he saved.
We kids? Eh.
In that Summer of ’79, it—and not my mom’s station wagon—was the vehicle of my dad’s choice for our eight-hour drive to the beach. We’d made similar drives before. My parents seemed allergic to destinations closer to our mid-Atlantic home state, though there are plenty of beaches along the Mid-ATLANTIC.
On the morning of that trip, my sister, now-6’5”-twin brother who was even tall for his age back then, and I (already at least 5’8” in ’79) climbed into the backseat and “settled in” for the drive.
We didn’t read books—we’d get car sick; maybe it was the bumpiness of the ride, or the heat. We didn’t have movies. We just got to listen to static-filled talk-radio and the occasional 8-track tape of an opera my dad favored. And bond. We had lots and lots of time–eight captive hours–to yack it up with my parents.
We stopped once, for lunch. My dad was thrilled that we made it all the way to our destination—400 miles—on one tank of fuel. We were just thrilled to pile out, clear our heads, and slowly work out our leg and neck cramps.
The other day, in my capacity as editor of a parenting magazine, I received an email pitch for a service product; to entice me, they offered up a free article about the importance of “bonding” with our kids while on those long car rides to our summer vacation destinations. They want us parents to turn OFF our kids’ DVD player and DSi gaming devices. To have them close their books. Do they think I have NO memory of my own childhood? That I didn’t PAY EXTRA for those electronic devices especially for trips like these?
Look, I have plenty of “bonding time” with my kids. There’s daily downtime. Meal time. Bedtime. Driving to and from pretty much any destination OTHER THAN THE BEACH—where, keeping with tradition, we’re now headed, for what MapQuest assures me will take a *measly* 10.25 hours.
I only want to hear “Are we there yet?” every hour or two–when they’ve finished a book or are watching a movie’s closing credits.
For the love of Pete, we have a week at the shore to bond.