Monday, January 17, 2011

The Supercharged Family Road Trip

Oh, the family road trip.  I remember it oh so fondly wearily from my own childhood.  Mom packed weeks of well-thought out games, books, stories and activities so that we wouldn't lose our minds staring out the window at miles and miles of flat land and a few scattered cows.  Despite all those little extras, things meant to stimulate and occupy a kid for hours, I hated the road trip.  I always got car sick, couldn't really read, was bored out of my mind, and eventually ended up goofing around so wildly with my siblings that Mom and Dad would end up with a one-arm-over-the-seat cry of, "If I have to come back there...." 

Well things are different now.  Welcome to the 21st Century road trip ala Grateful Twin Mom.  Here's how we do it these days.  Wired in.  That's right; you heard me.  Plugged in, dialed in, each with his or her own little screen or headphones.  Not talking to each other--not commenting on scenery--not yelling, crying, or complaining.  T1 and T2 got iPads (for their birthday/Hanukkah/Christmas for-the-rest-of-their-lives) from an extraordinarily benevolent aunt and uncle.  Whole music libraries, math games, Angry Birds (enough said), 5 movies, and 3 chapter books (including A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh) provide enough entertainment for weeks, let alone a few hours up I-5 in one super cool laptop device.  DG and I listen to audiobooks on iPods and occasionally, DG will blast E Street Radio on the satellite radio (loves him some Bruce Springsteen).  But when we're plugged in, it's silent in the car.

Now I know the experts feel that screen time is detrimental for kids (twins are 8 now), especially young ones, and that little brains are marred permanently by too much exposure to video images (whether educational or not).  I know that confined spaces are supposed to provide great, built-in opportunities for interacting--commiseration for the shared cramped experience and all, but somehow, this seems better to me.  No one asks me, "Are we there yet?" or "Can we stop? I'm thirsty."  A well-stocked snack bag, bottles of water, and one or two bathroom breaks and we all arrive at our destination happy, still in love with each other and excited to be where we are instead of weary from the trip.

So I ask you, are a few extra hours of screen time too high a price to pay for such satisfaction on arrival? Will there be increased melt downs because of the change in brain chemistry from too many hours with an electronic device? Are there microwaves and radiation seeping their way into my children's bloodstreams because of extra exposure?  I worry about all of this.  But part of being a parent is letting go of the fear that makes us second guess EVERYTHING and just being.  The supercharged, plugged in road trip is just another way that we are just living. 

And while I wonder how all this will affect my children as they grow, I'm guessing when they're grown and look back on the family road trip, they won't be lamenting Mom's angry voice telling them to be quiet and settle down.  That's what I'm wishing.

Okay, gotta go charge all my electronic toys. We're on the road in 2 hours....


MomAgain@40 said...

Phew! Yes, a totally different road trip than I also remember.
I don't think a few hours of this in a car will scar them for live, rather the other hours spent at home in front of the tv...
No bickering is the best, though!

Making It Work Mom said...

I think it is great. I also think that once you get to your destination you all won't be ready to rip each other's eyeballs out and can actually enjoy the vacation. This is one instance where the "old days" were not the better days.
Oh and so jealous of their IPads!!!