Thursday, July 5, 2007

Eating Crow

I'll admit it. I used to look down my (regrettably large) nose at parents with DVD players in their vehicles. I'd think something smug like, "Come ON! Whatever happened to family togetherness? You know, sing-a-longs, road games, and deep conversation?" (Can you tell I was an only child and this is what I envisioned was taking place in the cars of my friends with siblings?) I have Clark Griswold ideals when it comes to family vacations and major holidays.

On our way home from vacation (six hours each way) a couple of weeks ago, our son decided to spend the last solid hour of the drive alternating between shrieks and wails. Penn says he must be part Bee Gee. When he's unhappy he squeaks "Ah! Ah! Ah!" in an ear splittingly high key and it seems as if someone should finish the stanza with, "...Stayin' Alive! Stayin' Alive!" To be fair to Nicknack, it had been a big week. And he'd been a trooper for the vast majority of it. Plus, he'd been receiving a lot of reinforcement for every little peep, what with four adults at his beck and call. Including two unbelievably doting grandparents. He came home positively spoiled.

The whining really began to grate on the driver's nerves, who actually instructed Nicknack to "Pipe down!" Which are the only semi-harsh words Penn has ever spoken to him. But he was driving in heavy 70mph traffic (next to a weaving, tailgating VW van with a death wish), white knuckled, in the pouring rain. Meanwhile, my Father-in-law's take on the commotion was, "Would you listen to that happy little guy singing his happy little song?" That man does more than see the glass half full. He's sees the empty glass as full. He's really quite a guy. But in Penn's defense, his Dad didn't have the burden of shuttling everyone safely to and fro for a week. So it was easier for him to be chipper.

When Nicknack's complaints reached melt down level even his grandparents had to admit he was unhappy. So my Mother-in-law set out to entertain him. By singing. Songs from old movies I've never heard of. And obscure show tunes. I know I was the one wishing for a sing-a-long but I was imagining my favorite ditties, not hers. And actually, she wasn't in the car at all, in my little imaginings. It might have been just ducky except this was day eight of quality time with my elderly in-laws and I was ready to go back to being a family of three.

It was about this time that I began to long for Sesame Street. Eebie Baby. Between the Lions. Any of Nicknack's favorites would do. I think even Barney (which Nicknack has never seen and will never see, if I can help it!) would have been better than the combination of Nicknack's piercing screams and my Mother-in-law's cheerful and hearty attempt to sing over said screams. God bless her, she has a heart of gold. But I would have paid top dollar had there been a roadside automobile-DVD-player-stand somewhere along the way.

So to those of you with movie theaters in your cars, minivans, and SUVS, I apologize. I get it now. I'll still never have one because I plan to force all manner of family togetherness on my unsuspecting co-passengers. And driver. Poor Penn. He has none of the delusions of an only child. He was the youngest of four and has vivid memories of several trips from Washington to Southern California, in the heat of summer, with no air conditioning, squished in the front seat between his parents in some big American automobile. But come to think of it, those memories are all pleasant, shared with a wistful voice and big smile. I knew it! Despite little annoyances families have fun when forced together (for many many miles) in a vehicle with no obvious source of entertainment. Because they have no alternative other than to bond and love each other a little bit more.

Oh, let me live in my little dream world. You and I both know that when all heck breaks loose I'll be coveting your car's DVD player.


Shelly said...

lol! 'Stayin' Alive! Stayin' Alive!' Poor little guy...Or should I say poor you and Penn???

Glad you're out of the automobile and back to the family of three :)

Robin said...

Oh boy - do I remember those days! My last daughter would start screaming as soon as she saw the car - she HATED the car seat. I tried never to take her anywhere! But good for you for not succumbing to a DVD player in the car. Kids get way too much technological stimulation as it is. You are a good mom.

Teri said...

Never say never....

Janelle said...

When my two kids have a day of non-stop fighting and whining, I load them in my car. STRAP them in tight...and I mean TIGHT. Put on a movie (car still in the garage, mind you) and just drive. DVD players are beautiful things. Sometimes, I can even get a phone call in while they are quiet. PEACE, sweet peace.

connorcolesmom said...

Oh girl I am with you!!
I did not get a DVD in my new van b/c I lived so close to family. Little did I know that within a year we had moved 3 hrs from my parents, my in-laws had moved 6 hrs away and my newborn would hate riding in the car from 6 months to 2 1/2 yrs old (I mean ear piercing screams from the time he was strapped in until the destination - no matter how long the trip was!!)

We now have a portable DVD - praise God for silence (especially in the traffic and rain) !!!

Refresh My Soul Blog said...

Wow! I hear you and can totally relate. We bought one with two screens actually. One per kid. Yeah I know....but we are big travelers and after the first trip I knew we had to do it to "Stay Alive!"

Alana said...

I don't think I"m overstating when I say DVD players in the car are a GIFT FROM GOD! Not to be overused, of course, but when used at a critical time can bring an air of peace to the whole family.

Kim said...

Been there....said that ;)

When we moved to VA, our best friends from TX drove up....through the night.....24 hours....with their three children, ages 4, 2, and 5 months old. She (the friend) grew up taking month long trips with her family and she (like you) clung to her own vision of "family togetherness".

They managed. Books-on-Tape from the library, road games, naps, etc. Oh, did she ever put up a good fight.

Fast-forward to present day, 8 years later and she's the one with the SUV equipped with the double/drop-down DVD players! I LOVE IT!

We have always had a portable for long trips (over four hours). I sing their praises, but I can appreciate your convictions....and your honesty :)

If we had the built-in kind we would be terribly abusive. I do try to hold off as long as I can, but when the going gets tough a beautifully long Sound of Music or Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang just hits the spot :)

MyBestInvest said...

We had the option of getting the built-in DVD when we bought our Odyssey a year ago. We declined, but knew full well that our kids would be watching DVDs on car trips.

We purposely didn't get the built-in kind so they wouldn't expect a movie on short trips around town, just for long trips.

Glad you're back safely.

Jules said...

I don't want my kids (whenver they come along) to have a dvd player in the car either. Our parents always played games with us while travelling and I want to carry on that tradition. (For example: I spot something black...OR...My father owns a grocery store and in it he sells someing red...OR...we see who can find all the letters in the alphabet first, etc.) Recently my friend (at AlwaysFaith) made a tray for her little girl to play with magnets and things on it. It is really neat. Even though I don't have kids yet, I have had to deal with nieces and nephews in the car, so I can imagine what you went through. :o) A dvd player would be tempting...however, I am going to do my best not to give in to that temptation. *smiles*

killlashandra said...

I totally agree with you about DVD players in vehicles. I think they're a menance not only as a form of distraction for those in the vehicle but also those passing by.

I got caught staring too long at one in traffic one day myself and thought what on earth am doing staring at that SUV with a tv monitor. For crying out loud!

I've had the bad moments of crying coming from the backseat for over an hour while doing a long drive with my youngest. I do understand. However, TV should stay at home.