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.