I was flipping through a magazine last night and came across an advertisement for a auto company's new minivan. It is full of bells and whistles, mostly involving screens and headphones. One of the "quotes" from the pseudo-scrapbook page that was the advertisement, had the mother joyfully commenting about the 6 hour car trip in which her children made no noise. After the text tells about how each individual has their own screen and port to plug in an MP3, it continues with the line, "We help bring families together." I question this definition of togetherness. It seems about as "together" as a bunch of strangers in an elevator. But at least with the elevator everyone is watching the floor numbers change together. Perhaps a more honest approach would be along the lines of, "We drug your kids so you don't have to."
I feel qualified to comment on this since I am the veteran of thousands of miles of car trips; both as a child and as a parent. They are some of my best memories. But I think they are good memories because of the shared experiences. Our family loves car trips. We listen to books on tape, we listen to music, we sing songs, we play games, and yes sometimes everyone bickers. But, for the most part, we enjoy each other's company. At meals we discuss the book we have been listening to, or remember something funny that someone said. (Or just laugh about how we missed a turn -- again! -- because we were so engrossed in the book we were listening to.) That's my idea of togetherness. Would it be easier to just plug everyone into a screen? Initially I'm sure it would be. But it would be short term benefit without any long term gain. We have found in our many trips that the first day is always the hardest. We haven't hit our travelling stride yet and it takes a little jostling until everyone gets into the "travelling zone". After that first day, thing go much smoother. So smooth that sometimes we try to drive distances that perhaps we shouldn't. For instance, making the drive from Denver to Phoenix in one day sounded like a good idea at the outset, but by the end turned out to be a touch too long.
But back to the advertisement...I actually enjoy talking to my children. I like to hear what they are thinking, to hear their jokes or their songs. I would sadden me to no end to have spent 6 hours with my children and never have a conversation with them. So, please, if you are like this mother and see 6 hours of silent children as a good thing, rethink your relationship with them. In the great scheme of things, your children don't live with you for all that long. I know a day with a whining 3 year old can seem an eternity, but the years go by fast. You can't ever get back the years, so make the most of them.