Thursday, January 15, 2004

When children amused themselves

(Published in the Philadelphia Inquirer. 12/14/03)

Let me tell you a fairy tale, children. It is about a simpler time when children had to entertain themselves during long holiday car rides, without technology.Long, long ago, about 25 years or so, there were no minivans. There were no DVDs. There were no DVDs in minivans.This may seem like a horror story, Britney and Bree. But it is actually true.

Don't be afraid, children. Listen to my story about what kids used to do in the Time Before DVDs in Minivans. They actually used to amuse themselves.How did they do this, Kayla and Kyle? In very simple ways. For one thing, children looked out the window. They looked at trees, houses and dogs. Kids played the license plate game and whoever spotted an Alaska or Hawaii license plate always won. 

Children also amused themselves by poking each other. Yes, Jordan and Caitlin, this is when the kids were being bad in the car. But children actually spent hours and hours plotting how to surreptitiously poke siblings in the side. Poke, poke, poke. A good poke in the ribs always provoked screams of irritation and caused your mom or dad to turn around and start swatting at you with a free hand. That was especially fun when they swatted while driving and the car swerved back and forth.

Since there were no DVDs, kids colored on paper and drew pictures. They played Mad Libs and Auto Bingo. They told stories. My dad had one about a six-foot chocolate Easter bunny, and he changed the story each time we took a long car ride. Sometimes he told us about the bunny being on a bus, and sometimes the bunny went to dinner.What is it, Dylan? Yes, I am single. No, I don't have any kids, but I will someday.

Most of my friends have kids. And their kids ride in minivans with DVDs.What do they think about my story? Well, Tyler, my friends with kids will probably tell me to shut up when they read this."Shut up, Single Friend! You don't know what sweet, blessed peace it brings us to have silent children in the car, enraptured in the Finding Nemo video instead of poking each other," they will probably say.They will probably be right.

But for now, I can be smug in my singledom and in the thought of how my perfect children will simply and quietly ride in the car.I know, Ashley. That really is a fairy tale.

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