This summer many Americans will embark on a family vacation. Destinations include the mountains, beaches, lakes, reunions, amusement parks, and historical sites. The preferred mode of transportation remains the automobile. Fathers and mothers sit in the front seat while the children enjoy a panoramic view of their parents’ heads.
Today’s kids sit in the lap of luxury on long distance trips. They enjoy a vast array of entertainment alternatives, including video screens, DVD players, and game consoles. If a child is not in the mood for a Disney movie or X-Box game, additional options include tablets, laptops, handheld computer games, and other electronic pacifiers.
Boys and girls luxuriate in a climate-controlled environment. The touch of a button raises or lowers the ambient temperature. Some vehicles feature a variety of heat/cool zones that can be tailored to each occupant’s preferences. Many autos also feature tinted windows, tilting seats, leather surfaces, MP3 jacks, wireless headphones, and twenty-some-odd cup holders.
I grew up “back in the day” when kids were made of sterner stuff. Parents expected children to entertain themselves. Other than a few games of “Count the Cows” and “License Plate Bingo,” our parents left us to our own devices. The highest tech device I ever owned was a battery powered tape recorder. Otherwise, I contented myself with an eight pack of crayons, a pad of paper, and some books.
We stylishly rode in a Ford Fairlane station wagon. Climate-control meant a passenger window with a stubborn hand crank. We stuck our heads dog-like out the window to catch the breeze. The wind blast stretched my face like an astronaut in a centrifuge; but no matter how fast the windblast, ninety degree air still felt hot.
The sun turned the interior of the car into a sauna. Our bare legs stuck to the blistering vinyl seats like B’rer Rabbit to the Tar Baby. The back seat came equipped with four cup holders: my hands and my sister’s hands. A Coleman thermos provided all the water we could drink—but with the understanding that my father only stopped every few hours when the car needed gas.
Regardless of the decade, every generation of parents and children share some common experiences. We start off with high expectations of an idealized family vacation.
Then the car leaves the driveway.
Before long, children grow antsy, parents become short-tempered, and the road stretches on forever. Bathroom requests, “I’m thirsty” moans, and fast food appeals fill the air. Then there is the always popular, “Are we there yet?” The question is almost always followed closely by its cousin, “How much longer?”
The cynical wonder if the phrase “family vacation” is an oxymoron which joins together two irreconcilable realities.
“National Lampoon’s Vacation” is a classic film that depicts the challenges of traveling together as a family. The Griswolds experience every imaginable disaster on their trip to “WallyWorld.” The vacation becomes an unmitigated disaster. By the end of the movie, however, the Griswold family discovers that the journey matters much more than the destination.
I treasure memories of the vacations I spent with my parents and sister. In turn, I hope that my children will recall the quality moments our family spent together in quantity amounts of time. These memories are worth every moment of aggravation and discomfort.
My hope is that you and your family will have the opportunity to enjoy a vacation together this summer. Enjoy all the conveniences and comforts that modern technology provides. Cherish the moments with those you love as your family is making memories for the future.
When you reach the point that you have enjoyed all the family togetherness that you can stand, don’t forget that parents can use the headphones, too!