Many parents, when they think of traveling with their kids, immediately hear this whine in their mind, coming from the back seat of the car, “Are we there yet?” I have seen similar scenes in way too many movies too. Being in the car with bored kids is possibly one of the most common fears parents have, which causes many of them to avoid traveling with their children.
Another thing that is now very common is the use of electronic gadgets to pacify kids and keep them occupied on the way to interesting places, because of the fear of what they might do if they get bored. Watching a DVD or listening to music, often each person separately listening with headphones, seem like good ways to “have some peace and quiet”.
Again, how horrible.
Because traveling is not just about the places we visit. Traveling is also about breaking the family routine, spending quality time together and bonding. Sharing a DVD player may keep your kids occupied and quiet, but it will prevent them from developing their imagination, their ability to keep themselves interested and their connection with other members of the family. In fact, it actually makes them bored more often and teaches them to fear boredom and to view their own children later on as a nuisance.
How… OK, you get it.
Ronit and I have just returned from a week away with our kids. It is now winter in Brisbane, with temperatures below our enjoyment threshold, so we decided to go to Port Douglas, which is in the tropical region of Australia. We were hoping for nice, warm weather. Instead, the sky was overcast, it rained lightly on most days and the temperatures we pretty mild. But we had a ball anyway.
In fact, we laughed much of the time, developed private jokes that cracked us up and one day (and this is the inspiration for this post), Tsoof got out of the car somewhere and said, “Wow, it’s already been an hour since we left. Time really flies on this trip. It felt like only half an hour or so”.
Do you want to know why?
Because when Tsoof and Noff had heard Bamboleo playing loudly, they had decided that Noff would lip-sync, while Tsoof sat behind her, stuck his hands out under her armpits and made funny gestures. It was so hilarious, Eden took out the video camera, we replayed the song, and she captured the riot for your amusement:
Having this much fun in the car makes enormous difference to a family trip, helps break the routine and strengthens the love and connection among family members, parents and kids alike. So what does it take?
Well, our kids were born 5 and 6 years apart, which gave each of them a long period of being the center of attention. This is not a common thing and may not be easy to do, but we have seen many families suffering from having kids every year or year and a half, while others enjoy good relationships between kids who are 3 years apart. If you can still plan the gap between your children, make it longer.
More importantly, our family is really big on emotional intelligence and social skills, which any parent can learn and practice. We emphasize having a positive attitude and making the most of everything, so our kids do the best they can even during long drives. We remind our kids that the way they treat others will come right back at them, so instead of dumping their boredom on us and demanding attention, they try to do what is best for everybody.
As parents, Ronit and I are never afraid of our kids or how they might behave. We take responsibility for providing them with the best conditions and the best example to allow them to have a good time. When that is impossible, we accept that their behavior is a way of communicating their feelings, so we acknowledge how they feel and help them cope. We are never embarrassed or humiliated by our children. We love them deeply and love to spend time with them and they know it.
When it comes to electronic gadgets, we send our kids a strong message that we prefer books, hobbies and friends to TV, computers, MP3 players and game consoles (which they have never had). Our kids are involved in a wide variety of activities, have many friends and practice many skills, which gives them a much wider choice when they look for something interesting to do.
Having a positive, proactive and considerate attitude and engaging in creative activities start a cycle of goodwill, which only makes things better and easier over time. While our kids had fun singing and acting, we laughed, enjoyed their wit and encouraged them, which was great for their self-confidence and encouraged them to do more.
On the following day, the kids searched for ways to top that effort and balance things out with Tsoof lip-syncing and Noff making the hand gestures. Eventually, they settled on I’m Sexy and I Know It. Here it is too:
When this was going on, nobody cared about the weather, about our timetable, about what time we went to bed or about the many problems with our accommodations. We simply enjoyed being together and experiencing the beautiful places we visited, including what we saw on the way.