Monday, January 15, 2007

Are We There Yet?

We all got car sick when we were tots, but grew out of that and into becoming territorial in our own bit of space in the back seat.

"Stop touching me on MY side of the seat!"

"Stop looking out MY window!"

"Are we there yet?"

I must have asked that question thousands of times when I was a kid. I'm sure that question is the reason that my parents taught us to read road maps so early on in our lives. It kept us occupied and we could answer the question "How far until *insert next destination *? " for ourselves.

I'm pretty good at reading maps and seldom get confused. If pressed, I can probably name all the towns between Minneapolis, Minnesota and Elcho, Wisconsin. We drove that journey so often when I was a kid.

My dad knew that trip like the back of his hand too. He knew in which exact section of road when we were approaching Wausau, Wisconsin to start his incantation. This magic trick of my father's created an entire mountain for us. He did it for years. It was nice of him to conjure an entire mountain just for our amusement. I hope it didn't disturb anybody in that part of Wisconsin. It really did break up the trip for us. It must be rough having a mountain pop up underneath your house every couple of months.

"Dad, can you make that mountain appear again?"

"In a little while Peg, I've got to get my fingers ready."

(when we're in the right spot)

"*magic words deleted as they are secret* Mountain! Mountain! Appear!!"

"Cool! Dad did you really make a mountain appear?"



I didn't do as many long car journeys with my own children as they were growing up. There is the rising cost of fuel and we don't live in the US anymore. Big road trips aren't a part of the culture here. Consequently, I don't know how their map reading skills have developed.

We did do a number of shorter journeys. Perhaps because my kids weren't used to long car trips, their ability to keep themselves occupied wasn't very well developed. It seemed that the "Are we there yet" question popped up more often in medium length (2.5 - 3 hour) car journeys than in the days long epics of my youth. I learned that giving children the actual distance yet to be traveled didn't mean anything to them. They were BORED and were tired of traveling. I got bored with answering the question. Instead of saying "no" which meant that sooner or later, they'd ask again, I started saying, "Yes".

"Yup, we're here!"

"No we're not!"

"Then why did you ask me if you knew we aren't there yet?"

The children are then stunned by my clever adult trickery and stop asking.

I invented a game when Ian and Sean were little. As they are very close in age and sibling rivalry has always been keen between the two, I thought I'd use that and natural kid greed to my advantage.
Church Mouse

This only works when there are two or more children in the car. It is a last resort sort of game for parents when you'll do just about anything for a bit of quiet in the back seat.

Take a dollar bill and tuck it on the dashboard in plain view. Point to the prize and say that the child who is quietest the longest gets the money. No fair trying to force other contestants to make noise. It will only result in them getting the money because of your cheating.

The pain of seeing your sibling getting the dollar that you know by rights should have been yours is plenty of incentive to be silent.

It actually happened once that Ian and Sean fell asleep during church mouse! I was so delighted that they BOTH got dollars when we got to the final destination.

If you don't want to use actual cash, or if you don't have any small notes in your wallet, write a prize down on a scrap of paper and tuck it into the dashboard, again in plain view. It is only when there is a winner do you get to see what the prize is. - an ice cream - first choice for the movie at the hotel - get to stay up late one night during the week - etc. . . .

The next time we're going anywhere, I may start doing map reading lessons.

Sadly the ability to conjure mountains has not been passed on to me. I've never been able to do anything other than remove my thumb. Maybe it's a male trait. I'll have to ask my brother Tom if he can do it.


Ex-Shammickite said...

Thanks for your nice bloggy comment re my Robbie Burns (Reply to the toast to the lassies)effort! I would never try to recite the Ode to the Haggis... you are very brave to try it.
The church mouse game sounds like it could be very effective... I'll have to try it out on The Space Cadet. Oh... just remembered... better not.... he's driving!

Kell said...

You are brilliant! What a cool Mom. We drove every summer to Florida when I was a kid. I don't remember much, but I do know that I don't like road trips these days.

I'm always the map reader. As a matter of fact, I get a little stressed if I don't have a map.

susan said...

Sounds like a fun time for all of you. I love that your dad conjured up a mountain.

Kids nowadays are spoiled with GPS and in car video players. Not to mention all the Gameboys and such.

acaligurl said...

great memories are good for the soul! its good to have family time. :)(found you thru pickeled beef)

Jay said...

Great way to bribe .. er .. trick .. er .. play a game with your kids on the road trips there. LOL

I'm a good map reader. I'm kind of obsessive about it. I study the map a lot in the days leading up to a trip. Then I usually remember most of the towns and how long it will take to get to each town until we are there. Gives me something to think about on thos long boring drives through the countryside.

Xtreme English said...

ah, yes...Rib Mountain. he tried that trick on me, too, when we were courting, but i caught on right away. it wasn't HIM! there really IS a mountain there. of course, you were all lots shorter than i was, and you couldn't see over the back seat very well.

the bismarck to elcho trip was the longest: 13 hours with just a few pit stops! you may not even remember these cuz we'd drive overnight so you kids would sleep. first we'd zap you with benedryl so you wouldn't throw up, and it had the handy side effect of making you v e r y s l e e p y

Joy Des Jardins said...

Church Mouse...not a bad idea Peggy. Never thought of that one. We played lots of car games though...Car Bingo is fun and going through the alphabet game...looking for the order....on signs, license plates, etc. There were a lot more that we all played too.

claude said...

What an inventive Mom you are, Peggy!
Your boys are lucky!

Tink said...

True Story: My Mom once promised my littlest brother a pony if he could be quiet for three hours. None of us thought he could do it....

She STILL owes him that pony.

gawilli said...

I'm an ok map reader, but not at those times when you have to pull out the map and make a snap decision - not good at that at all. I am the kind of mapper that plans a week ahead of time and highlights the entire route in neon yellow.

I'll have to remember that game when my grandkiddies arrive!