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.
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.