One of my recent columns (Just Say No!, March 2014) elicited a frenzy of commentary on Facebook and other social media platforms. Many parents vocally endorsed their children's use of electronics and called me an old school stick-in-the mud and worse. Others were supportive of my semi-ban of video games and the like in Chez Becelia. In fact, as you probably know, the piece went viral when The New Yorker picked it up.
Ok, not really. I just lead a rich fantasy life when it comes to the popularity of my writing.
However, I know what you are thinking (because I also have special powers, like mindreading. Yes, really. In my fantasy life at any rate). "It's nice that this family minimizes electronics use in the house, but what about car trips? I'll bet you cave in and breaks out tablets and DVDs at that point!"
Sorry to disappoint, dear readers and fellow travelers along the parenting path. First, we have no tablets to "break out." Yes, the kids do get to share my husband's old cell phone that has a few games installed (if they can take turns without fighting, which is rare) and the Kindle Fire. For limited periods of time. For the most part, I take my cheap frugal self to the library and make sure we almost always have a book on CD playing in the car—two or three if a road trip is planned.
I started this about four years ago, when Joe was 5. He wanted to listen to Mercy Watson stories and Dr. Seuss. This quickly became intolerable to the rest of us. So we forced Joe expand his literary horizons and listen to books that were above his age level with the agreement that we'd pause whenever he needed to ask a question.
When big sister Laura gets impatient with his questions (sometimes there are a lot, I admit), I only have to say the words "Mercy Watson!" to remind her of our deal. None of us (not even Joe, at this point) wants to listen to those stories again. What we have listened to ranges from "The Little House on the Prairie" series and classics such as "Cheaper by the Dozen" to Virginia Readers' Choices, such as "You'll Like it Here (Everybody Does)" and "The Candy Shop War." Currently, we are re-listening to Suzanne Collins' other series, the "Gregor the Overlander" books. Yes, the "Hunger Games" author wrote a wonderful series before she ever dreamed up Katniss and District 11. The kids and I were thrilled when we discovered it. Highly recommended!
The best thing about the books on CD, in my opinion, is that the driver gets to enjoy them. Unlike having a DVD playing in the car, where mom or dad only gets to hear the dialogue and songs, you can appreciate the entire story when you listen to a book on CD. I'll never forget one of my friend's confessions regarding Disney's lush animated version of Sleeping Beauty, "I have the songs memorized, but I've never seen any of the movie." I've heard (and made) far worse parental confessions, but that was one of the saddest. So include yourself in the fun, parents; get some CDs so the kids and you can enjoy the ride!