Monday, May 16, 2011

Car Games

This is one of those nostalgic exercises where we are all in danger of convincing ourselves how much better it was in the old days.

Parents used to have to organise an endless supply of car games to keep children from complete meltdown. Children also independently organised far more stupid games which nonetheless ate up highway miles without violence, and were thus tolerated by parents. For my brother and I this was "Ecchhy, echhy." Don't ask.

We have charming stories of the best parts of these games, such as when we were playing "Guess What Is..." ("What is Mom's favorite song? What is Jonathan's favorite piece of clothing?") and Ben sniggered that Dad's favorite color was "White, with coffee stains." But really, there were hours of games, and about ten minutes total of great memories, which is not a good ratio. There was a lot of arguing about cheating in the counting-Christmas-lights game that lies behind the misty-eyed memories we have of childhood.

Quaker Meeting, Twenty Questions, the alphabet game, state license plates (I saw a Northwest Territories polar bear plate while the others were asleep, and only one woke up in time to see it. And actually, I think he was lying about that. Which is fine, as everyone thought I was lying about seeing it in the first place.), various singing games, finding games, and the standard animal game, for which every family had different rules. In our house cat-in-the-window wins the game, and a cemetery on your side cancels all your animals. This latter apparently led to a "Nanna never forgave Gramps for that" moment around 1940, when my grandfather bypassed the cemetery in Center Barnstead and went to Upper Suncook Lake via Ten Rod Road instead. She insisted this was cheating. I'm on Gramps's side, myself. The cemetery was just before the end of the trip, and after a few years of that, one does develop an attitude of why bother to play?

Competitive nastiness goes back a ways in my family.

Children have all sorts of mechanical things to entertain them now, and yes, it might be a real loss to society that we don't make the effort, and interact as a family, with all that creativity, and bonding, and shared experience. We always say how wonderful it is when the power goes out, too, and we burn paraffin lamps and play board games, and vow to do this more often. I am proud of how well we did that aspect of parenting. I would have resorted to individual headphones in a heartbeat.


Larry Sheldon said...

I feel sorry for the kids of today for the reasons you point to and a lot of others.

My kids got to see and do some of the things I did as a kid, but a lot are no longer possible.

(Ever seen a Pelton-Wheel house? I flume up close? A hatchery go berserk when you throw a bit of fish-food into the water?

How about stood close to the tracks when a string of Mallets go by.

My kids have seen some, I've seen them all, and more.

I shudder sometimes to think of things I did, we did, my kids have done.

I could go to jail yet for wome of them.

Larry Sheldon said...

...some of them yet.

Retriever said...

I HATED car games. And all those other home grown amusements that forced one to interact with one's obnoxious family members. I retreated into a book, but my ADD-ish sibs would tease and bother and fight and be a nuisance. Life would have been far more pleasant if we could have plugged them into a couple of Gameboys...Laptops and iPads and iPods are great when a family is forced to spend a long time at close quarters, sedentary.

On the other hand, when we're up north, we deliberately have no phone or internet so that everyone spends a lot of time outdoors.

Also thinking that my generation got up to a lot of proto delinquent high jinks when young because we weren't supervised and fussed over 24/7 the way our kids are...We had a lot more fun, but it's a wonder we survived.

Sam L. said...

A friend of mine told me his daughter had been visiting. For some reason, she drove and he and his wife were in the back seat. They went into the "she's sitting on MY side of the seat" and "he's looking at/touching me" mode; and his daughter turned slightly around and said "Do I have to stop this car?"