Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Over the River ...

Soon it will be time to pack up the family and head out for Christmas. Since Christmas is known as the one time of the year when the family gathers together, it is safe to imagine most of us will be heading for our parents' or grandparents' house, depending on our stage of life. Since we live in a time when families are separated by states and time zones, this trek usually entails a long car ride or a seemingly equally long airline flight.

Finances will dictate that most of us will load up the family sedan and head out on the road, with our toddlers strapped into age- and weight-appropriate car seats, and our pre-teens separated, so they can't touch each other. Teens old enough to drive usually can chauffer for a stretch and let dad sleep in the back seat. On the other hand, teens with a driving permit are hard to control; they want to drive, but tooling the family around may not be the best way to give them experience. That one's your call.

So I will assume you are headed out for a three or four hour (maybe more) junket and are looking for ways to keep the family calm and talking to each other.

A few tips I've picked up from some new parents are the following:

1. Have a DVD player, iPad, or other interactive device that entertains, informs, and otherwise keeps the crowd occupied. This will allow dad the quiet to actually concentrate on the game, while mom has the opportunity to read her book. Note: Be sure to either have a full battery charge or bring along an alternate power source. Nothing is as nerve-wracking as a child who can't finish the episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

2. Kid-friendly snacks always give the option of filling tummies, without breaking a $20 every time you stop. Wise dads and moms bring along carrots as well as cereal bars. Note: be sure to bring water and make sure you clean out the seats when arriving at your destination. It is amazing how much food is stashed in the crevices of the car seats.

3. For grade school children a nice repertoire of songs and family stories can engage their minds, as they learn a little family history and traditions. Note: The stories and song route only lasts so long, so be sure to bring along the Nintendo or Gameboy to help pass long hours cooped up in the back seat.

4. For pre-teens and older children the headset connected to the iPod seems to last the longest. Note: Be sure to work out a signal to let the kids know when their vocal solos are too loud or off key.

For those who are making the journey by plane, the best advice I can give is make sure you get seats together and find as direct a flight as possible. Infants need something to relieve the change in air pressure upon take-off and landing.

But no matter how you're travelling, one thing I know for sure. Your presence on Christmas is often the best present you can give your parents or your children's grandparents.

Be sure to keep that in mind as you hear, "Are we there yet?" for the nineteenth time.

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