Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Past Deadline: Are We There Yet?

When I travel with the kids, I always find myself wondering whether I was just easy to amuse as a child or whether kids are harder to thrill these days.

There’s a strong argument for me being easy to amuse. (That, by the way, is a nice way of calling me simple.) After all, this is the girl who didn’t mind eating hospital food for several days when having babies because someone else made it and cleaned it up. It almost felt like a (painful) holiday.

When travelling on a real holiday in the days before in-car game and video players, I used to amuse myself by – get this – looking out the window.

I know. Ridiculous!

This wild and crazy pastime does not always work so well with my kids.

On the weekend we visited friends in Toronto. We travelled by car and throughout the journey, I would point out all the things that I used to find interesting on the trip. [Cue mediocre enthusiasm.]

I never, for example, grow tired of watching for the blue glimmers of Lake Ontario no matter how often I make the trip. My kids showed mild interest, especially when we explained the same lake goes all the way from Kingston to Toronto and beyond, but I never caught them gazing dreamily towards the water, watching for ships.

Similarly, I always liked travelling Hwy. 401 so I could watch for trains, be they VIA, freight or GO trains. I still like to do that. (Simple, I tell you!) So, of course, I always point out the trains: “Look, kids!” Usually I am ignored. One of these days they will say, “Mom. It’s a train. Get a grip.”

In the city I spotted a train yard, and Girlchild remarked it reminded her of one of her old Thomas the Train stories. That’s something, at least.

We had occasion to pass the airport, which I always find cool. “Look at the planes taking off and landing!” Apparently jet bellies low in the sky are not enthralling. It would seem we can scratch “sitting near the airport to watch planes go by” off our family bucket list.

Then there’s automobiles. We live in a small town, right? Not a lot of traffic. Not a lot of four-lane highways. For us, it’s annoying if “heavy” traffic means it takes us 10 minutes to get across town instead of three.

Cue Toronto, with its express lanes and collectors and traffic jams that leave you parked on a six-lane highway.

These days the short people in our car find the traffic mildly interesting, I think, but when I was a kid it would have been a gold mine. See, on long trips as a kid (I’m sure I have mentioned this before) I used to amuse myself by “collecting” licence plate numbers in a notebook. I had hundreds of them.

Weird little kid.

I’m quite sure I enjoyed traffic jams more as a kid than I do now. Then again, back then they would have impeded our efforts to reach our vacation destination.

Good thing I was easily amused.

I also used to write down the name of every place we drove through. That was a particularly long list when we travelled to Elliot Lake and back when I was 10. I figure Boychild might be ready for a task like that. Maybe if he checked things off on a map he wouldn’t ask “Are we there yet?” and “How much longer?” so much.

Yeah, right. Kids come programmed to ask those questions.

When all those sure-fire entertainment choices were exhausted, and when my brother and I grew tired of collecting nickels from Mom and Dad for every white horse we saw (there were surprisingly few!) we would turn to another favourite pastime: fighting with each other and/or annoying our parents, often by singing irritating made-up ditties over and over again.

Apparently this never gets old.

It’s safe to say some things never change, and that includes the fact I continue to be easily amused. Give me a comfy chair, a good book, some pretty scenery and a quiet place to sleep and it sounds like a great vacation to me. I’m ready. Bring it.

Published in The Perth Courier, Aug. 18/11

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