Our family undertook a 1140 mile trip to Maine from Tennessee to visit family. According to the maps app it should have taken around 17 hours of driving. The maps app doesn’t take into account the fact that 10 children are going to need around one potty break per hour, and the app doesn’t take into account the fact that Mom said No Way are we going to drive through the night and then show up in Maine exhausted while all the kids are well-rested and ready to go out and explore. Mom is getting too old for this 17 hours of driving thing. No thanks. So we camped one night. Of course the hope was that we would camp at the half-way mark, somewhere in Pennsylvania, but after 7 potty breaks in 9 hours, my husband had enough. We camped in West Virginia. All that to say, the entire trip took about 26 hours of driving plus another 13 hours for camping/sleeping.
I’m sure you’re curious. What did 10 children do for that many hours cramped up in a van? And how did Mom and Dad survive? And now we will get to the point of this piece which is Principles. I am not a fan of electronic devices. In our parenting ignorance, we bought our first 4 children a device around middle school age. As we watched our kids get sucked into all that the internet has to offer, we decided that we were not going to repeat this mistake. The next unlucky 6 kids will not be getting a device. We’ll get them a smartphone their senior year of high school and call it good. In our middle school and high schools the kids are handed out laptops to use for the school year so it’s not like they’re totally deprived anyway. I would like to add that I am not interested at all in changing other parent’s minds on how to handle technology. We’ve just looked at what is working and not working for our family, and this is the decision we’ve made. So, founding principle: as little technology as possible please.
A friend of mine offered to lend me her travel dvd player for our trip. I nonchalantly said, “Oh, thank you! But we’re fine. The kids will read and color and bring toys to play with.” Because, Principles! I also want my kids to learn the art of sitting and thinking and looking out the window and amusing themselves. Because, Principles! It’s good for them!
The kids each packed a backpack full of toys and books and crayons and coloring books. I bought a couple travel games and a couple new toys to amuse them. We had a good supply of snacks. We were ready! (I would like to add that my teenagers brought their devices. I haven’t tried to seperate them from their devices. It’s kind of like taking drugs away from an addict. In my passive aggressive way, I’m just waiting for their devices to break and then I won’t replace them.)
This Principled Mama now has to confess that by the middle of the second day, in a bid for peace, I was holding my iphone up by the ceiling of the van so that everyone could see it and letting the kids watch Frozen, the one movie that I had downloaded on my phone. (Incidentally, this movie was downloaded on my phone the last time we took a trip to Maine). So here I am, holding my arm up in the air for an hour and half so that my kids can watch a movie. Why were my kids squinting at a tiny screen while my arm felt like it was going to break off, when they could have all been watching movies on a nice travel dvd player? Because, Principles! Sometimes I want to kick myself for being so principled.