Thursday, August 25, 2005


For several years my children did not own a Game Boy. We had Nintendo—several versions of them, in fact. But I drew the line when it came to portable electronics.

“We are not going on vacation so you can play Super Mario Brothers,” I explained. Instead, my children were forced to sleep, look out the window at the passing scenery, or listen to classic books (White Fang, The Jungle Book, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) on tape.

Then Nintendo came out with Pokémon, available only on Game Boy. DS#2 was hooked on Pokémon. How hooked? His favorite video was a Pokémon one DS#1 brought back from Japan—that was completely in Japanese. All he wanted for Christmas was the video game. He played the ultimate kid card: he asked Santa for it.

Santa brought it.

Since that fateful day, other portable electronic devices have infiltrated our minivan. A couple of other Game Boys. Portable CD players. We no longer share music, although the kids have an uncanny ability to unplug themselves should Hubs and I begin to have an “interesting” conversation.

Now there are personal DVD players as well as bigger ones for the car. No more will parents have to hear “Are we there yet?” Instead, they will hear, “I don’t want to watch that! That’s stoooopid!” Parents will no longer have to worry about younger children listening to the “inappropriate” music of their older siblings. Everyone will have their own channel.

And the art of compromise and absolute parental authority in the car (“If you don’t settle down, I’m playing Sourdough Slim, the Yodeling Cowboy!”) will be diminished. Gone will be games like I Spy or the Out-of-State License Plate Game (the only time it’s permissible to—gently—punch a sibling in the shoulder or on the leg), Highway Sign Alphabet, or Travel Bingo. Kids will miss the majesty of Mt. Shasta rising up in the sky in glory as you come around a corner of I-5. Or exclaiming over cows. (For some reason, the cows on the road are more noteworthy than the cows close to home.)

It’s not just kids and video games, though. I resisted getting a camcorder because I didn’t want to become one of those people who are so busy filming their vacation they forget to live it. I am amazed by folks yakking on their cell phones at amusement parks. Who are they talking to that is so much more important than what they are doing with their children now? Fortunately, the trees where we usually go tent camping are not yet equipped with outlets or DSL/T-1 connections, so this is not a problem.

But I bring my PDA. For addresses for the postcards I mean to send. That’s all. Cool

(H/T: Suzanne Fields, of Townhall, on vacation with her grandsons, has the same misgivings. And, yes, Lego Star Wars is a pretty darn cute video game.)