Don’t Say That! Ask This Instead.

You still have 437 miles to go and you just heard a traffic advisory of major traffic delays miles ahead. Better yet, your flight took off five minutes ago behind schedule and you have another eight plus hours to go until you reach your final overseas destination. If it’s a family vacation, and you have eight, nine or ten years old in tow, you know what that means. They will become bored at the drop of a dime.
You’re prepared you declare. You brought the handheld PS2 along which is a good idea. Now when they complain, just like you’d give a pacifier to your crying infant, you can hand the PS2 to him when Jr. cries, “Mommy, I’m bored.” You even bought along some spare batteries when the other ones go. However, don’t say “OK, let me dig out the PS2 and hand it to you so you won’t be bored baby.” Instead ask, “What color is the flag of the country where we are going?” Ask, “Do you know what continent the country we are visiting is in?” Maybe you have all daughters who love to play with their baby dolls. So when one of them asks, “Mommy, I want to comb my Barbie’s hair.” Don’t say. “OK honey, let me look in my carry on luggage and hand it to you.” Instead ask, “If Barbie were from the country we are going to, what language would she speak.”
My wife and I are not parents yet, but my mom and dad still tell me how my younger brother and I nearly drove them crazy with our short attention span whenever we went on long distance family vacations via car or airplane. Since we are going to be parents, I can almost guarantee that we’ll go through the same. I plan to purchase the latest gadgets and toys for my children. However, they’re not only going to have to earn it in the first place, they’ll have to earn the right to play with it. Rather than just hand it to them, I’ll challenge them a bit. They can play with time limits since I don’t ever remember any scientist declaring that playing video games increases ones intelligence. The remaining time will be spent learning something new. I don’t expect that this will last an entire flight, car, bus or train ride, but at least in between moments of little to no brain activity of playing video games or simple boredom, teaching about the flags, the languages or even the currencies of the world will keep that brain active. Therefore, in that same pocket of your carry on luggage you will put the PS2 or the Barbie accessories, pack a world atlas. So when your kid cries, “I don’t have anything to do” on your next trip, don’t say, “Here, play with this.” Instead say, “Let me whip out the world atlas so that we can play the “Name That Flag” game.” Then after you get tired, hand them the PS2 so that you can rest up for round two.

FYI, I am a grown man and will play video games until my last day on this earth!

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