Friday, March 30, 2012

Road Tripping with kids

Any road trip with four kids is a massive feat. The drive from Invercargill to Christchurch is about eight hours normally, but with four kids and plenty of stops it becomes a day-long mission. If the family arrives intact, and no-one has been left behind at any of the stops (or thrown from a moving vehicle!) then you’ve won.

Our kids are pretty used to road trips, since we try to get away at least once a year. Our thing is the holiday starts as soon as we get in the car, rather than when we arrive at our destination. This way, we try to include the driving as part of the fun.

But even though they’re used to it, and even though they say they’re looking forward to it, it’s still a very long drive and we can all get a bit ratty by the end of it. So in anticipation of the long hours of driving I started thinking about a few car games we could play on the way to kill the inevitable boredom and hopefully avoid fights between the kids. I usually start thinking about games about five minutes after we start driving, so I wanted to be a bit more organised this time. And after years and years of “I Spy” I can no longer tolerate the game, or any of the many variations of it that we’ve come up with over the years. So here’s how we passed the time on our road trip to Christchurch:

Scavenger Hunt
Pretty basic stuff, but it kept them occupied almost the whole trip! A couple of days before we left I printed off a list of things for the kids to find and cross off the list on the way. Some were easy, some were a bit more challenging, which kept it interesting enough for the 13 year old as well and the 10 and 7 year olds.

The list:

The two they found the most difficult to find were the flashing red light and the duck. But days later they were stilling yelling out things from the list as we drove along, so I took that to mean they’d been at least a little into it.

Road Trip Timeline
Not exactly a game, but it kept Princess occupied. Our seven year old is one of those kids who is constantly asking “Are we nearly there?” whenever we go on a long drive. This makes it tough when three hours into a ten hour trip you have to tell her you’re not even close, and deal with the whining that comes as a consequence.

But this time I figured out a way to prevent those questions altogether. Before we left I looked on google maps and made a list of every town we passed through on the way - large cities and small rural towns. I cut the list into three blocks – Invercargill to Dunedin (where we would be stopping for a break to visit an Aunty and Uncle), Dunedin to Timaru (where we would be stopping for a McDonalds break), and Timaru to Christchurch. Princess held onto the list and as we passed through each town she would tear off the name of the town and give it to me. Then she could count how many towns we had to pass through before we reached our destination.

It was a really effective way to help her understand how far we had to go, and there was not one single “Are we nearly there” – instead it was “9 more places and then Christchurch”. I will definitely be doing this again!

Who am I?
The person who is ‘in’ thinks of a person, famous or non-famous, living or dead, and the others take turns asking questions to figure out who they are. The questions must be worded so that the person who is ‘in’ can answer only yes or no. This game was made up on the spot, as kind of a variation of the headbands game. It was good, because even though it was simple enough for our 7 year old girl, Hubby and I even found it fun, and it didn’t require anything except people to play it.

Photo Stops
New Zealand is just packed with beauty and sometimes the best thing to do is just pull over to the side of the road and enjoy it.

Even with careful planning and organisation, kids are still kids, and a long day in the car is still a long day in the car.

By the time we arrived in Christchurch we had all had more than enough driving! But the games we played along the way were great memories for all of us, and it was totally worth taking just a small amount of time to prepare them. Hopefully they can inspire someone else.

What car games do you and your family like to play on long road trips?


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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Everyone Wins

Wiseguy came home from school one day last week and told me there had been a ‘piece of paper going around school about a party in Tay Street tonight.’ He said there was free food and music ‘or something’ and that he wanted to go.

‘Who’s running it?’ I asked.

‘I don’t know, this random kid just threw this little piece of paper at me and told me to pass it on.’

At this point in the conversation, because of the calm, reasonable and gracious mothering superstar that I am, I gently told my son...

No. I yelled.

‘You want me to let you go to a STREET PARTY in TOWN on a SCHOOL NIGHT with some KIDS YOU DON’T KNOW? Are you INSANE? You’re only 13 years old! Why would you even WANT to go? Don’t you care about your REPUTATION?

And so on.

We then had to endure the eyes-rolling, clenched-teeth, you-suck-because-you’re-too-strict attitude that comes after you tell your teenage son he can’t do something his friends are apparently allowed to do, for the next few days.

Then yesterday after school he came home and said ‘Mum, you know that thing that was on last Thursday night in Tay Street? Well it’s on again for St Patrick’s Day. I brought the piece of paper home this time...’

I looked at the little slip of paper and said

‘Oh, Primal? I know Primal. That’s totally fine, you can go to this if you want to.’

When hubby got home, I said ‘Wiseguy wants to go to Primal youth group tomorrow night.’ He immediately said ‘Oh yea, sure. I’ll take you if you want, son.’

The boy was quite surprised. He’s spent the week thinking his parents are overly strict and never let him do anything fun. Now we go and change the rules? What’s up with that? How does he know what the rules are if we keep changing them?

This morning I talked to him about communication, and how important it is to choose the right words when communicating a message. How ‘Party on Tay Street with Some Kids I Don’t Know’ does not sound like something two loving parents want to send their teenage son off to do, but ‘Church Youth Group Event’ sounds perfectly reasonable. How we’re not actually too strict, we’re just trying to keep him safe as best we can.

And with that little lesson, I knew we had won. We’d kept our son safe, showed him who’s boss, then showed him how reasonable and fun we really were when it was something appropriate, and then to top it all off, turned the whole situation into a Life Lesson.

 As he walked down the hall, I saw the look of satisfaction on his face as he told Neihana about the youth group party he’s going to tonight. And I realised he thinks he won. 

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