For the most part, I think technology is a good thing. However, like too many Oreos, too much technology can be too much of a good thing. For example, I see more and more parents with flickering DVD screens suspended from the roof of their SUVs. If you're relying on SpongeBob to keep your kids quiet while toting them from soccer to ballet, you're missing out on a little-known secret: The car is where kids tell you all the dirt.
My car becomes part coffee klatch, part confessional as soon as I start driving with my kids. The car is where I learn that somebody said something mean to my youngest daughter at school and what she did about it. (She says she walked away. I'll have to take her word for it.) It's where I find out that my older daughter has been worrying about something, or what she really thinks about her teacher. Once I even found out who ate the last of the marshmallows that I was saving for s'mores. (Sorry, I promised not to tell.)
And sometimes the car is where we get philosophical. My kids and I have admired fields of cornflowers and discussed why war exists. We've listened to all types of music, everything from Ralph's World to Echo and the Bunnymen. We've traded knock-knock jokes and discussed the state of the world.
These are the moments I cherish. Spontaneous "car talk" is much more rewarding than asking a tired fourth-grader about school that day and getting a one-word answer, or worse, no answer at all. For my family, the car is a place where my kids are on the move, the pressure is off, and they can let their thoughts and words float freely. What could be better than that?
Just one caution: As my girls get older and the discussions get more advanced, there is always the danger of Mom driving onto the shoulder in sheer dismay.
So please be careful when you're driving behind me. I may be getting an earful-but I wouldn't have it any other way.
Jenny Kales is a freelance writer and the author of The Nut-Free Mom Blog: www.nut-freemom.com. She lives (and drives) with her husband and two daughters in La Grange Park.