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Erin Zammett Ruddy

Before I had kids I used to say that I would never plug my children into electronics to keep them quiet. Now our travel check-list goes something like this: “IDs: check! DVD players: check! DVD chargers: check! batteries for headphones: check! everything else: Eh, if we forget anything else we can buy it there….”


You’ll notice I didn’t include this photo in my post-vacation blissed-out post on Monday. But I feel like in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that part of the reason traveling with my two kids was so easy breezy this time is that they each had their own DVD player and headphones that got flipped on the second we heard that ding. This is something I was dead-set against before having children. Now I rely on it. Is that so bad?


These DVD players and headsets (Alex had the iPad this time so he could play games too) only come out when we’re traveling and really only when we’re on airplanes (or particularly challenging road trips). But it still feels a little like a cop out. Like I should instead be doing puppet shows and sticker parades and I spy marathons. The thing is, I’ve tried all that. Nora only recently started caring about TV so every trip prior to this one it was completely on me to keep her entertained (i.e. still and quiet) on airplanes. It was a massive undertaking and it always ended with Nick and me growling at each other and people giving us dirty looks.

Fortunately Nora passed out for about an hour so it wasn't only A Bug's Life that kept her quiet. 


I remember airplane and road trips as a kid, playing Mad Libs and writing in my journal and doing those activity pads that have the magic pens. On car rides, we also played our version of The Gong Show (remember that one?) where my sisters and I would each have a turn giving some kind of performance until one of us said GONG! Oh, and another fave was mercy—we’d bend each other’s fingers back until we cried, “Mercy!” (Gheesh, my mom probably would have preferred we had a DVD of Family Ties to zone out to.)


The point is, I remember those trips so fondly. We used our imaginations like crazy. We also got yelled at quite a bit, as I recall, but still. It was all part of the experience. And I wonder if my kids will miss out on that because of technology—and how easy it is to flip it on and bask in the quiet. I will also cut myself this slack: My kids are still very young and right now the idea is to keep them from making a scene—once they get a little older (Alex is already way better) they will be more capable of controlling their voices and their excitement and actually playing some tic tac toe or reading books or coloring quietly without eating the crayons (as advanced as Nora is in many ways, she still puts everything in her mouth—“I swallowed it, mom!” is a common phrase around our house).


Oh, and I can honestly say that I don’t think I will ever have a DVD player in my car, even though the dealers try to push it on you. I purposely didn’t buy a specific model that came with one because I knew we’d wind up using it more than I like. My mom has one in her car and the second the kids get in they ask to watch it. I love talking to my kids in the car. It’s some of the best quality time we get because they’re strapped in and not distracted by a million toys. And they both love music and we sing along to top-40 fluff that they probably shouldn’t be listening to but totally love. I wouldn’t want to compromise that just to get some extra quiet time. Though we have had to tell Alex to just take a break from the nonstop talking and look out the window (the kid seriously has no off button).


So, what are your thoughts on these DVD players/ipads/ipods/whatever cool thing I can’t think of but I’m sure some of you have, etc.? Do you use them on trips? Airplanes? Cars? All the time? Do you feel conflicted about it? Let’s discuss….