If you ask me, vacations aren’t what they used to be. Call me a fuddy-duddy, but it seems to me that all the new electronic contraptions on the market today tend to rip the “family” right out of “family vacation.” Dad’s engrossed in attempting to drive, talk on the cell phone, and find his place in this world on his global positioning system while Mom’s got the headphones in listening to a relaxation tape. Sister Sally is watching her heart-throb’s latest music video on the pull-down television screen, and Brother Billy’s thumbs are performing amazing gymnastic gyrations on his Gameboy. It’s never been easier for a family of four to be completely isolated from each other while sitting in the confines of their SUV.

Whatever happened to real family vacations? The kind where all the kids yell “moo” every time they see a cow? Where you hear interesting conversation from the back seat like, “We either need to head towards Quebec or find a liquor store!” when your children are searching for a Q in the ABC game? Where it’s perfectly okay to (gasp!) simply stare out the window and enjoy the passing scenery?

Maybe part of our problem is that we’re addicted to constant entertainment and amusement. According to Webster, “muse” means to “ponder, meditate, or think,” and the prefix “a” means “not.” So “a-muse” literally means “not think.” When we strive to continually keep our children amused, we’re actually keeping them from thinking. It may keep them quiet, but it does little else.

I’m not suggesting that you throw out all of your electronic gizmos. Our family has used them all at different times, too. They’ve been life savers when we have two more hours to go after already driving for five hours. But don’t reach for them automatically when loading up the car. Instead, get creative. Keep a list of games, music, and activities that the family can enjoy together while traveling—the library is a great resource for ideas. Have some books on hand for your kids who can stomach reading while driving.

And teach your older kids the benefits of watching out the window in silence so they can “be still and know that I am God” (you do know those benefits, don’t you?). And as you’re taking that spur-of-the-moment shortcut through Quebec, don’t forget to moo at the cows.

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