A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
By Nina Pajak
Important news for all car-owning parents! The latest model of the Toyota Sienna will include a microphone and speaker system which allows parents to be heard in the back without having to shout themselves hoarse.
I think this is the pits.
As a new mother, I’ve given a lot of serious thought to all the parenting tactics I will and won’t employ as my child grows. Naturally, since I’ve been doing this for a whole fifteen months, I’ve already caved on everything from mealtime to screen time to nap time.
So it is with an admittedly rather weak grip that I cling to the promise I made to myself never to be one of those moms who buys a minivan outfitted with television screens in the backseat. But I mean it! Or at least, I want very badly to mean it. Being bored during a long car ride is one of those childhood experiences that seems trivial and obnoxious but turns out to be somewhat valuable, upon closer inspection. A kid needs to learn to exercise their creativity, their resourcefulness, their ability to find joy and entertainment in simple activities, like sitting and thinking quietly while looking out the window. Road trip tedium is the perfect excuse to interact with family members, too. While we all look back fondly on games of “I spy,” “20 questions,” and “punchbuggy,” I seriously doubt that any child will one day wax nostalgic about that time she watched Frozen for the umpteenth time on the way to Albuquerque. Or was it Denver? Or was it Toy Story? Meh, whatever.
The byproduct of all of this wholesome family fun is, of course, fighting. There is pretty much no chance of sharing a backseat with a sibling without your standard bickering, whining, and occasional slap/shove-fest. But in some ways, that’s fun too. My brother and I still like to laugh about how predictably our fights would go (he’s annoying, I’m mean). And when we got yelled at, well that was part of it all.
I can’t imagine that the act of yelling from the front seat was in any way enjoyable or special for my parents. I don’t actually think they’d think back on those memories with any sort of pleasure. And I don’t look forward to the days ahead when I’ll find myself hollering like a lunatic to a bunch of rowdy little monsters who refuse to listen. But there is something so completely creepy and robotic and disassociated about broadcasting an announcement back to the third row through a PA system.
Will all children in the vehicle please keep their hands to themselves, remain seated at all times, and face forward? Also, will the owner of the plastic dump truck that just landed in the passenger seat please identify himself? You left your lights on, and you’re grounded. Thanks for choosing Mom’s Car. We hope you’ll ride with us again soon.
It’s all too strange. Plus, I guarantee you that 90 percent of parents will wind up simply using the mic to yell louder. Because when your kids are rounding out a full hour of “I’m not touching you!” and you’ve got a headache that cannot be cured until bedtime, there’s no way you can calmly request their compliance no matter how high you jack up the volume. Eventually, your kids will just become deaf to your screaming. Or possibly just deaf altogether.
On the other hand, I’d really love to take the Sienna out for a spin to make my dreams of in-car karaoke come true. With just a few minor tweaks, Toyota and I could make car-eoke a reality! Patent pending NOBODY STEAL THAT. I’ll know if you stole it. The internet lives forever.
Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!