My wife and I spent the weekend on Martha’s Vineyard and were on our way back to our car on the shuttle bus when a Dad and his kids caught our attention. This man was great with his kids and was fully engaged with them, something you don’t see enough these days. Pretty much from the time the ride started, he was playing games with the kids, especially a young girl who was probably about five-years old. They played thumb wars, they played I Spy, and they played Simon Says (no small feat in a dark vehicle, I must say). However, what truly impressed me was when the little girl asked to play the Quiet Game.
Listening to them brought back a lot of memories from when my kids were younger and we were on the road. We used to play games, tell stories and sing songs when we drove. Obviously, we didn’t play thumb wars, that would be hard (and dangerous) to play while driving a car around town. We did play a lot of I Spy and finding the alphabet on license plates and signs along the way. However, the Quiet Game was not one we played too much. I think it worked the first few times we played and then they caught on to the real reason my wife and I wanted to play. My kids never asked to play the Quiet Game.
Telling stories was always fun for us and the kids. We did it a couple of different ways. Sometimes we took turns telling a story, each one of us getting our own few minutes to weave a stunning narrative. Sometimes, one person would start a story and go on for a few minutes, say “and then…” and the next person would pick up from there. We usually went around the car once or twice, but there were occasions we went around three times if the story wasn’t fizzling out. On longer trips, after telling stories for a while and saying we needed a break, the kids would ask for one more. I’d say okay and let them know it was going to be a short one and then proceed to tell them this amazing tale, “Once upon a time. The end.” There would be howls of protest that it wasn’t even a story and I’d usually give in and tell them one last good one.
Singing songs was another great way to pass the time in the car. We’d sing songs from the kids’ classes at church, oldies but goodies that everybody knows (B I N G O and Bingo was his name O!), songs from their CDs (yes, even at five or six, they had their own music), and other songs the kids and my wife and I liked. I preferred them singing Beatles’ songs than most of the stuff that was played on the radio. It also helped that my wife and both the kids are musically gifted. Heck, the kids even made up some songs of their own that were pretty good – and they both still write songs today.
As we got close to the parking lot, the little girl yawned and then said to her Dad, “I think I’m going to sleep in the car.” Her brother agreed shortly after and gave a hearty yawn himself. I thought that was a perfect ending to the night. They obviously had had a lot of fun and now they were spent. There were so many times on longer rides that our kids were laughing and singing and suddenly there was silence. One of us would take a peek back and they’d both be out cold, safe and secure, sleeping in a car like only kids can.
I hope that Dad enjoyed his ride home, realizing how special it is that he has a great relationship with his kids and realizing that there will come a day when they won’t think he’s the most awesome Dad in the world, a stage all kids go through. I’m sure he occasionally took a peek back at his sleeping kids just to make sure they were okay, and probably smiled as he thought about when they were babies and how quickly they had grown. I remember those days like it was yesterday, because in some ways it was. It doesn’t take long for them to go from sleeping in the back of the car, to asking if they can use the car to go over a friend’s house. I just hope my now grown kids have as fond memories of their younger years as I do.