“You Kids Sit Still and Behave!”

Mamacita says:  “You kids sit still and behave!  Oh, the nostalgia!

When I was a kid, my family used to drive down to Alabama almost every summer. We had relatives down there, fabulous relative we all adored, and often the entire extended family would travel down there in caravans, and there would be canvas army cots all over the place at night. I have a feeling that my southern aunt and uncle might not have loved those weeks as much as we did. . . .

My Alabama cousins were several years older, and I thought they were adults, I really did. Cool, stylish, trendy adults. I think the cousin closest in years to me might have been twelve.  Those cousins had the most wonderful dolls, and they had musical powder boxes, and pogo sticks, and a house with intercoms.  Their southern towns always had Putt Putt courses, which we called “miniature golf,” with more glowing neon than Vegas.  And a dog.  I loved visiting down there.

Revlon doll

Revlon doll

It is not the destination that I wish to speak of, however. It is the journey.

The trip itself. That’s what this post is about. The destination is nothing compared to the journey. The journey, and the traveling peripherals.

This was before the time of the interstate highway, and the drive took us through every little town, middle-sized town, and city in southern Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and half of Alabama. We stopped at the occasional little local restaurant, because this was also before the day of the big chain restaurants. This meant, of course, that most of the time the food was actually good. Our car did not have air conditioning, which meant that we rode with all the windows down. It also meant that Dad had a very sunburned left arm.

There was no such thing as carseats for babies or toddlers, unless you counted those little canvas seats that hooked over the back of the front seat, and when we were on vacation, the car was too full for one of those. There were no seatbelts, either. Two parents, four kids, and a grandmother in one ’59 Chevy made a pretty full load.

Check out the fishtail on this 1959 Chevy!

Check out the fishtail on this 1959 Chevy!

There was no stereo in the car, either. Not even a radio. No DVD player. No basket of various snacks. No cases of water. No drop-down table for board games. No earphones for individual Mp3 playlists. The windows weren’t tinted, which meant it was easy to see the sights.

Dad was in charge, and we stopped when HE wanted to stop. And if we needed him to stop, it was of vital importance that we never tell him we needed to stop. It made him mad, and he would drive even farther just to demonstrate that he was in charge. This never bothered me, because I could, even as a small child, “hold it” for hours on end, but it pretty much killed my Other Sister, who generally needed to pee every twenty minutes. Fifteen minutes from our house and she was not only asking if we were there yet, she was already asking to go to the bathroom.  Dad wasn’t unreasonable about stopping, of course; he just expected common sense, and he got it.  Oh, boy, did he ever get it.

We could never afford to take our children on a real vacation until the summer between their 3rd and 5th grade. That year, for our first family vacation ever, we borrowed my parents’ van, mortgaged our financial future for NINE YEARS with a new Discover Card, and went to Disney World.

That’s right; it took nine years to pay off Discover. NEVER USE THIS CARD. It has the highest interest in the universe. But I digress.

My point is, all my father and mother had to do to maintain almost perfect order in a vehicle was to turn around and say “You kids sit still and behave.” And we did. We weren’t buckled in, so sitting still took some real effort, but disobeying our parents was far worse than sitting still. We looked out the windows, and counted cows, and sang, and played word games, and napped. We ate only when Dad stopped at a restaurant, although we did travel with a bushel of fresh peaches; we loved to watch dad toss the pits out of his window.

Dad always bought his peaches and apples at Appleacres. So do we, now.

Dad always bought his peaches and apples at Appleacres. So do we.

On that trip to Disney World with my own kids, all we had to do was say “Sit still and behave.” and they behaved. We didn’t travel with toys, or vcr’s. We looked out the windows and counted cows and sang and played games. Sometimes, the kids napped. Really, the only differences between our trip and my parents’ trip were the seat belts, the cooler of fruit (instead of a bushel), and the fact that we usually stopped when the children said they needed to stop.

Here is what I do not understand at all, not one single little tiny bit: why do modern parents supply their vehicles – and thus their children – with all the comforts of home? Why do families need movies, and toys, and a constant supply of snacks, for a road trip? Why do parents nowadays allow their children to dictate when they stop and where? Why don’t parents tell their kids to look out the windows, count the cows, play word games, and sing?

My parents talked to us when we were on the road. A lot of modern parents couldn’t talk to their kids if they wanted to, because the kids are watching Disney in the back of the minivan, or are locked into their headphones and iPads.

Modern kids couldn’t tell you about the scenery because they never look at it. They demand the same comforts of a vehicle that they demand at home: television, toys, food, drinks, electronics, and their own way.

A lot of modern parents would gasp in horror if they heard another parent say “You kids sit still and behave yourselves.”

When did it happen that road trips became such a big deal? Tons of toys. Baskets and boxes of juiceboxes and graham crackers and cheese and bottled water. Always with the water. I don’t think most people these days have ever been really thirsty because they’re never without a bottle of water.  No wonder they have to stop all the time.

We never had drinks in the car. We drank when we stopped. We knew what it felt like to be genuinely thirsty and we appreciated those rare drinks very much. There were no sticky spills and no crumbs or wrappers in my parents’ car.  We weren’t severely dehydrated.  We were just thirsty.

When we stopped to eat, we parked and went inside. No food or drinks came back outside with us. We ate and drank in the restaurant. And we appreciated it, for we were hungry. After we ate, we weren’t hungry and didn’t need any snacks or drinks “for the road.”

What’s the matter with people these days? Let your kids get thirsty. Let them get hungry. Don’t anticipate EVERYTHING because when you do, they don’t appreciate what they get when they get it.

If they cry or scream for food or toys, etc, tell them to look out the window, and count the cows, and see who can be first to find a blue house or an unusual animal crossing sign or a goat or a three-story house or a picket fence or a restaurant that isn’t a chain. You might also practice turning around and saying, “You kids sit still and behave.”

Unusual animal crossing, unless you're in Australia

Unusual animal crossing, unless you’re in Australia

And if they don’t obey you, you’ve got a far bigger problem than you might think.


“You Kids Sit Still and Behave!” — 1 Comment

  1. Yeah… Todays parents need to put their foot down, but to be careful while doing it.

    I got stepped on, but it wasn’t my mom’s fault. She didn’t see me. She was letting my older brother know who’s boss, and seeing how she squashed me, he got it! 🙂

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