Saturday, September 2, 2006

September 2, 2006: Musings on Shopping Cart DVD Players and other modern conveniences

A few days ago Randy sent me this story which aired on NPR on Wednesday. According to the story, tomorrow's shopping carts will be equipped with DVD players so that our children will be properly subdued during grocery-shopping excursions. The next day, Randy came home all excited because he'd emailed a response to that story, and his letter was read during "All Things Considered" on Thursday! Several of our friends have emailed us in the past couple of days since saying they'd heard Randy's letter on NPR. His letter protested the introduction of these carts, calling for disciplined children rather than children mollified--or perhaps stupified--by constant technological stimulation. But what I've realized in the past couple of days is that parents all over the world are probably applauding these new carts and eagerly anticipating the day when they hit Wal-mart. We have got to be in a minority of parents who believe in interacting with our children and promoting their creativity.

Now I must say that I was thrilled when Kroger introduced shopping carts shaped like cars for kids. Duncan and Laurel both loved "driving" around the grocery store, and the carts sure made my shopping easier. But to me there is a huge difference between carts that have DVD players and carts that are shaped like cars: the latter encourages kids to use their imaginations, the former encourages kids to be lulled into oblivion.

I liken this to having one's van equipped with a DVD player, with each child having his/her own screen. I know parents who say that they couldn't survive without movies in the van. I borrow a friend's VCR/TV unit each year when I make the 14 hour trip to New York, and it is fantastic! But every day? Every car trip, even the 6 minutes it takes to get to the store? I'm not saying that each of our car trips is intellectually stimulating. We rarely have conversations that are life-changing. Sometimes we don't even talk. In all likelihood, my kids would rather be watching TV when we drive 12 minutes to church or 2 minutes to Wal-mart. But they're not. Much of the time they are staring out the window, watching the scenery go by. Maybe they are thinking how beautiful the sky is. Maybe they are wondering what it would be like to be hiking in the midst of the mountains on a stormy day. Maybe they are thinking about what they'll do when they get home. Maybe they're not thinking about anything, but at least they are learning that it is not their right in life to be constantly entertained.

I am sad for this generation that is growing up without space to think. Wake up in the morning to SpongeBob, drive to daycare/school while watching The Little Mermaid, spend the day being entertained in a zillion different ways by other people, drive to Walmart while watching more of The Little Mermaid, watch Finding Nemo in Walmart, drive home with yet a little more of the Little Mermaid, and top off the day with--hey--how about something educational on PBS! It makes my head spin. How did we get from riding bikes all day and baking cakes in our Easy Bake ovens to watching shows about kids who ride bikes and bake cakes?

But enough. I proud of my husband for making his voice heard nationally. I'm proud of us for steering clear of at least a few of today's parent traps. And I am really, really thankful that my kids have a little time carved out in their lives just to think.

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