Our family vacations used to start out bad and end even worse. How bad?
Five minutes out of the driveway the kids would start bickering at each other and wouldn't stop until we got where we were going. Stuff like:
"Amy! Move over! You're on my side of the seat!"
"I am not! Stop pushing me! Aaaaahhh!"
"I'm not hurting you. You're such a big baby."
"Stop calling me names! Aaaaahhhh!"
And so it went, from driveway to motel. And nothing would stop it. Not begging, not bribing, not threatening, not pretending to turn around and go home. Nothing.
Several months before leaving for family vacation, summer of '77, I began to pray. I prayed I'd get real sick and not be able to go. I prayed the kids would get laryngitis and not be able to talk. I prayed I'd go bankrupt and not be able to afford it. I prayed for release from the terrible burden of family vacation. And my prayers were answered.
My salvation came in the form of "tickets," 10 rectangles of colored cardboard, five for each child.
We packed the car, made sure we had everything, and then sat down with the kids, the tickets on the table in front of us.
"Kids," we said, "these are 'tickets.' Each of you gets five of them. Hang on to them, because they're real important. They have to do with the rules of riding in the car. There are three rules you need to remember. Rule one is No bickering in the backseat.' Rule two is No loud noises in the backseat.' Rule three is Don't interrupt us when we're talking to each other.' We've written the rules on this index card, and we're going to tape it to the back of the front seat, so you can see them the whole ride.
"Every time you break a rule, you lose a ticket. If you bicker, you both lose a ticket, no matter who started it. Now, the first thing you want to do when we get to the beach is go in the water, right? Right! That's where the tickets come in, because if you don't have at least one ticket left by the time we get to the motel, you won't go in the water for two hours. You'll sit on the beach, under an umbrella, and watch the rest of us have fun in the sun."
With that, we got in the car and started down the road. Five minutes later, the kids lost their first ticket for bickering. Then Eric lost one for a loud noise. Then Amy lost one for interrupting. By the time we were an hour out of the driveway, they'd each lost four of their five tickets. There were four hours of the trip left.
It was the quietest four hours I've ever spent with Eric and Amy. They didn't say a word to each other or to us. They clutched those last two tickets in their hands and looked out the windows. When we got to the motel, we hung on to the tickets and used them in restaurants and stores and on the beach.
And we all had a wonderful time!
Copyright 2107, John K. Rosemond
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