By Judy Antell

Reliant on Technology

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We used to get ready for car trips by packing snack bags of Cheerios and raisins, and by bringing along lots of board books and stuffed animals.  Now we rush around charging various appliances and looking for the E-Z Pass.  We no longer have a car, so we start from scratch each time we rent one; in the old days, there was always a stash in the car — a couple of filthy books that we didn’t want to take back into the house, some cheap plastic toys that we didn’t mind losing, a box of granola bars.
  
   On a recent trip, my two older girls, Hallie and Sela, got themselves ready, though we still had to go back for tampons and one forgotten cell phone.  But at 14 and 16, I can’t expect them to remember everything.  We were doing our typical 83 activities in one day, and leaving straight from the soccer fields to drive to my sister’s house in Pennsylvania.  After the usual 10 minutes of shoving and muttering in the back seat (we can never get a minivan when we rent for one day, so there’s always an argument about who gets the middle seat), and minus that enchanted 30 seconds I’ve heard about when your kids open up to you in the car, Hallie and Sela had plugged themselves into their iPods and were settling in.  That’s when Nora, 9, realized she’d left her bag of goodies at the soccer field.
  
   In this forgotten bag were: a Nintendo DS lite ($129.99) plus all eight of her games ($30 each).  Plus two books (one hardcover, $15.99, one paperback, $7.99; bought the day before).  I am one of the soccer coaches; we’d all gotten emails about a rash of thefts the week before, and I had dutifully reminded the kids and the parents to watch their stuff carefully.  Then we’d left a bag worth over $400 and were driving far away.
 
     I hadn’t wanted to stop back at the house for the forgotten cell phone; I reasoned that we were only going to be gone the rest of the day, and my daughter could do without, or borrow mine or her sister’s, or her father’s.  Or actually… not have a phone for a couple of hours (I know.  Cruel.   But we’ve recently had to institute a rule:  no cell phones at dinner.  
 
   And then a few nights later, at Rosh Hashanah dinner, no less, we’d caught the same cell phone abuser texting under the table. 

   “But I wasn’t talking to anyone,” she’d argued.).  But back to the missing phone: We weren’t going to waste time stopping for it, but the other daughter needed the tampons, which were locked in the car half-a-mile from the soccer field bathrooms, and if we just had to walk back, we might as well stop at the house.  
  
   So when we heard that the Nintendo bag was missing…three of us started calling kids and adults we knew were still at the field, and one of them actually found the bag! Happy ending!   
  
    But Nora had a more immediate problem: How would she pass her time in the car?  Her sisters, having doing their sisterly duty making phone calls, were back to their homework and iPods and she was bereft.  She tried poking them a little, nudging and kicking, but even that gets boring.  I had agreed to drive, so my husband managed to beg a pen and paper from one of the older girls and he focused on Nora, playing hangman and doing math problems.
  
   And you can guess what happened.  Slowly, the older girls turned off their iPods and joined in the games.  
  
   I wouldn’t recommend making it a habit to have no electronics in the car, but some gadget-free time can actually get kids to play with each other as our chaotic trip proved.
  
   Until the texting and the poking start anew.

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