07/11/2011 10:38 EDT | Updated 09/10/2011 05:12 EDT

Family Road Trip: Are We There Yet?

During last year's family road trip, I thought I had discovered the ultimate in distraction technology. I should have known it would prove to be too good to be true.

During spring break and summer vacation, many of us will find ourselves strapping in for the wildest ride of our lives. No, it's not the upside-down roller coaster at the nearby amusement park... it's the six to 10 hour drive in the family van, where no one is safe, and everyone is under attack; both verbal and physical (in a bodily fluid sort of way).

Last year, I thought I had discovered the ultimate in distraction technology. I should have known it would prove to be too good to be true. I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning.

You've finalized the spreadsheet with which child can sit in which seat, with which seat partner, which takes you down the driveway without a fight, maybe. (I recently heard a study that said that the average family can only drive for 12 minutes without an argument breaking out. I'm thrilled to hit the 12 second mark, which takes me to the end of the cul de sac.)

You hit the road, and the real boredom sets in (at the predetermined 13 second mark). Now in the past, I have prepared "treat bags," brought juice boxes, favourite toys, etc, but none of these seemed to hold any appeal for very long. So, with this as the backdrop, you might understand why I was positively giddy when we purchased a minivan which came with built-in DVD player, complete with headphones.

With children ranging in age from four to 15, I was dreaming about the insightful and adult conversations my husband and I would have in the front row while the children sat, zombie like, ensconced in the latest family comedy... our silence interrupted only by the cheerful giggles of an appreciative and content audience.

You know what? No. Here are the lessons I learned, and would love to share:

1) The headphones are expensive and usually don't work properly. Don't let the price tag fool you. For the 10 minutes they did provide sound (as we drove out of the new vehicle parking lot), they were being used as projectile ammunition by the back row. They use up expensive little batteries that gleefully run out in the van overnight. I believe the manufacturers installed an "on" button that is self-regulating.

2) The movies themselves are problematic. Give me one movie that kids age four, eight, 13 and 15 can all agree on that doesn't result in the preschoolers learning useful expressions like "booty-licious" or "yo mamma."

3) Apparently hurtling down a highway at 120 km/h while watching a stationary screen can make one nauseous. Witnessing a seat partner being nauseous can make others feel the same way. Go figure.

4) Musical movies, such as the ubiquitous and cloying High School Musical are their own unique type of torture when listened for the 14th time from the front seat. It's not great on the first pass.

5) My personal tolerance level for body part and washroom humour turns out to be quite low. My husband's, not so much.

6) After listening to hours of The Wiggles, Adam Sandler and The Simpsons, one can come to appreciate the drole wit and homo-erotic relationship of SpongeBob and Squidward.

7) As Jerry Seinfeld once stated, "There is no such things as fun for the whole family." So, I've given up on the utopia of the perfect van ride and now spend my hours in the passenger seat composing letters to the three major car companies asking them to install the ultimate component in pimping out a kid-friendly ride: The middle row glass partition.