We travel to a new city at least once a year and usually alternate driving and flying each year. We do this in part to save money, but also because there is just something so unequivocally American about a good ol’ family road trip. There is such nostalgia in backing out of the driveway before the sun rises and hitting the highway when it’s still dark, car piled up with blankies and suitcases and of course, the snacks required to make an 8-12 hour car trip palatable. And even if just passing through, I think it is so important to show our children life beyond their own backyard if we are to sow the seeds of respect for diversity.
This year our car trip was made extra special by a nice, young Georgia State Trooper who was kind enough to let a sweet, slightly lead-footed family off with a warning. Awww... Elle’s first time getting pulled over. Touching, huh? But perhaps one of the most special moments of any family road trip is that moment where you point at something obscure or random (or imaginary, as in “hey, kids, look at that family of deer”) on the opposite side of the highway in hopes that your kids don’t see “those” billboards. You know the ones... “Turn here for XXX Girls!” or “X-Mart – Next Left” or “$trippers – Need We $ay More – Next Exit!”. How are these fit for prime time???
I kid. Sort of. I really do love the nostalgia of a road trip and truly value showing my daughter how different people live in different areas of our great nation. We have also made some pretty hilarious and invaluable memories on the road. But it does weigh on my heart that even the classic family road trip is not immune to the omnipresent R-rated, desensitized, and oversexualized culture that has invaded us. Our kids are truly battered with images of casual sex everywhere they go – even on the open road in the country.
It’s true that “we can’t shelter them forever” as I’ve heard some moms of three year olds say. But if we want to raise our girls to carry themselves gracefully, they have to receive much more input reflecting dignity and grace and decorum than input that reflects an attitude of anything goes and baring it all to get attention. The fact that you can’t drive down a country highway without seeing overexposed women advertising their striptease services means your kids will see this stuff – they will! But how they will handle it depends on the path you pave for them in the small moments. In how you dress and in how you speak and in what you watch (at least while they’re awake!) There is no denying that every form of media will feed our girls a steady diet of messages telling them to demand attention rather than respect.
So what do you do, day in and day out, to teach them the opposite? Have you developed your “game plan” to teach your daughter to demand respect over attention? If not, start now. Because you can only point at imaginary deer on the opposite side of the highway for so long...