A highlight of my summer is always the two weeks our family gets to spend in northern Michigan. It’s cool and quiet, and Cranky (14), Whiny (13) and Punch (11) can bike to the fudge shop or the ice cream store. It’s all very Norman Rockwell. A low point of my summer, however, is always the drive up there. Whoever said it’s not about the destination, but the journey, has never been on a 12- hour car ride with three bored, bickering children.

Through the years, the drive has morphed, but it has always lacked—for lack of a better word—efficiency. We would try leaving at five in the morning or two in the afternoon, either on a Tuesday or a Sunday. We would break it into two days or pack a full picnic, vowing not to stop. No matter what we tried, that car trip—which reliable sources assure me takes only 10 hours—was always a 12-hour nightmare of lentil-sized bladders and limitless complaints (is it even possible for your bum to cramp?).

When it comes to technology, I am not what one would call an early adapter, but the desperation associated with this drive is quite an incentive to get up to speed. There have been movies and CDs and gaming devices, and I don’t know if it’s kids in general or the entire bag of Starbursts that Punch ate, but nothing seemed to occupy my children for long.

This year, however, something changed. I don’t know if it’s their ages or their iPhones, but somewhere between Effingham and Joliet, my husband and I realized that the kids were just sitting there, quiet. They were texting or dozing or playing Words with Friends. My husband started to discover the cause of the calm. Hey, Lovebug, whatcha doing back there? I shot him a glance. Are you out of your mind? I hissed. Do not look the animals directly in the eye! Mercifully, she hadn’t heard him.

The one mandatory stop for gas succeeded in rousing them, but even then something was different. The remaining trip was less a mind-numbing debate over ‘who started it’ and more of a four-hour dance party with Whiny acting as DJ and the rest of us shouting out requests. I didn’t even mind the smattering of explicit lyrics since I was normally the one stifling obscenities. At least I had someone else to blame. And for a brief moment, I started to imagine that this was the way the drive was always going to be: snoozy children listening to music and keeping the general volume below foghorn level. And that’s when Cranky chose the perfect time to remind me that next year, she would have her permit, so she could drive part of the way. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

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