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Jack Tame: Distracting kids on road trips

Jack Tame,
Publish Date
Sat, 8 Jul 2023, 9:32AM
(Photo \ NZ Herald)
(Photo \ NZ Herald)

Jack Tame: Distracting kids on road trips

Jack Tame,
Publish Date
Sat, 8 Jul 2023, 9:32AM

The drive was only three hours but we knew we’d have to distract him.

It’s not his fault! 6-year-olds simply do not have the biologicial composition for sitting still in place for more than about 14 seconds. And even a relatively simple drive, Auckland to Rotorua, is an almighty test for the first weekend of the school holidays.

When I was a kid, my parents used to try and placate us with food. Ahead of a long drive, my three siblings and I would climb into the back of the family van, each of us with an ice-cream container full of Uncle Toby’s finest highly-processed treats.

It was like a Tame family version of the marshmellow test. My sister and I would try and drag our respective treat boxes out until we’d made it most of the way to our destination. Delayed gratification. My little brother would be finished his by the time our van reached the end of the street.

The first ‘are we there yet?’ came before we’d even cleared the Bombay Hills. Although I’d encouraged Mr Six-year old to plot our remaining journey time on the car’s Google Maps, it became clear he didn’t understand how to read the column with the hours remaining, and to everyone’s grave disappointment - “It says only nine more minutes!” - had been solely focusing on the minutes column for our procession down the Southern Motorway.

My wife introduced a game of Hoiho. If you see a horse, you yell ‘Hoiho!’ If you see a paddock of horses, you say ‘Pataka.’ Everyone keeps tally of their total horses, until a player sees a cemetery, ‘Urupā,’ and gets to choose what other player’s horses get scratched.  

Mr Six-year-old was an enthusiastic participant. A little too enthusiastic, if anything. Cows? “Hoiho!” Deer? “Hoiho!” Vegetation on distant hillsides? “Hoiho! Hoiho!” And it quickly became clear that what maybe he lacked in horse-spotting skills, he made up for in cunning.



“Oh back there around the corner. You missed it.”

Finally, somewhere just south of Huntly, we resorted to technology.

Not a screen, but my noise-cancelling headphones and a series of children’s podcasts, about things like why cheese is smelly and why fish can open their eyes underwater.

It was a good call. Mr Six-year-old was chuffed. He asked to pause Hoiho and seemed to relax back into his seat and watch the Waikato countryside drift past.

The only problem with the noise-cancelling headphones setup is that even for the quietest among us, it can be very difficult to regulate the volume of your voice.

My wife would just be dozing off when she’d be wrenched from her slumber by someone screaming in the back seat.

“Unpause. Hoiho! Ok, pause again.”

The rate at which time passes depends on your frame of reference.

I dunno if Albert Einstein had a brainwave moment in describing the theory of relativity. But part of me wonders if he took a family trip to Rotorua with a six-year-old in the back.

I figured three hours was gonna’ be a long time for him. But the person most relieved when we reach our destination wasn’t Mr Six-year-old. It was me.

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