Atlas shrugs: My tween says my affinity for maps and the atlas makes me a dinosaur

Atlas shrugs: My tween says my affinity for maps and the atlas makes me a dinosaur

"Is that a road atlas?" one of the four girls I was driving to camp asked from the back seat, her voice dripping with confusion, shock and dismay.

"Yes. It's my mom's, she won't go anywhere without it," my tween answered, as clearly the question was aimed at her, not me. (I don't know why kids think that if your foot is on a gas pedal you suddenly lose your ability to hear, but that often seems to be their presumption.) My tween's voice was one of disgust, anxiousness and disavowal, as if the fact that there was, in fact, a road atlas tucked into the back pocket of the driver's seat of my vehicle portended certain social doom.

"Yup, it's mine," I quipped, in what was both a weak effort both to sustain my tween's acceptability as a friend and to show that my ears still functioned normally.

I'm sure there were looks and eye rolls exchanged, but I kept my eyes on the road and refused to acknowledge them.

I know that the "maps are good" battle is a losing one, but I'm not going down without a fight.

9780528965814_p0_v1_s260x420When we were watching the USA vs. Portugal World Cup game this weekend, I got out my hardbound Rand McNally World Atlas. The one that I keep in the most convenient location on our book shelf. The one that I asked for and received as a gift from my parents. The one that makes me happy.

Why not show my tween where Manaus, the site of the game, was located? Show her what an enormous country Brazil is? Explain that the humidity to which the announcers frequently referred was in part because the city is located on the Amazon, and hey, check out just how long the Amazon really is since we're already on the page.

Awesome. Well, awesome to me. To my tween, not so much.

She asked my husband, with more than a hint of pleading in her voice, "Is she really getting out the atlas?"

"It makes her happy, and it won't harm you to learn a little geography," he said.  Good call, my friend. You are clearly on the right side.

"Again?" she asked.

"Yes," he replied. There may have been looks and eye rolls.  Again, I know better than to look.

And we did learn all of the above about Manaus.

I'll get out the world atlas at the drop of a hat. I used it to show her where neighbors were moving. I happily broke out the atlas when my tween talked at dinner about her best friend's trip to Bangladesh to visit relatives. My husband has gotten used to reference books at the dinner table.

I know that my tween thinks everything she needs to know about the whole world can be found online, that I'm a dinosaur for liking maps that are on paper. But like them I do, and I plan to continue using them. The maps and I may be aging, but we're not extinct. not yet, anyway.

It's not just a matter of liking books over computers, though that's certainly part of it. Really, kid, when we get stranded somewhere without a cell signal, you're going to find a new appreciation for that road atlas, I guarantee it. And knowing that I have it in the event of such a situation makes me a much happier driver, so win-win, right? Right.)

Geography is important. It's one way to teach her about the world in which we live. I can't take her everywhere, but I can show her on an atlas and, until I win the lottery, that will have to suffice.

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