By Heather O.
This summer, my children have traveled across the country twice. From Virginia to Seattle and back again, and then from Virginia to Salt Lake, Salt Lake to Provo, Provo to Salt Lake, Salt Lake to McCall Idaho, McCall Idaho to Boise, Boise back to Virginia.
And with a few exceptions, they were troopers. Truly, they did great. We’ve come a long way, baby.
My sister-in-law and I swapped travel horror stories, like the one where she tried to breastfeed her twins in the car while her other two small children wrapped themselves around her legs, and she found herself spread eagle between the front and back seat with pretty much every limb encrusted with children. I recalled the time when Little Sister screamed the entire way home from Florida to Virginia because unbeknownst to me, she had a double ear infection. We didn’t make many friends on that flight.
Gone are the days when flight attendants give me dirty looks for my grubby, barefooted children, like the time when my 2 year old fell asleep across my lap, and I refused to wake him up to sit him upright for landing. The awful flight attendant then told me that he would probably break his back upon landing because of the G-forces. I told her that I would take that chance. (Astonishingly, my son remains intact.)
Walking into the Boise airport yesterday, I had a PTSD flashback from when I miscalculated the time it would take me to drive from McCall to Boise with my newborn and my 5 year old, and they wouldn’t check my carseats because I had arrived later than 30 minutes before my flight. I was traveling alone at the time, for whatever scheduling nightmare reason, and I had sent the luggage ahead with my husband. But that still left me lugging two carseats with a newborn on my chest and a tired and worn out kindergartner through the airport, trying desperately to hurry so we wouldn’t miss our flight. Of course, TSA picked that precise moment to search my son’s Spiderman backpack, which held some suspicious looking Duplos. Have you ever tried to sprint to a gate while wearing a baby Bjorn?
And of course, nobody can forget last year’s fiasco. I’m not sure which is worse, traveling with a newborn or a brain injured husband. Actually, I do. A brain injured husband is much, much worse.
I’ve had a kid puke, poop, and spill orange juice all over me in a plane. I’ve endured cancelled flights, mean flight attendants, and interupted travel plans. Twice I’ve had to spend the night in a hotel in a strange city with J, once when he was so little that he still took a bottle. The time in Atlanta was particularly lovely, because we sat in the airport so long waiting to be rescheduled (we’d missed our connection) that it was close to midnight before we got our flight worked out, and there were no vacant rooms at the airport hotel so we had to take the SUBWAY in the middle of the night to downtown Atlanta to find a hotel. Our flight flew out at 7am the next morning, so we both got about 5 hours of sleep. I was so tired when I landed in Salt Lake (again, flying alone—where IS my husband during all of this?) that I sat down and cried when I got my luggage because there was nobody to meet me at the baggage claim, and I couldn’t figure out how to both carry my suitcase *and* push the stroller that held my sleeping toddler.
And my family wonders why I’m so grumpy on our vacations….
The hardest flight I’ve ever taken had nothing to do with vacation, but rather our move to Arkansas. I was pregnant, and was too sick to make the drive from Salt Lake to Arkansas. We decided DH would drive our packed van, and J and I would fly. It’s a shortish flight, and it was supposed to be easier for both of us than a 2 day drive. I miscarried the day DH left, had to change my flight to 3 days later to make time for me to have a D&C, and flew to a completely new home in a strange city while still bleeding from the procedure. I happened to sit next to a lovely young man who played with my 17 month old baby, an LDS boy who was a recently returned missionary. He was great with J, and asked me, “So, when are you going to have another one?” I didn’t want to tell a stranger my whole story, so I managed a wobbly smile and told him that I would take whatever God gave me. When I got to our new home, I curled up on the bed and cried the whole night long.
Throughout all of this, I never figured out that it was going to get easier. I just figured motherhood was going to always be this hard, and that traveling was always going to be a never ending vortex of hell. But it actually does get easier. Who knew.
The day before we left, my MIL said, “Oh, tomorrow is going to just be so hard.” I said, “Why? What’s going on tomorrow?” She responded, “Well, you’re heading home. You’ll be traveling all day.” I said, “Oh, yeah, that.” What can I say, my kids are used to it. Piece of cake.
Okay, not a total piece of cake. The kids still get whiny because they’re tired, and they still have their childish moments. For example, as we neared the aiport today, Little Sister said, “Stop touching me, J!” J snaps back, “I’m not doing it on PURPOSE!” I look back to see J sprawled across 2/3rds of the back seat, with Little Sister curled up in the corner next to the window. “What are you doing?” I ask my son, who responds, “I’m just relaxing my arm, and I just HAPPENED to touch her!”
Right. Because “relaxing” is code for “stretching my body as far as it will go so I can casually hit my sister in the head.”
Also, we didn’t have seats together for our first leg, so I sat alone reading my trashy magazine while DH dealt with the kids. When we met up after the flight, my haggard looking husband said,
“Our children are horrible people.”
Oh well. Next year will be better.
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