Monday, October 3, 2011

Travelling with tots

With the big trip across country impending I am doing what any sane organized person would be doing, staying up the entire night before packing and cleaning (and blogging).

Ummmmm, I meant to say, that I'm reminiscing on the many adventures of travelling with tots during trips past.

Allow me to take you down memory lane.

The first time I travelled alone it was with my twins and they were 1 or 1.5. I remember quite clearly sitting in my in-laws spare room and arguing with the airlines about why I was paying for one seat and wanted one listed as lap child and why they HAD to give me a discount. I got my way but it took way too long and was way too stressful. That was also the trip where I learned the magic and the wonder that is a carseat on a plane. The one son that was lucky enough to get his own seat was used to the seat and knew it meant be quiet and still. It had familiar smells, and I'm sure familiar stains too, and held a sense of comfort. He went to his happy place in 2 seconds flat. The not so lucky twin that got to cuddle mommy was also fairly happy but made mommy oh so unhappy because I was forced into all sorts of contortionist moves, and if you know me you know I was not built for contortion, in order to keep the not so lucky baby asleep. But all's well that ends well, and we made the trip virtually unscathed.

After that I travelled several times with my twins and considered myself an expert (turns out it's just in their disposition to be quiet and calm and not my skills at all, but I still take credit). All went fairly well and I developed a veritable arsenal of secret weapons including fruit snacks, goldfish crackers, etch a sketches, yoyos and empty pez dispensers. I also learned the #1 travel secret for the one parent multiple child ratio, sit next to the bathroom. There are 2 reasons for this:

1. No one else wants to sit there. It stinks, so there are always available seats (even those rare finds, the extra empty seat that you can put your legs up on, or all your kids travel crap). Lucky for you, one of your kids usually stinks too, so it masks the odor and you, as a parent, are virtually immune to all nasty smells anyways. The joys of parenthood and gassy husbands.

2. Multiple children do not fit well with you in an airplane bathroom. Not sure if you've noticed, but these bathrooms tend to be extremely small and therefor unlikely to fit your post birth shape plus the giant diaper bag and 3 kids you have in tow. This is where the absolute beauty of the bathroom seats come into play. You can send them in and leave the door open letting them go while you oversee both them and the ones still in their seats. Not old enough to go alone? No problem. You can easily leave one sleeping and know that you'll hear if they wake up while you help the other one in the toilet. In a real bind? You are right next to the flight attendants prime hang out zone and they have no choice but to notice you and help you. It's like a law or something I'm pretty sure.

Due to the fact that my kids, without fail, need to go one after the other and never at the same time, I have become an amazing bathroom attendant on flights (they should pay me for the prime service I am supplying their patrons.) Basically, I spend 5 hours standing between two bathroom stalls and yelling at my kids in the seat while calmly and sweetly explaining to every person that comes back desperate to relieve themselves that, "My kids in that one, use the other one." It also easily allows me to do the standing mommy shush jiggle (that's the official name) where I try desperately and hopelessly to calm and quiet one of my children without drugs or smothering. I never succeed but Lord knows I try.

Then came my third child. This is when I realized that my parenting skills scored zero and my tricks were all a sham. He hates to fly. Like hates with the intensity of a volcanic explosion. As in he always explodes his hatred all over everyone on the flight, through sound, smells, feet, fists of fury and of course, puke. His arsenal of anger is vastly superior to any tricks I have ever had up any sleeve. He renders me hopeless and useless.

What, you don't believe me? Not my sweet adorable angel with the oh so pinchable cheeks? HA! Let me tell you...

A few years ago we were flying to Portland, OR for my sisters wedding. We gave our youngest some medicine right before we got on the airplane (he had a cold and we hoped it would help him sleep too). We got on the plane and he was super fussy and unappreciative that he was being forced to sit in my lap. The flashing seatbelt light went on and they announced that we were beginning take off. Naturally my son chose this moment to unload the contents of his stomach all over me and my seat. Are you understanding this? The seatbelt light was on!!! I was trapped in my sons vomit. He felt much better after this and fell asleep. One hour later when we could finally get up and move around the cabin I had to decide. Clean up myself and my seat and ensure a screaming child for the next 4 hours or let the child sleep and sit in the nastiest of all nasties that I had ever been forced to endure. I chose the nastiness, as cringeworthy as it was, it was still better than the other option.

Then there was the flight where I got to endure the other option. It was when I flew with just my youngest because my grandma was ill and I wanted to be with her during her final time. I was not in the best mental place. I can tell my son cares, because to take my mind off it, he threw something new into his horrifying airplane repertoire. When the seatbelt light went on and they announced take off (this is his magic time, where his skills really shine) he slid out of his seatbelt and underneath the blanket I had tangled around my legs. He then proceeded to bang his head and fists into the metal plate on the floor that holds in the seat for the next 30 minutes while screaming at a decibel that had never before been heard by human ears. Because I am overweight and could not unbuckle myself during takeoff I had to sit and try quietly to talk him out of his rage. This managed to add fuel to his fury but did little else other than make me feel minusculy less useless. As soon as the seat belt light went off I unbuckled, scooped up my son that looked like he had been horrifyingly beaten, shirked away from the condemning looks and knowing nods and proceeded to stand in my magic spot as bathroom attendant for the next 4.5hrs in an effort to quiet and calm him.

I travelled with my 3 boys last summer and I can't recall any of the details. Either I have numbed myself to try and forget some horrible pain that was inflicted on me and a variety of unsuspecting passengers, or it went well. Who knows really?
So I look forward to the trip tomorrow cautiously. I am mentally preparing myself for the worst and in my heart I am hoping for the very best. I do have one thing working in my favor. My youngest son drowned. I know that sounds awful, but here's the thing, he came out of the ordeal a different child. It was all horrible, horrifying and horrendous in the moment. But, he lived, he persevered and he was healed of all side affects from that awful day. Not only that, but his headstrong behavior was toned down like 20 notches. He is still my son, just with a lot less cringeworthy moments, than what we experienced during his first 3 years.

There's hope. There's also an IPad and an IPod. Cause a girls got have some tricks just in case.

Have you ever travelled as the sole adult responsible for your child?

1 comment:

  1. I feel your pain :). I've traveled more times than I can count with the three alone... although thankfully I have always had very helpful other passengers (who will hold my baby while I take 2 to the bathroom), or who carry my bags off the plane, or when the security gaurd saw me coming and opened me up my very own security line, then assigned a lady to me, who helped all my children take their shoes off... I hope you are equally blessed this trip!! Have a great time!!