Traveling with small children: a cautionary tale

We made it. We survived. More importantly my husband isn’t filing for divorce after I booked not one, but TWO 6am flights. Please, if nothing else, listen to me very clearly when I say DO NOT BOOK A 6AM FLIGHT WITH SMALL CHILDREN. You may say to yourself “oh, but it’s so much cheaper and I’m sure they’ll be so tired they’ll sleep.” I do not care if the flight is millions of dollars cheaper and on one of those crazy airlines where your seat converts into a king-sized bed and you’re served warm chocolate chip cookies with milk from a bejeweled goblet. Don’t do it. Because there is a slight chance, and by slight I mean definite, that your kids will be cranky as F and won’t sleep so you’ll have no choice but to keep them riding a lollipop-fueled sugar high to stave off a public meltdown.

On Thursday, AJR magically woke up all on his own at 2:45a.m….a full 30 minutes before I set MY alarm to go off. He woke up waaay too turnt – “MOMMY I GO ON THE AIRPLANE” and was tap dancing throughout the house until we left. Olivia had the audacity to throw me shade when I dared wake HER at 3:45a.m. like she hasn’t been waking me up at all hours of the night since she’s been born.But sure, shoot me that dirty look if it makes you feel better. I reassured my husband ahead of time “oh, don’t worry. It’ll be so early they’ll sleep on the way to the airport.” False. AJR was spewing an endless stream of excited toddler chatter the entire ride to the airport and Olivia was wide-eyed in the backseat hanging on her brother’s every word. My children sleep for me? It’s like I didn’t even know them. Disaster was imminent but I was determined to keep on a happy front as my husband kept giving me these “I told you it was a bad idea to book a flight this early but you insisted and I will never let you plan a family trip for us again” looks from the driver’s seat.

I smugly doled out advice prior to my trip but how did I do in actually taking it?

#1: Don’t make eye contact: FAIL

When my eyes weren’t rolled up in my head from annoyance as I walked up and down the aisles of the plane with a crying baby in an Ergo trying to will her to go the F to sleep, they happened to occasionally lock with the eyes of other passengers. Their looks ranged from: sympathy, irritation, and “Lady, if your child-bearing hips graze my elbow one more time I’m going to stick my foot out and trip you.” Honestly, did those aisles get more narrow or am I making things up? PS: to the guy on our return flight from from Chicago to Newark that said “Her eyes are WIIIIIDEEEEE open” I sincerely mean this, but F you. You could not think of a more unhelpful thing to say if you tried. I wish explosive diarrhea on you.

#2: SNACKS ALL THE TIME: PASS

My diaper bag contained an endless barrage of every toddler snack whim. Nothing was off limits and “no” was not in our vocabulary while traveling. Veggie Straws provided the proper servings of vegetables while en route.

#3: NEVER LET THE KIDS OUT OF THE STROLLER: FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL

If you're going to let them out, make sure you keep them secure with a leash. Don't even judge me.

If you’re going to let them out, make sure you keep them secure with a leash. Don’t even judge me.

I don’t know why we even bothered bringing the double stroller because both children were only ever in it together for approximately 4.5 seconds and my husband clearly isn’t reading my blog because he had AJR out of the stroller before we even got through security. In his defense, I suppose the ear-splitting screams of LET ME OUT LETMEOUTLETMEOUTLETMEOUT at 4:30a.m. had something to do with it, so hey.

However, the fact that he was out of the stroller allowed me to heavily lean on #4 & #5 which was bribery/threats. Want a lollipop? You only get one if you sit in the stroller. If you don’t get back in the stroller we are NOT going to see your cousin! (emptiest threat…we are here at the airport, it’s happening, but he’s 2 and doesn’t know that).

#6: SCREENTIME: PASS

AJR didn’t nap for 12 hours on Thursday because we kept him glued to that iPad and I didn’t even want to break him out of his trance to suggest something so ridiculous as a much-needed nap. While he behaved on the flights, it was absolutely terrifying carrying around a toddler that hasn’t napped for 12 hours. It’s like carrying around a ticking time bomb. You know that bomb is going to go off, it’s just a matter of when and how bad the fall-out is.

ipad

#7: DRESS IN LAYERS: PASS

I’m not sure which the passengers on our flight saw more of: my boobs or my butt crack since I’m in between pant sizes and went with the larger pants because I decided a crack is classier than a muffin top. Olivia hates bottles and prefers to go straight from the tap, so layers were a necessity so she could have easy access. At one time, my husband and I did attempt to build a tent out of an Aden & Anais blanket so I could have “privacy” while I nursed but I quickly stopped giving a shit because 1. Olivia kept pulling it down and 2. A “nursing tent” is the equivalent of a neon sign that shouts “I AM BREASTFEEDING! LOOK OVER HERE AND THEN AWKWARDLY LOOK AWAY WHEN YOU REALIZE WHAT I’M DOING”

#8: NIGHTTIME DIAPER: FAIL

AJR thankfully waited until he got off the plane to drop a load, but once again Olivia decided that 36,000 feet is the perfect place for an ill-timed poop. The changing table had slightly more surface area but she is a hell of lot more wiggly and wanted to touch EVERYTHING. I was so concerned about the germs of the huddled masses going directly into my daughter’s mouth that I decided her rolled up dirty diaper was a better alternative while I finished things up. Yes, turds were my daughter’s play thing. But you know what? At least 30% of the food I feed her is organic so that’s got to make for a semi-organic deuce, which isn’t all that bad in my book.

#9: LOLLIPOPS: Please. 

lollipop

Mom of the Year

The Holy Grail of bribes and motivational tool for good behavior. AJR promptly got one after our 2nd flight and was happily eating it (in the stroller mind you) when a smug doucher with his two stepford children gave me a “oh, you have to stoop to that level. How quaint” look. But you know what…I didn’t even care because…

#10: GIVE ZERO F***S: PASS PASS PASS PASS PASS

AJR wants to ride the moving walk way a bazillion times during our layover while I look like a tool? Done. I am a shadow of my former self so no one is really looking at me anyway.

movingwalkway2

I am eternally grateful to you, moving walkway.

Olivia’s pacifier dropped on the floor of the airplane for the 432nd time?  Here you go, baby! I knew the love between my husband and I was never stronger after we made eye contact when it happened and I placed my hand on his forearm and nodded softly before he popped it back into her mouth following a casual swipe with a baby wipe.

AJR wants to watch the planes take off and shout excitedly while I encourage him by saying “Oh no! Are they going to crash??” (okay, so maybe not the best thing ever. But in my defense we play something called “crash game” with his cars so I was trying to emulate that): Go right ahead, buddy! Find another seat if you don’t like it, strangers.

planewatching

I could go into excruciating detail about every painful step of our flight (which I sorta kinda did)  but I don’t think it’s any mystery that traveling with small children is a miserable and hellish experience.  All of that aside, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t worth it when I saw my niece and AJR playing together. Or watching him follow his big cousin around like a stage 5 clinger. Or seeing the joy on my niece’s face as she whacked the shit out of her birthday piñata, raining down candy on the heads of eager children after only three swings. This is why we put ourselves through all of this – to see the joy on our kids’ faces. And really, isn’t that what parenthood is all about?

cousins

I literally teared up when I saw how well this picture came out. TEARS! Probably because I was exhausted and in a precarious emotional state, but still. I am a softie.

PS: This helped a lot. My sister-in-law and her husband are amazingly generous hosts with a heavy-handed pour. My kind of people.

wine

 

 

 

 

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