Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Last Wednesday, LO and I boarded a plane to head east for a long-overdue grandparent and great-aunt visit.

That makes the plane ride sound a little easier than it was. To be entirely truthful, last Wednesday, LO stood in his bouncer screaming while I ran around like a madwoman throwing random things into a suitcase so that we could make our 12:30 departure (from the house). [Side note: I am a terrible packer. I always intend to be packed and ready to go with plenty of time before whatever trip there is, and yet I always end up trying to figure out what the heck happened to all my clean clothes about 15 minutes before I absolutely must leave or else just cancel the trip altogether. I could claim that this terrible habit comes from my thinking that I don't want to pack up stuff that I'm just going to need at home before I leave, but that would be a lie. My brain has just categorized packing as something that is not worth my time, like following Lindsay Lohan's twitter account or mopping. And yet packing, unlike celebrity stalking or floor-cleaning, does eventually need to be done. Which is why my son screams with impatient unhappiness while I try to rationalize packing clothes with ketchup stains on them].

After that delightful and stress-free exercise, I loaded LO, our suitcase, the diaper bag, the stroller, the car seat, several grand pianos and a few exotic birds into the car (which took approximately 17 trips back and forth, not counting my having to stop back in for a bathroom break and a diaper change--I'll let you decide who needed which one). And at that point, we were off!

Except that instead of falling into a sweet and untroubled slumber in the car, which was our pre-arranged agreement (I have the contract, footprinted in triplicate by LO), LO decided to remain unhappy and loud through the hour and 20 minute drive to the airport. Since I was getting a little peckish, and I had built in two hours of security checkpoint foolishness, just in case, I decided to stop for a sandwich in the hopes that letting LO eat my lunch might put him in a better frame of mind. He was happy to steal turkey and bread from me, but it did not improve his chances for napping. Something was UP. Things were DIFFERENT. There would be no napping during these strange times.

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time, and despite my concerns about TSA and LO going head-to-head in a baby smackdown, both the child and the security folks were smiley, helpful and curious about the magical conveyor belt. (Okay, maybe that last one was just LO.) Several TSA agents even collapsed the stroller for me, as it is impossible to do one handed, and requires several mechanically inclined people to figure out how to work when the one person who knows how to work it is struck remarkably articulate: "Um, you turn the thingie on the handle...No, you've got push and turn, but the other direction. Yeah, and then you've got to pull up on the other thingie. No, not the tray, because it'll just come off..."

By the time we reached the gate, I was certain that LO would fall gently to sleep in his stroller, as it had been five hours since his last nap (duration: 15 microseconds). Apparently, last Wednesday I was not only remarkably articulate but also prescient, as well. Because my dear little boy didn't close his eyes again until we had arrived in Baltimore and he woke up everyone on the Eastern Seaboard with his complaints to the management about this unacceptable bout of wakefulness.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

One of the benefits to having a smiley and adorable baby is that people tend to be much more forgiving of negative behavior than they might otherwise be. For example, LO loves to sit on my lap while I'm reading library books, grab hold of a page, and let 'er rip. I've now had to explain to the library twice why one of their books is not only de-paged, but also nibbled on. I find if I hold LO aloft in one hand while handing the ruined book over with the other, the librarian refrains from calling the library police and doesn't even get out the "Delinquent Borrower" whacking stick. S/he just coos over LO and asks for a pint of blood, which I'm happy to give.

So even though I was expecting most people to give me dirty looks for flying with a baby, instead they cooed over him, asked me his age and name, and generally looked out for us.

Then the puking began.

As we were boarding, something in LO's stomach decided that it was just too nice a day to stay inside and it made a reappearance on my shoulder. No problem! I have read enough parenting articles, blogs, books, humorous essays, etc, that I have learned from others' mistakes and know that I should travel with changes of clothing for LO *and* myself. Within moments of choosing a seat, I had my old shirt in a plastic baggie and a new shirt on, and I only gave a couple of flight attendants a slight thrill by changing right at my seat.

We took off with LO gnawing on a teething biscuit, and I settled in to listen to my book on ipod (knowing that it would REALLY be impossible to read on this flight). I had hoped that the white noise and motion of the plane would put LO to sleep, but instead it riled him up. ("What's that? What's that? I don't like that! What's this?") Halfway through the flight, some more of LO's food decided to make a reappearance, but baby wipes easily took care of it, and I resigned myself to smelling slightly sour as I landed in my hometown.

And then it happened. As we landed, LO gave me a look that warned me to brace myself for incoming. And out came pretty much everything the child had eaten for the previous 24 hours. He was covered. I was covered. The seat was covered. I waited for the child's head to spin around and for him to do some really inappropriate things with a cross, but he just gave me a maniacal grin and rubbed his eyes.

As soon as the fasten seat belt sign went off, I slipped into MacGuyver Mom mode. I warned the flight attendant that there was a mess in 37-C, headed back to the tiny restroom, perched LO on the toilet seat, and dug around in the diaper bag for my second extra shirt (I'm that good!) as well as my extra bra (it was that gross!). I couldn't do anything about my jeans smelling like something unpleasant at a dairy, but I was able to give LO a wipes bath and a new onesie and make sure I no longer looked like a crazed homeless woman, provided no one got close enough to sniff me.

At this point, LO and I were both thrilled to see the stroller waiting for us just outside the plane. Hello, old friend. We know you. You will give poor mom's arms a rest. LO can lay his keppy down on you.

Unfortunately, the lack of quality naps, the strangeness of the plane ride, the fact that Dad was not with us, the violent reappearance of lunch, Elevenses, breakfast, midnight snack, etc, and the fact that airports are never particularly fun or comforting places, LO managed to be an unhappy little cuss for the rest of the evening. He screamed at grandparents. He screamed at Mom. He refused to sleep. Finally, we lay down together in a tangle of exhaustion in my old room, and he told me he would think about it tomorrow.

And that is why any mother who tells you she flew with her 9 month old is leaving out most of the story.


  1. (Here via Feministe)

    This is hilarious...though it sounds like it was not at all fun at the time! My baby is only 3 months old, I am now afraid for the future!

  2. @Bridget, Thanks for visiting! I think traveling with two adults per one small child is helpful, as our next trip (with the whole family) went muuuuch more smoothly. This does mean we'll need to explore polyamory or hiring babysitters once there's more than one munchkin, however.