I remember when vacation meant a week of sleeping in, eating meals over the course of hours while enjoying a bottle of wine and long leisurely days laying on the beach. I long for those days sometimes but I generally love vacations with my kids, too. What I don’t like is flying with my kids. A friend of mine told me she’s getting on a plane this week without her kids. I’m so jealous. I’ve flown without my kids once in five years. It was the most glorious trip ever. I didn’t have to feed anyone, get anyone down for a nap or worry that someone was going to be unable to equalize the pressure in their ears and scream bloody murder for three hours. It was awesome. Here’s what flying looks like before kids and after kids:
Before: Getting to the airport exactly one hour before my departure time because that’s all I needed.
After: I now arrive at the airport two hours before departure because we travel with an entourage made up of 7 suitcases, a stroller, two car seats and two children who only want to run in opposite directions from each other. Moving through the airport is like driving an 18 wheeler: long, slow, wide turns while constantly checking to make sure I haven’t run into someone or dropped anything/anyone off on the side.
Before: Sharing knowing, annoyed glances with strangers over the screaming child in 9B.
After: Dodging eye contact with everyone around me because my child is seated in 9B screaming his head off. Instead, I share knowing, sympathetic looks with the other people traveling with kids and gratefully accept the bag of half-eaten Cheetos from the mom across the aisle in hopes it will shut my kid up.
Before: I would pick out a book just for reading on the airplane knowing I would have a chance to sit there for several hours, uninterrupted, able to totally engross myself in the characters and plot.
After: My reading material consists of something that includes an illustrator listed on the cover or the Sky Mall magazine.
Before: I ordered more than one drink without dodging disapproving looks from other passengers.
After: I order more than one drink but it’s usually for the six passengers seated around me who are being tortured by my kid crying or my kid’s movie that is inexplicably still audible despite him wearing headphones, and those who will need surgery for their herniated disc caused by my kid repeatedly kicking their seat.
Before: I wouldn’t drink anything for an hour before the plane in fear of having to actually use one of those broom closets disguised as a bathroom.
After: I contemplate letting my kid pee in a bottle rather than taking him to the bathroom. I made the mistake once of scheduling a trip while my kid was in the middle of potty training. Never again. You think airplane bathrooms are gross? Try being three feet tall with questionable balance. There aren’t many places to put your hands to keep from falling over.
The next time you are flying and seated near someone traveling with kids, offer to buy them a drink. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it as much as you.