Michele Dahl is a freelance writer and mom to 3 year old firecracker, Shelby and 1 year old sweetheart, Cash. In between working 3 jobs – not including her unpaid gig as mommy – she is a contributing writer and product reviewer for Hollywood Mom Blog. Follow her on Twitter @Elle_Renee.
As the departure date for my impending cross-country airplane trip with my 2-year-old and my 4-month-old rapidly approaches, I have become increasingly terrified. With every thought about how I am going to handle this solo, my stomach drops a little bit more. Because this trip is due to necessity and definitely not a vacation, there was never even a question of whether I would bring the kids with me for these reasons:
A. I am so stubborn that I could not possibly relinquish parenting control of either child for an indefinite period of time.
B. My heart would ache for them the entire time… well, the first 2 days of silence would be kind of amazing, but then I think I’d start to miss them. Actually, day 3.. no definitely day 4. Yes. On day 4, I would start to miss them.
And C. I firmly believe that my family and friends at our destination have little to no interest in seeing me by myself and upon hearing that I was making the trip back to NJ without the kids, would either slap me across the face via text message or book the kids a ticket themselves.
So, as you can see, I’ve been doomed from the start.
I have visions of evil eyes glaring at me from the boarding area as I stroll up with the Maclaren and the BabyBjorn. I can hear them thinking, “How dare this lady bring children onto my plane?!” Some parents are capable of brushing off those nasty vibes from their fellow passengers. But, for this people-pleaser, it takes quite a lot for me to “not care what they think.” I have to actively try not to care, and sometimes that takes more effort than just caring in the first place! These people cannot possibly have children, I tell myself. And if they do, then they have never been faced with the need to travel across country alone with said children. And if they still stare at me like that, then they obviously do not have a compassionate bone in their body and seeking their approval is clearly not worth my energy. My energy needs to be reserved for dealing with random tantrums, in-flight breastfeeding, and the possibility of not sleeping for the next 2 days.
Having booked a red-eye flight, I am hoping against all hope that my children will sleep because of their natural sleep schedules. We leave at 10:30 p.m. and arrive at 3:50 a.m. (California time), so they just HAVE to sleep for some portion of the flight. But on our last airplane ride from NJ to CA, I was convinced that my almost 2-year-old daughter would doze off in her convertible car seat, which I had lovingly dragged through the airport at 34 weeks pregnant, and to no avail. We didn’t leave quite as late for that flight, but still, her little eyes didn’t shut until, conveniently, the second we landed! Instead of talking up the idea of a fun airplane ride, I, being the clever mommy that I am, have been telling my daughter that we are going to sleep on an airplane. Maybe if she approaches the situation prepared for sleep, then it will be less of a battle. I dare not say there will be no battle – but any way that I can minimize the fight will help. I’m not taking all of the fun out of the idea – she is understandably excited about the fun snacks they have to offer – like pretzels and juice – which for an adult, would be equivalent to unlimited Belvedere Martinis. As for me, I’m more excited for JetBlue’s complimentary Dunkin Donuts’ coffee.
I am, however, prepared in the event that my seemingly foolproof “they’ll sleep because it’s at night” plan backfires on me and I end up with a plane full of angry, sleepless passengers. Although, in my mind, it looks more like a witch hunt with livid, drowsy, torch-toting villagers chasing me down the tarmac! We’re going for ease of transport here, so the Coach diaper bag will remain in the suitcase until arrival and I have packed my knapsack better than any member of the Baby-Sitters Club ever could. I raided the dollar store for crayons, markers, coloring books, a miniature chalk board, stickers, and anything else that will provide as much fun as possible for as long as possible with as little mess as possible. My husband tried to help choose items but to his dismay, was only scoffed at by me when he presented such ideas as a new jump-rope and sugar-blast lollipops… Really?
Ultimately, we will board the airplane, we will survive the ride, and we will make it to New Jersey in one piece…or 3 pieces, rather, when you count baby brother. It may not be fun at times, and who knows, maybe it will be, but in the end, we will get there. And if I have to spend $6 on the in-flight Alvin and The Chipmunks Squeakquel at 2 in the morning, then so be it. I may have to prop my daughter’s little body on top of my carry-on bag in her seat and force her to wear earphones in order for it to work, but if that’s what it takes for her to enjoy some overly sexual female Chipmunks singing “Single Ladies” for a few minutes, then it is so worth the sanity I will receive in return. All of my worrying and preparation aside, I know that we will enjoy our visit and help where we are needed. Then, in 3 weeks, we will go back to JFK Airport and do it all again.