Those of you who have traveled even occasionally will appreciate the excruciating pain that is traveling with kids who have to “go” often and at inappropriate times while in transit.
See, I planned to begin peppering this blog with little tidbits of travel advice for those of you contemplating packing up young infants and flying home for a summer vacation or a mini-break over Memorial Day. I was going to be hearty and upbeat. I was going to tell you to pack lots of snacks and games. But instead, the more articles I read about how to plan for that “4 hour road trip” or that “3 hour time change” the more I feel the discomforting urge to blurt out, “just suck it up, man – that’s basically the amount of time it takes us just to get to the airport, clear customs and pre-board!”
So, basically, if your travel plans are under 8 hours, I got nothing for you. Because on a flight home to South Africa, at the 8 hour mark – if you or your kids have been lucky enough to actually sleep – you wake up after 8 hours and “hey, presto” just another 8 hours to go!
If your travel plans are under 10 hours, we have a minuscule amount more in common. But, bear in mind, I have on more than one occasion spent that amount of time in an airport with my main man and my kids BEFORE THE INTERNATIONAL FLYING TIME EVEN BEGAN! In the words of Jackson – “oh yea, baby! That’s right!”
If your travel time hits the 12 hour mark we now both know the fragile air ballet involved in trying to negotiate children to sleep in cramped quarters that will have you mastering the art of contortion by the end of the flight. About this time, when the in-flight kids entertainment has been used up, the snacks eaten, and the benadryl offered a miracle might occur – one and sometimes even two of your children will – against all odds – fall asleep. And right then, when bliss is within reach, your flight will pitstop. At 2am. On an island in the middle of nowhere. To refuel. Because apparently South Africa is more than a hop, skip and a jump away. And while no one will be allowed to disembark, ALL THE OVERHEAD LIGHTS WILL BE TURNED ON. All bags will be searched. All seat cushions will be pulled up, examined and replaced. All bathrooms will be cleaned. All passengers will be identified. And ALL SLEEPING CHILDREN WILL WAKE UP!
If your travel time inches up to the 18 hour margin, we begin to have quite a bit in common. Because then you too know what it’s like to fake sleep so that your husband will be forced to change yet another poopy diaper in the confines of the bulkhead toilet, beg the flight attendant for yet MORE apple juice, or apologize once again to the business traveler in front of you who continues to stare pointed daggers at your toddler who has to have SOMETHING to bang his head against. I mean, at this point in the flight, who doesn’t??
If your travel time gets close to the 36 hour mark, we may become bosom buddies! Because then you too will know what it’s like to have lost track of terminals, time zones, and your mind. You will know how it feels to have your contact lenses suction-cupped to your eyeballs and how quickly you lose any sense of dignity and are no longer embarrassed by those T-Shirt stains you got during the previous 4 meals eaten on cramped knees between crazed kids. You will understand the sweet torture of being within site of your gate only to get pulled aside for a spot security check, which includes waking the infant finally slumbering on your chest after crossing multiple time zones so that you can both be subjected to what, I can only imagine, must look to him like some insane form of laser tag.
And you will know the sweet revenge wreaked upon the foolish security folks when said infant goes ballistic and into full throttle Masai warrior mode – directing his red, enraged, frothing, sleep-deprived, saliva-flecked face in the direction of the world at large. And as he screams the fury you can’t express, you will smile sickly at the security guard, clutch your babe to your chest, abandon whatever dignity you may have had left, and sprint for the gate because there is NO WAY you are spending another night away from your own bed!
Ok, where was I going with this. Travel tidbits – scratched, travel encouragement – nada, travel humor – oh yea – when your little guy’s gotta go while you are on the go…..
So consider this your travel tidbit, encouragement, and laugh of the day all rolled into one: it’s hour 36 of our nightmare trip home from South Africa via Isle De Sol. It’s 7am New York time; it’s dinner time in South Africa, and we’re still one more flight away from our final destination. Jackson is ravenous. But breakfast fare won’t do. All he wants is “chicken nuggets and chocolate milk.” Ugh, just typing it makes me nauseous. Anyway, believe me, when you are approaching two full days of travel you give your kids whatever it is they want, and you give it STAT!
One order of Mcknuggets and chocolate milk later I am facing the gate agent and requesting our seat assignments. Jackson is perched on the counter top between me and the attendant. When – how does the old rhyme go again – if you see a brown stream, and you know you want to scream: Di-ahrrea, Di-ahrrea!
That brown trickle running down the check-in desk and gaining speed as it poured toward the floor was not the stuff of great seat assignments. It was not the kind of sugar and spice I had envisioned my little one working for the nice check-in lady. It was not the brand of toddler magic I was hoping he would wield. It was the cherry on top of the nightmare trip. And it was gaining momentum!
I raised my eyebrows at my beloved. I smiled. I beckoned him over. And I thrust our child at him with one whispered, desperate phrase “You will need the wipes!” Then I swept up the rest of the evidence in his once light blue sweater and asked, “could you be sure one of those is an aisle seat?”
She did. It was. We made it. Most of Jackson’s clothes did not. Here’s the travel tidbit – always bring an extra set of clothes for every 8 hours of your trip.
Down to his last set Jackson was also down to his last shred of endurance and during take-off he insisted that his clothes were, “too hot”, that he was “too tired” and that the only thing he wanted was to “be nakey.” And nothing I could do was gonna stop him. My main man stared out the window with a vacant look on his face that said, “Don’t ask me, I don’t know them.” And the only redeeming factor was that we were in the very last row with no one else beside us. That and the fact that after Jackson passed out I was able to sneak his clothes back on him. He wasn’t naked for the whole flight. Just a large, awkward portion.
Ok, time to laugh. And be encouraged – next time you get hives at the thought of flying home all the way from DC to Chicago for Christmas – truth is you’ll probably do it in under 2 days. Heck, you’ll probably do it in under 2 hours. Then again, flying into Chicago. In the winter. It might take you a week.