Saturday, August 8, 2009

So THAT is why they call it a Red Eye...

Daily Specs:

Attainable Goal - Physically get out of the house and walk my kids to the mailbox and back
Grievance - I have not been outside yet today. Eek.
Celebration - I just cooked fish with relative success. It was moist and flaky and flavorful.

A few months ago I wrote a blog asking advice about flying by myself with a toddler and an infant. I would like to thank those who responded. I was well prepared and the trip to Oregon was a success. However, no amount of preparation (short of something blatantly illegal) could have prepared me for the horror that was the trip home.

I had us scheduled on a red eye flight to get from Oregon back Alabama. Originally, we were supposed to embark from PDX at 12:30 a.m. (yes folks...middle of the night), layover in Houston for 4 hours, then arrive in Birmingham in the early afternoon. Long and awful, right? I was expecting it to be very tiring for me, but I was also counting on the fact that the kids would be so tuckered out that they would sleep on the two planes. After the 2nd leg of our flight got changed to an earlier time and our layover was cut to a little over 1 hour, I was a much happier camper. I would not have to find something to do in Houston forever. Not to mention, we would have been home early in the morning and Big Love could pick us up before he went to work. I was so excited!

Game Plan: Boys take an extremely long nap on afternoon prior to flights. I keep boys up as late as humanly possible, therefore instigating a dead drop into an instant REM cycle the moment we get buckled into the plane. I checked in all of the bags except the diaper bag, not forseeing the need for the dvd player or storybooks, and creating more ease in transport from city to terminal to terminal to city. I was confident in my plan. Until my plan unraveled before I even got to the check-in line.

As those of us with toddlers know, it can often be a virtual impossiblity to entertain a cranky 2 year old. If you are to add the late night hour, the shuffling through a winding line of strangers with suitcases, and knowing Gramma/Poppa are about to leave, you have a very VERY sad little Boy Love. As we were waiting in the line to check our bags, it took the combined effort of Gramma and myself to keep him from breaking free from his kid-on-a-leash and run screaming for his life out the giant airport revolving door. No matter what we tried, h was not to be satiated. He would pull on his leash as hard as he could, then fall desperately to the floor, kicking his feet and thrashing his head and screeching "NO! RUN RUN!" at the top of his wee (yet impressively strong) lungs. From the other people in line, we got a combination of oh-bless-their-heart looks and I-better-not-be-sitting-next-to-this-terror-on-the-plane looks. I did not intend to apologize for any of our actions, for I knew that any other parent would sympathize, and any other person who was not a parent yet will be blessed with this type of situation soon enough.

As we approached the lady at the desk, she informed us (with FAR too much cheer) that our plane was delayed 50 minutes. This made my 1 hour layover into 10 minutes. Not nearly enough time to get from the the back of my little plane, through four airplane terminals toting two children, and onto the next plane. My night was going to be just splendid.

After a nearly flawless security experience, I went to the restroom to change both boys and tried to get settled at our gate for the next hour and a half while we wait for our flight. Boy would have none of it. He preferred to try and escape from his stroller by Fred Flinstone-ing his feet as fast as they could grab the floor. After he had run the wheels into at least 4 sleeping strangers I scolded him for trying to escape. The only thing to satisfy him was to ride the moving sidewalk back and forth. So that is what we did. We rode the moving sidewalk non-stop for an hour. As soon as we were allowed to board, he was still not sleeping (1:15 am) and once again screeching. But now Baby Love, attached to my front by way of Baby Bjorn, was also crying as I tried to get us scrunched and setttled into our seats. The first hour of the flight consisted to crying children. Not only mine, but all the other parents who thought kids + red eye was a good idea. We were all kicking ourselves at that point.

Boy and I slept for 2 hours on that flight. 2 of the 4 hours. The rest of the time consisted of screaming, and attempting to stop Boy from kicking the seat in front of him which was holding an irritated old lady who was trying to sleep. Needless to say, she did not sleep much. Unlike Baby Love, who slept through everything. We missed our connecting flight, which not only meant that we had to spend three hours in the Houston Airport, but we would not be back to Alabama by the time Big Love had to go to work. He arranged a ride for us, but we were both terribly upset that we could not see each other until later in the night. I spent the three hours trying to push a very awake and very active 2 year old in the stroller, hold a floppy and sleepy baby on my front, have a 15 lb diaper bag slung over one shoulder, and get us all appropriately changed, fed, and coffee'd. I wanted to give up. I was sitting in the group of identical tables in the middle of the airport food area, and just stared into the distance. It was 8 am local time, we had two hours of sleep, and I had spent all of my expendable energy trying to keep Boy from escaping/screaming/hurting himself or others. And I still had 2.5 hours until my next plane was scheduled to leave.

We begrudgingly made our slow little way to the gate, where I sat next to a mother traveling with her children. Her kids, also both boys, seemed to be no trouble at all. One was sitting delightfully next to her, colouring in a book. The other was sleeping on the floor at her feet. She was reading a romance novel. Neither of her children were on leashes, in strollers, or strapped to her with any sort of straight-jacket style apparatus. They were perfect. They may as well have been wearing little searsucker suits with bow ties combing their perfectly parted hair, singing out of a hymnal. I wanted to throw something at her. I wanted to have my baby throw up on her sleeping child so he would wake up and cause a ruckus. Instead, I asked, "How do your kids do that? How do they behave?" She responded simply. "It gets easier as they get older."

For some reason, this really encouraged me. My children are 2 years and 4 months. No one can expect children of that age to do anything as planned. They are on their own schedule, and they bring everyone else along for the ride. I should have had this in my mind as I embarked, and been thinking less about my plan and more about theirs. Or just not thinking at all. I should have planned for anything, then I would have been far more successful.

The second leg of the trip was pretty much the same. It was 10:30 Houston time when we left, Boy had still not slept and was again screaming. However, I was sitting in front of the Perfect Lady and her Perfect Children, and Boy found a friend in the Sleeping Perfect Child. They spoke back and forth for some of the time, which made the rest of the crying times much more bearable. And the most important thing, I stopped myself from jumping off the brink of a complete emotional breakdown.

I have walked away with a few lessons from this experience. Never again will I fly with the kids without Big Love with me. Never again will I attempt the red eye flight, no matter how many adults are there to supervise. But most importantly, my kids are young. They do whatever they feel they need to do with zero regard to my "plan". I need to accept that, learn that people around me will either accept that or not, and move on.

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