Saturday, September 17, 2016

Flying without children

I have four children.

At one point I had four children 5 and under.

During that time we lived overseas as my husband was in the Air Force. Due to his leave time I was forced to fly by myself with all my children on a few occasions.

My children are now 8 and under but the struggle is still real.

And this past weekend I flew to Boston, by myself, to spend time with a dear friend from my military days.


May I please just share with you the beauty of this process. I present to you ...

Flying without children.

There is something very odd about pulling up to the airport for a trip without my children. First I must note that in preparing for this trip, I packed the morning of. I simply picked a few items, through them in a tiny carry-on bag and considered my job done.
  • I did not pack any stuffed animals.
  • I did not include any markers.
  • There were no stickers, snacks, sippy cups or methods of bribery (aka lollipops and skittles) anywhere in sight. 
  • I took four books for me to read.
  • And I didn't find it necessary to include any changes of clothes in my carry-on.
As I parked my vehicle and pulled my one bag out, I felt a bit odd. Could this be it? Is this truly all I needed to take this trip? I must be missing something. Surely I was.

But no. Me and my one bag casually headed up to the building. I crossed the street without giving myself any instructions to stay close, pay attention, don't push, or "Quit jumping on top of your brother!"

I walked up to the ticket counter and had a leisurely conversation with the agent. I did not need to bobble my diaper bag and a baby on my hip and give my other children looks of death that said "If you hit your sister one more time while I am trying to get out seat assignments I will make it very un-fun for you in a moment."

And then I went through security. Oh the joy of going through security by myself. I wouldn't say it was fun, but I actually found the process, dare I say ... relaxing. Standing in line. People watching. Holding my one boarding pass. Slipping off my shoes easily.

There was no need to pull out all the baby bottles full of distilled water and have them tested. There were no questions about how big my diaper cream container was. I didn't have to try to take a sleeping baby out of the stroller or put a carseat through the conveyer or hold up the entire line for eighteen minutes.

Oh and that whole process of trying to send my four kids, one by one, through the security check while they waited for me on the other side?


It was just me. And my one bag. And my four books. 

Once through security, I observed people a bit stressed out. These were not people with kids. These were people traveling by themselves. I couldn't help but wonder what in the world could cause them angst! Delayed a day? Why is this a problem? Didn't you bring your four books? There is coffee and Mountain Dew and Cinnabon and peanut butter M&Ms and issues of People scattered at every turn. How could there be any problems in the world?

I wanted to tell them to slow down. That's what I was doing. Going slow. In fact I lingered in a gift shop. I mean honestly just dawdled. I flipped through a few magazines, checked out various postcards, and then bought myself some chocolate that I planned to eat all ... by .... myself.

(Did I tell you that none of my children can hear when I call their name across a room, but that they can hear a candy wrapper being opened from opposite floors in my house?)

I wandered to my gate. I did not choose a seat based on offending the fewest people. I didn't mind the news in the background playing things that I wouldn't want my children to hear. And goodness knows I didn't get all settled only to have a little voice yell, "I gotta go poop!"

A few minutes before boarding, I went to the bathroom. And this was where my eyes were opened to how the other side lives.

Firstly I picked one stall. My stall. I did not have to decide where to leave my children. In the past, when my kids are with me, I have to make a decision. Find a big stall that I can take them all in with me. If I choose this option, I must listen to the following things while doing my business:
  • "Do you have to go poop or pee Mommy?"
  • "Mommy was that you that tooted?"
  • "Did you do number 1 or number 2?"
  • "Why do you not sit down all the way when you go to the bathroom?"
  • "What is that you are pulling out of your purse?"
If I choose to leave my children outside of the stall then we must play a game of he said / she said during the entire visit.

"Are you there?"
"I can't see your feet."
"They are here."
"Where are your brothers?"
"We are here Mom!"
"Are you hitting each other?"
"Are you sure?"
"Where's your little sister?"
"We don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?"
"We think she went into the stall next to you?"
"Hannah!?" Pause. "Hannah?!" Pause. "HANNAH!?!?"
"Yes Mommy?"
"Where are you?"
"I'm here."
"Crawling to come in with you."
"Oh Hannah the floor is dirty."
"It's okay."
"Abigail? Are you there?"
"I'm here."
"Where are your brothers?"

You get the idea. I simply did what needed to be done without question or concern. I did not have to tell people not to touch the toilet seat or to not lay on the floor. And when I washed my hands, I didn't have to concern myself with how high the sinks were and how low my kids were. I also didn't have to worry that the loud air blowers was going to send one of my children into a fit of hysterics as they sobbed and screamed that they were so scared and it was way too loud. I blow dried my hands and actually ... tarried. 

I boarded the plane next. I sat down. And I pulled out my book. I then began reading. I did not, at any point, have to bend down and retrieve something from my small carry-on bag under the seat in front of me. There was no request for an iPad, markers, candy, drinks, decks of cards, stickers, or stuffed animals. And those requests did not begin again just forty-seven seconds later. 

At no point did I:
  • Apologize to the person in front of me for their chair being kicked.
  • Tell them to turn the volume down on their device. 
  • Retrieve a lost item from the floor.
  • Give instructions about the tray tables use and how often it can be opened and shut. 
  • Ask for apple juice with a lid.
In addition, I did not have to try to visit the lavatory at all. Not once. Which is always a plus. And I did not have to try to wipe a child's bottom in the lavatory. I also did not have to try and figure out how I could take one child to the lavatory while leaving three behind with complete strangers who said things like "Oh Dear God" when they saw their seat assignment was right next to a family of four children five and under and their mom -- who by this time had a look of complete exhaustion on her face when the flight hadn't even taken off yet.

At no point on the flight was I told that there was absolutely no way my child could get up to use the bathroom due to terrible weather. I didn't have to get out one of those tiny airplane water bottles and try to explain to that three-year-old how to pee into the bottle. (even though I'd never done it myself.) And I definitely didn't have to freak out when I realized they didn't quite understand how to pause their peeing when the top of the small container was being reached. They only knew starting and being done. "I don't know how to stop my pee Mom."

That did not happen.

None of it happened.

But on my return flight, when I was told my flight was cancelled and it might be another twenty-four hours before I got home, I did feel a bit torn. Another day relaxing without my children sounded wonderful. But somehow, I missed them.

Not enough to miss traveling with them.

But I missed them.


Anonymous said...

Hilarious!! Thanks for the many belly laughs reading this!

Julie Edgar

Brittany Edwards said...

Pure comedy Coach K! I was cracking up the whole time. I onky have my one son and the thought of taking him flying by myself is the last thing I want to do. We travel a lot on the road as it is. Thats bad enough alone! You sure did earn this trip by yourself :)
Thanks for the laughs!

TAV said...

I have just one spirited child and have only flown alone once when he was an infant, but I feel every second of your pain. Especially with a long trip coming up next month. We are considering an overseas sans-toddler trip next year. After reading this, I want to go alone even more. I think that what has made parenthood so hard for me is never having alone quiet time. Traveling with kids is, truthfully, pretty darn miserable.

Bonnie Leigh said...

So many things that I love about this post, well done and hilarious and true! Once a year I travel for a couple days to a work conference - flight and hotel room all to myself - and it does feel lovely. But then I'm ready to get back home. :)