I once started a how-to essay about traveling with kids. The first line was: Don’t. The essay didn’t go much further than that and for a couple of years I followed my advice. I quit traveling with kids except for our annual summertime trek home. But even those weeks confirmed the imbalance of joy and sacrifice that comes with traveling with kids, or maybe just comes with kids. But it gets easier, my mom told me. When we decided to skip the States this year and head to Eastern Europe, I hoped she was right.
So far, yes. On preparing and packing: very easy this time as I left most of it to Justin, after ruling out a twenty-something-backpacker-style tour of cities in favor of parking it for a couple of weeks each at two places. When he showed me apartments, I pointed to the ones I liked. Then a couple of weeks before our departure, he started packing suitcases, remembering more than I would have. He brought nail clippers.
The plane was better too. We had a six-hour flight to London and I hid a few surprises in the kids’ backpacks but wholly endorsed their plugging in to the little screens mounted to the seat backs in front of them. I didn’t watch anything, high on the fun of reading and drinking wine before lunch. And then, because the other three remained glued to their screens, I pulled my tray table forward and took my notebook out. I wrote junk but it was up in the air junk.
That was the first flight since motherhood that I wasn’t pawed constantly and I missed it only a little. I didn’t miss screaming or hairpulling or elbows or poop. When I went to the toilet I looked at the bite-size changing table and thought Thank you. I have sat on an airplane toilet with a baby wrapped to my torso and a toddler between my knees.
On the second flight, Claire and I shared a row with a young businessman; Justin and Grant shared the row behind with that man’s companion. I looked at the young man – Phillip from the Netherlands – as Claire and I settled in our seats and told him it wouldn’t be that terrible. “Actually, it might be that terrible,” I said. We were all tired from an early morning and delayed flights and about to crash on all the extra carbs. Phillip laughed. But mid-flight when Claire launched into an original song, I noticed Phillip’s hands were clenched and his jaw set.
“Are you okay?” I said. I was going to say if Claire was bothering – but he quickly explained. He has terrible motion sickness. I immediately apologized for eating half a bag of parmesan Goldfish crackers next to him. He shook his head. He was worried about an announcement the captain made, about turbulence ahead. As often as he travels, the turbulence gets him every time.
“I can never go on a ship,” he said.
“I’d probably fall over on a ship,” I said.
Claire sang about the sky and bumps in the air while Phillip clenched and unclenched his hands. We talked about small things until the planed landed. We gave each other thumbs up. I’d made it through a travel day without crying and Phillip made it through a flight without vomiting. Winners, all.
I’ll post more of-the-moment journals over the next month as we travel.