Sunday, December 23, 2007

Over The River and Through The Skies

As my family prepares for yet another holiday excursion, this time a flight from Providence to Phoenix, I’m reminded of the last trip I took alone with the kids. Traveling with my family is a bit like childbirth; I always forget the pain and tribulations involved until I'm experiencing it again and the guy from the V-8 commercials pops me in the head and I realize, “Oh yeah, this is why I swore never to do this again.”

Anyone who has ever traveled with children—especially on an airplane—knows what a harrowing and exhausting experience it can be. Even when your children are fairly well behaved. In fact, I think I’d rather get paper cuts underneath all my fingernails than to take my five and seven-year-old on a cross country trip again. They have been traveling on planes since they were very small, so I figured I was getting seasoned enough to know how to do it right. I always try to come armed with paraphernalia to keep an entire troop of children happily entertained for hours, but somehow 10 minutes into the flight the floor beneath our seats is littered with food wrappers, crayon shavings, shoes, a few socks, empty Capri sun packages and the children are, well, bored.

I have flown enough to know that the key to surviving an airplane trip with your children—at any time really, but especially when you are sans husband—is to keep the carry-on mess to a minimum. Each child has their own backpack, which contains: their music players, gameboys, crayons, coloring book, plain notebook, a pen and pencil, perhaps two small travel games or a deck of cards, a bag of their own personal snacks, a small pillow, and their “pet” stuffed animal. Theoretically, individual bags will alleviate the fighting, bickering and general upheaval that is typical of siblings, especially when those siblings are crammed together in airplane seats sized for your basic Oz Munchkin. I say theoretically because my children can always find something to fight about. “Your arm is on MY part of the arm rest… SO?…SO get it off it’s been there the whole time and I’m uncomfortable and it’s my turn to use the armrest…FINE have the armrest I didn’t want it anyway…THUNK…OWWW! MOM he pulled my pillow out from under my head…I’m going to rest now and I NEED a pillow…I was USING that pillow…SO?…SO it’s not fair…Well you CAN’T use the pillow AND the armrest at the SAME TIME…

It’s at this point I stand up and ask if anyone would like to switch seats with me, an LDS mom perhaps, who is used to dealing with 8 or 9 kids at the same time, which would make my two seem like a vacation, but alas, there are no takers. Quite a lot of people are whispering to each other however, which I don’t think is a good sign.

I sit down and wedge myself in the seat between them hoping my presence will make a difference. However, by the time our flight arrived in Boston—12 hours after leaving Phoenix—I was spent. My husband met us with a shiny smile and open arms, while all I could do was hold back the sob that wanted to escape. You’d think that the drive home at 10:45 at night would put the kids into some type of sleep, or at least quiet respite, but of course the adrenaline was still coursing through the veins, and the yelling and fighting, wrestling, singing, guffawing laughter and all around vocal upheaval was still alive and well. My husband said, “You’re quiet tonite. Are you tired?”

I’m sorry. Did he just ask me if I was tired?
Seriously. Is that what he just said?
I stared ahead and bit my tongue. Any sound that would have come from my mouth would have been a total verbal freak out and I was trying to stay pleasant. I hadn’t seen him in two weeks after all.
But tired? TIRED?? Tired doesn’t even begin to touch the depth to where my fatigue had fallen. Lower than smashed gum on the sidewalk, I tell you. But tired as I was, truth be told, I just wanted them to shut up. I had been the only adult to shield the barrage of questions and comments that shot from their gun-fire mouths since 10:00 a.m. And every one of those questions and comments was preceded with, “Can I ask you a question” or “Mom, I have something to tell you.” By the time those wheels touched down on my Bean Town black top, I was neck deep in words, question marks, complaints, exclamations; just sitting there drowning in black, bold letters and onomatopoeias. They were sucking the very life out of me to the point where all my answers were, “I don’t know.”
“When are we landing?”
“I don’t know.”
“Will Dad be there to pick us up?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why is the green light on above the bathroom signal?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do we do if only two masks come down from the top?”
“I don’t know.”
“Mom, do you love me?”
“I don’t know.”

I just wanted them to shut up. Shut up shut up shut up. I needed the ride home to be peaceful and quiet for five minutes. Tired? Yeah, I was tired. Tired of noise emanating from their messy squishy faces. By the time we were finally home and the children were in bed my ears were aching, the cartilage throbbing to the memory of their constant cacophonous clatter.

Now after writing this, tell me again why it’s a good idea to take this trip once more, adding a 7 month old baby to the mix? At least my husband will be along for the ride, which gives us a 4:3 parent-hand to loud-child-mouth ratio. It’s do-able. I’ve packed enough crap to keep them entertained for hours you know, and it is wonderful fodder for a blog. Blog fodder. Ha.
Here is wishing all my loyal and faithful readers (yes, you mom) a very merry Christmas. May you all have safe travels and the batteries on your movie players and gameboys not die half way to your destination.


beebee said...
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beebee said...

As always, your sharing has struck a chord. Thankfully I have not had to suffer the number of plane rides as you, but we are in the car from Tucson to Phoenix and back again more than I would like. Shut up Shut up Shut up! Amen.