Granted, two out of three of our girls were complete angels the entire twelve hour day. But - as they say - one bad apple can spoil the bunch. And one screaming toddler on a plane is all it takes to make you look like a jack-ass parent. Who cares if the other two are wonderful and quiet and good? The "bad" one will ensure you don't get the "What good children you have!" compliment down at baggage claim. Ho-hum.
Turns out, Haven and airplane-style containment don't mix.
The day started off okay, I was packed and prepped. Traveling with kids is sort of our "thing" so I was organized and had all the necessary gear (umbrella strollers, Ergo carriers, an arsenal of snacks and a few select toys being the most important) to make the trip as smooth as possible without being overburdened with clutter. I felt pretty good about it, but was wary... Our twins are sixteen months old which, in my opinion, falls smack dab in the center of the age range when travel with children should be avoided at all costs. These children are old enough to stave off sleep and throw tantrums of epic proportions, yet too young to actually entertain themselves (read: sit still) for any significant length of time....Yep, the toddler is your travel nemesis.
The first sign of the hell that would follow came in the cab ride to the airport. Haven, our twin who is often described as "wild" ("You can just see it in her eyes!" they say) and affectionately referred to as "hell on wheels" came undone in the cab. Carseats are not required in the Caribbean and we don't have room for that sort of thing on our boat so we sat the kids in the second row and buckled them in. Isla (our three year old) and Mira sat quietly and peacefully but Haven decided she wanted to explore. In the cab. While it was moving. Imagine traveling in a car with a spider monkey on meth. It was like that for the entire thirty minute drive.
Then, things started looking up. The first airport was fine. The first forty-five minute flight was fine. Heck, even the second airport (complete with three hour layover) was fine. I had done well in my preparation and the girls were fed, entertained, and we had the right mix of gear to get them through security (aka: the portal to hell for families traveling with small children) and to the gate with nary a meltdown or fuss. I was proud of my planning and I mistakenly gave myself a silent pat on the back as we began to board our second, and final, flight.
A flight, mind you, that was over four hours.
That is a very long time for a very active lap baby.
We took off and all three girls fell asleep, the twins in the ergo carriers (Mira on my mom, Haven on me) and Isla in her own seat at my side. It was bliss and I was feeling very 'boss mom'. When the flight attended came over and asked if I'd like anything, I quietly requested wine and peanuts. She brought them and no sooner had I taken a first nibble of peanut and sip of wine when Haven started stirring. Shit. Turns out, when a baby is sleeping on your chest very close to your neck, they can hear you chew and gulp. I held my breath, said a quick prayer to all things Holy that she would zonk back out while simultaneously cursing my wine "habit", but it was all for naught; she began to thrash further in the carrier and wanted OUT. I handed the flight attendant my wine (after taking a healthy gulp), stood up and did the desperate "mom bounce" in the aisle. Cue the seatbelt light.
Haven would have none of it. With wide eyes, kicking legs, and clawing arms she started screaming in protest. And if there is one thing I can tell you about this child, it's that she is LOUD. Louder than you can possibly imagine.
I looked at my mom across the aisle who's face was a mask of sheer horror. She knows Haven. She's endured the wrath of the pterodactyl cry. She was afraid - for the other passengers, for me - we had three solid hours of flying to go. This was not looking good.
With much bouncing and many snacks, I managed to get her quiet and out of the carrier, but not after she'd woken up both her sisters and disturbed everyone on the plane. Luckily, we were surrounded by wonderful passengers (#thankyouUniverse) so no one gave me the stink eye or made any rude comments about me controlling my unruly child. In fact, I think most people were just happy they were not me on that flight. It was very, very clear that I had my hands full and was doing everything in my power to keep the kids (well, Haven) at bay.
Turns out, flying with Haven is not unlike giving a cat a bath. All arms and legs and grabbing and wrangling and struggling and plying with snacks and toys and "hey look, something shiny!" At one point, she was hanging off the seat in front of us and at another she managed to unscrew the overhead light. Of course she activated our flight attendant call button a half dozen times. Luckily, despite her rambunctious nature, Haven is flirtatious, outgoing and utterly adorable so our attendant (and flight neighbors) didn't seem to mind her too much. Or if they did, they weren't letting on (again, #thankyouUniverse).
When we finally landed in Chicago, over twelve hours after our day began and three hours past our kids' bedtimes sans naps, I was finished, the kids were finished and so was my mom.
"That was hell" she said to me with a dead-pan face as we reconvened at baggage claim after a much needed bathroom break, "if I were you, I wouldn't fly again until those girls are three."
I laughed. Because, really, what else can you do?
Yes, it was hard. It was exhausting and frustrating and, at times, embarrassing. But it could have been much, much worse. At least Haven is happy. Sure, she's a handful. But she's a happy handful. I'll take that over an unhappy handful any day.
Luckily, parenthood comes with a sort of amnesia that keeps us keeping on. Despite the hellish road trips, vacations gone awry, holidays gone haywire and madness-inducing flights - we move on in a "this too shall pass" fashion; knowing, hoping and - for some of us - praying that the next time will be better. And it may or may not be, but such is life. We are blessed to be on this wild ride.
It's all part of the adventure. And what an adventure it is.
I just hope that during the next flight, I can get a full glass of wine in me. It definitely takes the edge off.