Many people offered words of wisdom and travel suggestions to me via >>Facebook<<, but almost all advice from other parents with a similar adult-to-child scenario replied with, "WHAT!?! ARE YOU INSANE?" because, like I said, these people get it. They know. They have tasted defeat by way of child terrorists and know how physically, spiritually and mentally crushing it can be.
But I thrive on a good challenge and despite the fact that there was chance I could have sent my eldest home with my mom so I would only fly with the twins, I decided that - nope - I was going full Monty. It was all or nothing. Once I'd gotten it in my head that I was doing it, my commitment to the challenge of a full day traveling with my three girls took on an almost Olympic quality. One puddle-jumper plus one layover plus one Boeing 737 and over ten hours of travel door to door would equal the ultimate mom test. I went into it with the attitude of "GAME ON".
I spent almost a week of sleepless nights visualizing the task at hand, chatting with my trusted advisors (my fellow mamma tribe) and making lists. The night before the flight I was up from 1am till dawn running through scenarios (and worrying my ass off) to be sure I had everything in line. This might seem like overkill and possibly a little dramatic, but it's how I gear up (cue: Rocky Music). Preparation is key to successful travel with young children and I know too well that all it takes is one epic diaper blow out, one kicking and screaming tantrum, or one projectile vomit to really ruin a day. As much as I wish I was kind of person who flies by the seat of her pants by slapping on some lipstick, throwing a few things into a bag and strutting out in the world with her head held high, I am not. I err toward "Type A", make an insane amount of lists and am anything but haphazard when in travel mode with kids in tow. I've learned the hard way that being unprepared does you no favors when your kids are as young and as close in age as mine are.
Okay, "perfectly" is a stretch. Our two hour layover turned into a five hour layover (thank God for the $32 sky lounge!! Best. Money. Ever. Spent.) and there was that moment going through security where I was on the verge of a very unfortunate/desperate potty mishap that came dangerously close to disaster (tmi??) and although I dosed my kids with dramamine, none of them slept a wink until the final two hours of our travel day meaning I was ping ponging between defense and offense all. day. long...but despite these minor glitches, the day went as good as I could have possibly wished for.
There were many moments when things could have taken a turn for the worse, but we managed to stave them off with lollipops (thank God for the lollipops!), new toys, and straight-up bribery. I did whatever I could to keep my little sleep deprived babes at bay and all 'rules' went out the window. Sure, they ate pure junk all day (high fructose corn syrup and sodium, anyone?). Yes, I was utterly exhausted by the end of it (fourteen hours of travel door to door and running on almost zero sleep, yeah!) And, yep, we were a full blown spectacle to anyone who paid any attention to us, particularly in the (very long) security line ("Are you traveling alone with those three little girls?!")...but, we made it. We were grimy, sticky and punch-drunk at the finish line, but we made it. I even got few high fives and some kudos along the way.
We've been incredibly lucky with our travel karma (thank you Universe!) and our girls always seem to win over some strategic people during our journeys. During this day, our karma presented itself as an airport security woman who let the girls and I leave the security line (and come back to our same spot) so I could do the afore-mentioned desperate run to the bathroom. It manifested itself in an extra seat for Isla (who was across the aisle), and provided us with two Puerto Rican teens who entertained the twins for over an hour during our four and a half hour flight. The icing on the cake was a sweet flight attendant who was so impressed with the girls that she comped me not one, but two mini bottles white wine. Catching a slight buzz at 35,000 feet never felt so good.
By hour three of our final flight my girls were sound asleep around me, their angelic faces softened by the dim sepia-toned lights of the plane, their little bodies sprawled along the seats...We were on the home stretch and I thought to myself "we made it." Gazing at my girls nestled around me, my heart bursting with love for them I could not have been more proud of their behavior. And as this combination of love and pride swelled up in my solar plexus somewhere over Georgia, I started crying. The pressure in me released and I silently cried tears of joy and thanks. We had made it, and while a lot of luck was on our side, the girls and I were an awesome team and at that moment, I thought I could tackle just about anything. I took a sip of my wine, adjusted myself in my seat, and lifted my head to the screen to enjoy the end of the in-flight film.
Traveling with kids is hard. Parenting is hard. Like Olympians, sometimes our work pays off, sometimes it falls short, and sometimes we simply get unlucky. We don't always get the gold, but when we do - we owe it to ourselves to celebrate. On this day I got the gold. I was a boss mom. My babies were boss babies. And I was grateful.