Years ago, I smiled back at my son in the rearview mirror as we pulled away from the airport, confident that I'd discovered some secret to traveling with children. I'd been warned repeatedly against traveling, but that first plane trip I ever took with Alex was a piece of cake. Just 10 months old, he slept like a baby on both the outbound and return flights. Like any brilliantly naive first-time parent, I drove away thinking I was a genius. Air travel with kids was a breeze. I had it down pat! I should be writing the parenting books!
But misplaced confidence sure can drag you into trouble. The following year, my husband had to work and couldn't join us for a family reunion, so I decided to take Alex by myself. I had figured I'd easily be able to handle a 90-minute flight; I'm a stay-at-home mom, so why would this be any different? Well, our flight ended up being delayed more than four hours, which was bad enough. During the waiting game, we were all stuck in a terminal where the only open restaurant promptly ran out of everything except pickles and Dr. Pepper, neither of which my child would eat.
The flight home from the reunion was even worse and, sadly, far more embarrassing. Alex was deceptively delightful up until we went to pre-board our flight -- literally the only perk I can think of about traveling with small children. But when I went to fold up the stroller at the gate, my son took it to mean PARTY TIME, GO GO GO! The second I let go of his hand, Alex took off running down the ramp toward the plane at top speed. Alone. With no one to help me, I immediately abandoned the stroller and took off running after him.
Did I mention it was the middle of summer? And that I had on my cheap, metallic flip-flops? And that my feet were all sweaty? Queue the sitcom laugh track. My sandal slipped off and I fell, face-first, on the blackened airport carpet runner. To add insult to injury, the wayward stroller caught up with me and knocked me right in the head. By the time I caught up with Alex, he was already on the plane chatting up the flight attendants and trying to get into the cockpit to meet the pilot.
I vowed then and there to never again travel alone with a child.
So imagine my delight when I had to fly alone with not one, but two small children during our move a few months ago. Even though my husband had to take the dog and the family car and drive 11 hours to our new home, I still think he got off easy. I had to go through security with two kids, three carry-ons, three pairs of shoes, my purse, my camera bag, and, of course, the dreaded stroller -- this time a double. Not my idea of fun.
When the subject of going home for Christmas came up recently, I steadfastly refused to go anywhere. I hope our families understand my reluctance, but I just haven't healed enough from the trauma of our last few trips. Maybe I'll change my mind when the baby is a bit older. But until then, the only way you'll see me at the airport is if I'm there picking you up when you come to visit!