Flying with kids, what a joy.  While most other passengers sit down peacefully to enjoy a few short hours of flight time with a book, a drink, or a movie, parents like us wrestle and negotiate with excited children, praying silently that they with settle down quickly and maybe even fall asleep.  Presently, our family of six is on our way to Seattle to celebrate Stacey’s grandmother’s ninetieth birthday with pretty much most of the Valnes family.  Our children range in age from two-sixteen, but three out of four of them fall in the age six and under category.  And we are on a 6:55pm flight.  Not exactly a pretty picture.
The two-year-old now, finally, sleeps peacefully next to me, the four-year-old is passed out on her big sister’s lap in front of me and the six-year-old reads silently.  Although we are still in the air, it already feels like we’ve made it.  When one is single and flying, or even with older children or just a spouse or friend, it’s really not such a bad thing.  Take it for granted as you may, but it really is a blessing to have a few hours where you can do nothing and not feel bad about it.  Watch a movie, fall asleep, get drunk if you want to, nobody’s going to judge you too harshly, you are flying after all and some people just can’t handle it stone sober.  I suppose I look at the mundane things in life a little differently now that I know what constant action and vigilance is like.
Let me put this into perspective.  Upon boarding the plane, I’m sure more than one person groaned when they saw our caravan of a family lumber though, kids squealing and parents scolding.  Being the parental units, Stacey and I dictated commands, the kids doing their best to listen but so completely distracted by the mere fact that we are on a plane!  They’ve all flown before, yet the excitement is still close to overwhelming.  So we board.  Kids are monkeying with everything in sight; pushing light buttons, lifting up and down the window cover, flipping up and down the tray table (to the sheer delight of the person in front of us, I’m sure).  They want to know if we’re flying yet and we haven’t even started rolling.  They want to know when we will fly, and how come I don’t know exactly? And is this a jet, is it really fast, and how high will it go?  Once we’re actually in the air the next round of obvious questions begin: “when will we be high enough?  When will be in Seattle? Can we eat? Is there food? And then the statements: “I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I want to read a book, mommy read me Harry Potter!”  Meanwhile baby is by this time standing on my shoulders pressing every button in sight just about to do a double back flip into the aisle when the stewardess lets me know that he really does need to be seated safely on my lap.  Sigh.
While I attempt to read enthusiastically out of a Harry Potter book, I am also balancing precariously the acrobatic toddler my son has suddenly become, and simultaneously fishing crayons out of my purse for my daughter to color with.  Okay, so the toddler has decided to now go into Indian War mode slapping his hand against his mouth and yelling “woo woo woo woo”.  The other passengers are worshiping us by now.  As he dives off of my shoulders shouting his war cry, I actually feel a sense of relief because now Stacey has him and is trying to calm him with some sweet books.  This works for about three minutes until I hear the little man’s unmistakable voice (yell) again.  The difference now is that I can ignore it because he is no longer in my charge.  The girls are doing really well at this point and I’m reading to my six year old while he furiously picks his nose in rapt concentration.  Just as the drink cart goes by I hear a cute little voice I recognize as my four-year-old say “I have to pee.  Right now!”  Okay, well, the drink cart is in the middle of the aisle and there’s only one bathroom on this enlarged Cessna, so can you please wait baby girl?  “NO! I have to go now!”  She’s now standing and holding her private parts for extra emphasis.  The flight attendant, bless her heart, says it fine, they can slide her through, so it’s off the loo all-alone for my little girl.  She’s growing up so fast!
By now I’m thinking things are pretty much smoothed out.  The older one seems content; the toddler is munching on the plane snacks with Stacey who is displaying his excellent fathering skills.  And then the inevitable.  “Can you come back and try to get to him to sleep?”  That’s my cue.  My leisure time of reading children’s fantasy is up and I am back with baby boy who really wants daddy at the moment.  He is totally exhausted, so I’m rocking him and cooing in his ear.  He’s bright red and screaming bloody murder.  I’m feeling a bit incompetent about my mothering skills and jealous of the drunken lady across the aisle that keeps ordering white wine.  I’d love a white wine, or ten, but alcohol is off limits as I am, yes, currently pregnant.  Just as little man is dozing off on my shoulder, drunken lady starts waving like mad at him as she suddenly noticed the cute baby whimpering across the way from her.  She’s smiling and then—horror of all horrors—begins reaching across me in order to poke him!  HE WAS ALMOST ASLEEP!
I’m feeling nice at the moment and I don’t say anything.  I just turn away and call in the reinforcements.  “Stacey!” Stacey moves back with me and takes the baby.  He begins rocking and jiggling and I’m stroking his face gently and soon enough, baby is asleep.  Ahhh.  We lie him down on the empty seat with a little pillow, daddy moves back up, little girl has meanwhile fallen asleep on big sister’s lap and I am able to write about it all!  We made it!
So, perhaps next time you’re on a flight and feeling bored or resentful at the fact that you have to sit airborne for a few or even many hours, think of us.  Think of people like us.  We refuse to give up travel because of children, instead we adapt our little people to travel graciously, but nonetheless, they are kids.  So it ain’t easy folks.  Be grateful for the little things in life, like a bit of alone time.  And when you see us on the airplane, please, be nice.  No dirty looks, just smile instead.  Try to be like the drunken lady with the exception of poking babies.  Happy travels!
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