Turbulence - Flying with the Family, by Adrienne Schroeder
July 06, 2014
Posted By: Shaunescy
I have never loved flying, it seems unnatural to be suspended in the air in such a heavy, bulky piece of machinery, but back in the day (i.e. before kids) it was merely an inconvenience more than anything else. I used to jump at the chance to be bumped from my flight in exchange for a voucher. Back then the vouchers were routinely $400, which was about the price of a ticket just about anywhere I wanted to go.
After having my first child, just a few months after 9/11, I was slightly terrified whenever I had to fly and the thought of getting bumped and hanging out in the airport with a toddler for several hours didn’t sound as fun as it used to. But I tried to look at it through my daughter’s eyes and she loved flying. She thought it was so exciting and she was so cute and such a great little traveler I almost didn’t even mind the fact that we were way too high in the sky, suspended in this giant, old, heavy aircraft with every airport on high alert.
Now I have three kids and all I can say about flying is...WOW.
The first time I flew with all three I was almost daring people to give me a dirty look or be rude in anyway. I imagined what I would say to someone who made some snarky comment. I was totally ready for it. It’s already hard to travel with three kids and all of the gear that accompanies them. Throw in a child with Celiac who I also need to pack food for that will last her 8 or 10 hours and its CRAZY. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of help and empathetic looks I was offered from strangers. No one has ever had anything but nice words for me as I fly across the country to grandma’s house with 3 little ones in tow. And my kids are good travelers, so I was always proud of them and seemed to effortlessly decline the help I was offered because I really didn’t need it.
Until 2 weeks ago. I think my 3 year old had his worst day as a human on the day we traveled to Virginia to visit my parents.
Three is a tough age. The “terrible twos” are a myth in my opinion. Shit starts to get real when they are three. The tantrums are no joke and the power struggles are endless. Sometimes I’m caught off guard that I have even entered a power-struggle-
situation and then I realize, no matter what, I have to win it. Even if I’m at the airport.
So here’s what happened...Flight number one was a two-hour flight that was going to be during his naptime. Perfect! Except he didn’t fall asleep until about 10 minutes before we landed. So about 15 minutes into a dead sleep I had to wake him up to get him off the plane. To make matters worse, I had a pinched nerve in my back so I couldn’t carry him through O’Hare. I physically couldn’t. Plus he’s a big boy anyway; I don’t carry him more than a minute or two at a time anymore. Boy, was he pissed. And thus began the mother of all tantrums. In the filthy, crowded Chicago airport. While I was keeping an eye my other kids and our carry-
ons. While I was trying to figure out where the hell Terminal C was. At first he refused to walk. Then he just threw himself, spread eagle on the floor, all the while screaming “NOOOOOO” or “HOLD MEEEEE”.
As I was sweating and trying to shake off the idea of what kind of super-germs he must be picking up on the floor of O’Hare, as I was trying to half lift and half drag him with us through the ridiculous labyrinth of an airport, through the weird, trippy basement level with the multi-colored disco lights on the ceiling, I did contemplate just dealing with the excruciating pain in my back if I lifted anything and carrying him to the terminal. But my 12 years of motherhood trumped the scene we were at the airport and I knew that after I had explained to him several times that I couldn’t carry him because my back was hurt, that he was a big boy and could walk, that screaming and crying and laying on the floor weren’t going to get him what he wanted, I just couldn’t, in good conscience, pick him up. I had to stand my ground. I had to win what had turned into a power struggle. Even though I was getting concerned looks from every person we passed. I am certain several people wondered if I had taken him from someone else he was resisting me so much and screaming so loudly.
I finally got to our gate and tried to sit down with him and hold him but he couldn’t snap out what was now a 30-minute tantrum. He continued to resist me and try to crawl under the seats. My twelve year old looked at me in all sincerity and in the most matter-of-fact voice whispered, “This sucks.” As I sat there trying to take a breath and remind myself that tantrums do eventually stop, I looked up to see a very old, feeble man in a wheelchair watching us. As we made eye contact and I smiled at him he shook his head disapprovingly at me and looked away. It was not a look of empathy or compassion. He might as well have said, “Tsk, tsk”. It was full on judgment. I was shocked. Don’t people know that no one is more bothered by a child’s tantrum or crying than their mother? Especially when you’re traveling on very expensive public transportation and committed to the trip. As my eyes widened I just had to laugh. Seriously???
Around that time the gate agent came out and started bustling around. I asked her if we could just go get on the plane and get settled and she said “Of course, go ahead now.” (Oh thank you, lovely gate agent. Good-bye mean man in the wheelchair.)
He settled down once I got him situated in his seat and I ordered a glass of wine. He never slept on that flight either, I’m sure he stayed up out of sheer will to mess with me because he looked utterly exhausted. But things were pretty quiet and soon we would be landing and my mom would be waiting for us at the airport. Just when I started to relax we hit an intense pocket of turbulence. I actually came about 6 inches out of my seat. It came out of nowhere; no warning from the pilot, no seat belt lights turned on, just smooth sailing and then BAM! It was the scary kind of turbulence. The kind that makes you grip your seat and look around at the other passengers to gauge their reactions and say a silent prayer to yourself.
As my heart started racing I looked in the seats next to me to make sure my kids were still buckled. And my 3 year old and my 5 year old were laughing and giggling like someone was tickling them. Just peals of deep, belly laughter. They were so excited that this boring plane ride had suddenly turned into a roller coaster. Every time the plane bounced and jerked they laughed even harder. When it finally, thankfully stopped they started yelling “More! More!”
I chugged what was left of my wine since half of it ended up in my lap when I came out of my seat during the turbulence and thought about how being a parent can surely bring on schizophrenia or ADD. Navigating the extreme highs and lows of their emotions, the wild and sudden mood swings, the constant concern for their safety, the second guessing that seems to come more as they get older and you realize the things you say and do may be more consequential now that they will actually remember them...It’s like your brain can’t ever relax. EVER.
Exercise helps me a lot and I’ve noticed I’ve been prioritizing it more and more lately. (I think I need the extra help.) Having a job you love, great friends or a healthy relationship are invaluable.
Talking about it all helps because it reminds me that I’m not the only one whose kid has tantrums or whose pre-teen is getting sassy. And all the funny, sweet moments in between the crazy are pretty awesome. Especially bedtime. My little ones get quiet and cozy under the covers and snuggle up to me and tell me they love me and kiss me and drift off to sleep. I LOVE it. Even my 12 year old still snuggles up at bedtime. It makes everything else melt away.
Even the trauma of my crazy day at the airport.
Adrienne is a freelance photographer and has a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Foundation and eCornell. You can check out her blog at http://www.theveggiehouse.com