When traveling with a child

Over the past week I have had two opportunities to fly- both with and without my rambunctious toddler.

For many parents, traveling via airports can bring on much stress and anxiety. Caused by but is not limited to: airport germs, getting through security, disrupting sleep routines, ear pressure, crying on the plane, pooping on the plane, changing a diaper on the plane.

I had none of these worries traveling without my 30-lb tow-headed appendage. In fact, this was my first time flying solo since Holden was born about 20 months ago. He’s been my travel buddy numerous times since coming into this world. Luckily for me, these times have been more entertaining (for myself and many people on the same plane) than worrisome in most instances.

For example, a few days ago as Holden and I were connecting planes, he was outrageously hyper from being cooped up on our first leg. Waiting for our next plane to arrive, he decided to pour my coke all over himself and refused to eat anything but cheese puffs. Strolling into the airport gift shop with my little orange man in tow, we left with him dressed in a lime green “Somebody loves me in Memphis” t-shirt a few sizes too big. He then kicked me over and over in that t-shirt as I tried to stop him from running down all the little tunnels out to the airplanes in the entire B terminal as I heard waves of laughter coming from everyone but myself.

As I entered security last week alone laughing to myself, I started to reminisce on the time Holden was about 13 months old and how he started slapping the complete stranger sitting next to us on our flight to Chicago and laughed uncontrollably because someone taught him that hitting people was funny (thanks, mom).

Then, I got somewhat melancholy and missed him as I glanced at all the whole milk in the airport kiosks. Once we make it through the security checkpoints, I always have to stock up on his milk for our journey. I almost bought one just to hold in my purse. Purse? That’s right. No diaper bag for this mama.

As I got to enjoy a little time to myself, actually being able to order a cup of coke from the flight attendant on my flight, I couldn’t help but ponder how different it is to travel as two different people- by myself and also as a single mom.

While traveling as a solo seemed easier on the outside due to lack of worry and overall disregard for keeping another human alive and happy, I came to prefer the latter for many reasons. One being? Strangers are overall nicer towards myself as a single mom, er, a mom traveling alone with a toddler. No one really knew I was a single mom unless they glanced at my ring finger. Well, they normally do that anyway since I look sixteen.

I’ll never forget one of the first times I traveled with Holden, only a month old at the time, and being advised to bypass the security line into the line of all the traveling business people. I must have been asked five times by different people in all kinds of suits if they could help me out with anything. I must have looked desperate!

Nineteen months later and still going strong, many of our travel opportunities have embodied this notion as well. The overall degree of help towards me traveling with Holden is so much higher than when traveling solo. Waving checked bag fees, skipping security lines, less frustration exerted behind me as I try to strap my sandals back on with a baby in my arms.

The immense awkwardness of the new security scanner those with no babies have to step through. There are foot prints on the ground. Do you know how embarrassing it is for people under 5’2 having to spread our legs wide enough so that our feet can reach those footprints? I’m assuming those footprints are the average width of space between the feet of normal Americans. That’s not me. I’m surprised I didn’t get re-checked as I probably looked like a crazy person laughing all alone inside that machine while I felt 50% into the Russian splits.

Ultimately, whether traveling by myself or with Holden, some subjective truths exist in both situations. To quote one of my favorite authors, Wally Lamb, “I know this much is true”…

There are still those people whose seats are at the back of the plane who need to hurry or will miss their next plane and need to cut in front of everyone (with and without babies) so they can get there. Then, as you make your transition to your next gate you see those exact people there waiting for that connection they needed to run to, but that next flight isn’t leaving for a couple of hours.

There will always be babies on airplanes. There will always be people who react to babies on airplanes. There will always be stressed-out mommies on airplanes worried about their babies and not worried about the people who react to their babies even though the people who react to babies would prefer these mommies to alter that stress to fit their needs instead of their babies’.

Finally, there are still nice people. Nice people who lend a helpful hand to someone with or without a baby.

Someone who hands me my shoes getting through security as I travel solo. Or someone who plays peek-a-boo with Holden through the cracks between the headrest. Or even that someone whose seat ended up right next to mine, and whispered to me that she was a single mom back in her day too as she glanced down at my ring finger and winked at me. Proceeded to tell me that I’ll make it through anything before I even responded with a “hello.”

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