In retrospect, spilling most of my 44 oz. Diet Coke in my lap on the way to the airport wasn’t really a good omen.
Soaking wet, sticky, and nervous: three things I didn’t want to be as I headed into my 3 hour flight, without N.C., with Jackson. And yet, that’s exactly how my trip started.
It went downhill from there.
We got through the ticket counter where they checked the copy of Jackson’s birth certificate (I’ve never had Southwest NOT check, btw) and got our luggage loaded up. We headed to security, and I thought, “Score! No one’s in line!” I was able to take my time getting everything on the conveyor, getting J out of the stroller, getting the stroller folded up, walking J through, going through myself. And then, J darted into the little side area where they hold you for random searches. Shit. Well, no matter, since the next words I heard were, “It’s ok ma’am, you’ve been chosen for a search anyway! He just knew where to go first!”
Of course, alone, with a stroller and a kid and a bag and our shoes and we have to go to the area OVER THERE, the guy says, “oh, here, let me help you.” And then proceeds to grab my shoes.
And nothing else.
No time to undo the stroller and get Jackson situated, so I try to corral him while putting our bag back together, while getting my stuff searched. Turns out they only wanted to look at my shoes, and after two quick sprints to catch Jackson before he 1)opened the emergency door and 2) crawled under the scanning table, we’re done and I’m trying desperately to get him re-situated. Luckily, though, this whole endeavor only took about 10 minutes. We had gotten there with plenty of time to spare, so I thought, “Well, we still have time to grab some snacks and maybe a special toy for the plane, go to the bathroom, and that should put us right at boarding time.”
Walking up to our gate, I see the first of many discouraging numbers posted. Where the boarding time should have read 10:25, it now read 11:00. Hmmm. Ok, fine. Off to the bathroom first, that’ll kill some time. Then to the shop to pick up a water bottle, some snacks, and a toy. Now to the snack stand for, yup, a snack. Look for a seat, near some kids, hopefully? As we sit down, I notice the numbers have changed. 11:15. It’s probably…10:00, at the latest. Great. Eat our snack, have some water. Watch some youtube videos (this one, on repeat, please momma). The numbers change again. 11:30. Then 11:45. Then 12:00. Time to bitch to Twitter.
The worst part is, there’s no where to let Jackson run. This part of this terminal of this airport is a big, crammed circle. I remember being stuck here as a kid on layovers on the way to my dad’s or back to my mom’s, and while there are better amenities now (read: any), it’s still tiny and without any kind of room. Particularly when 6 flights are delayed and so passengers upon passengers are stacking up in the limited spaces to sit, stand, breathe. I could have left–gone back through security and found someplace in another part of the terminal for J to stretch his legs, but my fear of getting hit, again, with the security stuff meant I was running scared. Finally, about 25 minutes before we ultimately boarded the plane I found a mom of a little girl who was willing to watch my stuff so I could at least let J walk and hold my hand through the crowds. I let him walk and even run a little, but it wasn’t enough to counteract the 3.5 hours he had been stuck sitting in either a carseat or a stroller. We boarded the plane with a SIGNIFICANT check mark against me.
On the plane, things got worse. I spent 5 minutes or so getting settled in a seat, in a row with a mom and kid (score!) with a flight attendant watching me struggle the whole time. When I was finally settled, he says” Ma’am, you can’t sit here. We can’t have two lap children in the same row. You’ll have to move.” Ok, thanks for letting me know 5 effing minutes ago dude. I gather all my crap, and my kid and move to the back of the plane, trying to keep J calm.
Take off goes OK by plying the kid with food the entire time. Chewy food and drinks to try and help with the air pressure change, which either worked like a charm or my kid just doesn’t acknowledge physical discomfort. Of course, he did manage to poop about 30 seconds after we took off. So that was fun. That was the end of the easy part though. From there, everything, EVERYTHING was a struggle. Jackson wanted to get down, I wouldn’t let him. He wanted to climb, I couldn’t let him. He wanted to walk, I wouldn’t let him. Finally, the fasten seat belt sign goes off and I’m able to get up and change his diaper. Of course, this being my day, I stand in line at the bathroom in the back for about 5 minutes before I get BERATED by the same jerk flight attendant for being at that bathroom.
“Ma’am, are you going to change his diaper? You can’t do that back here, you have to go the front. And you can’t hover up there, so stay back a few rows. And ma’am ask that flight attendant up there for a trash bag. Don’t you dare throw that diaper in the trash in the bathroom, do you hear? You CANNOT throw that diaper in the trash in the bathroom. You have to go up there, you can’t be back here. I mean it, too, about asking for that trash bag.” Well, you’re missing the derisive shithead tone, but I guess you’ll get the gist.
And of course, I got ALL the way to the front of the plane and was told I couldn’t wait there, and that I needed to go back to my seat and wait. I literally looked at my seat, looked back at the flight attendant, and blinked at her. Luckily, the person occupying the bathroom chose that moment to come out, because I’m not sure what I would have done next. Especially given the fact that as soon as I got into the bathroom, I burst into tears.
I stood in that bathroom, and tried to change my kid’s diaper on that itty bitty teeny changing table, and cried the ugliest cry I’ve had in a long time. And this was all of 30 minutes or so into my almost 3 hour flight. I cried from frustration and exhaustion and because I knew, oh I KNEW, this wasn’t the end of my rough flight.
Sure enough, the next 2.5 hours was filled with my kid being THAT kid. He kicked the seat in front of us so much I’m pretty sure the girl sitting there hurt her neck from whipping around and giving me a death stare so often. He bit me. He kicked my seat mates. He flung himself in the aisle and threw a tantrum. He never slept. He barely watched any of the videos I had for him. He ate, some, which was my only respite. At one point, after he had bitten me, and I had yelled “OW! NO BITING!”, the row beside me laughed, and laughed and laughed at me until they were crying because it was so funny how bad of a mother I was. (And yes, I heard them say this and many others. They were not discreet). They must have laughed at me for a good 20 minutes, while I’m trying desperately not to cry AND trying to corral my kid.
The saving grace of my flight, the ONLY redeeming thing, were the two lovely women who sat next to me. They were teachers, and angels, who told me over and over that I was doing great, that traveling with a kid his age (by myself no less) is hard, that he’s doing fine and being a kid. They let Jackson sit on their lap, and look out their window, and played games with him. And they were the only people on that plane that didn’t make me feel like a shitty mom.
At this point, 5 days removed from the situation, I can ALMOST see the absolute ridiculousness of the situation. I can see how a series of circumstances culminated in a ROUGH time. I can see how, if you remove the tone of voice (which I kinda can’t, but anyway), the flight attendant was doing his job. I can see how I’m not a bad mom, and I can see a myriad of ways it could have been worse. I can see that people misjudge Jackson’s age (due to his size) and so expect more from him. I can see how a lot of what he did was just toddler behavior. I can see that some people are just assholes.
But that day? I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to NOT remember how absolutely horrible I felt–for my fellow passengers, for Jackson, and for me.
Tags: flying with a toddler, travel