“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
Charles Dickens, in A Tale of Two Cities
Last week, I shared the tale of my flight to Virginia with four small children. That was the worst of times I’ve flown with children. It is time to move on to the best of times I’ve flown with children: my return trip.
Mind you, it was still hard. But the difference was figuratively (and literally, as it happens) night and day.
#1- The day of the week. When I flew out to Virginia, it was Saturday, a busy travel day. When I flew home, it was Tuesday. The security checkpoint line was absolutely empty. So instead of feeling pressured and rushed to get all of my things unloaded and on the conveyor belt while trying to keep my children from running to who knows where, there was no one in line behind me. No pressure. I was able to take my time and had 5 TSA agents around to guard all exit points and keep an eye on the kids.
#2 I was much better prepared. I was more careful with what food I packed and I had a plan of action for which toys and activities I would bring out at which times. When we got to the gate, we had about 2 hours before our flight was scheduled to leave. So, we started with a snack. Then (since I really didn’t want to unpack their backpacks and have their stuff spread throughout the gate waiting area), we used the iPad (see #3 below) to watch a show. Next, we took a field trip to the family restroom nearby. Then it was time to board the airplane.
#3 My sister’s iPad. On the flight from home to the East Coast, as I evaluated my options, I kept vascillating between moving to Charlotte (so I would never have to get on an airplane with children again) and spending my life savings purchasing a handheld electronic device for each child and perhaps a few spares as well. A few days after I had arrived in Virginia, the stresses of the day had faded a little so that I was a bit more reasonable. But still, I did talk to my husband about the possibility of purchasing some sort of handheld electronic device for the flight home. My sister later asked me, “Are you wanting an iPad for good, or is this just for the flight? Because if you just want something for the flight, you can borrow mine.”
Oh, what an amazing gift that was! Sacrificing her iPad for a few days for the sake of my sanity. How MUCH my sister loves me!
I did end up borrowing her iPad and we downloaded a few episodes of a few shows my kids enjoy. There were also a whole battery of kid games my sister has downloaded on her iPad for her neefs (her brilliant abbreviation of neices and nephews). While at the airport, they watched an episode or two and then after the restroom trip there was time for the older two to each have a turn playing a game of their choice. Then it was time to board the airplane.
#4 Many, many angels God sent to help me on my way. On the way to Virginia, God did provide several very helpful people to carry my carseat or call ahead and hold the flight. But it was crazy how many people He sent on the way home. I wish I could properly express to them how significant their help was to me. Perhaps they saw it on my face. I hope that God richly blessed them on their journeys.
It started at the end of the bridge as we were boarding the first airplane. I had dropped off the stroller where I was supposed to (so that I might pick it up to get me to through the next airport) and had the diaper bag, the leash, the backpacks and all. I hefted the car seat up to rest upside down on my head (which trick I discovered on the way to Virginia) and behind me I heard a few men speaking, “She’s superwoman,” and “She’s just making us look bad,” or some such nonsense like that which nonetheless, I appreciated. Then a kind man stepped forward and asked if he could carry my carseat. I gratefully accepted the offer. He then gave up his seat, which was the aisle seat directly across from my children and took the window seat I was supposed to sit in. I’m sure everyone was grateful for his sacrifice.
Z-urchin then took his turn on the magical iPad while the older kids pulled out their various fun activities from their backpacks. Shortstop promptly fell asleep (Hallelujah!) and Z-urchin’s iPad turn pretty much covered the whole hour flight to our connection. I found that this worked really well in keeping him seated. And it worked as motivation for him to keep his seatbelt on as well, since I told him he couldn’t play the iPad unless his seatbelt was on.
The same man from before carried the car seat to my stroller at the end of the bridge and then Angel #2 came and made my connection possible. He had four children too, though only one was with him. But he understood and very kindly offered to carry my carseat to the gate (his connecting gate was nearby mine, which was quite a blessing from the Lord). Then, about halfway there, Z-urchin dashed the opposite way down a moving sidewalk. He dropped everything and rushed after him. Then this very kind man carried both Z-urchin and my carseat to the gate. I really wish I could send that man and his wife a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant.
I barely made it into to the airplane before they closed the doors and once on, my children and I were such a sight that all kinds of people surrounded us to help us. A man from first class carried my car seat to my seat, a kind and experienced mother installed it while I arranged my children and stuff. A man gave up the seat next to his wife so that my children could all sit in a row with me. The wife, a new grandma herself (her grandson is an extremely fortunate little boy- she’s amazing!), sat by X-man and chatted with them. They were full of chatter about their trip and their Auntie Suzie. “Oh! My name is also Suzie!” she exclaimed and trust between them was instantly developped.
So the older two took a few turns with the iPad while Z-urchin and I did a sticker book. I handed out sandwiches and snacks for dinner and helped Shortstop color and play with a few toys. Then the kind Suzie read the older two Frog and Toad while the young woman in the row behind me begged to hold Shortstop for awhile. She colored with him, fed him snacks and chatted with him for an hour. She told me he remined her of her adopted baby brother whom she missed. My heart overflowed with thankfulness. I was even able to use the restroom by myself!
I tell you what, when I grow up (or you know, travel somewhere without children), I want to be just like these angels God sent to me.
#5 We flew at night. Our first flight took off at 4 and our second flight left at 6:30. That meant that about 2 hours into the flight, the kids got very sleepy. Only this time it was a good kind of sleepy. Not a cranky sleepy which is what you would expect. The kind of sleepy that made my daughter say, “I’m tired, I think I want to go to sleep.” And she did. And then so did Z-urchin. And then when I took Shortstop back, he fell asleep too.
This left only X-man awake. I handed him the iPad and he played Angry Birds Star Wars for the remainder of the flight. I hardly knew what to do with myself. I figured it out pretty quickly though. I took a nap and then read several chapters in my Georgette Heyer book.
What in the world? Wow! Such a difference from my last trip!
Finally, the flight was over. The man who had given up the seat next to his wife for me carried my car seat out of the plane and all the way to the baggage claim. Suzie held X-man’s hand while I pushed the stroller with the other three kids (and backpacks, blankets, diaper bag, and doll) all piled into it.
My husband met us there with a bouquet of flowers in his hand. Everyone there cheered him on and an awesome woman from first class told him, with quite a bit of attitude infused in her voice, “That’s right. You better have gotten her flowers.” Another woman chimed in, “And a key to a hotel room for a night by herself!”