Parents of young children, listen up! It gets easier. It can even be pleasant.
I’m referring to traveling with kids. I could, of course, be alluding to many other things — getting to sleep all night, not having to buckle a wiggling little person into his or her car seat, or being able to do go to a restaurant with them and actually eat. Yes, I realize this is a crazy, unheard of concept for many of you with little ones. But it’s true. I promise!
But back to the traveling. Because we just completed trip number two this summer (one driving, one flying), I just have to stop and appreciate the relative ease with which we now get around.
First is the sheer decrease in amount of stuff. No longer are we pack mules, lugging baby car seats, pack and plays, a diaper bag with readily available changes of clothes, strollers, diapers, wipes, baby food, bottles, bottle cleaning apparatus, etc. This is huge!
We pack clothes and yes, the kids require some kid’s stuff, but they can not only pack but carry their own backpacks. They walk along with us and can actually be very agreeable travel companions.
Second, believe it or not, your kids will begin to find other things much more interesting than you. Sure, its a little sad being replaced so easily by electronics and books, but it’s a small price to pay for a calm and enjoyable flight or seven hour drive.
On our recent trip to New York, my son, sitting next to me on the airplane and engrossed in a book, wouldn’t even talk to me. Even my 5-year old, sitting with her dad in the row behind, was watching a movie on the iPad. I read my book for the entire two hour flight. Yes, you heard me correctly. I read. For two hours.
Even a year ago, the thought of this happening would have seemed as likely as me breaking out in fluent French or sprouting wings. Reading on an airplane was something magical and out of my reach, like sleeping until 9 a.m. or falling asleep on the beach (something I haven’t done since I used Hawaiian tropic oil and judged a beach day by how dark my tan got. Now, of course, I’m smothered in SPF and can’t imagine drifting off in the burning sun).
I remember one flight when, still childless, I saw a mom shoving cookies into her son’s waiting mouth as we boarded a plane. “I will never do anything like that!” I thought. “My kids will eat organic healthy snacks and will be calm and well behaved on airplanes.” Ha! I went from a judgmental know-nothing to a mom with a gigantic ziploc stuffed with every type of candy imaginable which I would gleefully shove into my child’s waiting mouth if necessary to avert onboard tantrums. I’m not proud. But I’d do it again.
I’ve been the one with the screaming, thrashing child, fielding murderous glares from other passengers. I’ve had to change soiled diapers and onesies and clean up a screaming baby in the cubby they call an airplane bathroom. I’ve been there. I understand.
And if I see you with your melting down child, with sweat pouring down your face as you spare no effort to calm him or her down, I will give you a smile filled with compassion and sympathy. And I may even tell you that one day, you’ll get to read that book you hopefully, unrealistically tucked into the side pocket of your diaper bag.
Lauren Menis is a Dunwoody mother whose column appears in The Crier each month. You can reach Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org.