This Season of Life: Plane Travel with a Two-Year Old

If only all travel was feasible by golf cart...

Hey there friends!  So, didn't plan on having this as the topic of discussion for my first non-introductory blog post, but nonetheless inspiration has struck and here we are.

So today, I want to discuss my feelings on plane travel with a small child around the age of two.  Or more specifically, how recently traveling long distances on a plane with my two year old (with my husband in tow) made me, a mom and former frequent business flyer, feel.

If you've been following along via Insta-Stories lately, then you know that we recently got back from our annual family surf trip to Barbados, which required a fairly typical one-day travel affair to return home: a 3.5 hour flight from Barbados to Miami, and then after a four hour layover (thanks, Customs), an hour-long flight from Miami to Charleston.  

For the most part, our son Reese was a good sport during our long first flight, thanks in part to the early hour and to his recent obsession with dinosaur movies, however it was once we deplaned that his toddler temperament came out in full force.  We survived going through Customs well enough, where there were thankfully no long lines, and then we had to walk about a mile to our gate.  After we ate lunch we had about two and a half hours to entertain our Reese, and thankfully there was enough take-off activity to keep him somewhat subdued and occupied during that time.  But there were new developments in his behavior that left me stunned and frazzled: trying to bite me and my husband when we denied his requests, purposefully falling every few feet while we trekked through a very crowded airport terminal, moping the floor with this beloved stuffed moose, howling like a dog at a volume that caused even the most well-trained security hound to chime in (my personal favorite), and a near finger-crushing incident on the escalators that almost gave me a panic attack.  Ugh.  And yes, he caused enough of a disturbance to cause several people to leave their seats and seek refuge in a more quiet area where there wasn't a howling toddler with ineffective parents.  Double ugh.  Looks we are getting from people range from knowing smiles of "you are so blessed - enjoy these moments" to pure irritation and judgement.

These are all pretty typical two-year old behaviors, now that I'm reflecting on it, especially considering the circumstances.  Yet I found myself without much patience for any of it, and I could feel myself becoming increasingly more like "Mean Mommy".  After two weeks straight of taking care of him when he is usually at preschool, not having the typical playmates and entertainment that school usually provides plus new environments and new routines, I think that both of us were feeling run-down and craving the familiarities of home.  And it was this last day of our trip, our travel day home, that left me feeling increasingly like a failing parent, frustrated with my ill-minding child, embarrassed by the looks of other travelers at my ineffectiveness, and  feeling haggard.

As we waited for our flight to board and my husband and I alternated "Reese-duty" by the minute to keep one another form going insane and getting hauled off by the TSA, I began noticing other women traveling by themselves.  They looked light, unburdened, elegant and refreshed - and I longed to be one of them again.  I hate myself a little for saying that - thanks mom-guilt - but I did.  It reminded me of the days as recent as a little over three years ago when that was me.  A young woman taking on the world, frequently traveling across the country for work or pleasure, not a care in the world but for herself, a good book to read and her plans that evening.   Aaaah - I began to crave the days of the single, childless life!

Just when my comparison pity-party was at its peak, our flight began to board and in front of us in line was a group of six girls about my age taking a girls trip together to Charleston for a bachelorette party.  Seeing them felt like I had been punched in the gut, as it reminded me how much I miss my close girlfriends, and how much fun it would be if we could all get together and take a trip like that again.  Ironically enough we were seated right behind them, where I had to listen to all of their light hearted conversations and watch as they took as many group selfies as their iCloud storages would allow.  And just when I thought my heart might explode from envy and longing for a different life, I remembered something my husband said to me a few months ago:

It was a week night and a typical day full of rushed activity when we had all sat down to dinner.  Reese was insisting on sitting in my lap to eat his dinner, which meant I couldn't peacefully enjoy mine.  Seeing my frustration and hunger in my eyes, my husband feeds me a bite of food, looks at me and says:

"Baby, you will have plenty of years to eat alone with nobody bothering you.  Trust me."

Frank had reminded me that life comes in seasons, and that this is my current season of life - feeling frazzled, over-stimulated and worn-thin, yet loved in a way that I will never be loved again.  And as I sat in my seat on that plane flight and looked at my son who had just drifted off to sleep on his moose with the sound of gossip and photo snaps in the background, I realized that just as all of the other seasons of my life had come to an end, this one will too.  And one day I will be sitting on a plane all by myself and I will look over across the aisle and see a mother or father traveling with their young child, and I know that I will long for these days again. I know that I will instantly wish I was with my young boy again, feeling so unglued that I almost can't stand it.

So in the meantime, bring on the judgmental stares, wrinkled and frumpy travel clothes, bad airplane hair, cookie crumbs and temper tantrums.  This is what this season of my life looks like.  I'm taking a good look at it and I am swimming in its depths, because I know that in its own time it will end, and another one will take its place.  The seemingly footloose and fancy free, fabulous party-of-one days and girls vacations will be here again soon enough.  

And as Glennon Doyle Melton would say, I'm gonna "Carpe a couple of Kairoses a day" until then.

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