As the plane began to taxi down the runway, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. We had made it to the airport on time, I could only think of a few things I had forgotten to pack, and no more than three of my carry-on items were confiscated at the security gate.
My 5-year-old son was sitting in his car seat, happily playing on a tablet, and my 8-year-old daughter was getting settled in with a movie. Turning to my husband, I smugly mouthed, “Could this get any better?” and then turned my attention to the in-flight programming I planned to lose myself in during the next few hours.
Just before I could get TV-ready cozy, the seatbelt light flashed on while the flight attendant made an announcement that we might experience some turbulence.
“Turbulence,” I chuckled to myself. “I bet it will rock the kids to sleep!”
But my side chuckle didn’t even have time to travel to my husband’s ears before it began. Swaying and dipping, bumping and dropping — it felt like the plane was being suspended in the sky by marionette strings and the controller was in a VERY bad mood.
Looking across the aisle to where my husband was seated, he motioned to see if I was OK. I’m not sure if it was the death grip that I had on the armrests that gave it away, but I was not. Sheer panic washed over me.
Not wanting to alarm my children, I tried to send him “S.O.S! HELP ME!” messages with my eyes. He looked around uncomfortably and shrugged his shoulders.
It was then that the flight attendant made another announcement: According to traffic control, other flights in our path had been canceled, but the pilot and air traffic controller both agreed we were OK to keep going.
Because I’m a mom, and it’s my job to keep the family together times of crisis, I first tried to swallow the lump in my throat. After, I looked at my 5-year-old son (still playing contently on his tablet) and decided that he obviously must need some comfort. I offered him a package of organic gummy snacks — because, you know, it’s important to stick to a “no artificial” diet when your life is flashing before your eyes.
“I’m not hungry,” he said, in a quivering voice.
“You’re … not … hungry?”
When my typically starving child looked up, I saw that his face was a terrifying shade of white. He then shoved his tablet into my lap and exclaimed three words that every parent dreads: “My tummy hurts!”
About 3.5 milliseconds later, all hell broke loose. And by hell, I mean vomit. Lots and LOTS of vomit.
Out of his mouth, down his body, into the car seat buckles, and pooling into his lap. If I hadn’t felt sick before, I sure did now. In fact, my first reaction was to leap from my own seat and get out of the splash zone.
Hey, did I mention that when my son throws up, he also passes out? Well, he does. So there’s my tiny boy, covered in his regurgitated breakfast, passed out in his car seat — and I am literally sitting on my 8-year-old daughter’s lap desperately trying to get away from him.
Oh, I probably also didn’t mention that my daughter uses a wheelchair. So I, a full-grown woman, was sitting on the lap of my disabled child to get away from my other sick, passed-out child.
It was basically my finest parenting moment EVER, and luckily for me, I had an entire plane full of people to witness it. Yay me!
My new husband — also a brand-new dad — was up and out of his seat, unbuckling our son and cleaning him up before the red even left my cheeks. Finally pulling myself together, I began to rub my son’s back and blow on his face in an effort to rouse him. Somehow, it worked. But just enough for him to open his eyes, turn ever so slightly, and throw up all over my husband — who, in turn, began to also retch in a way that had me contemplating skydiving just to get the hell outta dodge.
My son soon came around, and assured us that he was “feeling all better now.” Thankfully, between the rows of seats on the extremely cramped airplane, we had tons of room to clean up.
Oh no, wait. That’s a lie.
We had a space half the size of our body widths, and the floor was completely covered in the 1.5lbs of gluten-free pretzels I had thrown to the ground and trampled on during just one of my episodes of panic.
While my husband worked on getting his own vomit-covered shirt over his head, I helped my son get his clothes off. I dressed him in the only other clothing item we had in our carry-on — just so he could, you know, puke all over that too.
By the time the plane landed, any earlier feelings I had resembling travel competence were replaced by the tears of failing motherhood. My now shirtless husband grabbed my son’s puke-soaked car seat, while I dressed him in the only clean items I had left to work with; a winter coat, a Pull-Up that barely fit a potty trained 5-year-old, and wet shoes that had been washed in the sink.
Together, we disembarked, and made our way down the jet bridge, where the way-too-small Pull-Up promptly tore away from my 5-year-old son’s butt. We then had to run our naked child to baggage claim to get him some pants.
Best. flight. ever.