Don’t. Just don’t do it.
That’s the only rule. As I write this, I’m spending my birthday sitting on a plane with two kids under the age of 3. This is, of course, after 10 days sharing a child’s bed with those same kids at my in-laws. And did I mention I have an accidental dose of Miralax coursing through my intestines? But more on that later.
Why we needed 10 days back east to attend one wedding is beyond me, but here I sit. My wife wanted the family to see our children, but to me, kids are like Vegas. You should have to travel “to” them, and you’re not able to stay for more than three days.
The funny thing is, I used to love traveling. I did stand-up comedy on the road all over the country. The new places and interesting people all added up to a life well-lived. But here’s the difference: the responsibility. Adult travel is care-free. There’s a reckless abandon to it. We’re never going to be here again, so yes, let’s do the jungle zip line.
But traveling with kids is the worst thing on earth.
It makes you wonder what you did in an earlier life to be punished like this. Getting them to the airport is a disaster: 250 pounds of luggage, and only 5 of those pounds are mine. It’s like I’m a personal valet for the babies from Downton Abbey.
And no, “TSA Security Guy,” that wheel does not come off the stroller to get through the machine! You know how you know I’m not a terrorist? Because not even a terrorist would go through the hassle of flying with kids to propagate his political ideology.
Then comes the inevitable delay at the gate that seems to stop time in its tracks. It feels like that moment in The Matrix when Keanu Reeves is dodging bullets in slow mo. Except that every bullet hits you. And it never ends.
Maybe the delay at the terminal is designed specifically to make you look forward to getting on the flight. Because, let’s face it, trying to contain two kids for 6 hours in a space the size of a bathtub is akin to being tied up in a burlap sack with a mongoose and a cobra. It’s a constant battle of “your turn,” “I have to pee,” and “my arm is locking up,” followed by a never ending barrage of “please stop kicking that chair,” “The table stays UP,” and “Just because, that’s why!”
Everyone hates you. You hate yourself. You hate them. You hate the airline. You blame your spouse, your parents, anyone who steps in your path. You end up buying drinks for everyone in your general vicinity. Every sentence out of your mouth starts with the word “sorry”.
You wonder why you decided to make this sojourn to the grandparents, and you make a solemn vow to NEVER EVER travel with children again.
We’re coming in for a landing now. The end is in sight. So I let my guard down for one second … Hannah flips over the chair and face plants in the aisle. And that’s when it dawns on me: The hardest part about traveling is not just the horror of planes, trains, and automobiles, but the constant fear that your kid is going to get hurt. You see, our house is child-proofed; the world is not. And kids are stupid.
Luckily it only turned into her first bloody nose and not a consult with a facial reconstruction specialist. But, that’s the reality. The overwhelming anxiety of keeping these two tiny humans alive gets immeasurably harder when you travel. And it is physically draining.
Hannah is screaming in my arms now, and part of me is actually happy about it because she’s at least sitting still. We’re twenty minutes from landing, and the other passengers are just going to have to deal with it. I play it off with a charming, “At least you don’t have to go home with her.” They’re not amused.
As she starts to calm down, she whimpers, “Where’s Grandma?”
“She’s not here, baby. She’s at her house all the way across the country.”
“Where’s Grand-Pa? or Aunt Jooooolie? ”
“They live in New Jersey. We were just visiting them. We’re home now.”
And the sadness sets in. She starts to cry again. This was part of her family. She wants them in her life. She misses them. And finally, I get it. Traveling with kids is the worst thing you can do, but unfortunately, it is a necessary evil that comes with having a family.
“When are we going back?” she says, with all the sweetness a 2 year old can muster.
Before I can get a resounding “NEVER” out of my mouth, my wife chimes in, “February, baby, for Uncle Mike’s wedding. And maybe this time Daddy won’t drink your apple juice that I spiked with Miralax.”
Oh, that’s right. I’d almost forgotten about that. But now that you mention it, I really need to get off this plane quickly.
“Hey folks,” the pilot says after a bouncy landing. “Our gate is not quite ready, so we’re going to have to wait a little bit out here on the tarmac … ”