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Precious Chong thinks back to traveling with a two-year-old.

airport photo by Susannah Cooke

Right now I’m on a plane with Jack, flying back to Toronto from  Los Angeles. He’s a good travel companion and we’ve done this trip a couple of times a year since he was a year and a half. At seven years old, he’s a seasoned traveller. Gone are the days of a stroller and a car seat and three carry-on bags and a crying toddler and dirty looks from strangers and me sweating and exhausted. I remember being absolutely worn out waiting at the gate and running after Jack and suddenly it dawned on me, “Oh my god, we’re not even on the plane, yet! How am I going to do this?”

We used to fly out of Buffalo, because the flights were so much cheaper and Jack’s Nana lives in Niagara Falls, so she would give us a ride. But the last time I did that was when Jack was two. I was on my way to do a play in L.A. and rehearsals were starting the next day. But when we arrived at the Buffalo airport they told me that our connecting flight in Chicago had been cancelled. We were going to have to stay in Chicago overnight and take a flight at 7 a.m. Do you understand what that means?

  1. I was going to have to pick up our bags
  2. Check into a hotel
  3. Wake up at the crack of dawn
  4. Wake up my sleeping toddler at the crack of dawn
  5. Get luggage, a car seat, a stroller and a crying two-year-old to the gate in time to board a 7 a.m. flight
  6. (On my own)

And Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is HUGE! And they were doing construction, so there were parts of the airport that were only stairs. Stairs! I was really feeling sorry for my sweaty self when I ran into another mother who was traveling alone with a baby and a toddler.

So there we were. It was about 10 o’clock at night and Jack was insisting that he walk on his own through the huge and empty airport. People looked strangely at this tiny little two-year-old confidently making his way through O’Hare Airport. I pushed his stroller and carried our bags behind him like a Sherpa. “He’s with me!” I yelled out randomly at strangers.

We finally made it to the baggage carousel and as we were waiting for the huge suitcases that I would have to return with the next morning, Jack loudly announced “I’m pooping!”

And then, when we finally had the bags and were making our way across the street to the hotel, Jack insisted on pushing the luggage cart, even though he was too little to even see where he was going. I staggered beside him with one hand on the massive car seat balanced precariously on top, trying to avoid us both being hit by a car. Did I mention how much I was sweating? Or how much I hate car seats?

The next morning we made it to the gate only to find out we were not on the direct flight we’d been promised. I started to make a scene and the lady behind the counter told me in no uncertain terms, “If you don’t calm down now, you won’t be going anywhere.” “Mommy, why crying?” Jack asked me. “It’s okay, Jack. Mommy is just tired.”

And then we both fell asleep. Me, sitting cross-legged on the carpet near our gate and Jack sprawled across my lap. I woke briefly to overhear someone remark on how sweet we looked. I rolled my eyes in my sleep (if that’s possible) and drifted off again.

Now, Jack is seven. And he still helps me with the luggage (albeit begrudgingly, now). But we fly direct from Toronto. It goes by so fast. Where did that little guy, who so proudly announced his pooping, go?

Precious Chong is a writer and actor living in Toronto. She’s also a professional stilt walker and the daughter of cult movie hero Tommy Chong.

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