Travelling With the Terrible Twos
If you haven’t yet packed your tiny progeny into their car seat before heading to the airport then you may not know what it is to feel dread. We flew with our son for the first time when he was nine months old and I was incredibly stressed out. We packed a huge bag full of shakers and snacks and his favorite books, but the minute the plane took off the persistent hum of the engine lulled him to sleep.
The worst part of the flight was trying to figure out how to drink my wine while adjusting my ear buds as he slept in my lap. I tried not to let my tears from watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows drown him like I drowned my fear of flying with cheap Sauvignon Blanc. It was a piece of cake.
The hard part back then was managing all of the gear that we were lugging around. We had packed for every conceivable baby-related situation. This made us incredibly cumbersome for any of our relatives, who had to dedicate one extra vehicle to our tiny army each time we moved camp. But it also ensured that we were prepared for anything. And we were. At the end of that trip – six plane rides later – I felt as though we had created a perfect travel baby. I was certain we’d survived the toughest age for travelling and won. I was wrong, wrong, wrong.
Earlier this year we flew to the states for a convention. My son, lovely boy (though now a toddler), was relatively easily distracted by my iPhone and the bits and bites that we could get from the flight attendants. He was a little fussy but nothing excessive. When we got to the hotel he quickly accepted it as ‘home’ and that was that. “What a difference a day makes” or so the song goes…
Two months later, scheduled to fly into my hometown for a visit, we now knew exactly what to pack, how little was required, and fully prepped for flight we arrived at the airport brimming with confidence. A word of advice to all who breed, never let your confidence get the better of you. Henry, who had been so easily managed with a snack and a cartoon was now a different creature entirely. Something had changed within him, something formidable and welcome and yet…not entirely practical for our purposes in that airport or that plane.
It’s hard to say when the will is born. Many people claim to see it immediately in their newborn child. While I will argue endlessly that Henry was himself from the moment he was born I can also now attest to the fact that something wild in him, like a natural anarchy, emerged at some point in the month of May. It was conch shells and loincloths in aisle 11 of that plane, where we bargained and battled as we never have before. It was the six o’clock witching hour, which most parents know too well. Tired, hungry and bored out of his mind, our lovely boy expressed the universal frustration of all mankind as our plane began it’s interminable descent.
At some points during our visit it was hard not to feel guilty about uprooting him, for the first time he was aware that there was a place called home to return to. Whenever we’d come back to the house where we were staying after a long day of visits you could read the disappointment and confusion on his face. After walking around for awhile he’d go back to the door and put on his shoes as if to say, “No, this is not my home. You said we were going home and you lied.”
Despite these hiccups we had a wonderful visit and introducing this new little person made up of opinions and attitudes was fascinating and great fun for my partner and I. I love babies. I love holding them and making them laugh but I love the sound of my son singing a little song to himself, or watching him insist on learning something on his own even more. It is a wonder to me.
The flight home was scheduled for first thing in the morning. We left in good spirits and headed to the airport. This time I had packed a virtual cornucopia of favorite foods in my carry on. We had hit the bookstore the day before and gathered an arsenal of Seuss. At the airport we ran him back and forth, up one hallway and down another until he could run no more.
We went through security like old pros, our boarding passes neatly folded into our passports, our laptops orderly in their bins. Suddenly, security stopped the line. We had forgotten to empty Henry’s water thermos before they put it in the scanner. Now suspicious, the older woman in uniform glared at us while we prostrated ourselves excessively. “Sorry, sorry, so sorry!” My partner and I droned on. Henry’s tiny, adorable two year-old voice chimed in, “Sorry, Sorry Grandma.” All was forgiven.
The flight ended up being a breeze. Our lovely boy ate snacks (healthy and not so much), and read books and was an absolute joy. We discovered that flying in the morning was a better fit for our family. We were so proud of him.
I think that travelling with a toddler is just one of those things that will always surprise you. Sometimes the surprise is good and sometimes it means that you need to change your clothes in a bathroom the size of a shoe box. But I have always felt that in life it is more about the journey than the destination. And at the very least, the journey is never boring.