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When Cole was a baby, we went on a lot of trips. Before he was a year, he’d flown to Seattle, New York, Baltimore, and Hawaii twice. And generally, it went really well. Then we had Evie, and when she was about 4 months old we decided to try a flight as a family of four. But after a 45 minute flight to Reno, we swore off air travel. It wasn’t for us. We would drive, we would cruise, but there was no way in hell we were getting back on a plane.
As a family of 5.
Going across an ocean.
It was time to get strategic. This isn’t a simple toss a baby in an Ergo, bounce and provide snacks type of production. And lots of the tips for road tripping with kids is applicable, but a plane has all. Those. Other. People. So here are plane specific tips for traveling with your
band of misfit monsters darling children.
It’s a little sad that this has to even be said. Because truly, the MICROEST (and yes, that’s a word now) luxury there can be is taking five minutes and finding yourself again. Not you the Mom, or you the Wife, or you the President of the PTA, the Brownie Mom, or the Soccer Mom.
The you that you were before all the other stuff. You can still LOVE the other stuff – and for your own sake, I hope you do! But that doesn’t mean that deep down inside there isn’t a part of you that you’ve lost a little.
There are parts of me that I try so hard to make sure stay present in my life. Me the reader. Me the crafter. Me the Aunt. Me the sister and friend and bowler (yes, bowler!) and roller coaster lover and dancer.
And me the PSYCHO FOOTBALL FAN.
Oh, was that not where you thought this was going? Sorry. Because the truth is, pre-kids, from September to December Football. Was. Life.
When my husband and I got engaged in November 2010, he asked if I had any dates in mind. I immediately said, “next October 8.” He was a little taken aback that I’d already had a date totally selected and wondered how I ever picked that so fast? My response? “Well, let’s be honest, I sort of knew this was coming and I want a fall wedding and so I checked the football schedule and we have a bye that weekend so everyone can come and no one will be checking the score all night. Plus, it would totally ruin my wedding day if we lost. So this just makes sense.”
So it was that Saturdays were spent off to the game or parked in a bar, friends house or our living room stuffing ourselves with snacks and beer and cheering until our throats were sore. Sunday was church, rinse and repeat. It was an exciting way to spend the weekend, and let’s be real, we didn’t have a whole lot of other commitments or responsibilities. The house stayed cleaner and there was way less laundry to do back then too.
Then, kids. And for a while we tried. We took each of the kids to a game or two as babies. We watched games on the weekend but had to stifle our cheers so as to not wake said babies. We got distracted and missed the big play because we were rocking a baby, feeding a baby, changing a baby. Slowly but surely, our priorities shifted.
My sister called me the other day because she needed help with a fantasy draft and I had no clue what to tell her. It didn’t happen overnight, but the realization still stung: I wasn’t a football person anymore. It was like a crushing blow to who I always thought I was. I still have all the sweatshirts, put up the decorations, and love the game. But I just. Can’t. follow it like I used to.
At this point I could either accept the new normal and keep falling farther and farther out of touch with this thing that I loved, or make a change.
I opted to change. Not completely. I still have important obligations on Saturday that mean I can’t spend every weekend glued to the screen or sitting in the stands. But I made a pact with my best friend. Once a year, we were going to pack our bags and travel to an away game for our favorite team. No husbands, no kids, just two best friends going to a football game together. Like old times.
Which brings us to today. Fresh off a plane from Oakland where the USC Trojans took on the Cal Golden Bears. I would like to tell you that it didn’t matter if we won or not. That sharing a great weekend with my girlfriend is the real win. That making myself a priority is a win in itself. Because what the weekend was really about was finding me. But guess what? If it didn’t matter, then I wouldn’t have found me! Because football is NOT about the journey. It’s about the destination – and we. are. WINNERS!!! That might not matter to Mom/Wife me, but pre-kids football psycho me? Went. Crazy. Just as it should be.
Today I’m back to being the Wife, the Mother, the person that does everything for everyone else. But this weekend? I was the psycho football fan. And I loved it.
Road trips are always a huge endeavor, especially when you’re traveling with a bunch of little ones. You spend more time prepping for the trip than you’ll probably spend at your final destination, making sure you have everything you could possibly need for every possible scenario: illness, peed pants, owies of all shapes and sizes, snacks – OH GOD THE SNACKS. Every possible book that will be required to get the kids to sleep at the end of the night and every toy that might be needed to get someone to stop crying/fighting/fussing/etc. I started getting ready on a Friday and a year and a half later we were packed, loaded and on the road.
Later that day, we found ourselves in the middle of what we thought was a seven hour drive – which ended up being over eleven hours – and were all in pretty good spirits. My husband and Dad were in the front row, chatting away, seemingly oblivious to the chaos of the back two rows. The kids were mostly singing songs from the major motion picture Moana and playing games they made up like “Guess the Animal,” where Evie gave charming clues like, “The animal I’m thinking of is a mouse.” It was cute, but freaking A man, was it LOUD. We had strategically positioned the carseats so that no one could touch each other, so at least there was that. But even cute wears off after a few hours.
Then something happens and cute is a distant memory.
And when you’re trapped in the third row of a Ford Explorer with your very talkative three year old sitting right next to you and your very hungry 7 month old screaming as she stares you down from her second row spot, the Panera off the highway might just look a little like heaven.
The second we parked the car I started yelling to the Daddies in the front row, “Please, please get the kids out so I can get out of the car, PLEASE!!” I scrambled over seats and literally fell into the parking lot, the black pavement scalding hot, but I was on LAND. And there was going to be food.
We went in, ordered and that’s when the fun began.
If you know anything about eating with kids, it’s that seat selection can make or break your meal. When in doubt DO NOT SIT NEXT TO THE NICE LOOKING OLD LADIES IN PANERA. This may have been a one off, but just in case. Heed this warning.
We all sat down and started to eat. The baby – a staunch refuser of all things pureed – was sitting in her high chair enjoying one of a baby’s major food groups: the Mum Mum. Yes, it looks like I’m feeding my baby a bird treat but she loves it, so I’ll keep ripping open package after package as long as she likes. Being a baby though, she drops food. All the time. In quick succession she dropped not one, but TWO of the coveted Mum Mums. I chastised her playfully saying, “Silly baby, you’ve got to stop dropping your food!”
It was at this point that Lil Biddy #1 decided to mumble, “Of course she’s dropping it, it’s WAY too big for a baby….how can she possibly eat it….ugh….grumble grumble.” Uh, excuse me? I shot over a look, equal parts, “I’m sure I just heard you wrong” and “Nosy bitch says what??” Okay, maybe not quite equal parts.
At some point, Izzie ran out of Mum Mums and it was time to bust out the canister of Puffs. Both food AND fine motor skill enhancer, Puffs are pretty much the perfect food for a baby on the go. Sure, she can spill them EVERYWHERE, but the cleanup is pretty easy. What could someone not like about PUFFS????
Enter Lil Biddy stage left! This pushed her straight over the edge. “That’s it. I can’t stay here and watch this anymore. Those are too small! That baby is going to choke and die and it’s all that Mother’s fault!!!”
She, no joke, STORMED OUT OF PANERA. Lil Biddy #2 chased behind her crying, “I mean, I think those are actually made for babies….” but it was too late. She was dust.
In the moment, I actually thought it was funny. Me, feeding my baby food, that was made for a baby, was such terrible parenting that it drove two ladies from a restaurant. Are we in the twilight zone? It was honest to God laughable. In fact, my whole table laughed. But the more I thought about it, the more it chapped my ass. Who do these people think they are that it’s okay to just comment on every parent that comes in their wake? Because make no mistake. This was not unique to that day, to that Panera. Chad thought it was funny as well, and commented on how random it was which is when I realized that it doesn’t happen to him. It happens to the Moms. Our jobs are open to feedback and criticism and judgement, from anyone, anywhere.
Whether you’re in the grocery store, or an amusement park, or Panera.
And it’s BS.
So we won’t even get started on what happened at the next rest stop where….but Evie looked like this. So use your imagination…