As I sat sipping my over-priced, heartburn-inducing wine at 30,000+ feet on Friday morning while my toddler covered her seat with Dora the Explorer stickers, I was reminded of all those trips I did to and from Asia when I was in my 20s, and how I was always unlucky enough to be seated in the immediate vicinity of a screaming child.
I always felt particularly sorry for the moms who were traveling alone with their kids, but it wasn't until last week that I fully understood why they looked so haggard, and why they didn't just tell their children shut up.
You see, after 2 full days of shopping, packing, and cleaning in preparation to take our toddler to visit my parents for a week, my husband called to tell me he'd missed the last available flight home, which meant he wouldn't be able to help me with the airport run in the morning.
I was in shock.
How did he miss his flight?!
But then I put on my big girl underpants and reminded myself that I've been traveling across the world on my own since I was 15, and that a 4-hour flight with a 2-year-old would probably be easier than enduring one of my weekly 45-minute mom-and-me classes.
I was wrong.
After waking up at 4 am to shower, finish packing our suitcases, and prepare breakfast, my child decided she should wake up nice and early, too. And when I tried to throw toys at her in hopes she'd give me a few extra minutes to finish all of the things I hadn't managed to do before she woke up, the Terrible Twos made an unwelcome appearance.
At 5:20 am.
Fortunately, the gods were working in my favor, because I managed to distract her from the mother of all meltdowns, get the 2 of us fed, dressed, and out the door, and navigate a suitcase, a stroller, 2 carry-on bags, and a very unhappy toddler down the elevator, through 2 sets of doors, and across our underground parking lot to our car before 6 am.
But that's when my luck ran out.
As I was struggling to lift my 51 lb suitcase into the trunk of our car, I managed to step on my own foot and rip the skin off the top of it.
Because all mothers should travel in high heel shoes, right?
But the blood gushing from the top of my foot was totally overshadowed by the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway, the fact that my daughter had another meltdown when I tried to put her in her stroller in the airport parking lot, and the 60+ minutes it took me to check our bags and make it through airport security while the rest of the world pretended I was invisible so they didn't have to help me.
And just as we were walking towards our gate after enduring the nightmare that is changing a toddler's diaper in one of the airport bathrooms, I realized our gate had been changed. And when we finally made it to our new gate, I discovered the computer had lied about the revised gate number, and that we had to run all the way to the other side of the terminal to board our flight.
And we had to do it 20 minutes ago.
When I finally got us to the door of the plane, surrendered our stroller, carried my 27-lb toddler and all of our bags to the very back of the plane, and buckled us into our seats while my daughter sang Jason Mraz's I Won't Give Up at the top of her lungs, I momentarily lifted my head and noticed the horrified looks on the faces of my fellow passengers.
And it was in that moment that I realized I'd finally crossed over to the other side.
I'm now that haggard woman in her mid-30s who orders a glass of wine at 9:00 am and doesn't think twice about the amount of noise her 2-year-old is making while locked into the small confines of an airplane.
Because as long as she's not crying and I'm not sober, all is good in my world.
Have you ever had any nightmare experiences traveling with your kids?