Welcome to Mommy Mondays, the one day of the week when I talk about this whole parenting thing.
Last week I flew solo for the first time with both kids. I flew 23 times with Pigtail during her first year of life. I've flown three times with both kids (and another adult) since Pirate was born last October, and I've flown alone with Pirate only once, when we went to Nashville in February. So, even though it was my first trip with the kids flying alone, I felt pretty confident. I had this. I am momma, hear me roar.
True to my Flying With Baby tips, I wore cargo pants and only carried one bag. But, this airplane only had four seats across, two on each side of the aisle, so I couldn't get everyone their own. The six-month-old would ride on my lap, the two year old would sit beside us. I thought that would be the hardest part of the journey. It was not.
My parents, because they are lovely, kind, sweet, generous people who sometimes know me better than I know myself, drove an hour and a half from my hometown just to help me at the airport. I didn't suggest it - I didn't even think of it - and truthfully I didn't think I needed it. But my dad helped me return the rental car and my mom met us at check-in with food, and I was so relieved that they had come up with this plan.
We made it through security okay. I have a ritual about what goes in what bin, where Pigtail stands while I'm loading and unloading. The suited businessman in line behind me was impressed with my organization, but really really wanted to help me. So I handed him the baby while I folded the stroller to be x-rayed. I worked quickly, knowing that any second Pirate was going to spit up all over this finely dressed man.
We made it on the plane just fine. We were in our seats and playing a game long before they closed the cabin doors. I may have started to get cocky. I like to catch the eye of passengers as they arrive near our scenario, I can always read the panic or irritation in their eyes. I like to make a joke, wink, help them understand that we're a traveling family, I won't be that mom.
Pirate started to wail before we even pushed back from the gate.
When this happens, you can't blame it on their ears not popping or hope for a sympathetic smile from another traveler who also hates turbulence. The baby who screams maddeningly before the plane leaves the ground is the reason one should always fly with headphones.
I hoped that once we got going, my sweet-natured son would quiet down. There is only one reason he cries like that, and it is when he is way overtired. And because we are very regimented about our sleep habits, he is not one of those babies who will just fall asleep anywhere. Having a rigid sleep schedule for infants is good about 97% of the time. On the airplane during naptime falls in the 3%.
I am happy to report that during the hour he shrieked and screamed, Pigtail played quietly with the iPad, ate her snack, and offered help and encouragement as I alternated between bouncing, rocking intensely, and pacing the aisle.
My pacing started just between the couple of rows around us, but I worried that I was bothering my neighbors even more by jostling their elbows. The woman directly across the aisle from me and my red-faced infant read on her kindle and sipped her drink. I imagined it took every breath in her body not to give me a murderous look.
My little walks with the baby got longer and longer, until at one point I was almost up to the first class cabin. I was only in the front of the plane briefly, I didn't want to wander too far from a preoccupied Pigtail, but as soon as I returned to my seat I noticed that someone had followed me.
A 50-something woman, heavily hairsprayed and bedazzled, started cooing and talking to Pirate. At first I thought she was just stopping on her way to the bathroom, but it became clear that she was back in coach just to see us. She told me that her husband was a father of nine, that she loved babies, in fact was something of a baby whisperer. I registered that she smelled like alcohol, but she seemed fine. When she asked if she could give it a try to calm his crying, it happened at a moment when Pigtail had just spilled her snack, and I all but tossed the baby towards the woman's bosom.
Then she started walking away. With my child. Now, I wasn't all that concerned. We were flying through the clouds, where could she possibly go? But when she wandered out of my eyesight, I thought maybe I should go see what was going on.
Within seconds a flight attendant was by my side. "Are you okay with this?" She asked. "Well, I was," I said, "But now I guess maybe I'm not." The flight attendant told me that the woman had been acting odd and had had a lot to drink. I asked her to get on the loudspeaker and announce that we were beginning our descent and that everyone would have to take their seats. To my complete surprise, she did exactly this.
I wish I could say that I marched right up there and snatched my baby back with a terse word. But when I got up to the second row, my sweet boy was wrapped in a first class blanket, resting comfortably in a wide leather seat, and was quiet for the first time in over an hour. He was nearly asleep.
I smiled apologetically and pointed toward the speaker commanding us all to take our seats. I thanked the woman profusely, and made my way towards the back of the plane, Pirate still wrapped in the fleece.
Not too much later, we landed at LAX and a huge line gathered to pick up their gate-checked luggage that wouldn't fit on the small plane. My stroller is two pieces, Pigtail had decided she had maxed out her good behavior, and I was about four hands short to put together all the pieces. The woman who had sat quietly beside us the entire trip put her hand on my shoulder. "How can I help you?" she asked. "Can I get a bag for you?" Her tone, after hours of listening to my child scream, was so nice.
Even though my stroller is complicated and my children were unruly, I let her help me.