So I’m here at the airport with my kid in one arm and all his gear in the other and the people in line are giving me the I-hope-you’re-not-on-my-plane look. We’ve got it all: car seat, diapers, wipes, books, snacks, little toy cars, chewy plastic bracelets, change of clothing, binky and cookies. To be safe we arrived over an hour early and now we wait for 60 minutes, for 3,600 seconds to sit on a plane for eight hours, for 480 minutes, for 28,800 seconds.
I know that look. The why-bring-that-kid-into-a-public-space-if-you-can’t-control-him look. I get the look at the grocery store when Joe Jr. wants a cookie from the bakery and I say no, at the bagel shop when Joe Jr. wants Coca Cola instead of Orange Juice, or when we’re at the zoo and the apes decide to nap instead of scratch themselves. Today, I get it at the airport where people are cranky, where Joe Jr. is out of his routine, and where 28,800 seconds together a million miles up in the sky await us.
1,800 seconds later, 1,800 to go.
I’m holding Joe Jr. now and the other passengers in the terminal orbit us and throw awkward shame-on-you-for-having-kids looks our way. They ask: “Are you going to L.A.?” When I say no (I’m going to Salt Lake City), they sigh and smile at us with teeth. When I say Salt Lake, others shake, and head to the bar for another glass of wine because they know we will soon be together in a tiny airplane a million miles up in the sky where nobody can do anything to make Joe Jr. stop screaming.
900 seconds to boarding.
It’s time to drug Joe Jr. with Benadryl. The same adults that gave me the shame-on-you-for-having-kids looks now add shame-on-you-for-having-kids-because-you-suck-as-a-parent looks. I want to tell them it’s for their own good, that they should thank me. They sit there with their People magazines and snicker because I am a bad parent and I am drugging my kid.
Time to board.
On the plane, it’s worse than I feared. Joe Jr.—napless and exhausted with a Benadryl high instead of low—does not sleep. Instead, he decides to relieve himself.
This is how it goes down: Joe Jr. is still screaming, still sitting in my lap. I am sitting on my 12 inch by 12 inch airplane seat throwing everything I’ve got at him—books, cars, fruit snacks, cookies, everything—when I begin to smell it. It wafts out of his diaper, past me and into the plane. People whisper, stare, and cover their noses. Then some guy with a hearing aid yells: “It’s that damn baby—the plane no place for kids!”
Heads turn—one young couple whispers how they would never let this happen if they had kids and all I can do is think how I planned the trip down to every second—his bowel movements, his sleeping, his eating, his drugs and it’s all gone to hell and I’m a million miles up in the sky for the next eight hours and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. So I wait for the seat belt light to go off.
And when it does go off I take this kid, the fruit of my loins, into the bathroom just beyond the first-class passengers who have just eaten a nice parfait. When we reach the bathroom, the three-feet-by-three-feet cracker box with a toilet, the same old man that yelled at us has left something behind.
He smiles. My eyes begin to water and I realize that there is no changing table on this airplane so Joe Jr. stands with his legs spread while I catch his poop as it drops like marbles. Joe Jr. cries because he’s never seen his poop do this before.
And then, finally, it’s over.
This is how we spend the first 360 seconds of our eight-hour plane ride to Grandma’s. This is why we will spend the holidays at home for the next four years. And this, finally, is what it’s like to fly with kids.