Recently, I set out on an adventure. I didn’t kayak down the Amazon or climb Mount Everest. I traveled from Washington to Pennsylvania (and back again) with my two boys, ages 5 ½ and 13 months, on my own to visit my family.
That’s a 2700 mile trek each way with flight layovers involved.
For the flights, I had my older boy seated next to me and my toddler sitting on my lap. Well, on paper he was sitting on my lap, but anyone who has flown while holding a 13 month old knows that the toddler is not sitting on your lap.
He may be jumping on your lap, wailing on your lap, or barfing on your lap, but he most certainly isn’t sitting on your lap.
And I suppose that is the best introduction to my story. I grew up in Pennsylvania, but I have lived in Washington for the past 13 years. Pre-kids, my husband and I traveled back and forth several times a year to see our East Coast relations.
Once we had our first son, we still flew regularly with him, but we had a two-on-one advantage. As my son got older, I flew with him on my own, but it was still manageable, as I could focus all my time and attention on keeping him entertained.
Since having our second son, we have not flown as much. My husband and I took our boys to visit my family when our baby was just 5 months old. That’s pre-crawling, still breastfeeding time with two parents involved. Piece of cake.
Since our younger son has moved into the phase of juggernaut toddler, we haven’t attempted a cross-country flight. However, I had vouchers that I needed to use, and I really wanted to take my boys to see their extended family.
I grew up as the youngest of five children and lived walking distance to my grandmother’s house. Being surrounded by family at all times was the norm. So, establishing our long-distance extended family lifestyle has taken some getting used to, and I want to have my kids around their extended family as much as possible.
My husband was not able to get away, so I decided I would take the boys myself. I have seen those mothers in airports, outnumbered by their children and pulling it off. It’s just a week away from home. Might as well give it a go.
Let me start by saying that we all survived and had a good time. There were challenges, no doubt. For one, my toddler hated being on the flights. Not disliked…..hated.
At his age, he wants to walk and explore. I could do the best dang pat-a-cake of my mom career, but that wouldn’t change the fact that he was confined for 5+hours on a plane. It was very taxing for us both.
The flight attendant asked, “Would you like some coffee, Miss?” My inner monologue: “You have no clue how utterly desperate I am for coffee right now. But there is no flipping way I can manage to hold an open cup of scalding hot liquid within 5 feet of my lap jabberwocky.” My actual reply: “No thanks. I’m good.”
Luckily, my older son happily played independently, and we really lucked out on seat mates. On our flight out, we had a polite, young firefighter with us, who praised my children endlessly no matter what their behavior actually was.
And, on our flight home, we ended up with an empty seat in our row. Oh, to have the extra tray table just out of reach of my little one!
Our time at my family’s home was well worth the travel headaches. The downside was continual sickness. My toddler had a terrible cold and would only sleep directly on top of me.
And, the day before we were scheduled to fly home, my older son came down with a stomach virus. I had to consider rescheduling our flights, but that would keep us on the East Coast for several more days, and after a week I needed to get the boys (and me) home.
So I didn’t sleep for a solid week and called my husband in tears the night before flying home for a pep talk. But, enough with the tough stuff. Let’s review the fun.
My sons got to soak up endless attention from their extended family. They played with their cousins, read stories with their aunts and uncles, and spent quality time with their grandparents. They got to explore the same backyard I used to explore as a child and sleep in my childhood bedroom.
And the day before leaving, my grandmother, who is turning 90 years old this year, visited. My toddler, who had been extremely shy around everyone on this trip, could not get enough of his Babci. He just wanted to sit on her lap and giggle. I now have pictures and videos of this very special moment. It made all the effort and challenges for me as the single parent on this trip worthwhile.
Since having made it back home to Washington, I admit that I am in no hurry to run out and catch another plane with my two little ones. Life is just easier here where there are child locks on the doors and the food in the fridge is always the type my kids will eat.
But, I now know I CAN do it. I have the confidence that I can pick up and travel with my kids, on my own if need be, and have the life experiences I want us to have.
That said, I would pay top dollar to any airline that can come up with a truly family friendly flight option that caters to traveling with little ones. For starters, fold down train tables in every seat and Laurie Berkner on audio would be nice.
Final Thought: Kudos to all the single parents who manage their households solo 24-7. I don’t know how you do it. You are amazing people!
Have you traveled with your kids? How did you keep them entertained while keeping your sanity?
This has been an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara B. of Washington (State) USA.
Photo credit to the author.