Last week, Mike and I took Mazzy and Harlow on a five hour plane ride. It was our first time taking both girls on a plane together and although we survived, it was not without it's difficulties. And by "difficulties", I mean moments when it would have been more enjoyable to throw ourselves out the exit door mid-flight.
Babies can be pretty easy on planes. Preschoolers are even easier. Toddlers? I wouldn't wish that kind of hell on anyone.
Now. What happens when you take a preschooler and a toddler together?
Let's just say the second Harlow FINALLY fell asleep, Mazzy announced she had watched everything there was to watch on her iPad and was bored. REALLY? Can't a mom just watch an old episode of Mad Men in peace???
If you are thinking Mazzy and Harlow look particularly well-behaved in the photo above, please note this was taken before take-off. Harlow had yet to realize her seat was on my lap.
Also? The plane is only part of the problem. Let's talk about the AIRPORT.
We all know the plane is too small to contain the combined energy of a toddler and a preschooler, but it would be a grave mistake to underestimate the obstacle of the airport terminal— a place that presents small children with limitless possibilites and opportunities for escape.
There's a wide hallway the length of several football fields, moving sidewalks, ramps, and various stores from which to steal random merchandise (more on that later).
It's hard to chase two kids at once who are running in opposite directions. Even harder when you factor in baggage. Add this to the fact that you are in a hurry, surrounded by people who appear to be in an even bigger hurry (sorry, loudly sighing guy behind us in security), and you should expect to cross over into dangerous levels of agitation easily and often.
But let's back this up a bit because really the issue of traveling with kids starts with....
GETTING OUT YOUR FRONT DOOR
Getting to the airport in time for an early morning flight while not forgetting anything is difficult even for a single childless person. Getting out the door at any moment of any day is difficult with two kids. Combine the two and it's a recipe for disaster.
Mike and I are both at our worst when we are trying to make a plane. I remember at least twenty items I've forgotten in the two minutes before we are supposed to leave, which drives my husband CRAZY.
"Oh wait! We need bathing suits for the hot tub!"
"Crap! I forgot extra pacifiers!
"Oh no! We need crayons and paper for the plane!"
Of course, this is all happening while we are dressing two complete invalids who have no idea what is going on. We kept screaming things at eachother like:
"Can you check if I put a bottle in the diaper bag?"
"Don't you see me putting on Harlow's shoes?"
"Well, I can't do it if I'm brushing Mazzy's hair!!!"
Next time we travel, I'm putting everyone to sleep fully dressed for the flight. That's the only chance I'll have to make it to the airport with my sanity in tact.
Let's get back to the airport, shall we?
We had Harlow contained in a carseat stroller up until security, where you have to somehow dismantle all your belongings, undress and hold on to your children at the same time. After security, Harlow threw a fit when I tried to put her back in the stroller, so I decided to let her walk since she was about to spend the next five hours sitting on my lap with nowhere to go.
Unfortunately, Harlow looked at the airport as her ticket to freedom. She refused to hold anybody's hand and took off at full speed, heading in the opposite direction of our gate. Maybe she had an international flight to catch? Mazzy looked at the airport terminal as her personal playground. Honestly, we could have stayed at JFK for our entire vacation and they both would have been thrilled.
In almost every photo I have, Mazzy is going in one direction and Harlow is going in the other.
Along with the sprawling space, there is endless temptation. Mazzy tried to walk off with a very elaborate M&M's container from the duty free shop and in the time it took me to put it back, Harlow ran up to Hudson News, stole three Power Bars and ran back out.
That's real planning! She knew if her escape was successful, she wouldn't be able to rely on my food bag.
Oh yes! Let's talk about the...
When I used to travel by myself, I would take a sandwich, a bottle of water and a pack of twizzlers. They could get me through 2-18 hours. With two kids, you have to dedicate an entire carry-on to snacks. And you must have the contents of that bag memorized because you will have to name every item in there at least 30-40 times.
"Do you want pretzels?"
"No. What else do you have?"
"No. What else?"
"No. What else?"
"No. What else?"
"No. What else?"
"No. What else?"
It's like Mazzy thought I'd suddenly remember the side pocket had a mini oven where I could bake a cake using invisible ingredients found in my wallet.
Of course, the Food Bag should not to be confused with the Diaper Bag (diapers, wipes, binkies, bottles, cups, blankies, changes of clothes) or the Activity Bag (smart devices, chargers, drawing materials, toys).
Not that any of the toys we brought managed to entertain Harlow for one second. As for the iPad, Harlow is interested in it enough to annoy her sister, but not interested enough that letting her play with it will result in any real diversion. All Harlow wanted was for us to release her from her prison of a seat. Sitting in my lap was obviously the equivalent of a death sentence.
We let Harlow run up and down the aisles until we got reprimanded by a flight attendant. (Apparently, he was afraid of running over her with his cart. Whatevs.) At least she provided entertainment value for the passengers when she threw a fit after I stopped her from running straight though the curtain into first class. Tell me about it, Harlow. Tell me about it.
She stopped to check out everybody who was playing on their computer; casually resting her hand on each person's knee as she peered at their Excel spread sheets and their videos of The Hangover. I pretended that everyone thought the intrusion was adorable and didn't try to stop her.
You'd think it was adorable, right?
Not adorable was HOUR TWO when Harlow became incredibly overtired but refused to relax, no matter how inviting we tried to arrange the airline blanket across our laps. She cried and squealed and was truly miserable. The only thing we could do to calm her down was take turns holding her while pacing the aisle, effectively calling more attention to our poor parenting skills.
Mike finally got her to fall asleep around HOUR THREE, which as I mentioned, was exactly the same time Mazzy decided she had nothing left to watch on her iPad.
"What do you have to eat?"
"We've played this game already. Ten times."
But wait! I forgot the absolute worst moment! Just before Harlow fell asleep, she threw up all over herself and Mike. Then I had to take her to the bathroom to clean up and she clung to me like she was using me intentionally as a towel.
NOTE: Don't just bring a change of clothes for your kids. Bring one for yourselves as well.
Harlow slept fresh as a daisy. Mike and I smelled like crap for the rest of the flight. And since we had a preschooler in tow, she made sure to let us know.
"Peeee-ewwww. You smell."
Which brings me to...
GETTING THE F*CK OFF THE PLANE
My favorite part of the trip was when the pilot announced we were landing in Utah. "That's where WE'RE going!!!" Mazzy shouted excitedly as if it was total coincidence the plane and everyone on it were going to the same place.
We had about 1000 items to repack into our numerous carry-ons. Fallen crayons, irreplaceable blankies, favorite sippy cups, Elsa's easy-to-lose crown. Of course, getting your stuff together is harder to do when you are also managing two children without throwing them in the overhead bin. We placed so much importance on finding all of Harlow's pacifiers buried in the seat cushions that we almost left the iPad Mini in the seat pocket.
Once we exited the plane, we happily put Harlow back in her carseat stroller.
But— we were not there yet!
There were still bags to be retrieved, a car to rent and we had to break it to the kids that they still had a 45 minute car ride ahead of them.
Oh, good times. Good times.
(The actual trip was a blast though, thank god.)