It’s My Baby and I’ll Fly if I Want To

Many years ago, long before parenthood, my husband found himself seated on a plane next to a young mother with a baby. The baby cried the entire flight. My husband tells that story now the same way he told it then,

“At first it was super annoying. I was pissed I was going to have to listen to this kid scream the whole flight, but then I looked at the woman. The entire flight she sat there silently crying while her baby screamed, tears rolling down her cheeks the whole time. So I just put on my headphones and turned my music up. I felt so bad for her.”

If you’ve ever had a baby, you know what that woman was experiencing.

Over the last few years the internet has been filled with stories of families being kicked off of planes for unruly children. A few crazy-ass people even think children shouldn’t be allowed on planes. “If you have little kids you shouldn’t be flying,” they say ignorantly as if that’s a real option for anyone. Others offer that there should be special flights just for families with little kids.

Then there are the stories about the considerate parents who board the plane with goody-bags for their fellow passengers that contain candy, gum, earplugs and an apology in advance in case their baby gets unruly.

With my first kid I sympathized with these parents handing out the goody bags. I thought it was a good idea. I was so nervous to fly with an infant. What if his ears hurt from the pressure and no amount of nursing or gummy snacks help? What if he screams the entire flight? What if he is restless and smacks the head of the person in front of us? What if he takes a giant stinky poop when the seat-belt sign is on and we can’t change him? What if he pulls the cover off while I’m nursing and an uptight flight attendant threatens to kick us off the plane? And on and on . . .

Oz_airport

But now, four years into parenting and multiple flights with kids under my belt, I will tell you this:

People have lost their damn minds.

Children are people and they have every right to be on a plane.

I refuse to apologize for my investment in the continuation of the human race.

Telling people that they shouldn’t be allowed to use the safest and fastest form of travel because they have a child, a little human being that might (just might) annoy someone for a couple hours is completely insane.

For many families, the span of time from the birth of their first child until their youngest is school age, is a decade.

So, you’re saying that these people shouldn’t be allowed to travel for ten years? And by “these people” I mean every human being that has ever reproduced.

On our most recent trip our kids (a preschooler and a toddler) did fantastic. You would have never known they were on the plane. But that didn’t stop people from giving us dirty looks. There were countless business travelers in the airports that sneered at our double stroller.

There was a young man across the aisle that stared daggers at me every time my two-year-old spoke. Not cried, or screamed, but spoke at a normal volume. Apparently her very existence was a personal affront to this man.

Then there was the flight attendant who offered us an entire bottle of water to share and said, “Here, I’m not supposed to give you the whole bottle but I will since your kids are so well behaved.” She handed it over while rolling her eyes at a mother a few rows up with a crying baby. It was a nice gesture but I wish she could have offered that same kindness to the family that really could’ve used it.

I kind of wanted to slap her, and the young guy across the aisle and every smug business traveler with their tiny rolling suitcase.

I wasn’t self conscious this time.

I was pissed off before we even made it onto the plane.

Every time that guy across the aisle looked at my daughter with disgust I looked at him with murder in my eyes. I was more than prepared to tell him what a useless excuse for a human being he really was.

Here’s the thing:

No parent gets onto an airplane unprepared to fly with small kids.

We spend months leading up to the trip with a mild sense of dread. We start packing two weeks before our flight. We go on message boards and talk to friends to get suggestions on “busy bags,” snacks, age appropriate games, and which app will lock the iPad so our toddler won’t have a tantrum when they keep accidentally exiting out of the game. We pack extra clothes and diapers in case of a layover. We even bring a garbage bag and a towel, just in case. We have to figure out how to bring car seats, strollers, Boppy pillows, and porta-cribs.

We’re prepared and we’re terrified of making a scene.

Terrified.

And yet you see us approaching the gate and you sneer. You worry we’ll be seated next to you. You forget you were once a child. You forget that children are people with rights too.

And you seem to forget the most important thing of all. You’re not flying with kids.

So order a stiff drink, put in your headphones, turn up your music. Enjoy your flight.

Because I’m not giving you a fucking goody-bag, but I will choke you out.

The World’s a Terrible F@*king Place, and We Have Little Kids

I was having one of those days. Trapped inside the house all week with sick kids. I had a couple phone conversations with a friend that left me feeling raw and self conscious. I was replaying things I said. I was obsessing the way I tend to do, when I have nothing better to do. I was half ignoring my kids while doing laundry and reheating leftovers. I was messaging a friend on Facebook to make sure her family was safe after an attack in her hometown of Beirut. I was thinking about how I really wanted to take a shower. I was missing the point that my kids might be sick, but they were in a safe warm place.

Sometimes we get self-absorbed.

We miss the point.

And then my sister-in-law texts, “I’m so sad about Paris.”

I pull up the news on my phone and can only find snippets of information. A restaurant, a concert hall, men with guns, men with bombs. Sixty dead at the current count.

Damn it! Didn’t this just happen? Yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that? Weren’t we just here?

I have flashbacks of men with guns in fancy hotels and train stations in Mumbai. I remember Charlie Hebdo. I remember bombs in the London Underground. I think of men in my own country wantonly shooting people in movie theaters, shooting bullets into cars driving down the freeway. I see a lifeless baby carried out of a building in downtown Oklahoma City. I remember sarin gas in a Tokyo subway. I remember the morning I awoke in New Jersey with plans to visit friends in NYC that day; the morning of September 11, 2001.

Never made it into the city that day.

I put my kids to bed and I turn on the news. My children have never watched the news. They believe TVs play nothing but Paw Patrol and Curious George. My father comes to visit and asks, “Oh, you guys don’t watch the evening news?”

“No,” my husband says, “because the world’s a terrible fucking place and we have little kids.”

The world’s a terrible fucking place, and we have little kids.

Can you relate?

What’s the worst part of having little kids? Some days I would tell you it’s the drawer filled with plastic drink cups and their multitude of plastic straws and valves that no one seems to be competent at assembling. I could tell you it’s the utter loss of self that comes with motherhood. I could tell you it’s sleep deprivation, or whining, or the God Damn Hot Dog Dance.

But those would all be superficial silly-ass lies to make you laugh, to make you relate, to make you come back and read more of my writing.

The worst part? It’s the harm we do to them simply by creating them. It’s the harm of coming into existence. It’s their extreme angelic innocence, their pure love. Their belief that the world is filled with potential friends and wondrous cultures to explore. Their belief in the kindness of humanity. Their blind trust of adults.

It is sitting front row for the loss of their innocence, that is the worst part.

As a child innocence seemed useless to me. “What can I gain from being ignorant” was my world view. My father did a wonderful job of always being honest with me. During a zoo trip when I was seven the crowd giggled as they watched a male lion pace back and forth, following a little boy in the crowd with a ball. “Oh, he wants to play with the ball,” they laughed. My father leaned over and whispered in my ear, “He doesn’t want to play with the ball. He wants to eat the little boy.”

My parents let us watch the evening news.

As a child I felt at ease with adults. I also knew not to trust them. I knew they were fallible. I remember around age seven, watching the news one night and having to ask the question, “What does ‘molested’ mean?” Another question I asked that year was, “What’s a prostitute.” My parents answered both of these questions honestly. They always answered my questions honestly and I believe those answers kept me safe and prepared me for the adult world in a way many of my peers were not.

But now that I have my own children I only see the harm that comes from that loss of innocence. It’s counterintuitive as hell.

The world I have presented to my children is a very edited one. I know at some point I will have to let them watch the news. I will have to explain that this time the scary thing they’re seeing is not pretend. It is real, and it’s terrifying. At some point I’m going to have to show them the darkness. It was never my intention to shelter my children, but my son is four.

He’s four.

He’s four and he’s lucky enough to have the privilege of being sheltered. Please, please world just let me keep him here a little longer. I don’t know how a mother’s heart can withstand the torture of watching her son become a man. Her daughter, a woman. But I’m sure that pain pales in comparison to not watching them become one at all.

The world’s a terrible fucking place and we have little kids.

This is not a statement for parents. This is a statement for humanity.

FTW

 

 

 

The Escape Hatch: Why All Parents Need One

In a few days my husband and I are going to Las Vegas, without our kids. On Sunday we’ll be dining at Picasso and going to see “O.” Just eight months ago we took our first trip alone, to Napa.

napa

It may seem a little selfish to be taking another trip away from our children again so soon. But you have to understand, our nanny (the most wonderful, kind, gentle, person on earth) is moving in less than two months. She’s been a part of our family since my son was fourteen-months-old. Up until that point I had never left him with anyone for more than fifty-seven minutes. Yes, I counted. After he turned one I came to the conclusion that if I was ever going to get a break (like, a real break) I was going to have to hire someone, schedule it and pay for it. After searching for a nanny and doing several interviews I stumbled upon the profile of a woman named Oz. The same weird nickname we have for my son.

It was serendipitous.

I knew she was the woman for us when during her interview she became distracted as my son wandered down the hallway, out of sight. She fidgeted in her seat and nervously asked, “Um, where did he go? Is there a gate at the top of those stairs? And you need better covers on these electrical sockets.”

I hired her immediately.

Over the last three years I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know her. You know how every once in awhile you meet someone who seems too kind for this earth? That’s Oz. I’ve watched in awe at the natural ability she has to calm an agitated child with a gentle touch and a sweet, “Oh lovey, come here. What’s wrong?” I’ve seen her get teary eyed when talking about cruelty or injustice. She is love in human form. I will miss her presence in our life, and not just because she gives me a break from my children.

The clock is ticking my friends. Lately people keep asking me, “So have you found someone new? What are you going to do when she leaves?”

“Cry,” I say, “I’m going to cry very very hard.”

So I realized this is our last chance to take a trip without our children, for a very long time. Here’s the deal, I could find another nanny, but I will never find another Oz. It would take years to cultivate that level of trust in another person.

So, a few weeks back I was standing in the kitchen, looking at the calendar and realizing she was leaving soon. I knew if I ever wanted another trip alone with my husband it had to happen soon. Oz informed me she could watch the kids, in a little less than two weeks. We booked the trip quickly. There was barely enough time to build anticipation.

It felt different this time.

The trip we took back in February was a different story. We NEEDED the break. But lately things are good. It’s fall, still nice enough out that we’re out of the house a lot. We had a great summer, which included our first vacation as a family of four. The kids have been healthy. They’re involved in school and activities. Our youngest just turned two, and all of a sudden she seems like a person and not a baby. Life is fun.

Did I just say that?

But it is, it’s fun and we’re not really yearning to leave our babies right now. We’re more in the mood to go on a family trip to Disney, but as I said, last chance.

So here we go. It’ll be good.

But one of the things I’m going to miss most once our nanny leaves is the option of having what I call the escape hatch. Oh, the escape hatch, every parent needs an escape hatch.

 

R_Golden_Gate

My handsome devil in one of the greatest cities on earth.

In order to understand you need to read what I wrote last winter right before we left on our first trip without our kids.

Here it is:

I can’t stop seeing the children, and so many of them so little, so precious. Perhaps it’s just the truth of any given profession that you will see your work everywhere you go. When I did hair I saw everyone’s hair.

Or perhaps it’s just the truth of leaving my babies for the first time. I wonder how any mother could ever truly leave her babies.

My children, I love them, but they were smothering me with their neediness. The way children tend to do from time to time.

I cried “Uncle!” I booked a trip. Something I never ever imagined I’d do. I had watched friends with babies (like babies who still need bottles) go on seven day cruises or resorts in Cabo, without their babies. I could never do that. I’m not “that kind of mother,” I would tell myself.

Of course, I guess no one is “that kind of mother” until they are. Until they take the advice any counselor, priest or minister gives you in premarital counseling: put the marriage first. If the marriage is strong the children will thrive.

And so here we are.

Over the five weeks leading up to the trip I found myself feeling as though I had been gifted an escape hatch. When the days were long, and whiney, and snowy and I was trapped inside waiting for nap time only to look at the clock and realize it was only 8:50am, I would remember the escape hatch. I would relax.

And then an amazing thing happened.

I started to miss my babies simply thinking about not being with them. I would look at them and think, “How could I ever leave, even for five days?” I would hold them tighter, attack them with kisses. As weeks ticked by other Moms, jealous at preschool drop-off, would yell across the parking lot, “How many more days?” At first I wouldn’t know what they were talking about. Then I would remember. I would smile and say, “Oh, geez, I’m not sure. What is today? Hahaha!” But really I wasn’t counting down the days.

I was already missing my babies.

hotel_morning

The escape hatch, we will miss you and foggy mornings spent in hotel beds.