Oh the holidays, the moments dreams are made of...the packing, the planning, the family, the flights…it is all enough to make you want to jump off a bridge (while singing a Christmas carol of course). It was about two years ago that we decided to no longer travel back East for the holidays and instead stay put and start making traditions of our own. I love saying that “making traditions of our own” because it sounds so grown-up and admirable. Unfortunately the truth is not quite as beautiful. The truth is that although we would love to be with our families over the holidays, we simply can’t handle the flight.
Holiday travel reminds me of this great picture my husband and I have on our picture wall. It is of the two of us in Whistler Canada, in beautiful ski outfits, smiling with our arms around one another. What the picture doesn’t show is that moments before that photo was taken, we had cussed each other out and basically decided that there was no way we could spend the rest of our lives together…it just wouldn’t work. Fortunately, when we got down to the bottom of the mountain, we found a nice, cozy café. After four hot chocolates spiked with Baileys and Rum, and a promise to never ski together again, we walked out a married couple.
That experience to me exemplifies the holidays when you travel cross-country with small children. It seems like a good idea at first, there is hope that it could all go well, but in the end, you may only get one good picture …and the price for that photo is very, very high.
It starts with the packing, the deciding who is in charge of the plane snacks, how many DVD’s we will bring, if we should take the early or late flight, if my husband will again somehow sit in a row away from us because “there are only three seats to a row, what do you want me to do?”, to what my family expects, to what I expect, to who will cook, what we will eat, why we should or shouldn’t drink, to where the kids will sleep, to how much we are going to spend on presents and so on and so on. There are so many decisions and so many different ways of spending the holidays. And the fact that this little adventure has to begin with a 6-hour plane ride 30,000 feet in the air with two screaming kids, makes getting into that Holiday spirit near impossible.
Let me start by saying there is no one that hates my children on a plane more than I do. Just looking at them in the waiting area of the gate makes me start to sweat. I don’t want to sit next to them anymore than you do but unfortunately, I don’t have a choice. My kids are the ones that spill juice off the flimsy tray and watch as it leaks down and soaks your carry on bag that is placed snuggly under their seat. My son is the child who will not stop kicking you seat, no matter how dark and desperate my threats get. And yes, my daughter is the child who on a 6-hour flight has a bad reaction to Benadryl (I swear she had a cough) and screams like she is being tortured the ENTIRE time.
And the flight attendants are no help. I now believe they are some of the angriest and laziest people in the world. If you choose to disturb them while they are in their jump seats in the back, reading People and US Magazine, you will pay deeply. If you want water, they say they just served it…if you want to use the bathroom, they say the seat belt light is on…and if you want milk for your kid, they say sorry but we need it for coffee.
And if your child is crying, instead of asking “What can I do to help?” they now say, “Excuse me Miss, what is wrong with your child? You really need to make him stop.” What you really want to say to her is “Listen bitch, you are a glorified waitress in the sky. If I knew what was wrong with my psychotic child I would do something about it. I am barely hanging on here and the more I look at the exit window, the more tempting it gets. We have 3 hours to go and I am pretty sure I am not going to make it. I am about to have a panic attack and may just die if my kid doesn’t stop screaming. I am sweating to death and my kid is now naked because he has peed and popped through all three outfits I brought. We have watched every damn DVD I brought and the battery is about to die. My left leg is numb because I can’t move it for fear of waking my 6 month old who by the grace of God is sleeping through the older ones psychotic tantrum. My husband has no idea what is going on because he is wearing his noise canceling Bose headphones. So now would you please go get me some DAMN peanuts”!
But because you are so afraid of them, you smile and say something like “I am so sorry, it must be his ears.”
And through all of this, your husband has not moved. He is sitting still, like a statue, reading up on his latest investments or what he thinks will happen in China in 2012. Every now and then he will look across the row, where he sits with two other adults who are quietly working on their computers and say something like “Are you okay, you don’t look good?” or “I would trade with you but my legs can’t fit in the middle seat.”
At that point, I take a deep breath and try not to stab him repeatedly with my plastic straw. I resist the urge to start a fight because the things you say to each other during a flight are as mean as the things you say to each other in middle of the night when you have a newborn. Airline fights and Middle of The Night fights are brutal, things are said that cannot be forgiven and cheap shots are taken with no remorse. So instead, I close my eyes and begin to practice what I am going to say next year when my family and friends ask if I am coming home for the holidays. “Oh we would love to, but we have decided to stay home this year and make traditions of our own.”