Remember my last blog post? The one where I recounted my near-death flying experience?
Well, I didn’t learn. This is the aftermath.
You know when someone tries to explain something they’ve never experienced? Like child-free people telling you they know what tired is (“Oh, I understand sleep deprivation, don’t you worry! I work crazy-long hours and get up super early for the gym!”) or when a guy mansplains the harassment women experience every day (“It’s PC gone mad! It’s just a compliment! Man (see: woman), can’t you take a joke?”). I thought travelling with a six-month-old was the worst 24 hours of my life. Well, it was, to date. But let me tell you now: I’ve gone one step further.
The marathon began with bundling our kids and 5,000 pieces of luggage into a taxi, then a stack of confusion as to how on earth we were meant to carry said luggage and kiddos to the check-in counter (if you’re wondering, we ran small relays like the world’s most agile sprint team, moving each load a few car lengths at a time).
It continued with a domestic flight from Melbourne to Sydney, a shuttle bus between Sydney terminals, an international flight, a hike through US customs, luggage pick-up (relay team is GO!), and navigation via monorail to some out-of-the-way car rental office.
We collected a true mammoth/beast-of-a-vehicle, installed three car seats, drove it on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, and ended up – black-and-blue – at our (temporary) accommodation, 23 hours after leaving home.
Well, after a little bleary-eyed grocery shop and emergency purchase of bedding, our cosy little rental was feeling a bit more like it.
But back to the flight. I won’t lie: I was worried about the looks on my fellow passengers’ faces when they saw they were sat next to three children. Sure enough, mere minutes after boarding, an older woman (let’s call her Mean Woman) boarded and took a seat in front of us. Cue Mean Woman’s passive aggressive eyeball-rolling stares at her friends. I ignored her.
“This is going to be a loooooong flight”.
Again, I ignored her and Cam and I continued doing our best while Mean Woman continued wreaking her emotional havoc.
How did the girls do? Not too badly to begin with:
- Cece cried a lot, and for a long time. She was overtired and upset and really doesn’t like to be held when it’s time to sleep. But as luck would have, you have to hold your baby while on board a plane.
- Clara was mostly fine, entertaining herself with the bag of goodies I’d very carefully curated.
- Coco was distracted by the activities for a short period of time too, but soon lost the plot.
I considered my options and gave the girls some Phenergan which we’d tested two nights before. This time, though, it sent Coco absolutely cuckoo. She was climbing, jumping, singing, shouting, squirming. It didn’t help that the airline considered 10pm an appropriate time to serve dinner to our kids, so not only were they overtired: they were bloody starving too.
At this time, Mean Woman grunted loudly.
No more, Mean Woman.
“Look. They’re kids. They cry. If you have an issue, please direct it to me personally. They’re tired and hungry and I can guarantee you that the person this is hardest on is me, not you”.
“Well, your children have loud, blood-curdling screams. That’s what I think”.
I give up.
I wasn’t proud of it. I snapped at our air hosts, blaming the crew for serving the girls’ dinner so late. I’d literally spent the first five hours of the flight up and on my feet: wrestling the girls from climbing up passengers’ legs, getting in the way of trolleys, and screaming out their weary little lungs. I stormed off with Coco and bawled my eyes out for ten minutes before regaining my composure.
I made a choice to take the challenge head-on.
Miraculously and almost instantaneously, the girls fell asleep. Was it my shift in mindset? Don’t know, don’t really care. Cam and I managed a few wines, reclined our beds, and – finally – stole a little nap. Bliss.
One thing’s for sure. It would have been a million times worse in Economy with less space and without the ability to lie the girls down. Thank you, Cam’s future employer. At least we did the best we could.
We arrived in San Francisco. And just like Mean Woman, my anxiety faded.
We came here for adventure.
Now that I think about it, this really wasn’t as bad as the flight to London in 2014 with a still-young Clara. That flight was far more emotionally taxing. This time, we’d prepared ourselves for the emotional shock. Instead, this flight was all about the logistical challenges. Maybe that makes it the second worst 24 hours of my life.
But we’re here. Surely the only way is up?