I am thoroughly convinced that if the United States is really serious about punishing criminals or terrorists, let’s stop slapping them on the wrist with penny ante punishments like consecutive life sentences and excecutions. If you want to make a statement. If you want to teach these people a real lesson in responsibility and humility, sentence them to a cross country flight with a toddler.
The psychological punishment begins as soon as the flight is booked and you’re faced with the impossible task of packing your bags. How can you really prepare? You need diapers. Do you pack them, and take up valuable real estate in the bag you’re going to check, especially now that most airlines charge for checked bags, and some even charge by the pound?And if you don’t pack them, you are saddled with the anxiety of having to buy them as soon as you arrive. And I’m talking within the hour of the plane actually touching down because, Lord knows, the child will have soiled every last diaper you packed in the diaper bag and is likely to be wearing a makeshift garment constructed out of a maxi pad, Scotch tape and a Ziploc baggie.
And what about clothes? Toddlers require at least three changes of clothes a day, sometimes more. So, if you’re planning a 10-day trip like mine, then you need to pack at least 30 outfits and 10 pairs of pajamas. And that’s just the clothing you’re going to pack in your 2-ton checked bag. We haven’t even begun to talk about how much clothing should be packed in your diaper bag/carry on. I recommend at least one outfit per hour. Why, you ask? Let me illustrate….
Here is the outfit Cadence was wearing when we left the house today. I chose a separate shirt and shorts instead of a onesie, thinking that if a diaper happened to leak, we would only have to change the shorts. Smart thinking Momma. And yeah, the diaper did leak, on the way to the airport. I should have know that was a sign of things to come.
Had I indulged in a second cup of coffee this morning and made sure my brain was fully caffeinated before we left the house, I might have been thinking a little more clearly. As it was, I convinced myself that this leaky diaper was going to be the last of the day, so instead of digging a spare pair of pants out of the suitcase before I checked it, I decided to rely on the last pair of pants I had packed in the diaper bag to get us to Arizona. Surely I could just put Cadence in an extra absorbant overnight diaper and be perfectly fine for the two-hour flight. So, I quickly changed her into the second outfit of the day…
We weren’t even halfway through the flight when I noticed Cadence’s diaper was getting a bit soggy. That probably had something to do with the two sippy cups of milk, sippy cup of juice, and glass of ice water she had drank since we arrived at the airport. Yeah, I should have thought that through a little better too, but when you’re traveling alone with your toddler, your main goal is to keep them from tearing apart the gate area while you wait to board the aircraft, and if that means giving into their demands of “oose” = “juice” or “mihl” = “milk” every five minutes, then by God, that’s exactly what you’ll do.
Sure I tried to distract her. We shared a peanut butter cookie, drew a picture, oohed and aahed over the airplanes we saw outside the big glass windows, climbed into and out of the stroller and even practiced our animal noises, but nothing worked quite as well as handing over the sippy cup.
Cadence did pretty well during the flight, except for the fact that she cannot sit still for more than ten seconds at a time, and the minor outburst she had during the safety demonstration because it felt like we were sitting in an oven and she thought she needed to let the entire plane full of people know that she HATES BEING HOT!!! Thank goodness one of the lovely stewardesses brought us a glass of ice to help cool Cadence off, though I cringed to think of how much more liquid she was sucking into her body.
Lo and behold, about halfway through the flight, Cadence was sort of leaning on and half straddeling my leg as we looked at a book of animals together, when suddenly I felt something warm and wet above my right knee.
I hate to admit that I actually sat there for a moment or two wondering whether it would be easier for the two of us to just sit there, wet and uncomfortable, rather than have to squeeze our way into one of the airplane lavatories to try and change, not just Cadence’s pants, but her entire outfit, since I didn’t have any dry pants left in my possession to put on her.
Luckily, good sense prevailed, and we made our way to the lavatory.
Now, backing yourself into one of these lavatories to empty your bladder mid-flight is a gymnastic feat all its own. Add a squirming, over-tired, soggy todder to the equation and you’ve gone from a gymnastic routine to a mixed martial arts cage match. Fifteen minutes, eight wet wipes, one diaper and about six dozen kleenexes pulled from the box by my daughter’s busy hands later, I’ve finally gotten Cadence changed and dressed in a onesie for the rest of the flight.
And, once again, I think it can’t possibly get any worse.
My biggest worry all day was fact that Cadence hadn’t pooped since Friday. After returning home from our cousin Korbin’s birthday, I promptly fed Cadence a big bowl of blueberries and some juice–two things that always get her digestive system moving when it’s sluggish. And yet, by the time we boarded the flight, still no pooping.
After being peed on, I figured the worst had to be over. The pilot had just announced that we were a little less than 45 minutes from Phoenix, and that we would be beginning our descent soon. Less than an hour, and we would be in the Promised Land. After we landed, Cadence could poop to her heart’s content and I would mind one bit.
Then Cadence started grunting.
“Cadence LaRue, you have got to be kidding me,” I said quietly. She just looked at me and shook her head no.
No, she wasn’t kidding.
As she grunted and groaned and clutched the back of the seat for leverage, I dug back into the diaper bag for another clean diaper and the package of wipes. I smiled at the girl sitting next to me, and asked if we could please be let out again. She smiled back and moved out of our way.
As I hustled Cadence back to the lavatory for Round Two, the stewardess smiled at me and said, “Perfect timing for one last break.” I just smiled back weakly and took a plastic bag from her to dispose of the diaper.
Now, let me tell you, the aircraft lavatory is the last place you want to be at the tail end of a flight. Everything is just sort of damp and the smell is something straight out of a horror movie. I used every last remaining paper towel to cover the entire toilet bench area, laid Cadence’s plastic changing pad on top, and promised Cadence that I would not just buy her a pony if she laid still long enough for me to change her dirty diaper without either of us ending up with poop stains on our clothing, but that I would scour the earth and find her a damn unicorn if we could just make it out of that lavatory alive.
Somehow we managed in spite of the fact that the captain came on to announce the official descent and scared the bejesus out of Cadence right before we hit a pretty nice pocket of turbulance. How’s that for timing? I tied up the bag, washed my hands, gathered Cadence and the wipes and changing pad into my arms and shuffled back to my seat as the plane dipped and bobbed beneath my feet.
Back in our seats, I gave both of us a once over for any poop stains and, thankfully, found none. The wet spot on my pants had even dried. Double score.
As we settled back in, Cadence sat in my lap, drinking the last of the bottle of milk that I’d bought for her in the airport. Yeah, I was playing with fire, but at that point, I didn’t really care if I got peed on again. I just needed a minute to sit and relax.
I looked out the window and watched as the Arizona desert rose up to meet us. Less than two minutes before the plane touched down at Sky Harbor airport, Cadence fell fast asleep.
I waited until my seatmate and most of the other passengers had already left the plane before I carefully laid my sleeping child on the seat, slung my heavy backpack/diaper bag onto my shoulders and grabbed my camera bag. Then, I picked Cadence up and exited the aircraft.
Our stroller was waiting for us just outside the door. Cadence woke up immediately when I sat her down and strapped her in, but she didn’t cry or fuss. Instead, she looked around with glazed interest as we made our way to the baggage claim, and then outside to meet Momma Dawn at the curb.
Of course, as soon as I got her strapped into the carseat, Cadence began waiving her hand and asking for “oose, oose, ease” = “juice, juice, please” so I handed her the sippy cup that still had a few swallows in the bottom. She gazed around and babbled as her Nonna drove us back to Coolidge. And, of course, by the time we arrived at Nonna’s house, her diaper and onesie were soaked through and we were on to outfit #4 and the only article of clothing I had left in the diaper bag…
So now, we’re here and the day is over and I’ve already got a pile of luandry to do. And as happy as I am to see the family and friends that I’ve missed since we moved, all I can think about is the fact that, in 10 days, Cadence and I are going to have to board another airplane to take us home.
God help us.
Tonight’s 365 Project is dedicated to all the parents out there who have ever traveled with a toddler and survived. God bless you, my friends.