Before having my son, I only had a vague idea about parenthood, based on observations of parents around me and books I read. But, as for most things in life, true knowledge comes from practical experience. I have so many stories from my own lived experience and today, I give you the first of these stories.
The first time I traveled by plane with my son, he was barely twenty months old. At the last minute, my husband had to bail out due to an emergency. The morning of the trip, as my husband was driving us to the airport, the reality of trip was dawning on me and my nervousness shot up. Apparently the look on my face betrayed my anxieties judging from the fact my husband kept saying over and over I would be fine. His reassurances only made me more nervous. After saying goodbye and the car rolled away, I felt overwhelmed by looking at all I had to manage: son, luggage, diaper bag and car seat. However, I surprisingly got through ticketing and security relatively well, and began to feel a little hopeful. We had over an hour before boarding and I decided to go decompress at a snack bar, keeping in mind that I need to make sure I saved enough time to go to a bathroom to change my son’s diaper before boarding the plane. While Daniel happily indulged in his snack, I let myself relax and began thinking about family and friends we were going to visit. I must have gotten lost in my thoughts because the next time I looked at my watch, it was 20 minutes before departure time. With a jolt of adrenaline, I sprang up, grabbed everything and raced straight to the gate foregoing the bathroom stop.
After giving the tickets to the flight attendant, we ambled down the jet way, me handling the luggage and car seat all the while encouraging Daniel to keep walking forward. Unfortunately, when he stepped onto the plane and saw all those seated people looking back at him, he completely froze up. So I pitifully turned to a man sitting in first class and asked if I could leave the car seat with him, and come back for it after I had put away my luggage. Unfortunately for me, this individual subscribed to the theory of survival of the fittest and had no pity for people in distress like me. He asked me if I had a ticket in first class. I kid you not. Upon hearing this, a woman behind him got up, grunted her displeasure at the man, grabbed my car seat and assisted me to my row. Thank God for the kindness of some strangers.
In the back of the plane, I placed the car seat on the plane seat, sat my son on it, stowed my bags in the overhead, and plopped myself down in my seat, thinking that I would take a breather, then go change Daniel’s diaper. Turning to him, I noticed my son looking back at me with the most unusual serious look I ever saw on his sweet little face. I then looked down and noticed the edge of the car seat changing from a light gray to a very dark gray. You guessed it, diaper overflow. I sprang up, grabbed my son, grabbed the diaper bag, rushed to the bathroom and closed the door behind me. Daniel barely fit on the small changing table in the tiny bathroom. His head and feet actually were touching the bathroom walls at each end. He instantly felt peeved by the cramp quarters and started thrashing and banging violently on the walls. I have no doubt that the people on the plane were thinking that I was beating up my child. Back in our seat, I collapsed by into my seat.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, our plane was late arriving at our connecting airport forcing my son and I to run like fools through the airport. And at our final destination, my checked luggage was lost which meant we had to spend an extra half hour in the airport filing a report, but at that point, I didn’t really care because my feelings were buoyed by an emerging sense of joy. I realized that I had survived this trial. As it turns out, since that experience, I have been able to take in strides many other challenging travel situations. It proves the old adage, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And I have grown stronger.