Having just returned from a weekend away on my own to New York (I am a mother of 7 so this is no small feat!) I have begun to realize that our kids make us so much more responsible.
Because I was on my own, I thought I could take a leisurely ride (after doing all the school drops of course) to the airport and screech in just in time for my flight because hey – it’s only me! But that is where I got it all wrong. Arriving at the airport at 11:30 for a 12:30 flight is probably cutting it a bit fine. But I knew I wouldn’t need to run to the toilet with a toddler or make sure the older ones didn’t do wheelies on their luggage trolleys. I had plenty of time.
Well, I was wrong. Time wasn’t on my side. Apparently, if you tape together boxes and wrap them up as one item of luggage – you have to pull them all apart and send them as individual items of luggage. I tried to explain at the check-in desk that my suitcase was made of two separate parts of material held together by a zip, just like my boxes were held together as a single item with packaging tape but that didn’t work. So - I had to undo all the careful wrapping, taping and string tying that any girl scout would have been oh so proud of. So now instead of my easy-going 2 pieces of luggage, I had to figure out how to travel with 4 boxes and 1 suitcase. It would have been easier to take my kids with – at least they would have been able to help schlep all the parcels!
I finally get through security still wondering how I am going to carry all my luggage but its ok. It is just me so I can stroll through the duty-free shops and do some window shopping. I have a quick glance at the gate number and to my horror, my gate happens to be the furthest you could possibly get from the shops with an estimated walk time of 20 minutes. So I end up running my unfit body down the walkways just wishing I had a child with me so that I could flag down one of those courtesy buggies and arrive in style. I am totally out of breath – my heart hasn’t beaten so fast in about 20 years, I am sweating. I eventually make it to the desk when I hear them page my name in the distance. Quick composure. I felt like I needed to explain that I am usually on time because I travel with loads of kids in toe and it was just this time that I miss judged everything because I was by myself.
Now for the part I had been dreaming about. Seven hours of undisturbed bliss. On an airplane. Alone. I had a list of things to watch, podcasts to listen to, books to read. I was going to indulge and relish every moment of this flight. No little companions to stop wriggling in their seats, no catching vomit in the bag or spilling orange juice over my clothes. I wouldn’t need to contend with the passenger in front giving me dirty looks because of my child kicking the seat pocket. I wouldn’t even need to chase a toddler trying to eat everyone’s peanuts on the floor up and down the aisle.
And guess where I landed up. In the middle seat. With someone else’s kids on my side and two teething babies in front. They cried from the moment we took off and the child next to me wriggled and squirmed the whole way. But they weren’t mine! Not quite the relaxation I was hoping for but I managed to watch a film and eat a meal. None of which I have ever been able to do when traveling with kids.
When packing for this trip – I decided I didn’t even need to take a change of clothes in my hand luggage. What could happen to an adult traveling alone? I am usually so prepared. I have a change of clothes for every member of the family, enough food to serve at a banquet, more games, toys and arts and crafts activities then you would use at summer camp. And then the air hostess reached over to give the passenger on my side a coke and knocked the sweet sticky stuff all over my clothes. So I sat there. Wet and sticky. Just wishing I had my usual full wardrobe tucked away in my case together with wet wipes, nappy sacks for wet spoiled clothing. But it wasn’t to be.
Having landed, not slept, looking like I had run a marathon, with stained clothing I made it through customs and collected my FIVE individual pieces of luggage together with my hand luggage and went in search of a taxi. I would never have left any of this to chance if I was traveling with my kids. Everything would have been pre-booked and arranged. I eventually got in a yellow cab and tried explaining where I was heading. After some help from Waze and an hour's journey to my hotel in New York rush hour traffic, I made it. Feeling slightly green.
I had finally arrived and was ready to have a relaxing evening, shower and an early night. I go to my suitcase to start unpacking and for some reason, I can’t undo the lock. I try and try again wondering which of my kids fiddled with it. Until I realize that it is not my suitcase!! I took the wrong one off the carousel. It was a new fancy case that I had just been given for my birthday. My old cases are so battered and worn – no one would dream of taking them. But this one was shiny metallic blue, with swivel wheels that glide over the floor. But the one sitting on my hotel bedroom floor didn’t belong to me! And the thought of going back to JFK made me actually burst into tears. Like a baby. After holding on the phone for over an hour I discovered that the lost luggage department was now shut. So I had to wait until the morning to make the trek back to the airport. I slept in my clothes. Sticky and wet.
On reflection – I missed traveling with my brood. Arriving with an entourage means we get to board first and find our seats in a leisurely manner. There is no time to get bored onboard and there is a full flight of sibling entertainment and banter. Packing enough extras for every conceivable mishap definitely comes in handy. One child starts annoying another and tears break out and we magically get whisked to the front of the customs queue. Many hands make light work carrying all our cases. We check our luggage and make sure we haven’t lost any kids on route umpteen times over the course of our journey.
I think next time I go away I will take a few kids with me. It’s the only way I know for now. Our children definitely transform us into more responsible grown-ups.