image from broadway paper.com
"I am not going to sugarcoat this for you - this is not going to be fun. But it will be over, at some point, so just keep that in mind." - a mom-friend on flying alone to Europe with a toddler
But I did it - I got on an airplane with a 14 month old, by myself and flew from San Francisco to Frankfurt. And it wasn't that bad. I am glad I don't have to do it again, but my pre-trip assumptions of utter hell were simply assumptions. He slept, I sort-of watched 2 movies and we made it to Germany quite unscathed.
What surprised me was something more subtle. Having a bassinet reserved meant we were confined to the seats in the bulkhead. And there we were - three families, fives kiddos (3 babies in 3 bassinets, the nugget included), two dads, three moms (including me) , one portable DVD player, several pacifiers and a whole lot of patience. And from the moment we all were able to pre-board together, I assumed a sort of allegiance. But in fact, it seemed the exact opposite.
It felt like 9 hours of the comparing mind show down. My baby is sleeping. Hers is squirming all over the place. Mine is eating. Hers is coughing. Mine is not making a fuss. Mine won't go to sleep. Mine just woke up because hers was crying. She is watching a movie. Mine won't sit still. And so on.
There was no sisterhood of the traveling babies or divine secrets of the ya-ya moms-on-the-go. Nothing. Nada. No nods of recognition or support or "we're in the trenches together, sister. hang in there". I smiled a few times but my smiles were met with a sort of "who the hell are you" look, so I simply slouched back into my window seat and stop trying make friends with women I would never see again. But it made me feel alone - more alone than the fact that I was actually traveling alone without my husband. It was a feeling that had started somewhere in the security check line in SFO when the unhappy woman in uniform snorted at me to "move away from the table" to keep the line moving and ended only when a young man at the Frankfurt airport was the first to help with the stroller and escorted me and the nugget to the special elevator. I suppose air travel has become more about personal survival than communal harmony, with little room for random acts of kindness.
Too bad really, it might make 9 hours in an airplane, for the next mom and her toddler just a little less terrible.