My Soul Might Still Be At 36,000 Feet

My dad called me his hero. I’ve never been called someone’s hero, not even in that sardonic Can’t believe you wore gingham to a club way. My husband, G, is not the type of man to heap effusive compliments on anyone, including me. After giving birth to each of our three children, one who was 9 lbs with a head the size of John Candy, I awaited the serene moment in which he would gaze at me with admiration before saying – no whispering – you’re my hero.

Instead I heard something along the lines of, “Are you allowed to eat now because I’m starving.”

I can’t pinpoint the moment that precipitated my father’s declaration, but I suspect it was borne of the awe inspired by the boundless energy of three children aged 3, 2, and 7 months. The compliment was a well-timed bolstering of my confidence as I was set to fly back with the three kids on my own, something G had been describing much the way the Book of Exodus does the Biblical Plagues. I was the one who insisted upon this lengthy and leisurely vacation with my family, though, and the return flight was the toll I’d have to pay.

How lucky are we to ride in a bus as a family? And to sit in the very back because it’s the only row that can contain us and simultaneously grant us insight into the travails of motion sickness and the Civil Rights Movement. The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round…the toilet beside our row goes flush, flush, flush all down the 101!

Speak carefully, airline bag-taking woman, when saying, “Your connection flight is cancelled.” We are four against your one, and one of us is menstruating for the first time in 4 years and another of us has scorching diaper rash.

Do not ask me to re-pack that bag, do not ask me to re-pack that bag. I do not understand the mechanics behind the Big Crunch, but I am certain that the expansion of space will reverse, signaling the collapse of the universe if you even look at that bag’s zipper sideways.  Be a hero, Erin. Be a hero.

The baby has to come out of the Bjorn before I can walk through that detector? Sure, no problem. The only thing more difficult to extract myself from would be a medieval corset or a pair of Jennifer Lopez’ gladiator sandals.

You need to sift through the tub of baby formula for security reasons? Great. That stuff needs to remain sterile, though. Right, you’re wearing gloves. Which just performed a full-body pat-down on a man who was sweating profusely and smelled like patchouli.

I’m sorry, why can’t we board now? The Titanic filled faster than we can traverse a jetway. Step aside?  For who? Don’t you know that I’m Angelina Jolie? Well, the Aniston curse is starting to take its toll on my face and three of my kids are conspicuously not Asian at this moment. Be a hero, be a hero…

Oh, I see now. We can board after those with wheelchairs, pilot licenses, Birkin bags, speech impediments, a Diet Coke, pedicures, neck pillows, a Lonely Planet book, Cinnabuns, skateboards, a French accent, or freckles. Be a hero, be a hero…

We’re not seated together. Reseating a passenger is going to be difficult? Yes, the oldest is three. He’s not quite ready for a Scotch and a Wall Street Journal; I mean, he’s not Suri Cruise here.

Barreling down the runway. Kid’s forehead is beaded with sweat. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the in-flight fever. Forgot to put a diaper on the dubiously potty trained one. Be a hero, be a hero

Flight lands on time, which would be a relief if Chicago O’Hare were our final destination. Kids, it’s another airport adventure! Brace yourself for an exhilarating safari past glistening tile, and uniform seating, and women who wear silken neck ties. No, no, no, don’t do the Floor Drop Sit of Death and Immobility.  Be a hero, be a hero…

Not even bothering to seek out the stoic and muscled male passenger best suited to escort my children from a burning fuselage should I die since I’m focusing all of my telekinetic energy upon my overhead bin in hopes that the door will spring open and the fake Louis Vuitton bag of a passenger – who was surely allowed to board the plane before us – collides with my frontal lobe. Be a hero, be a goddamn hero…

We have begun our descent into Boston Logan airport. I would bring our seat-backs and tray tables into their full and upright position if I were not terrified to disturb my children who just finally fell asleep.

We made it. Wheels down. I was a hero! Cross-country flights with toddlers and a layover through the night is hero stuff! Perhaps not one of the great heroes, like Harriet Tubman or those dogs who cross-species nurse a mouse. But a less impressive hero. Like an Enrique Iglesias hero. I can kiss away pain. I can take breath away.

Mostly because I need the airbag to release.


(traveled with kids on your own?)




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32 thoughts on “My Soul Might Still Be At 36,000 Feet

  1. It is 1 am here. I do not know if I should laugh or cry in sympathy. Scared I will wake small child and spend next hour shush patting, again. I would have been sobbing and bawling and throwing a tantie at security. Really, you had to take the baby out if the bjorn? How DO you fly with three small children on your own??? You are more than a hero, you are an inspiration!!!!! And a bit mad!! I want to laugh, but I want to give you a hug. I don’t want to drive an hour to my home town for my husband’s 20 year reunion with my small child let alone fly somewhere!!!!

    … Snort … John Candy!!! :)

  2. Oh, HIGH FIVE.

    HUGE High Five.

    I remember, when my husband get to work in Ohio for 9 mos for a project, and we’d travel, just me, with two under two in tow.

    Even the pilot had pity for me.

    I was so stressed out by this that the kindness of strangers brought tears to my eyes.

    Just a kind “have a nice day” from the 17yr old airport cashier who’d sell me the KingSize KitKat and I’d be a puddle of a mess.

  3. You know what’s annoying?

    How awesome Suri Cruise would look in gingham.
    Even with scorching diaper rash.
    Or while menstruating.

    But hey. Not everyone can be a hero, Erin.

    You’ve been welcomed to a very exclusive the club I can’t join because I’m still tangled up in my gladiator sandals.
    And I may or may not smell like patchouli.


  4. Wow. I’m sorry you had to do all that while you had raging diaper rash. “Hero” does not begin to describe it!

  5. Wow. I couldn’t do that. One of those kids would have been unfortunately forgotten in an airport. You’re my hero too.

  6. See, this is what’s wrong with society today. Remember the good old days when women worked in the field while carrying one baby on the back, another on the way, 3 more in the house and then she’d have to get in, make supper, clean up, do laundry and her day never ended? We’re too soft now. Too many people would never attempt what you did and you survived. I’m totally with you on this. You are my hero and if you lived near me, you’d be my partner in crime!

  7. Whoa. You’re a saint. I’m traveling BY MYSELF in a week. A while flight. By myself. Is it sad that part of me even wishes there was a layover so I could stretch it out longer?

    I HATE the Floor Drop Sit of Death and Immobility! Hate it!

  8. I am one of 5 kids, and my parents travelled the world with us. My mum says her worst trip was a 42-hour bus from Cairns to Melbourne (Australia), alone, with three kids under 5. One of whom had colic. As a single, childless, 39-year-old, I don’t know how or why anyone would endure that… But, oh! the stories I could tell: the (multiple) Child Left Behind incidents; the Vomiting Toddler in a crowded waiting lounge; the Only Seats Left (on an 18-hour trans-Pacific flight) Are In The Smoking Section; the Horrified & Overworked Customs official who un-nominated us for a random bag search when confronted with 2 adults, 5 kids & approximately 27 pieces of luggage…

    On the other hand, we were experts on How To Survive Long Plane Trips, getting through Customs, the intricacies of Baggage Conveyors and filling in Landing Cards. My mum knew how to delegate, and neither parent was afraid to whisk a child off for a mid-flight spanking if necessary. I see children now, running up and down aisles shouting, kicking my seat, staring at me over the back of seats, and I grit my teeth to refrain from offering the parent my sage advice on Travelling Etiquette For Children. Yay, mum!

  9. I think your kids are the same ages as mine are right now, and I can definately say that no, I would not travel alone with the three of them. It is bad enough going to the park or the grocery store; forget travel.

  10. You deserve a serenade by Mariah herself.

    Also, after nursing for three years straight, I wouldn’t rule out cross-species. Have you tried?

  11. I would rather have my labia tattooed with the Book of Revelations than travel, via airplane, with three kids under age of 18, let alone with a two toddlers and a baby. I would call you my hero, but seriously, my heroes would NEVER do anything that crazy.

  12. Erin, not even I, a woman fabled for making terribly I’ll-conceived plans to drive cross-country solo with children who only take breast milk (never made that trip because the Hubster objected strenuously, thank God), would have done it. A hero? Nay, you’re a mutha effin’ legend. .

  13. It REALLY REALLY REALLY sucks doesn’t it!! I have traveled by myself with three children in tow from Paris to Washington D.C. and back twice and before that it was just myself and the older two. Let’s just say that last year I was actually praying that my youngest daughter ( who was about to turn one) would NOT start to walk before our return flight home! Seriously the worst part is airport security. Take of your shoes, then all three of the childrens’ shoes. Throw out all drinks, formula gone through ( although my security gaurd made me taste it!) Seriously! Then you board the plane and the lady next to you makes some comment to her husband like ” ugh! I always end up next to kids!” , nice lady thanks. There are the stares as people wait to see if your crying baby is just fussy or will be doing that for the remainder of the flight. So yeah, you are a hero mom and you do deserve a medal or spa day!

  14. Damn it all! You are my hero! Masterfully written. And in my opinion?
    You’re frigging Joan of Ark. No! Joan of Plane! Hero and martyr. You rule.

  15. Absolutely you’re a hero!! And you should get a gold star (and glass of wine along with spa day) to prove it! I don’t appreciate traveling with my minion…not at all. So I tip my hat to you for even considering it!!

  16. You are a FUCKING HERO! I don’t think Navy Seals could handle the trip you just described! They’d be curled into balls and crying into their war medals even before Chicago!

  17. “I would rather have my labia tattooed with the Book of Revelations than travel, via airplane, with three kids under age of 18, let alone with a two toddlers and a baby.”

    That is the most awesome quote ever!

    I have yet to fly with my kids, now 10 and 7, mainly for financial reasons, but the thought of traveling by air with infant or toddlers gives me nightmares!

  18. Sweet jesus, woman, I don’t know if that’s being a hero or being INSANE. But you accomplished your mission and your brother would be proud too because you are the Navy Seal of Toddlers. And I don’t really know a real Navy Seal who could survive traveling with toddlers – do you?

  19. I am humbled…

    I too have family on the left side of this fair land, but I always required the Handsome Husband to sacrifice his vacation time & escort me and the munchkins on our cross-country air adventures, promising I would attempt said feat on my own once both little monsters were potty trained & sleeping in big boy beds.

    And damn if that day didn’t arrive and the Handsome Husband, and my traitorous ‘rents swiftly & gleefully reminded me of my oath.

    I am happy to report I survived my first solo-parent, cross-country trek back in February without any newsworthy developments, besides my desperate need for a solo spa vacation (that never transpired!)

    You, me, and all moms that venture to travel single-highhandedly with their offspring, boldly challenging the wary stares of fellow passengers, are heros in our own right!

  20. Hey! An Enrique Iglesias hero is the only kind of hero I would want to be! The part that made me really sweat was having to wake up sleeping children!!!!!!

  21. Wait, you didn’t get constant dirty looks from other passengers or passive aggressive yet loud enough verbal commentary about you and your offspring?

  22. Wow! Wow! Wow! I’ve travelled a lot with my daughter but that’s just one little girl. Three kids and one under 1 year! Yo

    Wow! You are my hero.