Saturday, August 10, 2013

how we got here

As you may have figured out from my vague description in the first entry, Guam is really far away from the continental US.  Like… 23 hours and multiple connecting flights away.  Just the kind of trip you’d want to take with a toddler and a newborn, right?  By yourself, because (due to a paperwork screw-up, of course) your husband traveled there a week ahead of the rest of you?  Sounds like a good time, right? 

No.  Incorrect.  It was not a good time.

But we did survive.

If you ever travel with a toddler on a long plane ride, here are my suggestions.

1- Have some method of bodily moving them through the airport, be it Beco/Ergo carrier, stroller, or a contraption like this (which is what we used, as I was also lugging carseats).  Faith is normally an excellent walker for a two-year-old, but it’s a stressful trip for anyone, and toddlers have less emotional reserve than adults, so I just knew that if I tried to have her walk, she would at some point freak out and throw herself on the floor and we’d miss our connecting flight.  (This definitely would have happened, by the way, because we had extremely short layovers, so I was all flushed and sweating and puffing by the time I reached the next gate, where they were of course already boarding.)

2- Videos.  I know, I know.  I’m a friggin’ pediatrician, I know the TV is not meant to be a babysitter, it’s bad for Learning And Development, etc.  But we’re talking sheer survival here.  Bring a portable DVD player, download movies to your laptop/tablet, whatever.  When your toddler is exhausted and miserable and on the verge of FREAKING OUT because THEY JUST DON’T WANT TO BE STRAPPED INTO THEIR SEAT ANYMORE and THEY ARE DONE WITH THIS STUPID AIRPLANE (and who can blame them?)... they don’t want to participate in enriching activities carefully crafted to improve their pattern recognition and fine motor skills (though we brought some of those, too).  They want to be lulled mindlessly through another 30 tortuous minutes of travel via the antics of the Yo Gabba Gabba gang.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  Your fellow passengers will thank you.  And besides, isn't that what you want when you're on an airplane, too?

3- Buy some type of activity/tray thing with sides to help prevent spillage of crayons and crackers and such - as much as possible, anyway.  We used this one.

4- Bring snacks.  The second flight we took, which was EIGHT HOURS and brought us from Houston to Honolulu… served no food (except to buy, for extra $$$).  WHAT?!  I know, right?  But we successfully subsisted on peanut butter crackers, granola bars, raisins, chex mix, etc.  I tried to keep it moderately healthy to avoid the dreaded sugar rush/crash.

5- Speaking of sustenance, did you know that if you have little kids, they can each bring a drink through airport security?  (The security guys will just test it to make sure you’re not packing explosives in their sippy cups.)  And did you also know that when the flight attendants bring their drink carts around, you can ask them to refill said drink container with water?  I don’t know if that’s a policy or if they just felt sorry for me, but they refilled Faith’s Sigg water bottle like three times.  That’s three $6 bottles of airport water I didn’t have to buy.  (Not that I would have actually had a chance - see above Extremely Short Layovers.)

6- This one doesn’t just apply to toddlers, but we discovered these things shortly before our trip, and they are amazing.  Have you ever heard of Limeade chargers?  I hadn’t until recently.  You charge them up at home, and then you can use them to charge your devices (phones/tablets) when you don’t have access to an outlet… like, say, when you’re on a 23-hour plane trip with super short layovers.  They’re only slightly larger than a cell phone themselves, and one kept my smartphone and tablet charged during the entire trip, despite almost constant use of both (iPad toddler games, the Yo Gabba Gabba episodes mentioned above, Kindle books for me, etc).  My trip would have been much more miserable without it. Useful post-travel, too - ever been in a coffee shop, hoping to get some electronic work (or "work"... ahem) done, and all the tables near outlets are taken?  Super annoying... BEFORE these bad boys came into my life, that is.

7- Your toddler is going to freak out at some point.  Just accept it.  Take a deep breath in and out, will yourself into a Zen state or something, don’t panic, and try not to get angry.  They're not doing it on purpose.  To quote an article on tantrums I read awhile ago (a good read; I recommend it), your toddler isn’t giving you a hard time, he’s having a hard time.  There was one point on the second flight when I was taking Faith on a walk down the aisle of the plane to give her a chance to stretch her legs, and something tipped her over the edge (I don’t remember what - nothing major at all), and she literally threw herself onto the floor of the plane and had a screaming, kicking tantrum.  I remembered the above advice, took a deep breath, picked her flailing little body up, sat down in my seat with her, and stayed as calm as possible.  We cuddled and sang quietly for awhile, whatever songs she wanted and as many times as she wanted (which was a LOT of rounds of "Jesus Loves Me"), and I told her a bunch of times, “I wish we could go outside like you want to, but we can’t, baby, so what else can I do to make you feel better?”  Eventually she actually requested to go back in her seat and she fell asleep.  And people were nice about it.  I think they felt sorry for me. (Just to be clear, I'm not trying to make myself out as some saintly, eternally-patient mother figure.  I'm not.  At all.  But it was good advice that I read before the trip, and it worked for me.)

Fortunately Josie is an extremely accommodating baby and slept/chilled happily through most of the trip.  I was about to say "Thank God for small favors," but then I realized that was actually a BIG favor.  Thank Him for those, too.

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