“If you’re going to San Francisco…”
…I highly recommend leaving your pride at home.
How long can my child possibly scream? I can’t tell you how many times I asked myself this question on our recent cross-country flight to California. It was a first for our family: two children on an airplane. Before the aircraft even moved, regret set in.
Beneath a suffocating red Delta blanket, I repeatedly tried to calm my daughter through nursing, but it seemed no soul could find rest. And it was there – right in the middle of the plane, with my chest half-exposed – that life commanded I listen: you don’t have all the answers.
When you find solutions that work in redirecting your children’s undesirable behavior, you get a little confident. Take your little ones outside. Let them color with every marker or crayon you can find. Go on an adventure to one of your favorite parks.
But everything goes out the window when you travel a long distance with very few possessions.
My husband and I quickly learned that the books and toys we packed were no match for our kids. And so began their battle for movement.
[Insert saliva, tears, and writhing limbs here]
As soon as we stabilized one child, the second took the baton.
Now, we are logical people. This has certainly been done before, but how? Screens, in my experience, are a slippery slope, and we don’t want our son to forever associate travel with them. Our daughter, on the other hand, simply wanted to beat the colorful images with her uncoordinated fingers, which gave temporary peace to everyone but the poor woman seated in front of her.
Three hours into our flight – just as I was about to give up all hope of relief – a man and his son walked up to our seat. A little friend (i.e. entertainment) for our children. Thank you, Jesus.
Their visit may have lasted just 10 minutes, but the encouragement altered the course of our trip, and I finally let go.
I let my son eat endless mini pretzels.
I let my daughter crawl barefoot down the aisles.
And I let other people help.
Over the next two hours, I stopped trying to control my children and let them find their own path to contentment – which included plastic airline cups and the kindness of strangers.
As I settled into bed after an entire day of travel, I chuckled at the ease of traveling when there was only the two of us. The memories, though emotionally rich, seem almost dull to me now.
I am reminded that parenthood is one long flight where the path is often unknown. There will be turbulence, and there will be very public moments of humility. But, even when we can’t see it, the world around us knows children will be imperfect.
And perhaps our greatest job is learning to love ourselves when we don’t have the answers – when we can’t call the shots. For in those years above the clouds, it will be the little people who show us how to sit back and marvel at the view.