I didn’t want to write about our trip to the States, mostly because I was dreading it. I mean, thirteen hours on a plane with two kids isn’t exactly the kind of thing a person looks forward to. Unless you’re, like, a non-normal person.
The first stage of an international journey with little people is planning. (Stage Two is the trip itself, Stage Three is jetlag.) Snacks must be procured in huge quantities because there is no guarantee that the food served on the plane will be acceptable to the little royalty. I hear that adults occasionally complain about airplane food, too. I don’t think, though, that they are prone to temper tantrums over ham cut in a shape they don’t like. Or are they?
So, I prepared the snacks, and then the kids’ bags. There were some toys the kids hadn’t seen before (finger puppets,) and some new books, and some activity books, and earphones, and play dough, and some toys they know and love, then I downloaded some videos on ye olde iPad.
We flew the once daily direct flight from Narita to Atlanta. The web site boasted that this flight would have personal entertainment systems, in which case I didn’t really need half the crap in the kids’ backpacks.
But the things is, shock and horror, air travel is unpredictable. I know, I know, it’s hard to imagine. (Insert sarcasm here.) There are few things worse than finding the state of the art plane you were expecting has been swapped for one being pulled through the air by pterodactyls with only one big screen in the back. Then you’ll need every trick in that backpack, believe me.
Of course the flight itself is only part of the journey. The kids this time were pretty good during what we’ve labeled as Mission One and Mission Two.
Mission One is getting to the airport with all limbs in tact and without killing each other. This, in itself, is a challenge. From our house, it’s two trains to Yokohama, then a ninety minute journey on the Narita Express to the airport. Someone inevitably gets motion sickness on the NEX, or cries because they have to share a seat with a sibling, or wants to turn the chairs around, or wants to buy something from the lady with the cart. Luckily, though, little someone slept for a bit on the train so most of the drama was avoided.
The latter half of Mission One involves checking in, shuffling passports (there are five between the three of us,) trying not to lose your luggage ticket while you also manage to carry three backpacks and a preschooler and buy drinks and use the bathroom, trying to push your way through the boarding gates onto the plane, then securing all of the stuff on the plane, sizing up the passengers around you to make sure there aren’t too many kid hating psychos, wondering if it would be irresponsible to ask for wine, “Yes, you have to wear your seatbelt”s, giving everyone chewing gum, wondering about that wine again.
Mission Two is the airplane itself. It’s best to board with the understanding that you will be a POW for the next thirteen hours. Everyone around you is the enemy. They all hate your kids and you for having the audacity to bring them on an airplane. You probably will not be able to eat, drink, or pee when you need to. More than likely you will not be allowed any sleep. Being optimistic in these circumstances is being foolish. Suck it up, tighten your belt, channel Mary Poppins, and deal with it.
This time around, Me First managed to eat his airplane food, more or less without my assistance. He likes processed crap, so he was pretty happy. Me Too, on the other hand, always wants to eat homemade food at home. Weirdo. She wasn’t happy with hard spaghetti and mystery meat balls. Good thing we had the snacks. About four hours into the flight, I brushed their teeth, shut off the video, and insisted they had to try to sleep. Brother would just enter into a zombified state and watch videos the entire time unless I insisted otherwise. This wouldn’t be a problem except that he always loses consciousness from sheer exhaustion right before we land. I need him to be in a state where he can walk through immigration, customs, and baggage pick-up. We’ve done the alternative, and trust me it was less than ideal.
So he slept for three hours or so. That isn’t a lot, but it was enough. Sister slept for about five hours with her head in my lap, drooling. They are both too big to be comfortable in those little airplane seats. I had to keep re-arranging Brother’s legs so they weren’t in the aisle. At one point, I dozed off and woke up to realize he had his feet propped up on the armrest of the guy across the aisle.
Luckily, he was a fellow outcast who was also traveling with a child.
On past flights, I haven’t been able to eat at all. The food is all too complicated, needing to be cut and scooped and spread and spooned, which I can’t do for myself when I’m doing that for the children on either side of me. The kid meals usually come first, so the best thing to do is to cram them full as quickly as possible. If their meal overlaps with yours, then forgetaboutit. I did manage to eat at least some of my food both times, though, and with the snacks I was okay.
Finally, the airplane lands and you begin Mission Three, which is getting from the airport to wherever you are going. This is where Me Too fell apart. She didn’t want to wait in the stupid immigration line. She didn’t want to pick up our stupid bag. She didn’t want to talk to the stupid custom’s officer. She didn’t want to sit in her stupid car seat.
And nobody wanted to sit in stupid Atlanta traffic.
About ten minutes into our ride, she started to whine and cry. First she was cold. Then she was hungry. Then she was hot. Then she was full. It was taking twice as long to get home as it should have. Everyone was tired and hungry, but Me Too did not want to stop at a restaurant. No, she wanted to go the grocery store and have me make dinner at Nana’s house, which was still at least an hour away. But she was hungry NOW and wouldn’t wait the hour.
Quite a connundrum.
We did stop. She ate and felt better. We eventually got to the house. Mission Three complete. End Stage Two. Some time around now, you realize that it is Thursday again. Ugh. Two Thursdays, zero fun.
And now we are in the throws of jet lag. We all woke up at 3:45am yesterday. I insisted the kids have a nap yesterday around lunchtime. They protested. Three hours later we all woke up, groggy and miserable. Got them to bed again a little after nine.
Today we were up at 3:59. Baby steps.