Updated: Mar 13, 2020
I watched my eldest son stare in sheer wonderment as the planes took flight and touched down at the airport. It was about 5:30 in the morning and I was exhausted, but excited. My oldest son and I have a birthday that is but five days apart from each other. Well...five days and thirty-five years. So, as a birthday gift to both of us from my amazing sister and brother-in-law, we were about to fly across country to California in order to see them! The younger boy was thrilled to have some one-on-one Mommy time with his brother gone. My oldest was ecstatic to go see his cousin, whom he rarely sees and is only a few months younger than him. He was also extra excited that the trip was to be capped off by an excursion to Legoland!
The boy had been packing his bag every day for the last week only to sorrowfully watch us unpack it and inform him that it was not yet time to leave. But on this morning (a dreadful 3 a.m. wake up) his bag stayed packed and we were on our way! This was his third trip on an airplane in his short years on this planet. The first, he was a newborn, being taken home for the first time after we adopted him. The second, was a trip to Texas to meet his maternal grandparents with his brother, but he wasn’t even two then. I was both elated and terrified to witness his first “real” experience with air travel.
As we took our seats, I tried to help him latch his seatbelt, but insisted he could do it himself. Not surprisingly, he was indeed capable of such a task. I tightened the belt for him and after strapping myself in I put my arms down on the arm rests.
"Hey, Daddy!” the boy shouted, with his usual upward inflection as he ruefully smiled, “that’s mine, stop doing that.” He playfully shoved my arm off of “his” arm rest. I laughed loudly. “Already a vet,” I told the man sitting next to us, who was also laughing at our exchange. We struck up a conversation and I told him it was my son’s first flight since he was a baby (with no expectations). The guy willing gave the window seat to my boy so he could look out at the sites as we departed Boston and landed in Newark, NJ for our connecting flight. Random acts of kindness do still exist.
When we finally started to take off, my son gripped my arm tightly as the plane accelerated and lifted its hulking frame into the air.
“My ears,” he whined expectedly as we rose through the atmosphere. I tried showing him how to get his ears to pop but he seemed a little too frightened to listen. “I want Mommy,” he quietly cried, holding my hand as tightly as he could. But just as soon as it began, it was over. It wasn't long before he was calling me to look out of the window with him as the twinkling lights below got smaller and smaller until they disappeared below the clouds. I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.
The child did not sleep however, so neither did I. Remarkable considering he was awakened at 3:30 in the morning and didn’t even sleep on the hour-long car ride to the airport! As we began our descent into Jersey, the boy thoroughly loved watching the wing flaps operate outside our window. While we touched down on the runway of the Newark airport, he happily squealed for me to watch with him as the concrete flew below us a breakneck speeds until we slowed to a stop. The short flight however, turned out to be both a blessing, and a curse.
We had to run to make our connecting flight to California but made it in plenty of time. Much to our chagrin we were forced to sit on the tarmac for nearly 50 minutes in a 16 plane queue before we could even take off! Tensions were already getting high. Thankfully, the boy had no trouble with the take off this time, but as much as I had informed him differently, he assumed the second flight would be as quick as the first one. Spoiler alert...it was not.
His iPad and Nintendo Switch barely kept him occupied. He was more fascinated by watching the flight map on the television screen in front of him and felt the need to inform me every time the plane made a small stitch forward. Let me tell you, this kid is obsessed with maps. Of course, I was trying to either read or sleep during this time and he could not stop harassing me. If I was reading, he kept trying to turn the pages for me. If I was asleep, he would trace his pudgy little fingers all over my face until I snapped awake. To make matters worse, the woman in the seat in front of me insisted on reclining until she was practically in my lap.
If you recline on an airplane I, not so secretly, hate you with all my heart. Even me kneeing her seat the entire flight left her undeterred as she remarkably never even turned around. I fully understand the irony of me, the adult, acting like the petulant child, kicking the seat in front of me...but come on. I'm a 6'1" man and if you lean back my knees are already crammed into the back of your seat. Reclining on a crowded airplane is rude as hell!
Anyway, the drinks arrive and as my son starts sipping his apple juice, I try to take advantage of his rare silence by catching a few zzz’s. However, it wasn’t ten minutes before I woke in a start and the crotch of my pants soaking wet. No, I did not pee myself If that’s what you’re thinking. The boy happened to have spilled nearly the entire cup of juice onto my lap somehow. I flagged the flight attendant for napkins and patted myself down but was too scared to actually get out of the seat for fear that everyone would assume I did urinate myself. So, I sat with wet pants the rest of the flight, hoping they would dry before I really did need to use the restroom. Oh, by the way...we weren’t even halfway there yet.
I finally convinced the boy to sleep and got an hour to read my book before he awoke needing to use the bathroom. This went off without a hitch and no one seemed to notice my pants, which were mostly dry by now, thank God. Yet, he was really ready to get off the plane now and began quietly whimpering the entire half of the country we had left to fly over. He repeated his behavior of not allowing me to read or sleep, stopping only to have some snacks or a drink. My mantra to him was always, “please, calm down. Relax. We’ve got a while longer. we're closer now, we're almost there.” All as calming as I could be given the circumstances. He responded poorly to these mantras, but thankfully never threw a full-blown fit, as he is wont to do from time to time.
At last, the captain tells us we are beginning our descent. The boy perks up, thinking we are there, but does not know that it’s still another 30 minutes, at least, until we land. He whines and whimpers the whole journey down into the Orange County airport until I finally (tired and miserable) turn my voice into a low growl for him to stop, just before we exit the cloud line. He sees the tiny houses and roads from the window and happily perks up just as I am at my most annoyed.
“Daddy,” he tells me softly, gently holding my hand while we approach the runway, “calm down, relax, we’re here.” All the anger drained out of me faster than water down a sink. I began to laugh hysterically. My laughing caused him to laugh as well. And we were both practically hyenas by the time we touched the ground. The silent twenty-something year-old guy that sat next to us all flight shifted uncomfortably in his seat until we could all stand up.
Oh, and I totally saw Kareem Abdul Jabar at the Cali airport! So that was cool too.