Observations on the rollercoaster ride that is parenting

Learning to fly (part 1)

3:20 AM. It was really happening. We were about to load up the boys and plod our way towards a 5:40 flight to South Carolina. My head was in a fog as I went through the motions of getting ready and getting the final items packed into the car. Kendra was in fluid Super Mom mode…she was out of the shower before I was fully awake, and she had dressed two sleeping children by the time I got out myself. Her mother spent the night to make sure we didn’t oversleep and miss our flight, and she was a great help in keeping the house together while we got everything ready for the trip. She helped direct traffic that morning as we checked and double checked, took inventory of the kids, and shuffled out the door. 4:01. Semi-conscious and teeming with anticipation, we backed out of the driveway.

Clouds hung low in the cool morning air. I wondered if the looming gray overhang bore any foreshadowing of the day’s events. The twins had already gained notoriety during a previous flight. This would be Ethan’s first time in an airplane, and he was ticketed as a lap child since he was under 2 years old. But at his size, and on a 4 1/2 hour flight (that was just the first leg) I wasn’t sure how long he would be staying in anyone’s lap. I was hearing signs of life from the backseat as the excitement for the trip began to percolate in the boys. Panic began to set in as the clouds appeared to darken. The equation became clear…[(2 + lap child) x (under rested + over excited)+ hungry] x (4.5 hour flight + 1 hour flight) = DISASTER. Yes. This could end poorly.

We pulled into the parking structure and spiraled upward to the 4th level. Parking was plentiful at 4:37AM so we secured a space near the elevator lobby. After unloading our gear, outfitting the boys with their backpacks, balancing the car seat on the handlebars of the stroller, and situating our laptops and roller-bags so their movement was coordinated we headed toward the ticketing counter to check in. The boys were all visibly excited by this time, and my thoughts turned to whether or not we would get individual holding cells or if they would lock us up together once they hauled us off for causing a riot on the plane… I blinked away the images and tried to focus on positive thoughts.

There was barely a line at the check in counter (loving the ease of this early morning flight… so far) and we printed our boarding passes with ease. Then came time to check our bags. I lifted the first bag onto the scale: 42 lbs. Well under the 50 lb limit. No problem; tagged and whisked to the side. I looked over to the second bag. Kendra was able to get all of our stuff into these two bags…shoes, sweaters, books, toys, and changes of clothes for all of us for 6 days. We had some concerns about the weight of the larger bag, this bag. My thought was that if they both came in under 100 lbs it should even out. That makes sense, right? You check two bags, you get 100 lbs to play with. It shouldn’t matter if it’s 60/40, 70/30, 80/20, or 50/50! Well, it matters. Not so much to the plane, but to the poor attendant who has to lug those bags around and toss them onto the conveyer belts.

I lifted the bag onto the scale. Kendra and I were looking around like a couple of high school kids at a house party when the police arrived, hoping no one notices the beer can pyramid on the coffee table. They noticed. 54 lbs. Dang. My Doomsday scenario didn’t even consider a fiasco at the check-in counter! How bad could this potentially get? I was sure I would end the day sitting behind a 2-way glass.

So now what? do we pay the $50 fee for the heavy bag? No. Kendra gets the first bag from the agent and starts shuffling things around and moving things from the big bag to the small one. Of course, a line starts forming now as all the people who didn’t book flights at an ungodly hour are now starting to arrive early to check in. Kendra makes an adjustment and we slide the big bag back on the scale. 49 lbs! One of the baggage handlers who has been watching the shuffle steps over. The top lid of the bag was open causing a corner of the bag to hang on the edge of the scale. He flips the lid closed and adjusts it. 51 lbs. The agent is ready to give us the “close enough” when they have a side bar discussion, like two officials discussing a crucial penalty in the final seconds of a football game. I hear him say “50 lbs is 50 lbs”, and the ticket agent turns to us with the “I can’t hook you up because my manager is standing right here” face and tells us we need to make further adjustments or pay the fee. The line is growing.

Undaunted, Kendra returns her focus to lightening the load. Agents and nearby passengers are calling out recommendations “move the books”, “take that sweater”… sounded like an episode of Let’s Make a Deal (a show that not coincidentally featured my aforementioned mother-in-law). Kendra pulls through and successfully gets us to the 50 lb mark. Supermom tucked in her cape, grabbed the stroller, and we sped off toward security. As we headed to the agent podium, the sinking feeling grew. We were getting close now… We already had the stumbling block with the luggage. What would be next?

We undressed and went through Checkpoint Charlie in an orderly fashion. Kendra broke down the BoB and placed it on the conveyor belt. The hand pump fell out of the carrier basket on the way through. A security agent called another over to examine. I knew this would be it… they laughed it off and helped us get our stuff together. I began to relax a little and thought maybe there would be no catastrophe at all. Maybe this trip would go smoothly and the boys would be fine for those 4.5 hrs. They would probably just fall asleep when the excitement wore off. Yeah. Nothing to worry about. “Sir, I need you to step over to that table so we can look through these bags”. I turned to see a security agent holding Jaden’s and Dillon’s backpacks. I looked over to them. Stone faced. They had their story together, no doubt. I was thinking that I would probably need my own representation if I were to avoid hard time. I was fairly sure Kendra would sell me out for the kids… she would have to. I headed over to the security table imagining what they might end up finding in those bags and wondering if my mind was awake enough to talk my way out of it. Yeah. I was pulling for the individual holding cells.

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