Reality Check: Travels and Tribulations

Funny how a plane seat in coach suddenly looks luxurious when it's seen through the eyes of a parent who's been standing in the aisle jiggling a restless toddler on her hip for five hours.

Amazing how the idea of a long boring car ride, alone with my spouse, never appealed to me '- until I became the nonstop dispenser of snacks, toys and advice on what to do with little legs when they feel funny because they've been sitting in one place for a whopping 35 minutes. Now I positively fantasize about those endless stretches of highway with nothing to look at but a book that I can read for whole pages at a time.

Recently we've taken our four young kids (aged seven and under) on several trips involving almost every mode of transport known to man. It has become apparent to me that they are not the world's best travelers.

Take, for example, our travels by car. I'm pretty sure my kids are the only ones on earth actually want their nifty little DVD player turned off, proclaiming, "We've had enough!" I am certain they're alone in their insistence that we have to stop the car so they can sleep. Isn't the car supposed to lull children to slumber? Don't many parents travel by night so the children will gently snore the trip away? Well, not mine.

In the brief interludes between whining and screaming, my one-year-old discovered that a bag of fruit snacks mixed with a little drool makes colorful, translucent and inextricable hair accessories. His lumpy "do" was the subject of some faintly disgusted stares as we checked into our hotel that night.


And plane rides are no better. My three-year-old daughter suddenly discovered three hours into her third non-turbulent flight of the fortnight that she was afraid of flying, and spent the next several hours attempting to extract promises from us that we would never submit her to the horror again.

The four-year-old and six-year-old did their part to keep things interesting by keeping everyone on board entertained with a cheerful line of questioning that included "Hey, has the wing has come undone?" " Is that a fire coming out of the engine?" and, during a particularly bouncy patch of turbulence, "Are we going to die?"

As for my husband and me, well, we got a whole fresh perspective on travel. Should we ever have the opportunity to fly alone in the future, I bet those formerly cramped coach seats will seem so much more spacious when no one's using the tray table as a seat. We'll no longer pine for a better sound system in our car, preferring to just enjoy the blissful sounds of silence unpunctuated by shrieking.

Nevertheless, I have no doubt we'll someday look back with longing to the time when the kids were so wide-eyed with the wonder of it all, forgetting entirely that the very wonder makes kids need to stop and pee every 20 minutes.

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