Yesterday I was “that woman” with “that poor baby” on the plane from Baltimore to Phoenix. I have never been “that woman” before, nor has Kenny ever been “that poor baby” – not even close. Oh, I’ve been on “that flight” before where “that woman” couldn’t control, soothe or quiet “that poor baby” who screamed for the entire five hour and twenty minute flight. Ok, ok… there was a least a cumulative (though hardly consecutive) forty-five minutes or so when he was not filling the airline airspace with gut-wrenching cries.
All started off well… we ran around the terminal to wear Kenny out, boarded and got the front seat at the bulkhead, got the carseat strapped in, cooler with snacks and juice safely stored under the seat, arsenal of books and little toys tucked within reach and Kenny peeking out the window happily shouting, “Aapane! Aapane!” We took off, got to cruising altitude, and when the seatbelt sign turned off, I took Kenny out to let him play in the floor at my feet. About five minutes into this adventure at 30,000 feet, Kenny looked sweetly at me and said, “Poddy?” “Oh, Honey… we can’t do that here…” (the bathroom was occupied, and there was no way I was letting Kenny’s precious sterile bum touch a public airplane toilet) “… you can go in your diaper and then we’ll change you.” After all, I reasoned, he’s only just started asking, and who knows if he even really has to go, or just wants to. So he did his dramatic little squat and grunted while his face turned beet red, and then he started to cry. The smell permeated the still air, and I planned to do an immediate change, but just then the seatbelt sign went back on. The attendant appeared and said, “You’ll have to pick him up and hold him or strap him back in until the captain turns the seatbelt sign off.”
And that was the begining of the next five hours of hell. Kenny screamed when I put him on my lap and the lady next to me (an elderly grandmother type with a thick accent), obviously smelling the odor rapidly escaping our seat area, gave me a pseudo-patient, tight-lipped smile while I tried desperately to keep Kenny from kicking and scratching at her, as he was doing to me. Half an hour passed like this, so I dumped him into his own seat (which we paid for anyway) and strapped him in. His screams got louder and now he looked at me with a tear-streaked face and tragically sad mouth and yelled, “MAAAAAAMAAAAAAA!” That lasted for about five minutes, as the granny next to me started offering advice to both me and Kenny:
“Maybe he has fever? Is he teething? You so tired, little man! Stop being naughty and be good for your mother. When he going to sleep? He nap soon?” Desperately ignoring the seatbelt sign, I jumped up, grabbed Kenny and laid him in the floor to at least change the super-stinky load in his pants. What I found explained the tears: he’d pooped through the diaper and all down his legs, coating the inside of his pants, down to his socks, and up his back inside his t-shirt. Have mercy, oh my soul.
I used all my wipes to clean him, then realized that I didn’t have a spare outfit. So there we were, a mere hour into the flight, and all he had to wear was a diaper and his sweater. I would have been terribly uncomfortable, not to mention cold, so I can’t blame him for the fact that he was more than miserable the rest of the flight. All four flight attendants came by to try and calm him, cheer him up, bring him snacks or play peek-a-boo. The seatbelt sign stayed on, and Kenny stayed, squirming on my lap, or screaming in his seat.
I tried everything – books, snacks, toys, songs, baby tylenol, orajel, you name it. I loved him all the way through it, though, even when I was to the point of crying myself. One of the flight attendants brought me a bloody mary “on the house” and several people asked if I needed a break, that they would hold him. Kenny is not the kind of kid who likes to be held by a stranger, so that was a no-go, but I did seriously consider it a few times. As we began our descent, he finally nodded off on my shoulder. I slipped him into his seat and sat there, numb and exhausted. Just as we touched down on the runway (bounced is a better word), Kenny woke up and screamed through the whole taxi to the gate. I could hear the people in the row behind me complaining. The Granny next to me asked, “You going on to San Jose?” “No, I’m getting off here.” “Oh, Thank God.”
We latched onto the gate, and I unbuckled Kenny and grabbed the car seat, diaper bag and cooler with super-human effort, waited for the stroller to come up and dragged it all up the gangplank into the terminal. Who was there, past security with a visitor pass, but Casey, my hero husband. At the sight of him, I burst into tears and held onto his chest for dear life.
Kenny smiled wearily at his Dada and Casey picked him up and held him tight. By the time we got our bags and got into the car, Kenny was his normal, happy, hilarious self. I drank about five glasses of wine when we got to our new place, and then I was back to my normal, happy, hilarious self, too. I wonder if he remembers it even now. He’s sitting in the floor with Casey as I write this, looking at his airplane book, happy as a lark.
I’ll tell you one thing, though. I will never again roll my eyes at “that woman.” You really never do know what’s going on.