Cruising at 38,000 feet over the Atlantic ocean and Kiddo is still awake. Scratch that. It’s now an hour and a half later and we’re still cruising over the Atlantic, but in between the first and second sentences of this post, she ate, cried, we got drinks and dinner, she pooped, we changed her, we had a flight attendant warm her up another bottle, she ate, she went to sleep, the we ate, and all in a nonstop flow that sort of evolved part of a single, still-unfolding, event.
Flying with little children is no joke. There’s not only the comfort of your bewildered children to think about, but also the comfort of fellow passengers (particularly on an extended redeye flight), not to mention the comfort of the flight crew who have a very carefully choreographed and pre-timed/synchronized series of performances to stage in a very tiny, bouncing space with very large carts full of often hot, low-viscosity contents.
It all becomes very dense very quickly, dense enough to tire everyone out entirely by the time all is said and done. Two hours in the air and it feels like an eternity. Nearly another six hours yet to go. It’s unlikely that Kiddo is going to sleep that long. In fact, when the acetaminophen wears off in a half an hour or so, the teething pain, which has gradually escalated over the entirety of this trip, will come roaring back and she’ll likely wake up, upset, in pain, trapped on an airplane, and with over five hours left to go before we land. That’s when things get interesting.
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I am now typing one-handed on an iPad screen so that I can secure my child in her seat with the other arm. It is just about the slowest way I can think of to type. Scratch that, there is a slower way: all of the above in fits and starts because your child keeps almost waking up due to tooth pain while your wife is gone to the bathroom to pump breastmilk and has taken the Tylenol with her.
My neck is killing me from leaning over the infant seat and under its bonnet to “shh shh shh” repeatedly until she goes back to sleep. Nerves are getting a bit frayed. But we’re okay. We’re okay.
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As long as a trip like this seems, it is far too short as the junction between two such different worlds and separated geographies. To step on in London and off again in New York after just a few short hours is a very decentering experience—at least, it was going the other way, and I expect it to be more so coming back.
On the backs of the airline seats these days they have little flat panel displays that you can use to watch your flight path. Anyone that has flown recently knows this. It makes the entire trip seem like a video game; you monitor a tiny icon of an airplane as it draws a red line across a blue-and-green-and-brown map of the world. Stats are shown and constantly updated—altitude, airspeed, distance-from and distance-to, etc.
And then you step out of the video game and into a changed world and there’s a subtle awe at the fact that fiction has so quickly escaped into reality.
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About six hours into the flight now. Kiddo is hanging in there, just barely. There is a little milk left, just barely. We are awake, just barely. We have cash to get home, just barely. There may be time to catch up with work before Monday, just barely. Pretty much everything has been stretched to the limit over the last week or two. If there is any normalcy left in the reservoirs of reality for us, now would be a good time to have it, because we are out of slack.
We heard that it was 68 degrees in New York as we were boarding in London. That is a start.
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It is time to get home, get serious, get done with the dissertation, and get on with the next stage of life: long-term job, long-term town, long-term home, and before all that long, kid number two, and somewhere after that, thoughts about parents.
In that order—a list that will carry us through middle age, which is where I increasingly have to admit that I am.
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There are, of course, still questions. At times, in fact, I think there are so many that I dread thinking about them, much less their answers, as both seem to create black holes in the pit of my stomach.
For now, however, there is nothing to do but land, go home, and try to survive the jet-lagged New York night ahead of us.