Ethan and I are now in the states, visiting my parents and I am amazed to say that I have survived a solo transatlantic flight with a two year old. My husband couldn't make it with us, but we decided it would still be a good time for Ethan to see his grandparents.
In the days leading up to the flight, I panicked a little. On an everyday shopping trip on a hot day before the flight, I gave Ethan an ice cream. He didn't eat it, just held it, until it melted all over his hands and dripped down his legs. I took it away, and he threw a massive tantrum complete with flailing arms smacking my face and full body convulsions. He seemed to want to chuck himself headfirst onto the ground. As people stared, I held back my impulse to blurt out, 'Just eat the damn ice cream!'
Ethan was deaf to anything I had to say, anyways. Many tears later and covered in sticky melted ice cream juice, I thought, 'how am I ever going to manage this flight alone?'
That evening, I told Thom that I was worried. His advice -Man up. And after being a bit miffed about it, I decided he was right. I am the mom. I'm not going to be pushed around by the two year old in tantrum mode. In fact, if I wanted to make sure he didn't actually crack his head open mid-tantrum, I needed to wo-Man up!
I had many more carry on's than I would in the old days - filled with snacks, toys, extra clothes and kilos of nappies and baby wipes. I felt like a commando approaching a potentially deadly mission. The day started before the sun came up and tiredness alone could have turned my little cherub into a screaming banshee in a moment. I had to be sharp and ready to improvise. Being soft would not do.
As soon as we waved goodbye to dad, I took a deep breath, got down to look Ethan in the eyes and said, 'Now, I want you to be good and listen to mama. We are going on the plane.' He nodded, maybe a little surprised, but did exactly that, even to the point of letting the security people frisk him (we set off the metal detector) and holding his baby-chino very carefully with two hands as we waited at Starbucks for our gate to be announced.
I was impressed by what I could see. He was a pretty switched on, grown up boy in the seat next to me. But he is a two year old after all, and probably entitled to his fair share of tantrums. The funniest ones, in hindsight, were after looking out the window as the plane took off, saying 'done' and that he wanted to go in the car now. He was not pleased that we had to stay where we were for what is an eternity in two year old time. And also in those seemingly endless minutes when the pilot demands everyone stay seated with seatbelts on after landing, Ethan yelled 'Go? 1, 2, 3...Go!' And then when it was time to leave the plane, he decided he wanted to stay and fell to the floor at the exit screaming that he wanted to stay on the plane, as all the other weary passengers were piling up behind us.
It wasn't all about being tough, though I learned. It is also about a good dose of keeping him engaged when he's bored and relaxed when he's upset. Finding ways to have fun when you're cramped into two small seats for 9 hours takes creativity and lots of energy. So different from my long haul sleeps of my pre-child life. Finding and enjoying the sweetness in him was essential. Things like when he yelled, 'Weeee!' after some bumpy turbulence and yelling 'Crash!' just before the landing. Gotta love that funny child outlook!