I recently went away for the weekend with my husband to an event across the country. Since I can't bear the thought of leaving my children as orphans, I always insist that he and I travel on separate airplanes. So I was a solo traveler and enjoyed the travel almost as much as the destination.
The very thought of traveling with my children fills me with fear. At 7, the older one is pretty well-behaved, but he scarred me pretty good with some of his airplane exploits as a toddler. My 2-year-old is a wild card -- she could be all sweet and easy, or she could go ballistic. We've experienced both 20,000 feet above a place for a suitable timeout.
So flying with them -- not high on my list of fun things to do. But flying by myself -- sheer, utter bliss.
Flying alone means freedom and oodles of uninterrupted reading time or time to just think uninterrupted. I also adore airports and being amongst all the bustle and possibility that even the TSA can't squash. I love to sit and people watch and could get lost all day in the stories I imagine for the passengers -- preferably while sipping a cold glass of white wine in an airport bar making small talk with strangers.
None of these enjoyable activities can happen while I'm chasing kids, holding backpacks, picking up toys, and listening to endless knock-knock jokes. Not when I'm dealing with MY kids and not when I'm trying to deal with other people's kids when my kids are back at home.
I'd really like to be that uber-helpful lady who sees a family with children and jumps in to help, insisting on helping with luggage, pulling out a random distraction here, giving mom a much-needed break there. Whether it's smiling and engaging their children in chatter while seated beside them, or ignoring their endless kicks to the back of my seat, or picking up their toy from the aisle for the 8 billionth time without looking annoyed, I know how much that helps parents traveling with children. But I don't want to help when it's my freakin' time to fly alone!
I'm not rude; I'm actually incapable of being too rude as I was raised in Nebraska. I don't kick shins or anything; I'm just not as helpful as I know I could and should be. I avoid gazes and pray the couple coming up the aisle with kids doesn't sit by me; I sigh and turn around when my seat is kicked for the 6,999th time; I try to ignore them altogether. When they scream and yell for what seems like an eternity, my face simply can't hide its annoyance and beats that understanding-mom look right out of my face's repertoire.
Basically, I fear I do what's been done unto me when I've traveled with kids -- I make parents of small children feel like lepers. I'm sorry for my behavior, truly I am. I know I should put myself in their shoes, but dammit I'm finally wearing shoes I really like, with heels even, since I don't have any children to chase. I don't want to put myself in their boring old sensible mom shoes. I'll have to put my own on soon enough.
How do you feel about other people's children when you fly without your own?
image via cogdogblog/Flickr