When we first had Sarah almost 7 years ago, I remember thinking that I’d never be a “normal” person again. In that winter of 2006, “normal” to me meant a person who didn’t have a leech-like being attached to their breast 24 hours a day. It meant that I wouldn’t need a 3-page flow chart of procedures and decision trees if I wanted to schedule a dentist appointment or a haircut. It meant that I wouldn’t have to plan my day in 2.5 hour increments based on the napping and feeding habits of my young one. Deep in the trenches of new mommy-hood, I couldn’t see beyond what I was experiencing in those first few weeks. I imagined myself toothless, with gray wiry hair down to my ankles, hobbling along with an 18-year old Sarah suckling my desiccated bosom.
Fortunately, these fears did not come to pass. Sarah did eventually detach herself from my mammary glands and I found that with time, I only need a 1/2 page flowchart to schedule my routine maintenance appointments. I never became the completely “normal” person that I had been prior to Sarah’s birth though. How could I be? I had acquired an almost Rain Man-like knowledge of all public restrooms within a 200 foot radius of whatever my location. I ravenously devoured the discarded scraps from Sarah’s meals for my own lunch like a homeless person rummaging through a dumpster of unwanted food. By the time Sarah was 3, I experienced glimmers of normalcy: driving in the car by myself, enjoying a multi-course meal with her in a public setting, not automatically developing an exit strategy everywhere we went. Then I got pregnant and we had Katie. Katie was born shortly before Sarah turned 4 and I started all over again with the constant feedings, the barrage of diapers, the torture of sleep training. Normalcy eluded my grasp once again.
Katie is now almost 3. And readers, last week, something EPIC happened. I flew home to Texas with the girls by myself the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Chris planned to join us later in the week and then, all four of us would fly home together after the holiday. The last time I flew with the girls by myself, Sarah was 5 and Katie was 14 months old. That disaster of a flight ended with passengers around me talking in not-so-hushed tones about what a train wreck the three of us were. I swore never to fly with them by myself again but Thanksgiving 2012 found me once again, strapped in at 36,000 feet with my girls and no viable exits in sight.
I was prepared to go to any lengths to keep my children from being THOSE kids…you know, the ones everyone wishes they could shoot with a tranquilizer gun. I would have performed a one woman rendition of Riverdance on the seat tray if that’s what it took. My tote bag was full of snacks, treats, books, electronics, paper, pens, crayons, and wipes. With adrenaline coursing through my veins, my whole body was rigid with anticipation. I was on DEFCON 1 alert, ready to spring into action should my children let out the slightest whimper of hunger, thirst, frustration, or boredom.
And do you know what happened? Absolutely nothing. Katie did not freak out when all electronic devices had to be stowed away until we reached a minimum altitude of 10,000 feet. No one spilled their drinks. No one raised their voices. No one pooped in their pants. No one regurgitated their snacks. No one used the seat in front of them as a proxy for a soccer ball. Instead, they both tuned me out, plugged into their various “i” devices and there I was, with only a SkyMall catalog to entertain me. Because even though I had prepared for all eventualities involving my children, I had not prepared for this: me with nothing to do. In fact, I found myself…dare I even say it, bored. And about an hour into the flight, it happened. I fell asleep. That’s right. ASLEEP! In mid air! With children! By myself! LIKE A NORMAL PERSON!!! I know I just used a lot of exclamation points but really, I think this occasion is multiple exclamation points worthy.(!!!)
My brief nap lasted all of 10 minutes but what a significant 10 minutes they were. We landed in Dallas on time, without incident, and I was a different woman than the one who had boarded the plane in Minneapolis. I was 10 minutes closer to arriving at the Land of Normal.