Sunday, April 8, 2012

FTT Off-Topic: Traveling With Spawn

As always with FTT O-T, it's a big bad Internet and this isn't going to be about sports. Scroll, bail, or indulge.

Three months ago, the Shooter Wife came to me with a proposition: a big number birthday present in 15 months. She wanted a Significant Solo Vacation to Copenhagen, where she has friends and, well, I do not. Why 15 months? Because she felt it would take that long to be in the kind of physical shape she'd like to be in to make the trip comfortably. Why solo? Because Copenhagen is many things, but not really the place you think to bring kids in kindergarten and sixth grade, respectively. Besides, vacations with me are liked forced marches: just sitting around and actually relaxing makes me twitch. A lot. Not so much her.

Thinking quickly about how much I'd like to see the Shooter Wife in better shape, and how this might kill multiple birds with one stone (aka a trip of my own with the Shooter Kids, a little forced maturation for the youngest, and the creeping suspicion that a goal that was 15 months out would get corrupted by life or work or money or whatever)... I upped the ante and said hey, your birthday in 3 months is also a fun number, and plenty enough time to get in better shape. The Shooter Wife called, and with deadline and purpose, did an incredible job of changing her life, diet, and condition. She's dropped over 50 pounds since the start of the year, is well on course to ending a diabetes threat, and is, frankly, amazing everyone she knows. Best money we ever spent, and to quote Hannibal from the A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together.

But part of that plan was also to see if I could step up my own game to Solo Parent Mode. The Shooter Wife does this fairly routinely, between the all-hours start-up job, the quarterly trips to HQ in California, the lonely hours of writing or blogging or poker or yard work or God knows what else crops up as needing laser focus until it's dead, dead, dead. Time, high time really, to see if I could give of myself in the same way that she does most of the time. And staying home for the week that the kids were on spring break, especially after I came into a little cash that I was not counting on, just didn't seem sporting.

So I booked a flight to SoCal, where the kids have cousins they haven't seen in a really long time for kids, and I have a brother and sister in law that I haven't seen in years, either. As I write this, I'm on the last leg of the journey, somewhere in the sky over Colorado, thinking back on the day. It's been, you will be shocked to learn, challenging: from explaining the process of getting through an airport to the youngest almost as many times as I've taken her to the bathroom to not snapping at the eldest as she plays woe is me games, and the inevitable travel complications haven't helped.

You really want to hear them? Fine. The first: We (the eldest and I shared responsibility on this one) forgot a cell phone which was discovered 20 minutes after leaving the house, taking away the hour margin for error I always include in travelling. The second: I spaced on the directions to the house where I was dropping my car to avoid the airport parking expense. The third, after recovering with an expert swoop through security and an easy glide to the gate -- the plane leaving late, leading to that inevitable four hour worry moment of not making your connection. The fourth, after getting on the connection, was sitting for an extra half hour while it waited for other connectors. All of which does not matter at all in the long run, does not for a moment change the miracle of long distance transportation at a relatively affordable price, does not ever delete the mundane miracle that is flying 500 miles an hour and starting your day in Trenton and ending it in San Diego. But when you in the muck of it, man alive, is that easy to forget.

(Postscript: the airline also lost the Eldest's gate checked bag. Hard to do, really. At least we got it back the next day.)

My kids aren't perfect. They are prone to moments of short-sightedness, selfishness, and I'm sure that I'm going to lose my patience with them again at some point on this trip, allow my aching body and sleep-deprived mind to wallow in negativity, look for an out where they just go deal with their own problems rather than make them mine. But as I look over at them now, nestled like kittens in an elaborate collection of travel pillows, stuffed animals and my coat, with the youngest having given up her earned window seat so that the eldest has more room to sleep... well, I'm proud of them. They've put up with a lack of Mom, an overdose of stressed Dad, 12 hours and counting of travel and very little of it without stress. And they haven't melted down, haven't had accidents or real tantrums or anything else that an uncountable number of other kids have done in the airports and airplanes we've been in today.

I can't get enough of them.

I'm really, really proud of everyone in my family.

And this, really, is why Parent is the best job I've ever had, and the one that defines my existence more than any other...


Curtis Young said...

Dude, I like most of your stuff. The lists make me laugh & you have an interesting way of looking at things. But this was, without a doubt, my favorite post by you. I'm also a dad with crazy hours & a time consuming hobby so this was pretty relatable for me. Congrats to your wife on the weight loss, kudos to you for supporting her.

DMtShooter said...

Much obliged; as Mark Twain once said, I could live a month on a compliment. Thanks.

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