Stella and I have been back in Japan for almost three weeks, and we are finally adjusting to the reality. Laundry is done, floors are mopped, appointments are kept, and finally blog entries are being written. With all this industriousness, we are feeling pretty good, and thus, I present a post wherein the main theme is one of POSITIVITY and LIGHT! Enjoy!
When I tell someone that Stella and I are about to embark on a 24-hour plane journey by ourselves, I am usually met with a look of shell-shocked disbelief, and then a comment along the lines of, “Wow...you’re brave.” While it is true that plane travel plus infant wrangling does present its own set of challenges, I may or may not play up the harrowing nature of the journey in order that I might bask momentarily in the sympathy and/or admiration offered by non-traveling parents. But in the interest of full disclosure, I am about to reveal the truth to you: traveling by plane with a baby is really not that bad. Certainly there are perks when traveling with a baby - priority check-in, family lanes as you pass through security, and pre-boarding, for example. These benefits make the whole ordeal of navigating through the post-Homeland Security airport much less painful.
Somewhere between Tokyo and Fukuoka
The mother-as-lone-voyager also elicits much kindness from strangers. There is always someone on hand to lift your bags for you, or open a door, pick up something you dropped, or to hold the baby while you hurriedly wolf down the delights that your airline carrier of choice deems “a meal.” Post-menopausal women will ALWAYS come by and tell you how sweet your baby is, and really, there is nothing a new mother likes to hear more than the innumerable ways in which her baby is cute.
Plane trips, especially the trans-continental variety, can be excruciatingly boring. The solution to this problem is, you guessed it, BABIES! They keep you busy: changing diapers; feeding; entertaining; consoling. Time that would otherwise be spent squirming in a too-small seat, trying to find the exact way to position your legs so as to trick your body into thinking that it is lying down, is spent instead engaged in activities. And before you know it, a couple of hours have evaporated.
Even better, though, is the fact that babies invite social interaction with strangers. Infants do not suffer social phobias and they are too young to have been indoctrinated to the perils of Stranger Danger, so they quite happily bob up and down, peering over and between seats, smiling and cooing at all the interesting new faces. This is your ticket to time-passing conversation. There are always other parents on the plane, pacing the isles or hiding in the galley “trying to get their baby to sleep” when in reality they're waiting for another one of the infant-parent dyad to come back there and hang out and hold an impromptu baby convention!
Sleeping Stella en-route to Switzerland
But the true reason that I love traveling by plane with Stella is that 24 hours of confinement and unstructured time allow me to really be the parent that I want to be. The only thing I have to accomplish on the journey is to get my ass to the departure gate at the appropriate time without losing my passport. That’s it. There is no phone to answer, no Facebook to check, no sarcastic tweets to compose, no niggling thoughts of unwashed dishes, dust bunnies, or wrinkly onesies. Those 24 hours offer a presence of mind that I rarely achieve in my wired, hurried life. This is a true gift. An entire day to be with my baby, entertain her, laugh with her, cuddle with her, and be reminded why I signed up for this gig in the first place.