Anxiety at the Airport

by Jennifer on April 24, 2012

We’re back at the airport.

This time  the only one travelling is Little Boy K, but Baby S and I are here because that’s how we roll…as a pack of rabid dogs.

This is our twice-a-month routine.  Saturday mornings we all pile into the car, drive K to the airport, all pile out of the car, go through the Southwest line, go through security, get K on the plane, wait for it to take off, and then Baby S and I quietly and solemnly reverse the process and get back in the car.  Then on Sunday, Baby S and I pile in the car, drive to the airport, pile out of the car, go through the Southwest line, go through security, wait for the plane to land and claim the total curmudgeon of an exhausted six-year-old precious, smiling red-headed angel that is Little Boy K, reverse the process and pile back in the car.

I used to fly up to Dallas with K, then turn around (after pumping breastmilk on the floor of the filthy glorious Dallas airport restroom because that’s clearly the only appropriate place to create food for your child, you hippie heathen) and fly back.  K’s father would repeat this process for the return trip on Sunday.  Despite certain inconveniences, I rather enjoyed the time alone I was able to spend with K on those flights.  The visits are very hard on K such wonderful fun so he is always in need of a little extra video game snuggle time and cheetos love leading up to one.

Beginning when Little Boy K was five, his father began to insist that Little Boy K fly solo on these trips.   Due to our legal arrangement, I didn’t really have much choice in the matter, and like Forrest Gump, that’s about all I have to say about that in writing.

I don’t like  it.  I don’t think it’s right.  It freaks me the heck out. 

So you understand my state of mind going into the following events.  Anyway…

So twice a month, I put my little boy, my irreplaceable baby, who I never let out of the sight of a responsible adult family member or teacher, who I never even leave with a babysitter, on a flying death machine plane full of strangers.  Little Boy K accepts this with a surprising amount of dignity, thanks to very directed manipulation.   My precious child has become an Unaccompanied Minor (Southwest’s eloquent term for children dumped on planes alone travelling by themselves).

Since the Unaccompanied Minors (couldn’t we call them Happy Flyers or something?) board first, we have plenty of time to feel the weight of the stares of the 150 or so passengers pressing eagerly to the front of the line because, in case you aren’t aware, planes promptly shut their doors to all passengers who haven’t boarded in the first five minutes, leaving hordes of angry customers trapped in the airport.

The flight attendants are usually nuts wonderful, very friendly with K, and try to ease any trepidation that might be seeping through his bright face, hiding among the freckles.

This week, Little Boy K reluctantly trudges trots right off, after a last hug, Iron Man backpack firmly in place, his blue zipper envelope hanging from his neck, announcing to any child predators who might be travelling to Dallas today that he is an Unaccompanied Minor.

We blow kisses to each other and he waves to Baby S right before he heads down the runway to board the plane.

Once I know he can’t see me any more, I take a few deep breaths and try not to cry turn my attention to pacifying Baby S until it is time for us to leave.  Even though Baby S is a raging hell-cat of a strollerbaby always content to sit calmly in his stroller, I figure I will let him out for a bit to pick up trash off the ground stretch his legs.

Baby S heads straight for the giant windows, toddling along at break-neck speed.  I point out the plane and ask if he wants to wave bye-bye to K.  Raising his sweet little chubby-fingered hand to the glass, I sense that this is one of those “moments” and grab for my iPhone to snap a picture.

How sweet is that? As I’m looking at the picture, I notice out of the corner of my eye that Baby S has seated himself on the windowsill and is staring at something that has caught his attention near the plane.

Are those cop cars?  Why yes, there are three of them.

And a big, black drug dealer suburban with darkly tinted windows.   You know the type.

I wonder what or who could be on the plane with my sweet child travelling alone that would require three police escorts and a big, black drug dealer suburban.  My Mommy-anxiety kicks in and my heart starts to pound.  I watch as the side door on the boarding ramp opens and a man in a dark suit steps out, his jacket blowing open and exposing a badge that is too small for me to read.

My mind starts racing… maybe he is one of the undercover government agents who supposedly patrol the flights for terrorists? Thinking I probably shouldn’t be seeing this, I reach down to grab Baby S’s hand to pull him away from the window.

And then I freeze… why would an air marshal need three police escorts?

FBI!  It must be FBI and they probably just put a criminal, a federal criminal, one dangerous enough to require three police escorts and the drug dealer suburban.

As visions of ConAir float through my head, I tell myself to calm down and think this through more.

Should I do something?  I don’t want my baby on that plane alone with a criminal!  And what kind of criminal could this be to need all of that backup?

MULTIPLE CRIMINALS!  I bet there are multiple criminals!  3 cops = 3 criminals!

The plane starts to pull back from the gate and I know I have missed my chance.  I can’t get Little Boy K off at this point.  I imagine him sitting there, in the first row where they put all of the Happy Flyers Unaccompanied Minors, busily chatting up the strangers next to him because K never stops talking is really friendly.

And next to him sits:

I start to feel trapped as I watch the drug dealer suburban and three police cars trail the plane back from the gate.  For the entourage to refuse to even leave the plane’s side, this must be very serious.

I throw gently strap Baby S back into his Stroller.

Desperately wanting to find out more information, I attack calmly get the attention of the flight attendant who helped K board the plane.

“Did you just see that?”  I ask accusingly.  “My child is on that plane alone! Who did they just put on that plane that needs three police escorts and a black suburban?!”  He looks at me like I’m crazy.

“It must be a very bad person to need all that extra backup!  Is it a criminal?!”  I try again.  Why isn’t he answering me?  Maybe there’s a confidentiality issue or something….

“Well some people might think he’s a bad guy,”  he chuckles.  Is this some sort of joke?  I wring his frigging neck stare at him, my mouth gaping open.

“It was the lieutenant governor.”

Oh. 

Black not drug dealer suburban, guy in a dark suit…now I get it.

Good thing I didn’t overreact or anything.

As my pulse begins to slow again it becomes obvious to me how I allowed my imagination to get the better of me, my vision of Hannibal Lector sitting next to my child all the way to Dallas slowly fades away and is replaced with a vision of Little Boy K surreptitiously wiping his cheeto fingers on the lieutenant governor’s coat as he merrily talks his ear off about Star Wars or Darth Maul or the Force.

And I breathe a sigh of relief.

 

Happily linking up today with the wonderful folks at Yeah Write #54!

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Robbie April 24, 2012 at 10:20 am

i cannot imagine having to go thru that twice a month. My oldest will be 11 this summer and there has been some talk of letting him fly alone. i’m just not ready for that yet.
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Mommy April 24, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I wish I had a way around it. It’s only a 40 minute flight but I worry so much. We spend a lot of time talking about stranger-danger but K is just way beyond friendly. I keep thinking I will write about that but it’s one of those things that is such a yucky part of my life that I don’t know that I want to think about it long enough or in-depth enough to write about it.

tara pohlkotte April 24, 2012 at 11:23 am

oh my word. i would feel the same exact way. really. you are a brave and gracious mama. and your son? a complete rock star. so proud of you both! great story too, sorry that it’s a real life one :)
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Mommy April 24, 2012 at 2:33 pm

He has adapted to it pretty well. The flight attendants always give him lots of attention but it’s a very un-fun thing for a Mommy to go through. He’s pretty oblivious to all of the things that can go wrong but I know all too well…

Lori April 24, 2012 at 1:07 pm

OK. I admit. I was holding my breath. I can’t imaging having to put your little boy on a plane, by himself. I would be as crazed as you are … er, were. But it made for a great story and a great post!

Mommy April 24, 2012 at 2:34 pm

It seems like a lot of security for a lieutenant governor doesn’t it?

Laurel April 24, 2012 at 1:31 pm

I always picture Hannibal lecter whenever something goes wrong too, lol.
It must be incredible,y difficult, my sympathies are with you. It is always good to remember the humor in these situations!
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Mommy April 24, 2012 at 2:35 pm

And I kept thinking that they put the people they need to “watch” in the first row, like the Unaccompanied Minors so they would probably put the criminals up there too. Not a good mix! :-)

heidi April 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Haha! I would have done and said and reacted the same way!
I can’t imagine how tough it must be to watch him board that plane alone. He’s lucky to have such a loving and courageous mom.

Mommy April 24, 2012 at 2:37 pm

I wish I had the courageous thing going on…it’s more of not having an option. He is very brave though. I don’t even let him cross the street alone, you know?

Jackie April 24, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I think it’s in us as mothers to imagine the worst possible scenarios in situations, right? Of course, it’s Hannibal Lector in the big black car, not a celebrity or the secretary of the interior!
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Mommy April 24, 2012 at 9:24 pm

It would’ve been way more cool if it were a Kardashian.

Pam April 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm

You write so well-felt like I was in the airport. Sorry you and K go through this so often. Love the true feelings (scratched through words)

Mommy April 24, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Thank you! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

Ado April 24, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Oh my God, gripping – so gripping!
That must be so so so hard for you every weekend.
So so so hard.
And you did not over-react. I would’ve done the same thing.
Jeesh, my heart is in my throat after reading that one.
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Mommy April 24, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Thank you! It’s good to know I’m not crazy – or at least I’m not the only one who is crazy :)

stephanie April 24, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Difficult situation to say the least. I would ask if your boy enjoys his time with his Dad. I hope so, that would be the positive side. Also, my sister’s kids were legally mandated to travel to their father’s house as well from very early ages, 5-6, they started. They very quickly became independent, and their level of confidence rose. They are in college now and are sure-footed in travel and in navigating their way in the world. Little Boy K will benefit in the end. He’ll be helping you through the airport at some point, and worrying about your welfare.
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Mommy April 24, 2012 at 9:34 pm

That is very good to know. I know the situation isn’t ideal, of course, but hopefully he will benefit from it in unexpected ways, as your sister’s children did.

Mayor Gia April 24, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Hhaha I shouldn’t laugh. I’m sure I’d react the EXACT same way.
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Mommy April 26, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Thanks for reading Gia!

jamie April 25, 2012 at 12:31 am

I know how it feels to let go, especially when it comes to children. We wrap our mind around the idea that they are safer under our watch, but sooner or later, we have to let go. They need to grow up and be independent.
On the other note about the black suburban guy… I would have reacted the same way too, nonetheless we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover 😀
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Mommy April 26, 2012 at 11:01 am

There’s just so many bad things that can happen when they aren’t under our watch! :) Thanks for reading and commenting!

Christie April 25, 2012 at 8:28 am

Oh, the anxiety! I was right there with you as you were telling it.
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Mommy April 26, 2012 at 11:02 am

Thanks for coming by and taking the time to comment Christie!

Lori April 25, 2012 at 8:32 am

=oh my hell=

and this is why my child has -never- done that. I’m not sure I would ever be able to do that, I over react when she goes across the street, let alone anything else

you have my admiration.
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Mommy April 26, 2012 at 11:03 am

It’s a crappy feeling to be “forced” to do something you would never willingly allow. Thanks for reading and commenting. I always appreciate it.

Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms April 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Oh honey, I am so sorry you have to go through that type of agony. Not fair, but a well told story. My heart was in my throat. Ellen
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Mommy April 26, 2012 at 11:04 am

Thanks Ellen.

Delilah April 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I would have so much trouble doing what you have no choice but to do. I’m sorry you don’t have that choice. And you did not overreact, I would have been the crazy lady arrested for trying to beat down the door to get to the plane.
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Mommy April 26, 2012 at 11:04 am

Ha! I felt like doing just that!

TriGirl April 25, 2012 at 11:48 pm

The flight alone would have my heart racing, but the added police cars would send anyone over the edge! Love your writing style :)
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Mommy April 26, 2012 at 11:05 am

Thank you so much. I appreciate you reading it and taking the time to comment.

Lisa AKA Mama Finch April 25, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Wow, what an ordeal! I think it is wonderful that your son seems to have adjusted to the situation well, but I cannot imagine having to go through that as a mother.
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Mommy April 26, 2012 at 11:06 am

Yeah, now that he’s done it several times, flying alone is pretty “old hat” to him. But that’s the thing, you know? Kids don’t always know all of the things that can go wrong. In a way, I’m glad he doesn’t. Easier on him.

Your Doctor's Wife April 26, 2012 at 12:18 am

Wow! You have nerves of steel! Well just let our 19 year old fly alone for the first time from college! Oh crap, I’m one of those dammed hover parents. :(
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Mommy April 26, 2012 at 11:07 am

Ha! It is always nerve-wracking.

January April 26, 2012 at 5:30 am

GAH!!! You poor lady! I would be having a nervous breakdown every time I’d have to put my baby on a plane! And you did NOT overreact! At all.

That picture of your baby with his hand on the window…made me all teary. I have two boys ages 2 and 4 and they almost seem lost without each other.

So well written!
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Mommy April 26, 2012 at 11:09 am

Thank you. It isn’t easy on the boys, leaving each other, and I think it will get even more difficult as Baby S gets older.

Kristin April 26, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Oh you are strong and wonderful and amazing. These experiences are surely making K in to a self-sufficient, super suave, kind of the elementary school. I’m so proud of you and your son for handling these weekends with such ease. Perhaps as the boys get older you’ll come up with something else – or perhaps compromises that work for everyone. I wish you continued strength on all sides.
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Mommy April 26, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Thanks Kristin. I am proud of him – he is pretty self-sufficient.

Greta April 26, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Oh good lord, I would be a mess. If you overreacted, you are definitely not the only one that would overreact in that situation.
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Jay- The Dude of the House April 26, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Great story, very suspenseful. I can’t fathom having to send my little one on a plane solo, so I give you credit for having the strength to do it. I don’t even like flying by myself! Great twist with the cops’ arrival.

(BTW, I just realized that my YeahWrite post this week is called “The Dude Flies Solo”, which makes my comment above seem a tad ironic.)
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Anna April 28, 2012 at 9:58 am

I can only imagine how hard that would be to put your 5 year old son on that plane. You must miss him so much during this time!! Cute story. I would have freaked out too. Visiting via SITS.
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thedoseofreality April 28, 2012 at 10:26 am

Was literally on the edge of my computer chair reading this post. First of all, wow, my hat is off to you for bravely doing this week after week. And your sweet boy, too. Secondly, this was very well written. You have a great style. I came over via SITS and I can’t wait to read more.
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supah April 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Lordy lordy!
I think i had an anxiety attack in the middle there.

Amber April 28, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I’d have been worried too! I’m glad nothing serious was going on.

BarefootMedStudent April 28, 2012 at 5:30 pm

I totally understand your trepidation. I would freak out too, and I don’t even have children.
I love your use of the strike-through fonts by the way, it is rather humorous.

Visiting via SITS Sharefest :)
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Kimberly at Rubber Chicken Madness April 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I cannot even imagine. That would have made me hysterically nuts.

Love your strike throughs….love how they tell what you “cannot say” :)
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Angela @ TheNotSoFunctionalHousewife.com May 7, 2012 at 5:31 pm

I would have totally freaked out! My anxiety gets the best of me way too often. I was getting all worked up just reading your post. So glad that it wasn’t the guy in the picture. :)

Thank so much for visiting from SITS!

Hope you have a great day!

~Angela

Adrienne June 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Oh, this has got to be torture. I’m sorry, honey!!! Hang in there!
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miles weston May 8, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Lol this is pretty funny…

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