Siblings on a Plane

This post originally appeared on July 19, 2006 on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog. I'm reposting it here in its original form.

"Snakes on a Plane", the Samuel L. Jackson film that has created so much buzz on the Internet, opens August 18th. If you happen to be flying to England on July 18th, you might catch a preview of this movie; only instead of snakes, it might just be 3 rambunctious children.

I'm flying to England with my three children all by myself. Most people who know about this tell me I'm crazy. But I've actually done it before. When the twins were 3 months old and my daughter was almost 3, I took them to spend 1 month at my parents' home in Manila. My husband did not come with us. I made the outward journey with my mother, and I flew back to the US with the 3 kids by myself. It was a 16-hour flight with 1 stopover, almost 24 hours door-to-door, and I survived. So I figure, I can do it again, right?

I have everything planned. At the airport, I will ask whether my husband can accompany me all the way to the boarding gate (apparently the policy on this varies by airline and airport). Failing that, I will ask for assistance through the security area. I will stack the carseats on the double stroller and wheel it to the gate while my children walk beside me. I will be using toddler leashes on my twins, and they will have a bracelet or sticker with my name and cellphone number in case they get lost. On the plane, I am hoping they will spend approx. 1 hour eating, 1 hour walking around, 2 hours watching movies, and 5 hours sleeping. They will each have a backpack with their loveys, a toy, a book, a snack and a sippy cup. My backpack will have extra surprise toys, diapers, snacks, wipes, and toiletries. My MP3 is loaded up with their favorite songs and books-on-tape. I will ask a stewardess for help if I need to go to the bathroom. Finally, I will pack a bottle of Benadryl in case one of them simply will not sleep and I get desperate.

I have a sinking feeling that nothing will go according to plan. The only flights we have taken since our trip to Manila have been less than 2 hours, short enough to keep them occupied for the duration of the flight, and we have always had a 1:1 ratio of kids to adults. So I really don't know how things will go this time, but I am expecting the worst. About 1 month ago, I took them on a 1-hr train ride, as sort of a test run. They loved it, but I didn't expect my son to freak out when the train went into the tunnels. I also didn't expect him to get bored after 15 minutes and say, "Mama, I want to get off". I can see it now, 6 hours into the flight, when all is dark, somewhere above the Atlantic -- "Mama, it's dark, I want to get off the plane". What do I do then?

I'm not really worried about my daughter; she has always been a great traveller. But my twins are a different story. When I flew from Manila to SF, they were just cute, inanimate bundles. They were taken out of their carseats only to be fed, changed or soothed. Kind stewardesses and fellow passengers were only too glad to help pick them up and hold them. Having identical twins added to the cuteness factor. Nowadays, my twins are cuter than ever. However, they are like the Energizer Bunny, they just keep going and going. They are active 2.5 year old boys and it's just not in their nature to keep still. I have no idea how I am going to keep them in their seats for a 10-hour flight. I can only keep them strapped in their carseats for so long; at some point they will struggle, scream, or heaven forbid, start kicking the seat in front of them. Then I will have to release my little snakes to terrorize the entire plane. What do I do when one of them wants to head for the cockpit and the other one wants to head for the galley?

My faith in humankind tells me that there will still be kind people who will offer to help. Of course there will also be normal people who will silently (or not so silently) grit their teeth when the yelling starts. To everyone on the plane, I offer my sincere thanks and apologies in advance. I've heard stories of parents passing out chocolates and earplugs to their seatmates; maybe I should do that too.

We arrive at Heathrow on July 19 at 1PM. Hopefully my kids will have slept for at least 5 hours. Somehow, I will have to get my groggy self, 3 groggy kids, 3 carseats, 2 suitcases and 1 double stroller past customs and into the welcoming arms of my in-laws. Hopefully it will all have a Hollywood-type happy ending.

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