It’s really summer now, complete with sun-freckled faces, mosquito-bitten legs and evenings at the pool. And for me at least, that also means lots of trips to visit grandparents and cousins.

Traveling with a child was never something I wanted to do, but lately it has become an extremely regular occurrence. My daughter is so used to airports at this point that she starts fussing when anyone says the word airplane. “I go airplane, Mommy! I go airplane now!” If we drive to the airport to pick up a visitor, my little one cries because she doesn’t get to go into the big building with the planes.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain because I do have the basic traveling routine down: packing outfits and diapers, books and a toy or two (more than a few toys are useless —kids are just as happy with a paper cup as any shiny plastic trinket). I’m used to the last-minute squishing of monitors and diapers in the middle of my bag and fighting to get the zipper closed. Packing the right amount and kinds of foods for the flight has become habit — cheese sticks, but no avocado (too messy); crackers but no yogurt (too dangerous, according to the FAA). I even generally remember to get my daughter’s favorite lovey in my diaper bag instead of in the checked baggage (did that once — BIG mistake.)

I have it worked out for the most part, all the way down to how to get the flight attendants to hold my child while I work feverishly getting the carseat strapped into the airplane seat. My biggest challenge, really, is a mental one. If only I could learn to manage the looks of both concern and desperation on strangers’ faces as I negotiate the airport. I know I must look ridiculous, if not desperate, with bags slung over my shoulder, carseat in tow, and chasing a meandering 2-year-old who’s goal in life is to greet each traveler in the entire airport, personally.

I know exactly what I look like. I remember seeing that woman before I had a baby. The struggling single mommy, sweating and hassled, lugging absurdly-sized equipment on her small frame. When did I become
that woman?

Well, I don’t know when it happened, but I certainly know I am her. Now that my daughter’s father and I are splitting up, solitary travel will be a way of life for me. And confirmation of this fact comes every time I walk down the skinny aisle on the airplane, trying not to knock people’s heads with my diaper bag but catching a few unsuspecting travelers nonetheless. The looks on the other passengers’ faces are unmistakeable.

“Don’t sit here. . . please don’t sit here,” I can see them quietly pleading.

But my daughter’s really not much trouble, I want to reassure them. And she’s not. But between the carseat, the toys and the occasional dirty diaper, I can understand why people don’t much want me around. And I must admit that I am sometimes forced to pull out the Barney DVD for all the plane to hear (ever try putting headphones on a 2-year-old?).

So I apologize to all on whom I must force a small slice of toddler life between here and my final destination. And I offer one final plea: despite what you think, there really is nothing I can do to stop my daughter from kicking the back of your seat. Aside from chopping her sweet little feet off, you’ll just have to accept my undying regret. And possibly a sticky-fingered greeting from a grateful
little 2-year-old.