The good thing about having a Japanese wife is that you get to travel to the other side of the world and visit her family. The bad thing about having a Japanese wife is that you get to travel to the other side of the world to visit her family.
I love when we are able to travel to Japan. I really, really do, but a 12 1/2 hour direct flight to another country always proves to bring a certain level of anxiety. But now, having a toddler who is going to sit on your lap for 12 1/2 hours doesn’t just bring mild anxiety, it’s downright nerve wracking!
I decided to not let it get to me though. We hadn’t been on a vacation in two years and I knew a change of scenery would do us good. Even though I was nervous about a long flight with a toddler, I felt ready to handle it. I had no expectations, an open mind and was ready to accept the situation. I was open to deal with anything. That all changed when we got to the airport though.
We always get to the airport two hours before and have no trouble. We always find that everything is a breeze and are usually waiting antsy at the gate. But for some reason, this was not the case. There was a fire alarm going off and a super long line that was at a standstill at the security gate. Oh no, this was not a good sign. And then when we went to check-in and check our luggage, we saw that that line wasn’t going anywhere either.
After an hour, an agent urgently asked for people traveling to Tokyo to go to the front. That’s when we were lectured for being late. “You know you should be at the airport at least two hours before the flight?” We were lady! There were only two people working the counter and they were the two most unpleasant, non-people-person people the airport employed. If I had a dollar for every time I saw them roll their eyes, I would have been able to pay for all three of our flights. And they couldn’t find Ellie’s plane reservation either. WHAT!?
In order for us to make the flight, we had to buy an extra ticket for Ellie, AGAIN. I already paid for it once. It’s not even a full ticket either. It’s the baby ticket for her to sit on my lap. That actually costs money, did you know that?
After what seemed like the longest transaction ever, they finally printed the ticket and ushered us to the front of the security line. As soon as we made it through, we heard them announce last call for our flight. So we started RUNNING! By then, Ellie no longer wanted to sit in the stroller anymore (which, during the whole ticket ordeal, she was incredibly good and patient occupying herself with her doll) so I had to hold her and book it while Aya ran behind with the stroller. Ellie was bouncing up and down on my hip and thought this was funny and started giggling. “Run dad run! Hee hee!” With sweat dripping down our faces, we were the last people to board the plane. We made it though. But I think in the process, any patience I had left got away from me and there was none left for the flight. The 12 1/2 hour flight, that is. I was not prepared for what happened next.
Ellie did great through take off and the first five or six hours. She was quiet, well behaved, smiling and flirting with other passengers. “HI!” she’d say with a wave. She was very active, so we weren’t able to relax or do anything for that matter, because we had to make sure she was entertained at all times. Stickers, coloring, walking through the aisles, the SkyMall catalog. “Ooh, a Bigfoot lawn ornament, let’s get this dad!” As long as she was quiet, we didn’t care. But that only lasted for so long.
Ellie missed her nap because it overlapped with the time we had to leave the house for the airport. After being in the air for six hours, her bed time was approaching. We did our best to get her comfortable to fall asleep, but admittedly it’s hard for anyone to get comfortable in a plane. So “the switch” went off and Ellie flipped out. The, “I am no longer going to be OK being confined in this smelly, crowded space where I am not allowed to move as I please” switch. She had a meltdown. And I mean, a MELTDOWN. We were those people on the plane with the screaming baby. Yes, not crying,SCREAMING! Screaming, twitching, flopping, kicking and punching for a good hour. An hour on a plane that felt more like four. It was so bad to a point where a stranger approached us and asked us if it was OK to pray for her. And when that didn’t work, he eventually walked away smiling and shaking his head as if to say, “Good luck kids.”
She finally cried herself to sleep while in a death grip by me and Aya. But then she only slept for about an hour and a half. The rest of the flight took a lot of effort from keeping her to explode again. All the things we usually do to keep ourselves occupied and entertained in-flight, we couldn’tuse. Headphones, iPods, books, the in-flight movie, we couldn’tuse any of them because we were occupying a toddler. And when you’re sleep deprived and exhausted yourself, yet having to entertain a toddler, time goes by soooo sloooowwww.
Of course right when we were about to land is when Ellie finally decided to fall asleep. She was out cold and didn’t wake up until we got off the plane.
We arrived safely, but we were battered, beaten and bruised. My father-in-law asked if we had been crying. During the train ride from the airport to Aya’s folks’ place, I didn’t feel that sense of ease that we were finally here. I was tense, on edge and a bit cranky.
With a 13 hour time difference, we knew this wasn’t the end of our struggles, but only the beginning. Having a jet lagged baby has been a whole other challenge that brings out another level of anxiety. I know this isn’t considered your average vacation, but I found myself asking, Is this what vacations will be like from now on?