No, seriously. I rocked three kids under five on an airplane. On an airplane for 8 straight hours with an infant in lap, a three year-old, and a nearly five year-old. There were no tears, no meltdowns, no incessant whining. Flight attendants and countless passengers who’d looked on worriedly as we boarded would later compliment me and the kids on our awesome flight.
My three year old drenched himself in urine two hours into the flight while he slept contentedly. And I did what any seasoned mom with her hands full (literally had a sleeping baby in my arms) would do: I let him sleep for two and a half more hours. I let him sleep until the baby was awake and I could no longer pretend the foul urine smell was coming from the toilets a few rows back. But there was no panic. The flight attendant who’d already told us all about her grandkids happily held my littlest while I pulled out wipes and the middle child’s extra set of clothes. And the biggest miracle was that he didn’t cry with the confusion of being awoken on the airplane with soaked clothes to go into a bright, tiny bathroom to be stripped down and wipe-bathed. We even scored comfy business class blankets to put over his seat and keep him warm for the remainder of the flight. That was the most eventful moment on our flight and it was surprisingly anti-climatic.
Each of the three children slept for nearly five hours of the flight, even if at different intervals. I even managed to eat the dinner and breakfast served on the plane. My oldest was giddy at the opportunity to take herself to the bathroom the dozen times she just had to go and the flight attendants graciously obliged my requests to walk her to the bathroom and back each time.
The only thing that would have made the flight better was if I’d also managed to sleep. But I had known that was unlikely and had prepared myself to be awake the whole flight. I hadn’t anticipated the crippling jet lag that would stalk us for the next week.
Thirty minutes into our drive home from Heathrow and suddenly my eyes could barely stay open. The boys slept most of the drive and I managed to get a short snooze while my daughter talked daddy’s ear off. The husband had intended to drop us off at home and at least get a half day in at the office. All I could think about was sleep. We survived the afternoon and, I thought, took a well-timed nap from 3-5. I was wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. Bedtime came and the youngest was wired while the older two went happily to bed. He would take little cat naps and then by midnight was wide awake squealing at the top of his lungs for one of his siblings to wake up and come join him. It worked. Five minutes later his brother walked into the living room asking for food. He didn’t look the slightest bit tired. An hour later their sister joined the party. All while mommy fought to stay awake on the couch.
The worst part of my jet lag was the baby’s new found mobility. He was a novice crawler when we had left for vacation three weeks earlier. Now he is a little speedster who also comfortably pulls himself up on everything, walks the length of furniture, and then lets go and attempts to walk. But he hasn’t mastered falling and I hadn’t sufficiently baby-proofed for a much more mobile baby. Every time my eyes started to close on the couch, the little guy was into something else. Finally, a little after 4AM the night owls crashed. I woke up to my phone ringing at 11:30AM. My husband was calling to make sure we were all okay. The kids were still asleep. I dutifully woke up the tired little monsters and tried to explain why I was making lunch instead of breakfast. We’d never slept through breakfast before. My kids are normally up by 6AM sharp. This was new territory for us.
Thankfully, we had beautiful, sunny weather and I’ve tried to keep them outside every waking moment of it to help their little bodies adjust to the time change. I wake them up from their afternoon naps after a purposefully timed interval. I attempt to wear them out before bed. But at the close of day four, our jet lag battle still continues. They go to bed at their normal time, but still wake up for at least an hour in the middle of the night and then sleep in until 9 or so. We’re on the right track, but it’s been the most exhausting week in recent memory. And I say that as someone who’s had a baby recently and prides myself in regularly getting by on only 4-5 hours of broken sleep. I don’t think my eye lids have ever felt this heavy.
I’ve been too tired to spend hours googling jet lag to figure out exactly where we went wrong. Maybe it’s worse going west to east? Maybe the daylight flight I’d dreaded on the initial flight was actually a better idea than our overnight flight home? Who knows. We had almost no jet lag when we moved to England. Perhaps it’s the fact that I bragged too soon on social media about our successful transatlantic flight. Yeah, that’s probably it. I finally feel like I get one aspect of travel right and then prove that at heart I’m still just an amateur pretending to have a clue.
So here’s to another slightly less jet-lagged night that hopefully leads to a restful weekend.