Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Don’t Let Fear Control You

              Anyone who’s traveled with little ones can appreciate how the thought of flying cross-country with a two-year-old can be intimidating. How about the idea of adding a three-month old to the party? For some, the notion can be downright paralyzing. I speak from experience.

              Recently, my wife and kids escaped this year’s Michigan winter weather and headed west for balmier conditions in Los Angeles. Getting things together for our vacation in L.A. was a pleasure. Shorts, sunglasses, flip-flops, etc. A piece of cake.

              Gathering what we needed for the plane ride was another matter. The majority of the items were for the kids, and planning for the flight reminded me of watching the movies like “Apollo 13” and “Titanic.” That’s because no matter how well we prepared, I was convinced the outcome still would be a disaster. If I’d have been charged with creating a movie title for our little trip, it would have been something like the “Vomit Comet.”

              Now I love my kids, but I’m no super parent. You know, the kind of gifted caretaker who never gets rattled by what their kids do or are going to do. I’m talking about me, myself and I. Ordinary Joe. So it was with great anticipation (check that, terror) that we planned our plane ride with the kids to the Coast.

              To be fair, I reckon our infant/toddler tandem are as well-behaved as the next set; we have our share of ups and downs with them. But last year we took this same trip with only our oldest. She was maybe 18 months at the time and reflecting on the experience as we planned gave me pause. That bundle of joy at times demonstrated quite well her exquisite ability to project her voice, not to mention execute her accomplished talent for squirming from what daddy wrongly considered his vice-grip arms. ‘Slippery as an eel’ is the phrase that comes vividly to mind.

              Despite my claims of being an emotionally mature adult, I was brought to my knees no problem by a toddler who wanted to stroll the cabin aisle at the exact times the airplane’s captain illuminated the Fasten Seatbelts sign. On realistic reflection, that flight felt worse than it actually was. Still the memory of my anxiety on that trip was haunting.

              So for our latest L.A. trip we planned. Exhaustively. Change of clothes? Check. Books? Check. Soft, noiseless toys? Check. Juice and milk? Check. Low sugar snacks? Check? Valium for daddy? Check. (True confession: we also had Baby Benadryl at the ready and I was fully prepared to deploy that ‘nuclear option’ on our two-year-old, if need be.)

              Still, anxiety was there and with it an ever-present fear that anything that might go wrong would go wrong. Blown out diapers, fall-out in the aisle tantrums, annoyed passengers, rattled parents, emergency landing in Kansas to banish the troublesome family of four – we were ready.

              We had prepared for the worst but hoped for the best. But a funny thing happened on the way to L.A. with the family: we made it incident free. Yeah, there were the occasional outbursts borne of confinement – the kids, not me; we shuttled each one to the lavatory two times each; an inflight magazine was shredded. But the world kept turning. No child- (or self-) medicating was needed. Mommy and I worked each problem as it arose, rotating babies, toys, books, bottles and goodies for four hours.

              Many times, fear can eclipse reality. It’s a lesson I continue to learn, forget and relearn. Try and keep that in mind next time an opportunity to try something new emerges. You might be surprised at just how pleasant everything turns out.  

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