Time is the ultimate deception. According to clocks, all seconds move at the same pace but anyone who has a child knows the second hand is lying. For instance, I just wrote those two sentences during the first supposed three minutes of Clara’s nap but actually the formula for figuring out the length of any given nap time is 5x + 1=2y where x = the amount of items on your to-do list and y = the number of times your neighbor’s dog will bark.
According to an entirely different formula (x-1=27,000 y) , a 6 hour and 40 minute flight from Dallas to Anchorage will age you 1.5 years. Now aged 6 years ( 4 x 5000 air miles), I have some tips for surviving this loss of life.
First, do not think you will read, watch Jack Black’s Gulliver’s Travels, play solitaire on your iPod, sleep, or have an adult conversation for longer than 30 seconds at a time. Just accept it and you won’t have to fight your 15 month old for the headphones. Here are some things you can bring with you to make the time pass, not necessarily quickly, but at least with less tears: a water bottle, a rubber band, a cup of ice, raisins, and a blanket. Show your one-year-old how to stretch the rubber band over the water bottle and then do this for an hour. Next, chew up all the ice cubes until they are no longer choking hazards. When there’s a lull with the rubber band and water bottle, put a raisin in one fist and after you do weird shaky things with both hands, try to get your baby to guess which hand the raisin is in. For the last stretch across the Yukon, put the blanket over your head and play “Where’s Mama?” for another hour. Don’t look at the people reading Kindles and listening to MP3 players; it will hurt too much.
Here are some things you probably can’t bring but would have been nice: a third nipple attached to a bag of milk, a grandmother, a rocking chair, and a soundproof room with a crib.
Also, it is okay to feel better about yourself if someone else’s baby is crying. More likely, you will feel pity and gratitude, knowing that, in the air, we are all just one major air pressure change away from a baby screaming in agony. On our final 25 minute flight from Anchorage to Kenai, a couple who had flown all day from the Midwest with their firstborn sat across the aisle from us. After 12 hours in the air, their one-year-old decided it was about time someone pitched a fit. The look on the mother’s face . . . I try to remember that people are starving and living in destitution, but instead, all I can think about is that look. It is pure desperation. She knows that a whole plane is counting on her to get her child quiet, that her child is miserable and inconsolable, and that she, too, is exhausted and unable to provide any comfort beyond a pat on the back and a tired, desperate “shhhh.”
I have two questions I’d like to ask: 1) why do we have to die? and 2) why is it, for so many, so easy to make children? I mean, I truly love my daughter and I don’t even own a smart phone, yet sometimes, the sacrifice it takes to raise a child can be quite taxing. People everywhere are teaching their children how to tie their shoes, showing them how to pee in baby toilets, telling them “no fingers in the outlets” and then hugging them out of their tears. Clara’s always teaching me how to slow down so I can understand what she needs, and I think that—understanding—must be what helps us all fly and fly happy.