Thankful for Thanksgiving Toddler Travels

We recently traveled to visit my in-laws for Thanksgiving with Bruce, now 18 months old. For my Type A, scheduled, systematic personality, it was about as hideous as I expected.

1. A two hour delayed flight to DC well past bedtime resulted in screaming, running, unconfined chaos throughout the airport. My husband had recently let me know that he would not be on the return flight with me back to Houston as he needed to travel directly to NYC for meetings on Monday (wonderful and convenient news given the checked luggage, car seat, diaper bag, and baby I needed to transport). Therefore I allowed him to put up with the brunt of the airport shenanigans until Bruce decided to fully melt-down, during which I attempted to console him amidst the recognizable stares of fellow passengers and their silent prayers, “please do not seat that baby next to/behind/anywhere near me.”

2. I have already forgotten/blocked from my memory the flight to DC. Alcohol-induced? I wish. Rather a function of mommy-brain/severe exhaustion.

3. Day 1 – Love of my in-laws, happy conversation and laughter. Happy to be on “vacation” even if I’m up at 6 AM with a toddler and everyone else sleeps till 8. The weather is awful, so we spend the day reminiscing about Dean and his sister’s younger years and exploring the house with Bruce. Grandma lovingly hovers over and adores Bruce, whispering sweet sentiments, and I think fondly of how she must have been with Dean. Bruce seems rattled from the previous night’s flight and lack of sleep, and has a short, tear-interrupted afternoon nap, but that’s ok, because it’s travel and he’s an adaptable baby that will adjust.

4. Day 2/Thanksgiving – Dean allows me to sleep for an extra hour while he gets up with Bruce – what a guy! Later in the morning, however, he remarks that he is taking the train to NYC on Monday morning because his meetings aren’t until the afternoon, which gives me pause. A) Why wasn’t I aware of his exact meeting schedule, B) Why would he allow me to struggle home with a toddler early Sunday morning solo unless he absolutely couldn’t be there, and C) I am now very annoyed. I attempt to discuss my annoyance with Dean, which is unsuccessful/ he seems oblivious to the terror I have of traveling alone with baby and luggage on Sunday, not to mention all the errands that need to get done with said baby. Dinner conversation consists of how amazing our boy genius is and a potential trip on Grandma and Grandpa’s boat, located an hour away. Grandpa thinks it would be good if are on the road by 11 AM. I am mute but nodding and smiling, while silently trying to anticipate/dreading long car rides, nap schedules, napping or not napping on a boat, toddler seasickness, and closed quarters with my in-laws for several hours. Dean smartly reminds his parents that Bruce needs to be down by 12:30 and a car ride just before that is probably a bad idea, so we would need to leave probably around 7 AM for a short boat ride. Someone recommends putting the pack ‘n’ play on the bed in the cabin. Someone else decides that may present some safety issues. The trip gets discussed and vetoed over a good 30 minute period, during which I say nothing. Grandma and Dean imply that Grandma would really love to read Bruce stories and put him to bed. I’m reluctant because I think he needs routine, I want to keep him on schedule, and I selfishly love that part of the day when it’s just us, but Grandma understandably needs her time with him, so I oblige. Dean promises to keep everything on schedule and that she’ll follow the routine. Thirty long minutes later, still no Grandma, just singing and crying over the baby monitor. Not happy, but Dean won’t let me intervene and finally Grandma comes downstairs and Dean makes me hug her. So awkward.

5. Day 3 – My frustration about Dean’s travel plans is mounting a silent war against him, and I am getting Bruce’s cold. Feeling depressed, I sleep in again while everyone else takes Bruce to the zoo. Bruce struggles through a short afternoon nap, waking in tears. We tool around Georgetown, Bruce desperate to get out of his stroller. Grandma’s incessant baby talk to Bruce is beginning to give me anxiety. Grandma tells Bruce that he should bring her a baby sister. More anxiety. Another delayed bedtime. We watch the first 15 minutes of Seth Rogen’s “Neighbors” with the grandparents (you can guess why we only watched 15 minutes). My frustration with Dean’s lack of empathy regarding our Sunday travel plans leads to him to decide to return with us to Houston, which frustrates me even further because I now feel guilty that he changed his plans.

6. Day 4 – Family photo day – everyone in white! Bruce has figured out how to use the water dispenser on the fridge and gives himself a shower, necessitating a wardrobe change. Brunch is at a nice restaurant where Bruce is a perfect little behaved and happy gentleman. Fawning ensues. Dean hangs with his sister a bit while I manage Bruce and the grandparents nap. Bruce goes down for his nap, barely an hour, followed by angry screaming. Spent from the four previous days of exhaustion/entertaining mode, Bruce screams most of the next couple of hours, while grandparents and single SIL look on in horror. They suggest wine at SIL’s condo for a change of pace. Bruce screams the whole way there, but takes a brief break to run up and down the condo building hallways knocking on doors and laughing. I intervene on behalf of various confused inhabitants. Screaming ensues. Final delayed bedtime, this time necessitated by Grandpa. If Grandma says one more thing to Bruce in baby talk, we are never coming back to DC. Dean and I turn in early, have make-up sex (yay! and in grandparents house with toddler next door – bonus points!).

7. Day 5/Return Home – Early wake up for 8 AM flight. So thankful that Dean is with us, and I think he may be a little happy about it too. Flight is shockingly uneventful, with the exception of the moment where Bruce rose and stood up on his seat, leaned over, squatted, grunted, made that tell-tale red face, and pooped. The lovely and patient woman in front of me turned around to flirt with him and commented, “oh, I know what you’re doing.” Dean and I can’t stop laughing. Dean changes all diapers. Bruce attempted to grab the gentleman’s coffee off his tray table behind him through the seats, and he was kind enough to remark, “I remember those days when my kids were younger. Travel was so stressful!” So grateful for understanding fellow passengers. Our flight lands early, and super-Dean goes to the grocery store and picks up the dog while I get Bruce lunch and settled for his nap. Bruce naps over two hours and wakes up happy, and we stroll the two blocks away to our local nursery to get a Christmas tree. We make dinner together, decorate the house, and watch a movie. We hit the sack and have real, loving couple sex (better).

Happy baby, happy wife, happy husband, happy life. Grateful for my life, as chaotic and stressed as it is sometimes, and all of the people who flow in and out of it, including my loving and wonderful in-laws. Without them I wouldn’t have my incredible husband, and the wonderful days you least expect.

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