By now we've flown three times with the boys, and it always looks about the same.
INTERIOR - DAY - CROWDED AIRPORT CHECK-IN LINE. A man, KEVIN, wears a smiling, curly haired boy in a Baby Bjorn as he pushes a luggage cart up a few steps, then turns to talk to the woman behind him. HEATHER is wearing an identical boy and trying to bounce him a bit while navigating a similarly packed cart.
HEATHER: It's okay, D. You're being really good, honey.PASSENGER 1: Aw, they're so cute!
KEVIN: Thank you!
PASSENGER 2: Are they identical?
DYLAN: [shoots flirty smile]
PASSENGER 1: [makes cooing noise]
DYLAN: [grabs HEATHER's hair, yanks it out of her head]
HEATHER: OW, honey, don't do that please.
DYLAN: [makes squawking noise]
LIAM: [makes squawking noise in reply that is even louder]
PASSENGER 1: And where are you going today?
KEVIN: Canada/Pittsburgh/North Carolina.
PASSENGER 2: GOOD. I mean, how fun. We're going to Chicago.
And so it is. It's human nature; you're never excited to see a little kid if that little kid is on your flight, crammed into that airborne tube, with no escape. But once you have kids, you are THRILLED to see other children, because on a flight there is no more beautiful sound than somebody else's kid wailing.
Our guys are in turns awesome and a challenge on planes. Dylan, we use as our lap baby, because he's lighter -- and, as it we learned in Pittsburgh, because he will sleep through almost the entire flight if you put him in the Baby Bjorn facing your chest and cuddle him tight (or let him fall asleep on the bottle). But he has his moments where he can't nod off, and he complains LOUDLY about this to anyone who will listen, requiring a little extra strategizing (read: walking him to the back of the plane, bouncing, or giving him something to chew on until he gets so tired he can't do anything but close his eyes). Liam has his own seat, into which goes the infant carrier, into which goes the little boy who really just wants to crawl around or stand and cruise or bounce up and down or eat that metal thing right there or unhook the seatbelt and WHY IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK and WAIT where did that seatbelt clicky thing go THAT WAS FUN, MOM, WHY DID YOU RUIN IT.
We try to make them wait until takeoff for a bottle, which usually guarantees they'll fall asleep after they finish. But this leads to a lot of unhappy babies making noise while the plane boards, and means we plaster grins on our faces and say soothingly, through gritted teeth, for the benefit of those around us, "It's okay, honey, it's coming. The bottle's coming as soon as we're ready to go to the runway and then everything will be FINE."
This works, knocking Dylan out for the count and giving us thirty minutes of peace with Liam. Then he wakes up and gets restless. Chewing on a toy works for ten minutes. Better? Taking him out of the seat and letting him stand on your thighs and squeal at the person behind you, who you hope is friendly and doesn't mind an exuberant child's stare, and/or understands that "EEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH" when paired with a huge smile means, "I am really happy and you look nice and let's be friends and ARE YOU WEARING GLASSES, because I LOVE THOSE, let me see them, I promise I won't eat them JUST KIDDING." (Note: I have not allowed him to take a stranger's glasses, much less eat them. But I know he's thinking about it. At all times.)
And so begins the dance of toy, puff, toy, biscuit, toy, cuddle, stroll up the aisle, flirt with old people, toy, diaper change just to get him a place where he can lie down or be on his stomach for five minutes, stroll, water, toy, puff, water, loud exhalation, cuddle, bounce, squeal, bounce, ow, my thighs hurt, twisty, wriggle, toy, fuss, seat, cry, water, wail, water, less wailing, water, getting sick of sound of his own voice, water, sleeeeeeep.
And the last half hour of the flight often ends with Liam snoozing during landing -- except for the rough landing into Cleveland on our last trip, during which Liam puked all over himself, resulting in me mopping up whatever puke I could before we hustled of the plane and Kevin gave him a hobo bath in the men's room and changed his clothes while I scrubbed out the car seat with a baby wipe (while Dylan dangled from my chest) and then fretted about making our connection. Puke is hard to get off those five-point-harness straps. Somebody needs to make a scrub brush and cleanser specifically designed for that. My high-chairs will thank that person.
Dylan, though, has been extremely handy. On one flight, I was seated next to a woman whose husband was a few rows up and over. He asked the girl next to him to trade with his wife, but when they looked over, they saw me and a lap baby smiling awkwardly. The guy's shoulders sagged as he said, "Oh, never mind." The girl assured him she wouldn't object to trading even so, and Dylan rewarded her with a slew of charming crooked grins, napping the length of the trip, and then waking up when we were wheels-down and flirting with her again.
We had a seat kerfuffle on another flight as well -- long story short, on those tiny planes with a lone seat and then a row of two on the other side, lap babies can only sit in the row of two (and only SPECIFIC rows) because there needs to be a bonus oxygen mask. And with our family somehow the gate agents keep trying to put one adult in 7A (who they then say cannot under any circumstances hold one of the children), one adult with lap baby in 7B, and one baby in car seat in 7C, despite the fact that one adult and two babies is NOT OKAY. This last time, we assumed the gate agent knew what he was doing, and it was the on-board stewardess who pointed out the rules. When we point out the idiocy of this plan, politely and without using that word, everyone gets huffy that IT'S THE LAW, totally missing the point that if one adult can't fly with two babies, why can one adult be in a row with two babies and no one to help? Finally, in a fury, we went rogue on the plane and sorted it out ourselves: Kevin/Dylan in 7C, and me and Liam in 8B and 8C, requiring those people to take our 7A and 7B seats. Mass confusion ensued, but the people in those seats were happy to trade even though we could barely explain the problem. As I was telling the kind gentleman in 8C that he should really take my 7A window seat so as not to lose his, the old lady in 8B slid into it and shot us all a smile as if to say, "What? I don't understand!" So the amiable gent in 8C lost his window seat and got stuck in an aisle next to Man With Lap Baby -- and could NOT have been nicer about it. Dylan responded in kind. God bless that child's disposition, and the fact that he inherited his father's propensity for nodding off at the white noise of the aircraft.
Believe it or not, that WAS the short version. I'll spare you the moment I realized that on our Houston-to-Los Angeles flight, they booked us all in different MIDDLE seats -- meaning, yes, Liam -- who when we bought the seat, we clarified was an infant -- was supposed to be in a different row, halfway back, in the middle, with two strangers. Online check-in solved that problem, or else things were going to get real with the gate agents.
Cutest moment: When we landed in Houston, Kevin was holding Dylan in the over-the-shoulder burping position because that's what the crews say is safest. Dylan pushed up on Kevin's legs so he could see over the seat, grabbed it, peered down, saw Liam, and went, "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH" with this HUGE grin on his face. It was like, "HEY! YOU WERE HERE THE WHOLE TIME?!? SHUT UP! WE COULD HAVE BEEN PULLING EACH OTHER'S HAIR!" He did this about five more times while Liam just grinned up at him, cool as a cucumber.
These guys really do gravitate toward each other. Usually, it's for hair-pulling, wrestling, or other mischief that they don't completely understand, but mostly it just seems to please them to be near one another. Sometimes: Liam has decided that, of all the eighteen thousand ways to get from A to B that involve empty space, the one he should choose is the one that involves pulling up to a stand using Dylan's head or shoulders, and then nudging him aside. And of all the eighteen thousand toys in this house, the best one is whatever Dylan is holding. And of all the eighteen thousand books in this house, the best ones are the ones he can eat. Seriously. Neither of these kids cares a whit what's in the books; they just want to know how they taste. Liam ate holes through the covers of two of them. Julie showed me some of those indestructible books -- no story, just picture pages that don't rip -- and we are clearly going to have to invest heavily in those, or else Goodnight Moon is not going to make it. As it is, we're giving it last rites.