My Unaccompanied Minor

This week brings with it a new parenting milestone: the first time my child flies as an “unaccompanied minor.” Concurrent with this, I will descend into a neurotic ball of Jewish mother hysteria. 

My 7 yo son will be flying cross country because his Uncle on the opposite coast is getting married and the Ex is already out there. I’m not attending, so – short of a teleportation – the only way to get G there is by airplane, solo.

Folks, there is not enough Klonopin in the world. (Not for him, of course. For me. Just in case that was unclear.)

Now, it’s not like my son hasn’t flown before. His first flight was at the ripe old age of 3 months. Since then, he’s taken multiple long flights, zigzagging all across the country. This past spring, he even took his first international flight when we went on vacation to Costa Rica. But on each and every one of those flights, I or a respective grandmother was there

When the Ex was a kid, he flew all the time as an unaccompanied minor. His dad was a pilot and his mom a flight attendant, so yeah. He is the one who booked G’s solo voyage (hello, surprise flight confirmation in my email!), telling me “It’s no big deal” and “You cannot let him know you’re nervous about this.” He also assured me that I would walk G onto the plane and he would walk him off. Aside from sitting on the plane itself, G would not be alone. 

As if those were my only concerns. My Google search history reads like that of a Cheetos-covered, Angry Birds-playing adolescent on the verge of emotional collapse:

  • iPhone battery life while playing Mino Monsters
  • Are there outlets on airplanes?
  • How many snacks will an airline provide a child? What if he’s really hungry? Do additional reallys = additional snacks? Past a certain number of snacks, is a parental note required?
  • How do you purchase meals on a plane without a credit card? Does extra cash work? How about crying?
  • Changing your plane seat if the person beside you seems creepy
  • Stuffed animals lost on airplanes

And, it only gets worse from there.

Mamas – do any of you have experience with unaccompanied minors? Any tips to make his flight as enjoyable as possible? Any wines you’d recommend I try while his flight is in air? 

The Popcorn Episode

When you have young children, you have stories – lots of stories. You have stories that most people wouldn’t believe unless they, too, have had small children. You think you’ll never forget these incidents when they happen. Then a year goes by, maybe two, and suddenly you’re struggling to remember even the most basic details. So, I’m choosing to write down what I can before I forget entirely.

Like this gem:

G was three years old (he’s now seven). It was late at night and we were two water breaks, four stories, and a whole lot of my patience into bedtime. When he came downstairs for the hundredth time, I was just settling in to watch some TV. 

“Are you going to make popcorn tonight?” he asked hopefully. 

I glanced over at the pot on the stove – filled with hot oil, waiting for my nightly batch of kernels – and then back to my preschooler. Sleep was close; I couldn’t risk undoing hours of bedtime work with an affirmative answer.

“No,” I lied. “Back upstairs.”

“Okay,” he said. “Just don’t make popcorn without me.”

“Sure. I won’t.”

It was a white lie. No sooner had I tucked him back into bed than I had kernels popping on the stove. G was asleep and I was safe to enjoy my habitual popcorn and TV nightcap. He would be none the wiser and I could make him his own popcorn the next day. Win-win, I thought.

Unfortunately, I left the empty bowl with a few tattling kernels on the coffee table. Also unfortunately, G awoke before me the next morning. When I came downstairs, he was curled up on the couch watching the latest episode of Thomas the Train. (Yes, he knew how to turn the television on and navigate the On-Demand section. We teach important life skills early around here.)

“Morning, baby,” I said. Seeing the evidence, I went quickly to the bowl, hoping to remove it before he noticed what had been in it.

I picked it up and immediately put in back down again. There was some watery liquid in the bottom.

“What happ — did you pour water in here?”

“No.” He didn’t look up from Thomas. “I peed in there.”

I stared, flabbergasted, at my very potty trained child who had never peed anywhere other than a diaper or a toilet. 

“You PEED in the BOWL?” I could barely get the words out.

“Yes,” he nodded, eyes never leaving the screen. 

I took the bowl over to the sink. As I scrubbed it under the hottest, soapiest water imaginable, I realized the thumb-sucking three-year old had just given me a very deliberate f-you. 

And I never lied about making popcorn again.

Boston Marathon 2013

Yesterday, as I’m sure you know, the 117th Boston Marathon was tragically interrupted by two consecutive bombs that went off blocks apart, right by the finish line. Two hundred people were hurt. A few died. Thousands came within one mile of completing the marathon, only to be stopped just before reaching Boylston St.

I grew up in Boston and (after a hiatus to Seattle) live here once more. I love “Marathon Monday” an unhealthy amount and have fuzzy memories of watching the race as a kid. I’m even a runner myself with hopes (delusions?) of someday running those 26.2. So, there are plenty of things that, in theory, connect me to what happened yesterday. Plenty of permutations of the universe where “I could have been there.” But — here’s the thing: I wasn’t. I was at home, a good 20 miles away, half-working and half-streaming the marathon from my laptop.

Any time there’s a tragedy, people want to relate to it, to discuss how they personally feel affected.  I remember when 9/11 happened. I remember talking with friends over meals in college, with family on the phone. That was 2001. Before Facebook, before Twitter. Now, with social media so prevalent, all of these discussions, these comments, are incredibly public. My Facebook feed is a series of profile picture changes and quotes about our hometown. On Twitter, every other tweet has a hastag like #prayforboston or #bostonbomb attached to it. Rather than this outpouring feeling warm and fuzzy, however, it all feels very hollow and I have been thinking about why that might be.

In my opinion, there are two ways to view this behavior. One is that this is a form of survivor’s guilt. An outpouring of emotion, an attempt at empathy. The other, less flattering view, is that it’s part of an innate desire to be part of something, a way of publicly marking yourself as part of the inner circle of this tragedy. But, unless you were actually there, you weren’t. No matter how many vectors connect you to Boston or to running, unless you or someone you love was at the event, you weren’t. There is no “almost” or “could have been.” If the decision tree of life branched ever so slightly differently, you could have been at a myriad of terrible events. But you weren’t. And you should be thankful for that.

My feelings right now are likely hypocritical. After Newtown, I couldn’t stop crying. My son is a 1st grader and all I could think about were those poor parents who were enduring what had to be the worst possible thing that any human could ever have to endure. I was panicked and a bit hysterical and felt almost obligated to empathize with those families.

However, in stepping back from Newtown, what I realized was that no amount of hysteria or even empathy was going to solve the problems that led to such an event. “Sending my thoughts to Newtown” was no more going to help the families nor prevent future incidents than “praying for Boston” will now. The only person who benefited from such proclamations, in reality, was me. It was a subconscious form of self-indulgence.

I truly believe the best thing we can do in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings (and other terrible events) is to take a step back and look at the situation as rationally as possible. While I certainly don’t know who did this or why, I do know that so long as there are mentally ill people in the world, so long as there is human discord, tragedies like this will occur. The most important thing we can do is understand how best to prevent them in the future. What circumstances drove this person or group to want to do this? How can we mitigate those circumstances? How easy was it for them to gain access to the race? What is the right balance of security at future events? These are the types of questions we need to focus on if we really want to effect good. No hastags, no profile photos. Serious conversations and challenging questions.

Less praying, more problem-solving.

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Founder of SittingAround. Chaser of 6 year olds. Want to know more? >>