By Dom Cioffi
Traveling with children can be distressing.
I’m not talking about the meltdowns at grandma’s house or the sugar-infused chaos of being at the amusement park. I’m talking about those precarious moments in between leaving your home and arriving at a destination.
Now obviously there’s not much involved or very distressing about a car ride other than making sure you have all the appropriate gear on hand. That’s easy stuff.
I’m focusing on the top-tier alternatives for traveling, i.e. plane, train, bus or boat.
First and foremost, there’s the concern about losing your child. Any time you’re utilizing a large public mode of transportation, you’re at risk of separation due to crowds and the accompanying chaos.
I’ll admit to a few close calls over the years with my own child. One minute they’re standing next to you holding your hand, the next minute they’ve vanished.
We’ve all seen and read enough horror stories about abducted children to fall into panic mode when this situation arises. I’ve always tried to stay calm, referencing the odds that “he couldn’t have gotten far.”
On the occasions when my son has fallen astray, I’m always greatly relieved to find him and then immediately dismayed by his unconcerned attitude: “Dad, chill out. I was just throwing M&Ms into the mall fountain. It’s no big deal.”
Which leads to another stressor that rears its head during travel: public behavior.
Some parents don’t have to worry about this one since their youngsters are shy wallflowers who say and do very little. I, on the other hand, was dealt a different hand.
My boy takes no issue with climbing onto the furniture while we’re in the lobby of a nice hotel. There I am, checking in and getting information on nearby restaurants; there he is, seeing how far he can jump off the end of an antique gold leaf table.
He’s also has no qualms about throwing food in fancy restaurants, peeing in full view of joggers in Central Park, yelling “Where’s Pluto!” during Cinderella’s solo rendition of “Sing Sweet Nightingale” at Disney World, or “accidentally” swiping another kid’s boogie board while at the ocean.
And he does all of this with the most endearing charisma you’ve ever witnessed – never has he misbehaved with malice. In fact, most of the time he’s in as much shock as I am when I bring to attention why his behavior was inappropriate.
Admittedly, he’s older now and not so inclined to bring attention to himself. My concerns now (which are highlighted when traveling) are more focused on his spacial awareness.
This came to a head recently when he and I were aboard a US Airways flight to North Carolina.
This flight is roughly two hours long; very bearable as far as flying is concerned.
Nowadays, parents have the 24-hour babysitter called iPad and the 17 gazillion mindless apps that can be loaded onto it. I initially bought one for my son for educational purposes, but the only thing its educated him in is wasting time.
Nevertheless, there we were mid-way through the flight; he was furiously tapping on the iPad and I was reading my book and enjoying the noise-canceling feature on my headphones.
At that point he did something he would later describe to me as “incredibly amazing.” Whatever it was – an undiscovered cavern in Minecraft, a mountain toppling event in Angry Birds, a battlefield coup in Clash of Clans – he felt it was so epic that I needed to know every detail.
I no sooner had my headphones off when, in all his excitement to clue me into his accomplishment, he swung his iPad around and plowed through my very full, airline provided, plastic cup of sparkling mineral water.
The cup tipped perfectly over the edge of the seat tray and directly between my legs.
I was stunned. He was stunned. The look I shot him soon after was one of incredible anger because his reaction was to pull his shirt over his head and sit there shaking.
I then performed my single greatest Buddhist calming technique and motioned for a stewardess to bring me paper towels, which did little to help. It seems my pants did a wonderful job soaking up the majority of the fluid. The rest gently seeped into the cushion to completely freak out the next passenger assigned to that seat.
Eventually my son’s head popped out of his shirt and I graciously accepted his apology. No real damage was done other than to my ego, which was tested as I later walked though the terminal looking like someone with a malfunctioning bladder.
All in all it was a minor emergency.
Real emergencies obviously involve major injuries or illnesses and require the help of trained professionals. This week’s feature, “Code Black,” is a documentary featuring the emergency room at Los Angeles County Hospital, arguably the birthplace of emergency medicine in the United States and one of the busiest ER’s in the country.
If you love documentaries and have an interest in our out-of-control healthcare system, be sure to check this one out. It’s graphic and disturbing at times, but it also highlights some amazing individuals who have given their lives to helping people during life’s most catastrophic moments.
An urgent “B” for “Code Black.” Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.