Oh, the Places You’ll Go

If you are an expat in Germany with children, at some point or the other you will probably have to endure that oh-so-anticipated but oh-so-dreaded journey of traveling home to wherever you hail from. If your kids are over the age of 5 or 6, the trip may not be so difficult, but if your kids are younger — be prepared!

Just when you think you have thought of everything, you are sitting on the airplane ready to relax for the next one or two or eight or nine hours, you realize that all of the pacifiers are in the bottom of the bag that you spontaneously checked at the check-in counter, hoping to save yourself from carrying one more thing, and the formula you brought is within reach, but the boiled water in the thermos had to be dumped out at security and the water that the flight attendants so nicely bring you is just that — boiling — and the baby is screaming and the two-year-old won’t sit down. Oh the joys!

I thought I was done with all this when my older two passed the age of not understanding why they had to sit down and be quiet while the plane is ascending or descending. We got through all of this before security was so tight and before they stopped letting you bring water with you. I bought Leap Pads and headphones and they were happy for a good while on the plane. During one harrowing flight with me on my own with a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old in which we had to transfer to Detroit in Toronto, the older one threw up on the bus between terminals and I discovered I had no clean clothes for her and no Canadian dollars and no credit card. Some kind soul bought us a Canada T-shirt and she wore it as a dress for the short flight to Detroit (under great protest). Of course, I had to clear two sets of customs with one sick child and one tired child whose skinny little legs couldn’t face walking anymore beforehand, and was forced to plead with the gate agents to provide me with an escort so we wouldn’t miss our flight. On the first leg of this same journey, a nice Irishman actually handed the older one 20 Euros and said they were the best-behaved kids he had ever experienced on a long-haul flight. Too bad he wasn’t flying to Detroit; I could have used the help!

Now these two are old enough to be thrilled to watch as many movies as they can fit in over eight or nine hours on their personal screens built into the seats — thank you Northwest — and the only complaint they have is about the food. Unfortunately, I’m starting over again with the small children. Soon we will be flying home with an almost two-year-old and a seven-month-old. The almost two-year-old is of the friendly sort that tends to confuse grumpy German people  with her overt friendliness. She talks to everyone and greets everyone and shakes hands and shares food. This may be amusing for the first hour of the flight, but after that it could get ugly. We can only hope that the 7-month-old makes full use of the bassinet and sleeps at least some of the way.

So as we prepare for the trip in the next couple of weeks, I’ll try to think of everything we could possibly need and pack the diaper bag accordingly. Unfortunately, what generally happens is, I’ll either forget something vital or whatever it is is buried in one of the seven nifty pockets of said bag or has fallen on the floor or under the seat in front of us. No matter how many books you bring, the kids are bound to get bored after approximately 47 minutes of flying time is behind you. So all of that parenting wisdom goes down the train. The two-year-old, who is hardly allowed to watch any TV at home, may simply be given a pair of headphones and plugged into Dora the Explorer until she falls asleep. And since she is currently our only child who isn’t picky about food, I can always keep her happy with sugar. How much chocolate am I allowed to bring in my carry on? Is that considered bribery?