Now I get it. Now I understand why every single person I told that I was taking four kids to Europe said to me "That's brave." Now I know why they said that. And I know that what they were really thinking was "That's stupid!"
Today was a lot of hurrying to wait. We rushed to the airport, leaving 30 minutes later than we had hoped, cutting it too close for my comfort getting through the check-in line and security, rushing to our gate with only 30 minutes to spare. Scratch that - make that one hour, 45 minutes to spare. Once on the plane, we taxied out to the runway, only to sit for another half hour. Our three-hour layover in Newark ended up being one hour, due to the previous delays, so we rushed again through security and a zillion miles to the gate. Again we had about 30 minutes to spare - scratch that, make it an hour. Plus another hour and a half sitting on the plane. Once the plane started to move away from the gate we were going so slow that if I craned my neck looking out the window I could just see the team of oxen that were pulling the plane. I wanted to offer to get out and push if that would help.
None of that would have been a big deal if I were alone, some business traveler on the way across the pond to close a deal with some bigwig. It's a completely different story when you've got four kids with you.
I thought the first leg of the trip was hard - a 4 hour or so flight from Salt Lake to Newark. There were several empty seats on the flight, so I asked to sit next to one, so Darcey could sit there. Without a car seat, though, an empty seat meant nothing, and a one year old is not nearly as compliant as the same child was at two months old, flying internationally.
It was like Sacrament meeting, except without any praying (other than the people who were praying that my kid would shut up already). She crawled all over me, whacked me in the head, grabbed my glasses, tried to pull my earrings off, or failing that, my whole ear. But overall, it was manageable. People around me were friendly and picked up the things Darcey dropped, and no one gave me the evil eye or applauded when we finally got off the plane.
By the time we got onto the second flight, I had pretty much run out of patience altogether, which made it a supremely bad decision to sit Noah and Zack on either side of me and Darcey. Take Darcey's previous complaining and multiply it by the number of hours of sleep she had missed (roughly four) then add Zack dropping things and not being able to reach them, over and over, plus Noah shoving my arm off our "shared" armrest, plus Zack not being able to hook the headphones over his ears by himself, and you start to get the quantity of horribleness I endured. And that was just when we first got on the plane and thought we had a chance of actually leaving sometime in the near future.
Once the pilot announced that there was a problem with the engine and they were getting some mechanics out to fix it, Noah and Zack were able to start watching their movies and they calmed down. But Darcey was just fried from no sleep and started crying. And crying. And crying.
This is where it stops being like Sacrament meeting. Because at church I can walk out in the foyer, or hand the baby off to Ryan, and almost every single person in the room either doesn't mind the noise or has been/is currently dealing with their own kids, and so won't judge me so harshly. In church I'm not surrounded by 200 strangers wedged into a portable metal cylinder, trying desperately to maintain the American ideal of personal space while sharing a two inch wide armrest with the person next to them, listening to my baby scream and judging the distance they'd have to toss their 3 oz or less bottle of liquid in order to knock the kid unconscious. In church I don't have to worry that the entire congregation will revolt and charge me with their blunt objects and assorted carry-on items. Heck, in church I could always just leave.
No, the second plane ride was not like Sacrament meeting, unless it is like Sacrament meeting in Hell, which is a concept I might have to think more deeply about. And I was so exhausted and frustrated by Darcey that I snapped at Noah and Zack and that kindly gentleman who sat behind us and played peek-a-boo with Darcey. That kind, calm gentleman that Brad was sitting next to, who was obviously relaxed and enjoying himself and who strangely enough bore a very strong resemblance to my children. Funny.
Anyhow, I got angry and snappy and was so worried about Darcey's crying bothering everyone on the plane that I ended up crying, too. Not the loud, screaming sobs that Darcey did, but enough to maybe relieve a little bit of the tension. I don't cry often, but being frustrated with the kids is one thing that usually does the trick.
Four hours after our flight was supposed to leave, and two hours after it actually did leave, Darcey fell asleep. I had asked for a bassinet, but she hated it and I could only lay here in it when I knew she would stay asleep. After an hour in it, and when everyone else on the plane was asleep too, she woke up screaming and I ended up holding her for the last four hours of the flight.
Somehow, though, now that it's morning and I've had a thoroughly mediocre croissant for breakfast, I feel a lot better about the whole situation. Maybe it's because I know the worst is behind me, or maybe it's because what's ahead is so close. Or maybe it's just the leftover good feeling after watching "The Other Boleyn Girl," which is just as lighthearted and upbeat as the real story of Henry and Anne Boleyn. (That was meant as sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell.) Or quite possibly, I'm punch-drunk from being awake for so long. Whatever. All I know is, the long, dark night of Plane Day (as Noah called it) is over - the sun is shining over whatever today is going to be called, Train Day maybe, and I'm happy. If nothing else, 15 hours on planes with 4 children makes you really in need of a vacation.