My second child was born during a time when John was traveling a lot. So much travel in fact that I was known to say, “If you won’t be home for at least three days, don’t bother.” I wanted to be with him, but it really messed with our routine if he was only home for a short stay.
Thankfully, he was home for the birth of our second daughter, Hero; but he had to travel soon after. We missed him terribly. At one point, he called me from Brazil and said, “If you can meet me in Argentina, we can spend a couple of weeks together.”
“You want me to take a 22-month-old and a 2-month-old to Argentina by myself?” I asked.
“You can totally do it.” he said.
I decided to believe him, even though he didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.
The baby would be a breeze (comparably) as long as my breast was available, but what would I do about the almost 2-year-old? Kids that age are very active, independent, and inquisitive, but they have absolutely no ability to reason. None. Try as I may, I’ve never been able to effectively explain to a toddler why getting out of the airplane mid-flight isn’t an option.
Distraction is the only hope.
My dear friend, Kat Dayton, gave us a little backpack for the trip. It was the perfect size for little Cora. There were a few goodies inside: a new book, a My Little Pony she named Kiki (after her buddy Zeke, because she couldn’t say his name), a tiny Etch-a-sketch, and a candy necklace.
An idea struck while I was busy adding a few more things: I needed to wrap the items like presents. I knew that if I could reward her for being good with a little present when needed, it might just get me through the 24 hours of airports and airplanes.
I wrapped snacks in one color: boxes of raisins, a juice box, crackers, etc.
I wrapped little bits of entertainment in another paper: crayons, small notebook, stickers, alphabet flash cards, etc.
It worked. It worked because she didn’t have access to everything at once, and because I never gave a gift when her behavior wasn’t good. It was a long, long day, but we made it. That flight has become my proudest travel-with-kids moment. The one that made me actually believe, “Okay, I can do this.”
This is why we have the TOC travelpack. The items inside are replaceable (except the Cornelius zen pillow — he’d kill me if I implied he wasn’t special) but kids love them. The items are not individually wrapped, but if you can carve out a little time before a trip, I recommend doing this, especially for young travelers. Items are noise and mess free, although I’m convinced kids can make noise and messes with anything.
The TOC travelpack has an inflatable globe, a little flashlight, some crayons, a notebook, and several other items including the candy necklace — an homage to that first trip. I should maybe apologize for the necklace, but I won’t. Your child will definitely have a white, chalky smile as a result of the candy necklace; however, when they get it during take of and landing, all that suck / bite / swallow helps with ear pressure. Cornelius likes to help with ear trouble and fatigue, too. He’s stuffed with steel-cut oats and pure lavender essential oil. He can even be warmed by a flight attendant if ears or attitudes take a turn for the worse.
If only Cornelius were able to babysit a child when it was time for me to use the lavatory, so that I didn’t have to bring both kids with me. Now that was a trick.