family, flying, motherhood, parenthood, parenting

United – Where Is The Help Button?

So much of parenting involves improvisation and creativity. The situations that we find ourselves in as parents are often so ridiculously improbable that all I can do is laugh – or cry (of course). At the same time, I have a great sense of satisfaction, of patting myself on the back, when I live through these situations and even manage to get to the other side in one piece.

Take my recent flight.

I can count on one hand, or perhaps more likely on one finger, the amount of times that I’ve flown by myself.

I don’t fly well.

I have a history of passing out on take-offs and landings; when I’m not passing out, I’m feeling nauseous or unsettled and anxious. For this reason, I’ve tried not to fly by myself, and certainly not to fly with anyone who needs my attention.

But circumstances last week dictated that I needed to cross the globe by myself, with four kids under my watch. I was terrified of the thousands of things that could go wrong and of the many ways that I might find myself incapable of caring for the kids. They are old enough that I knew they would rise to the challenge and they are amazing travelers, rarely even engaging with us on flights as they eat/sleep/read/draw/watch movies; but I wasn’t sure that I would rise to the challenge quite as well.

The flight from LA to San Francisco was uneventful and we were ready to head from San Francisco to Tel Aviv. Typically, during take-off, I keep my eyes closed and try to practice deep breathing.

It was during one of these deep breaths that I heard, “Mommy,” very faintly. They know not to bother me during take-off and landing, and I couldn’t imagine what one of them could need.

“Mommy,” again with increased intensity.

“Mommy” for a third time and I opened my eyes to search for the culprit, only to see blood pouring out of my 14 year old’s nose.

I was so startled that I didn’t know what to do. I was across an aisle and another two seats from him. We were literally seconds after take-off so I couldn’t have him tilt his seat back; I couldn’t find the button to call the flight attendant (where are those buttons on the seats these days??) and I had no tissues, napkins, bags or other items to give him.

After surveying my area for napkins, trying to find that damn flight attendant button and panicking for a second I said, “Amichai, put your seat back! Put your head back!” As he did that (yes, against regulation) I grabbed one of those pillows they give you on the plane and started trying to rip the cover off. I wasn’t sure that the pillow came with a pillow case, but I was definitely going to find out. Victorious, I threw the pillow case across the aisle and watched it pathetically float about. Miraculously, he caught it in time to stop the blood from flowing any further.

I told him to sit tight with his head slightly back and the pillow case on his nose and to relax until we leveled out. I still couldn’t find the button for help. I gave up on that plan and told him when he was able to get up and get to the bathroom before anyone accused him of a bloody crime.

It was quite the scene.

Once everything settled down, I was able to joke with him about the situation. This is a kid who has never had a bloody nose in his life; and he took the opportunity to have his first while I was white-knuckling it as a single-parent on a plane with a slew of them.

Gotta love his timing.

But he did manage to distract me from my fear during take-off and to enable me to give myself a pat on the back for ingenuity. I can only imagine how much United enjoyed cleaning up this ingenuity which we left under his seat.

We kept that our little secret.

Another day of adventures on this journey called parenthood.

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