We sat quietly, Ben finally sleeping on my lap after nine hours of traveling by car and plane. I shifted a bit to ease the cramping in my back, but the squeak of the rubbery seat nearly woke him up, and I resigned myself to the discomfort. Having arrived in San Francisco mostly unscathed, Ben’s dad and uncles went off to collect luggage, rental car and snacks, leaving us to a few minutes of midnight snuggling at Baggage Claim.
Our adventure had started earlier that afternoon with a harried ride to Midway. Amidst the debate about the best way to get to the airport in rush hour traffic, I realized that Ben’s stroller was leaning against our garage door, where I had the foresight to leave it so that it would not be forgotten. The debate over directions turned into arguing over whether or not we had time to turn around, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the stroller represented a bad travel omen. I had been stressing for weeks about traveling with a two-year-old, and the trip couldn’t have started more hectically.
We pushed on, stroller-less. At the cheapo parking lot we unloaded an obscene amount of luggage and rode the shuttle to the airport, at which point I realized we had left Ben’s car seat strapped into the car. Unlike the stroller, the car seat was a mandatory component of our trip, so we stayed on the shuttle, rode back to the lot, unloaded the car seat, and rode back to the airport. Bad omen number two.
I waited for the next ominous warning as we made our way through baggage check and security. Ben enjoyed his first McDonalds dinner, and I did not enjoy our first airport diaper change. Car seat in tow, we boarded the plane omen-free.
Thankfully we did not forget the iPad, whose Angry Birds, Thomas the Tank apps, and Sesame Street episodes kept our kid quiet (though awake and eager to kick the seat in front of him) for the majority of the flight. The trip was free of whining and crying, much to the relief of every passenger (except for the kicked guy in front of us, who dealt with the situation by drinking excessively). I started to relax, and wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry when Ben finally fell asleep just before we landed.
By the time we got to Baggage Claim, Ben was sound asleep in my arms, and I was eagerly anticipating a peaceful ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, and a cozy bed waiting for me in Santa Rosa.
Then I felt something warm and wet spreading over my lap. I closed my eyes, told myself I was imagining it, looked down, and promptly started to panic.
I looked around for my husband and my brothers, who had left me alone with the luggage and Ben, but saw no sign of them. The rubbery chair, now defiled by my child’s pee, squawked as I twisted and turned to keep my soaked clothes from touching my skin, all while holding a drenched toddler who I did not want to wake up.
My brother finally returned and helped me get a clean diaper and change of clothes from the suitcase. I changed Ben on the airport floor, desperate to get him clean as quickly as possible so that I could get clean as quickly as possible. I grabbed a fresh outfit from my luggage and made a break for the bathroom, avoiding eye contact with strangers while trying to follow the directional signage. A security guard snickered as I tried in vain to hide the enormous wet spot on my pants.
Alone in the bathroom stall, I started to laugh. Bad omen numbers one and two did not hold a candle to this, the epitome of a Traveling with Toddler Horror Story. Confident that the remainder of our journey could only get better, I tossed the soaked clothes in the trash and finished getting dressed. Applauding myself for my great attitude, I opened the bathroom door, heard Ben screaming “I WANT MY MOMMY” from across the airport, and promptly started crying.