the magic word


When traveling with a baby and a toddler, there IS a magic word. 

It's not please.

It's yes.
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Want to swipe through all the pictures on Mommy's iPhone while eating yogurt raisins and leaving a white crusty smear with every swipe? Yes! 

Want a binky for no reason except that you saw another kid in the airport with a binky, even though we have a long-standing, ironclad "binkies are for bedtime" rule? Sounds like a great idea to me! How about 2?

You'd like another cup of juice? Abso-fucking-lutely! How many is that today, 5? 6? That's a new record buddy! Way to go!

You'd like some pretzels? Wait... didn't you just eat a whole quart-sized Baggie of Cheerios and Goldfish? You did? Well then I think it's pretzel time, bitches! Woop woop!

You want to see what happens when you peel apart a page of your brand-new airport board book? Holy shit, I bet there's something AWESOME in there! Peel it! Peel it! Peel it!

You smell like a Major League Baseball stadium urinal, pal. And you look like you're smuggling a queen-sized duvet and matching shams into the country by stashing them in your pants. I think it's time for a diaper change. What's that? You'd rather have another cup of juice? Why didn't I think of that! Great idea! We can wash these pants later, right? Twice, probably.

Two and a half straight hours on the iPad? Sounds like culture and education to me! I think you should just open every single app and then say "all done this" and demand a movie. Would you prefer Nemo or Monsters Inc? And can I get you another cup of juice with that? Some more pretzels?

Oh, no, I totally agree. Opening and closing the airplane window shade is fucking amazing. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Can you make it snap a little more when you close it though? YES! Just like that!

You are so right. When  we get off the plane we should walk in the opposite direction of baggage claim. No, you know what? We should run. That's just good thinkin right there. 

Wait wait wait wait wait you want to ride the escalator up... And then down... Then up... Then down... Then up again... Then down one more time... You know what? I say thee YEA, Chicken. I say thee YEA.

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I knew I was taking a risk with this plan of near-unconditional acquiescence. It could have all gone horribly wrong.

I was afraid that if I said yes to binkies all day on Friday, I'd spend all day on Saturday prying open Chicken's jaws and then going to my happy place during his meltdowns. I was afraid that, like a house cat, Chicken would accept the most pleasurable experiences of his life as what should be the norm, and I'd have to bushwhack my way back to everyday life where I have to try to teach him respect and nutrition and hygiene and how to deal with the disappointment of having to hear Mommy say no sometimes. I was afraid that if I bent or even broke the rules on this one day, we would pay for it for weeks to come. 

But as much as I feared turning my toddler into a brat, I was more afraid of what would happen when Chicken went boneless on the jetway, and I'd be standing there with a baby strapped to my chest, a backpack on my back, a diaper bag across my body, an umbrella stroller on my shoulder, and no fucking idea what to do.

As far as I am concerned, airports and airplanes are like Amsterdam or Vegas.  Unless you murder a vagrant, lick a door handle, or start pulling red levers, the only other way you can go wrong in places like these is by being uptight. Roll with it, and find ways to use that magic word as often as you can.

I discovered that most of what Chicken wanted was acceptable to me in the context of a day in Amsterdam, even though they were habits that I wouldn't encourage when looking at long-range parenting tactics. Do I want him to spend his life eating salty processed food and drinking sugar water? Sure don't! Do I think it's worth it to make my life easier today and give Chicken a rush of joy and something to do for the next 30 minutes? Sure do!

The day after flying we were back on our routine: binkies stay in bed, one snack a day, juice is for special occasions, and diaper changes happen when needed. Chicken accepted the return to normal life with barely a blink. I didn't burn down my toddler's schedule by being agreeable and bending the rules. Instead, I gave him a day of vacation, a day when he could do whatever he wanted (within the boundaries of personal safety and respecting other travelers.) It worked because we weren't home, and he accepted that the rules were different in this stale-air-smelling building. It's probably his favorite place on Earth now. He had a blast. Unexpectedly, I did too.

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