Getting to and from the airport is sometimes a challenge when we visit my in-laws in Maryland; we are six people and they don’t have a minivan. In an effort to make things easier on my in-laws, we’ve been flying in and out of the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in DC when visiting them, since there is a metro right at the airport, instead of flying into the Baltimore Washington International Airport.
So that’s what we did last Friday when we landed in D.C. Sure, it wasn’t a breeze taking the metro from the airport to their town in Silver Spring with four cranky kids, three suitcases, three backpacks, and a guitar after traveling for two and half hours on an airplane, but it was doable and we know helpful it was to Nana and Zaide. We decided, however, to make the trip to the airport more convenient for the way home, and so we came up with the perfect, not to mention, stress-free grand plan.
The plan was simple. Wednesday morning, the day of our flight home, we packed all of our luggage and carry on items, which included dinner and snacks for the kids, crayons, play dough, books, as well as the all time airplane savior: the DVD player, into Zaide’s car. The plan was then to take the metro to D.C. and spend the morning visiting a museum or two, eating lunch at Eli’s Restaurant, and then taking the metro straight to the airport to be there by 2:30 p.m. for our 4 p.m. flight. This perfect plan would leave plenty of time to meet Zaide who would bring the luggage, check in our luggage, get our boarding passes, and get through security with time still to use the restrooms and get on the plane in peace.
Despite my clear hatred for the metro, which consistently made it pretty difficult for our family of six to get in and out of (every time one of our tickets wouldn’t work and we would have to find a security person to assist us), I even told my mother-in-law that her plan was brilliant.
That morning everything seemed to go surprisingly smoothly. We woke up, got dressed, ate breakfast, packed up, and put everything in the car by 9 a.m. We even arrived to D.C. by 10 a.m. just in time for the museums to open. We split up and some of us went to the Air and Space Museum and the rest of us went to the Smithsonian. What a perfect morning: happy children, happy parents, not to mention a happy Nana who was excited that her plan was working to the tee. After eating a hearty lunch at Eli’s, we went back on the metro and we arrived at the airport by 2:30 p.m., exactly on time. “I can’t believe we made it precisely on schedule,” said my husband Uri. “We couldn’t have timed it more perfectly.”
But just as Uri said those last words to me, we heard Nana talking to Zaide on the phone saying, “Oh no. You need to turn around! You are at the wrong airport! We are at DC not BWI!” The grand plan was crashing down before our eyes and our whole day went from order to chaos in a matter of seconds.
When Nana got off the phone, she shared with us that Zaide got confused and went all the way to the Baltimore airport accidentally. By Uri’s calculations, he figured that it would now take his father an hour and a half minimally to get to the correct airport on time. What does this all mean? We realized our choices: we could cancel our flight, wait for our luggage, and try to get on the next flight. Or we could split up and half of us go on our scheduled flight (without our carry on items, etc.) and half of us wait for Zaide.
After two minutes of quick deliberation we decided to split up: I would take Liat (age 21 months) and Elyon (age 8.5) and get on our 4 p.m. flight. As we approached the line to get through security, we said our goodbyes to the rest of our family, leaving two crying children, Adi (3.5) and Itai (6.5) who wanted to go with us–that was never part of the perfect plan.
After getting through security I quickly and desperately stocked up on snacks, not caring that I just paid $10 for a bag of pretzels. How was I going to get through a flight, even with only two of my kids, without any of our deliberately packed variety of games and snacks that were still in Zaide’s car on the highway?
It was at that moment that I realized it was time to let go of “the plan” or rather acknowledge that “the plan” let go of me. We had tried so hard, like we often do in life, to be in control and save ourselves from the normal chaos of life. But at that moment I knew that if I held on to “the plan,” I would only continue to experience anxiety and frustration. And so I consciously made a decision to relinquish control and allow myself to walk freely onto the plane in an attempt to embrace my new situation calmly and positively. By the way, much to my surprise, Uri and the kids ended up getting on the plane literally two minutes before moving onto the runway, and we were all together as “planned.”
However, we both understood, without saying a word, as we took our deep breathes of relief, that much more important than being in control, was realizing that it takes great strength in life is to realize when you have to let go.
For more on traveling with kids, read 10 tips for surviving road trips with kids, 10 tips for flying with kids, and how traveling internationally with kids is a lot like giving birth,