It wasn’t like we were stepping foot in a “Higgins” boat, preparing to storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. We weren’t boarding the ill-fated Titanic. We were, however, on the precipice of what could be an extremely frightening situation—boarding a plane with three kids under the age of five.
We did keep walking—more like shuffling—as we made our way to aisles 25 and 26. Unfortunately, our seats were split between two separate rows (3 in row 25 and 1 in row 26). Ashley displayed heroic courage as she said, “You sit behind us, and I’ll sit here with the kids.” She planted herself in the middle seat, placed Owen on her lap, and instructed Sophie to sit on her left and Avery on her right. I watched from a safe distance as one person after the next walked by and did a double-take. I also witnessed others sitting near us, who apparently were stuck with the bad luck stick, each pull out their saucer-like- headphones. I guess they came prepared.
|Ash doing her thing–without even looking.|
I could have pulled out my own headphones and slipped into “nap-land”; However, better judgment prevailed as I remembered I didn’t desire to sleep in the garage or live a life of married celibacy. I poked my head over the seat every few minutes, at first asking how I could help, and then just trying to catch a glimpse of greatness. I was in awe of watching Ashley navigate the situation. She looked like she had 8 arms as she changed diapers, pulled out snacks, gently stroked the side of Sophie’s face, picked up Owen’s pacifier after it had fallen for the hundredth time, and even found time to hand me some food through the cracks of the seats. What a gal.
There were moments when the kids teetered on the verge of a breakdown, but Ashley pulled hard on the yoke each time to prevent the spiraling nosedive. People continued to stare, but I think she was slowly but surely winning the affection of those in the surrounding rows.
The flight was out of Washington D.C., so it was naturally filled with political lobbyists, aids, and others who maintained a frenzied pace in life. Many appeared to be single and ambitious—which meant they had extra large headphones. They were people who understood “juggling”, but their juggling was designed to achieve career and political goals, not prevent child tantrums. When they weren’t staring at us, they were staring at their computer screens trying to beat some approaching deadline. It reminded me of something Walt Harrington had written:
“I worked in Washington, D.C., for fifteen years. It’s a city that has arrived where the rest of America wants to go. It had the highest average household income in the country, the highest proportion of male and female professional workers, the highest percentage of people with college degrees. Yet it’s a city where people don’t have friends—they have associates. It’s a city of frenzy, with working husbands and wives racing to day care before the dollar-a-minute late charge kicks in at 6 p.m. It’s a city that honors work and achievement over all else, where people live for future ambitions without relishing present accomplishments. It’s a city where people seem incapable of living in the moment. It is a city without memory. And Washington is America’s future.”
I admit that having young children will try you at the depth of your soul. My kids have been the red-faced-open-mouthed-screaming-kids on more than one occasion. Just recently, they were all three screaming in unison. It sounded like a bad Dwight Yoakum song, and I wished I could have pulled out my own satellite-dish- sized-headphones. The challenge of raising kids is easy to see—and hear. Anytime kids have a meltdown, eyeballs are naturally attracted to the unfolding scene. People seem to enjoy watching kids meltdown, as long as those kids don’t share their last name and are not sitting next to them on the plane.
It’s certainly messy and challenging, and at times embarrassing, but it’s beautiful. I can’t think of a better way to spend my life. I can’t think of a better legacy to leave.
Yes, it is Avery.
But it’s a lot more beautiful because of children like you.