I’ve always believed that jet lag was for amateurs. When one grows up sleeping behind the seat or on the floor of the tractor their mom is driving, or behind your dad on a forklift, one can sleep anywhere — including tiny, sardine-sized airline seats. Which means, when you step off that plane looking worse than your passport photo, all you need is a quick shower and you are ready to adventure or work. That belief has been upheld until this last trip to the Orient — a trip on which my 3-year-old’s bladder just couldn’t keep up with the airline apple juice and ginger ale.
“I gotta go to the bathroom, Mommy.”
It seemed we hadn’t been back in our seats 30 minutes when I heard, “Daddy, I gotta go again.”
I closed my eyes. At least he wasn’t asking me.
“Wake up, wake up. I gotta go.” I felt little fingers push up my eyelids. “I gotta go bad.”
Still later, “Are you sleeping? I gotta go pee.”
I hummed the tune to “The Wheels in the Bus,” as I unbuckled my son and watched as he held his daddy’s hand down the long aisle back to the cramped little airplane bathroom.
This toddler in the plane goes up and down, up and down, up and down
the toddler in the plane goes up and down, all the long flight through
Finally arriving home, after more than 30 hours of bathroom breaks in cars, buses and planes, rummy didn’t begin to describe our bleary eyes and achy muscles. Falling into bed seemed like the best thing to do, but it was the middle of the day, and both my husband and I had work to catch up on. Finally, 7 p.m. arrived, and we gratefully collapsed into bed. I am pretty sure that we were asleep before our eyelids had closed. Unfortunately, the wonderful feeling of sleep was more elusive for our 3-year old. Pretty soon, my eyelids were peeled open: “Mommy, I’m hungry. Mommy... mommy?”
My lips felt thick as I tried talking. I tried encouraging him to go find something in the fridge. There had to be something in there he could eat: cottage cheese, butter, frosting, candy bars — anything so that I didn’t have to move. It seemed to work, for a few minutes. Too soon he was back, “Mommy, I’m thirsty. Mommy... mommy!”
This time I pushed him off to my husband, and I rolled over. What seemed like minutes later he was back. “Mommy, I can’t sleep.”
I groaned, “I thought Daddy was going to get you something to drink?”
“I already drank it,” he chirped cheerfully. “Sing me songs. Pleeeeease, Mommy? Please?”
This became a nightly routine for nearly a week. Regardless of how early we woke him up or how hard we tried to keep him from napping, he would fall asleep around 7 or 8 — and be wide awake by 10 p.m. My husband and I had never felt so jet-lagged in our lives. Up for a glass of water, I glared at the clock on the oven. We have got to stop meeting this way 4 a.m., I glared at blurry blue numbers. We’re supposed to be pillow friends, not kitchen mates!
One evening after I had sung every one of my son’s favorite songs at least half a dozen times, I told him it was Daddy’s turn to tell him a story. My eyes burned, and my legs throbbed. I wanted sleep. I needed sleep. My toddler leaped over the top of me, and I felt him jump on my husband’s snoring body.
“Tell me a story, Daddy! Mommy said you’d tell me a story!”
My husband groaned, and had I cared to open my eyes, I am sure he was sending me a dirty look — or at least a dirty vibe, his eyes may have been too tired to open enough to send a look.
“It was a dark and stormy night...” his story started. Soon my sleep was again interrupted by a squirming kid thrashing around under the covers.
“Too scary, Daddy! Too scary!”
Scary bear stories. My husband was telling our son, who was having trouble going to sleep, scary bear stories. Now he was wide awake — and scared!
“No more stories, just songs,” he pleaded.
My husband acquiesced and began singing in a quiet voice:
Five little monkeys swinging from the trees
teasing Mr. Crocodile you can’t catch me
along comes Mr. Crocodile, hungry as can be
... and CHOMPED (he suddenly lunged at the covers hiding our son) that monkey right out of the tree.
He sang the song over and over, counting down with each “chomped” monkey. Soon our son was squealing and hiding — scared and hyper — and not a chance in this world that he was going to sleep the rest of the night.
I felt kind of like that hungry, cranky, crocodile — ready to chomp something — and I decided that my earlier belief needed to be modified: Jet lag is for amateurs — and parents of toddlers!