For the last three weeks since we got back to the UK I’ve been meaning to write up something about this last trip to the US and especially about what an amazing traveler Elisabeth was.
I was a lot more anxious going into this trip than I was about our trip in March-April 2009 when Elisabeth was just three months old. Back then she was much more portable and not mobile. I was worried that this time around the long flight would be very difficult with Elisabeth not being happy sitting on our laps and wanting to get down and walk around a lot and getting upset when she couldn’t. It turns out I worried needlessly. She was an absolutely fantastic traveler – slept about half of the London -> Chicago flight and happily played on our laps for most of the rest of it. I took her walking up and down the aisles a couple of times and she happily toddled around wanting to check out everything and stopping to say hi to everyone she passed, especially the kids. She was a big hit, and the flight attendants were very impressed with her.
The only bad thing about that flight was our seats. We weren’t able to get bulkhead seats, and regular economy seating on United transatlantic flights is so squashed and uncomfortable. At one point the woman sitting in front of me completely reclined her seat and hit Elisabeth on the head with her seat! And then she couldn’t understand what we were upset about and was completely unapologetic. A flight attendant tried to intervene but couldn’t do much more than suggest I recline my seat as well which didn’t actually create that much more space for Elisabeth. Traveling in economy if you aren’t in a bulkhead or exit row seat is uncomfortable enough, doing it with a kid is ridiculous.
The first week of our trip we were in Grand Rapids and while it was lovely to be there staying with Christina & David and visiting lots of friends and former colleagues, it was made rather difficult by Elisabeth’s process of adjusting to the time change. She woke around 4:00-4:30 every morning, bright eyed and ready for the day. Ugh! Somehow we made it through that and kept our sanity in tact – just barely at times, though.
The next week and a half (Dec 19th-30th) – after an overnight at my sister Dana’s house in Morton Grove, Illinois (just on the north side of Chicago) – was spent at my parents’ house in DeMotte, Indiana. It was so lovely spending time with my family especially since this time Elisabeth was old enough to interact much more with my niece Leah who is seven months older than Elisabeth. At first Leah was a little suspicious of this new kid who was getting so much attention from her Oma (my mother) and Tante (my sister Erin) but she warmed up pretty quickly. Elisabeth, as usual, just glowed with all the extra attention she got with lots of relatives around. And James and I got a night away on our own. We left Elisabeth in DeMotte one night while we went and spent the night at a hotel in Chicago. What a treat!
We stayed in DeMotte a day longer than we had been planning because we were reluctant to take Elisabeth away from her Oma & Opa. But we had friends to see and parties to attend in Nashville, so on the 30th we piled into my parents’ minivan and, along with my sister Erin, drove the 7 hours to Nashville. Elisabeth was a trooper on the car journey. She wasn’t that thrilled about spending so long in a car seat (something she hardly ever does in the UK since we don’t own a car) but she managed and at least didn’t make us feel like we were torturing her the whole time.
Our week and a half in Nashville was a great conclusion to our US trip. We spent the first night at the Weavers’ – who we had never met – as none of our other friends had room for us that night. They were amazingly hospitable, and their seven-year-old daughter Julia was fantastic with Elisabeth. The rest of our time in Nashville was split between staying with the Dave & Sarah Dark and their three kids and with Trevor & Jenna Henderson (Elisabeth’s American godparents) and their two boys. Elisabeth loved being around other kids so much and was fantastic with all the adults. Having a kid who is very social and is happy being with just about anyone who will pay attention to her certainly makes trips like this a lot easier!
Our trip home was delayed by a day, but the bright side is that we were upgraded to business class for our Chicago -> London flight and got to spend our 7 hour layover in Chicago in the Red Carpet Club. While James and I didn’t get much sleep on the overnight flight, having wide seats that fully reclined made it a lot easier to keep Elisabeth asleep on us. As we were debarking in London, one of the flight attendants said to me that he would be happy to have Elisabeth on any of his flights any time! The man seated next to James also commented on what a great traveler Elisabeth was. I think flight attendants to some extent and other travelers especially assume that if a baby is on the flight there’s going to be lots of crying and they will be very bothered by it. So when Elisabeth is a perfect angel and hardly cries or complains at all, they are impressed and grateful. Well, we are too!
It was good to get back home to London, and Elisabeth’s adjustment this way was a lot easier on us as she pretty much slept 13 hours straight the first two nights back and by the third night was more or less back into her regular sleeping pattern. She was also back in nursery three days of the week (two half days and one whole day) right away, and I think that was probably a very good thing since she had gotten used to being around other kids so much during our trip. To just be with me five days of the week would have gotten awfully boring – for both of us!
We’re not yet sure when our next trip to the US will be. Elisabeth will be a lot more verbal and able to express her desires. It’s hard to know whether that will make a long flight easier or harder. It’s also very possible that even if she’s not yet two years old, we may well pay for her to have her own seat. I can’t imagine that it’s going to be comfortable to have her traveling on our laps for much longer.
We’re very much looking forward to visits from Oma & Opa and Tante in the summer. And in the meantime, we get on Skype as much as we can!