By Michelle CuthrellNovember 14, 2008
Last weekend, I traveled to Virginia for my brother's wedding. With a 2 year old. By myself.
Before I had children, I used to enjoy traveling. Airplanes were these great sanctuaries for me to ignore the rest of my busy life for five or six hours and simply read or sleep or catch up on the latest movie star gossip. Flying was my version of Heaven.
And then I had a child, and suddenly the whole flying thing turned my streets of gold into rivers of fire. If Hell is anything like flying with a 2 year old, I am definitely not becoming a Gold Card member.
Of course, after three deployments in four years, I've grown accustomed to flying with our son by myself. In two years, my son has flown on more than 10 round trips from Alaska to South Carolina and almost everywhere in between. And although it's now easier than the 15-month-old days (when he sat on my lap and screamed and yelled and pooped on me until the flight attendant found me another seat), it's still not exactly all that and a bag of chips.
Maybe that's because my 2 year old now knows the one word that consistently gets me voted off the island on a plane full of not-so-understanding, quiet-loving strangers: "NOOOOOOOO!"
As my normally loving and well-behaved 2 year old continued to bash his feet into the seat in front of us and the man sitting in that seat proceeded to turn around, glare at me and then rebuke me for being unable to control my child (at which point I simply began crying because, at 17 weeks of pregnancy, that's just your normal response to life stress), I pulled into my typical military wife defensive shell: "But my husband isn't here to help out - I deserve some slack!"
It's amazing how as a military spouse, I've come to depend on that line as my life excuse. When he's deployed, I have every reason to "have it hard" and not be able to control my whining child. When he's in the field, I have every reason to lash out at my husband-is-at-home friends because they didn't have to miss another anniversary dinner. And when he's not deployed but is simply not allowed to leave post for training reasons to attend my brother's wedding 5,000 miles away, I think I have every reason to just cry in the corner when my son chooses not to listen to me the first time and blame his misbehavior on the fact that my husband isn't here and I, as a military spouse, have a hard life.
The truth is we all have a hard life. Life is fabulous, but none of us has it easy. Traveling with a 2 year old on a plane alone, even with the temper tantrums and kicking riots, is a dream come true next to some of the single moms I know who don't get to disembark that plane to a husband who brings them flowers and takes the child for a few hours so they can nap, breathe and remember that children are, indeed, blessings.
Though it's challenging, both when they're gone and when they're home, I don't want to use this military life as an excuse for everything else that seems to go wrong. If anything, this life teaches me something new all the time. Like how to pack earplugs and leg restraints on our next cross-country adventure.
Fort Lewis Army Wife Michelle Cuthrell is the author of "Behind the Blue-Star Banner: A Memoir from the Home Front." She is a regular contributor to Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.