4 kids, 3 flights, 1 parent: 2 observations

So recently I had the opportunity experience trial (I still can’t decide) of flying internationally with four kids, ages two to nine. On my own. As the only adult. To say I was apprehensive is an understatement. Well, now that I am on the other side of it—which I am very thankful for—I have two primary reflections.

First, it was striking how almost no one wanted to talk to me or offer help until after the flight. Once we landed I got comments like, “How old are your kids?” and “They did a really good job,” and “Do you need help carrying that car seat off the plane?” Before that, nada, nothing, zippo, zilch—just blank judgmental stares.

And in some ways I get it. Who wants to befriend a lady with four kids who have the potential to make the next eight hours of your life miserable? I am sure people were looking, and instead of seeing a sweet chatty two-year-old, they saw a kid who might chat and scream all night and keep them from their few hours of precious sleep. Or instead of seeing a cute five-year-old they saw a girl with legs just the right length to kick their seat all flight long. And the list goes on with my two older kids. And in fact, it doesn’t stop at my kids—other passengers probably looked at me and thought, “What an idiot – who in the world thinks travelling alone with four kids is a good idea?”

Why do we wait to invest, whether with strangers, or with those close to us, until we’re sure we’re safe, and they aren’t going to infringe on our peace or comfortableness? Why are we prone to be careful how much we give of ourselves to someone before we know that person isn’t going to take more from us than we’re willing to give? We are selfish people at our core.

I’m not saying I would be any different, but I would like to be. I would like to befriend the lady with the cane and offer to carry a bag—even before I know whether she is going to talk my ear off the rest of the flight. I would like to offer to carry the car seat onto the plane for the mom struggling to board with her newborn—even before I know whether the newborn is a good contented baby. I would like to offer to take a kid home from ball practice to help the struggling dad—even before I know whether his kid is a good kid or he is now going to ask me every week.

Second, flying alone with kids is sanctifying work. Parenting in general has taught me a lot about my own heart, but this experience took it to a whole new level. It was so good for me. Being a natural people-pleaser, I wanted everyone on the plane to love me, to love us, to compliment us, to want to be like us. It didn’t take long for me to realize that wasn’t going to happen. The guy next to us on our first little flight to Chicago was annoyed the minute he saw he was going to share a row with my two-year-old and me. He couldn’t bear to make eye contact, and his whole demeanor made it clear that he thought he had the worst seat in the entire plane. [He only had to endure 45 minutes; think how the people on the eight-hour flight felt! I felt like saying, “This is nothing buddy. Buck up!”] The entire travelling day of 18 hours was a great reminder that my value is not based on what others think of me. My value as a mother, and even as a person, doesn’t depend on what the man next me to thinks or whether the flight attendants like us at the end of the flight. This trip brought home to me in a new way what the Apostle Paul says:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph 2:8–9)

There was little to boast about at the end of the trip – besides the fact that I made it home with four kids alive – and this was good for me. I need to be taught this lesson over and over again because it is one my heart is prone to forget. I just hope God teaches me in other ways rather than another international flight, or at least anytime soon!


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