Two tickets to New York, $800.00. Rental car, $350. Nearly a gallon of gas wasted while sitting in traffic trying to get out of the airport. Eight dollars at Burger King for two drinks and onion rings even though we ordered two Whopper Junior Value Meals, but it’s midnight and they’re out of food. Hotel, $400. Day at the mall for a power strip, utensils, mattress cover, tools, laundry detergent, and all the other essentials needed to set up house in a university dorm room, $500, easy. First textbook, $170.00.
“Mom, I can’t stand it! I’m so sorry you have to spend all this money,” Ali says.
“I’m smiling,” I assure her, “because I’m proud and happy. My baby is going off to college.”
As soon as the seatbelt light goes off on the plane ride home, four children under the age of four start running up and down the aisles screaming in hysterical laughter. You have to be a kid to think it’s funny. Everyone gives the parents dirty looks, everyone except for the man sleeping three rows in front of me snoring louder than the engines. After a half-hour of running and bumping into people, they switch to stomping, with their mom trailing behind, smiling. When one of them begins kicking the cockpit door, a flight attendant finally advises the mother she’ll have to seat the children because they’ve been getting too many complaints from the passengers.
I wonder if she’ll breast-feed them until kindergarten, that is, if she allows them to go to school. She’s probably one of those parents who take their kids to R-rated movies because she can’t bear to leave them, which is also why she declines invitations to grown up parties. Her little cherubs are turning into little brats, but she can’t see it.
As I tilt my seat back after eating the complimentary raisins, four whole wheat crackers and packet of cheese, I can’t believe I’m done (not with the meal) raising children. Like that mother, I wanted to do it right.
For my first-born, I made baby food from my garden vegetables, farmer’s market fresh fruit, and corn fed, grass-grazing meat from the butcher. She wore one hundred percent cotton cloth diapers and the finest designer baby clothes handed down by my aunt’s employer, a San Francisco Pacific Heights heiress.
Our second child was a blessing because doctors didn’t think I could have another. For her first two years, her feet never touched the ground because she was literally held like a treasure by everyone. It’s a wonder that she even learned to walk. I warmed up to the new wave of organic baby foods on the market and, when reasoning it wasn’t too obscene, I used disposable diapers on special occasions.
When the twins were born, I was positively ecstatic to receive 30 boxes of Pampers and Huggies at my baby shower. When organic baby food wasn’t on sale, I found the twins thrived just fine on Gerber.
I enrolled them all in public schools, where I have to confess kids do grow up faster. Ali’s twin brother received a marriage proposal in first grade. Thankfully, he’s still single and in college examining business ethics case studies such as the second coming of Martha Stewart.
There were times when my children wanted to cut loose and run up and down the proverbial aisle (what kid doesn’t), but at those moments I had to make a decision. Did I want to be a parent, or 25 years older than the best friend I had to give birth to?
As the airplane begins its descent, the captain turns on the seat belt sign and the mother and children in row twelve have quieted down. The man, who was snoring six hours ago when we took off, is still snoring. He’ll probably be hungry when he wakes up since he totally missed the mid flight snack.
When I arrive at my gate at San Francisco International Airport, I’ll turn on my cell phone, but I’m confident there won’t be any messages from Ali. She has a prepaid plan, so she can call me on her cell anytime without worrying about minutes or the time of day. If I’ve done my job right, she’ll be fine on her own and won’t call me until tomorrow. My connection to her is cordless.