Jet lag is for babies

I’ve been waiting to write this blog until I had a solid night’s sleep. Which is why today, a week into our trip to Spain, I am now ready to write about our flight to Spain. And the aftermath.

In the past few days I have read one too many unhelpful blog posts about traveling overseas with babies and so have decided to end this particular post with some concrete, hard knocks advice on said endeavor. Scroll down to the bottom if you just want to read my tips and have no interest in my horror story.

Those of you who like to watch the gory parts, please keep reading.


A day before we were to leave for Spain, Nico suddenly start coughing. Then, as night fell, she developed a temperature. Of 101. We took her to see the pediatrician the next day (that three hours before our flight left) and learned that Nico had a bronchial infection, a virus, that would last a few days and probably make her very uncomfortable.

Actually, Marta took Nico to the doctor’s office while I ran around trying to do all the last minute chores we had on our last minute to-do list (which we made before Nico got sick). Tasks for that day included taking the plants to a neighbor, going to get important items such as boots and a backpack from our storage unit, emptying the trash, taking our electronics to Marta’s office because there are apparently lots of break-ins in Lubbock over the holidays, finding someone to take care of Finn for three weeks, etc.

What I forgot to do in all the hustle-bust was change the error I had noticed on my plane ticket, the one that had me listed as Viren Viren instead of my given name (which includes only one “Viren”). I only remembered that I should have done said task after we were in the Lubbock airport and the security folks refused to let me or Nico in the terminal because my ID name didn’t match my ticket name. I explained the mistake, but they were unconvinced. I could have been a Viren Viren terrorist.

And so…

We had to all go back to the American Airlines counter, where there was suddenly no one to help us (or any of the other half a dozen people waiting in line) for a full half hour. And then the one American Airlines employee who finally came out was a girl of about 14 who looked at me with doe eyes and said she knew nothing about changing names on tickets and that we would have to wait for her manager, who was assisting with an “overbooked flight situation” in the terminal. At my urging, said doe-eyed girl called her manager via a walkie talkie thingy to explain the urgency of our situation.

And so…

We waited another half hour until the manager came out. Only he was the same American Airlines employee who had checked us in and, while doing so, had not noticed that my name was Viren Viren and my ID said something different. He had not noticed, I believe, because he was a raging homophobe who had also refused to make eye contact with either of us at that time and had responded to our request to sit together with an impatient “I’m working on it!”

When he came out a second time, and saw us waiting there and recognized us as the people who had been waiting for him to help us so that we could get on our flight, he promptly went to help another customer, a heterosexual couple who had a baby about Nico’s age and were upset about paying more for their checked bags. He was very nice to them and ignored me until I asked, again, if it would be possible to change my name so that I could get through security. He said, again without looking at me, “Name changes are very complicated and once the plane is on the ground I’m not sure they’re even possible.”

All of which is to say that with about a half hour before our plan was to take off, I started crying at the Lubbock International Airport’s American Airlines counter. Nico slept feverishly in her stroller and Marta looked like she was going to have a panic attack. The homophone kept helping the nice heterosexual couple and I imagined us spending the entire winter break, alone, in Lubbock and was about to jump over the counter and ring the homophobe’s neck when, glory be to someone, a nice man with glasses arrived to help out, saw me crying and got on a computer immediately to start trying to change the name on my ticket.

In ten minutes he had finished. I stopped crying and we raced through security, boarding right before they closed the gates. And so…

I thought at that point all was well. But that was because I had forgotten in all the drama that we actually had a very sick child with us. Nico was so sick she had slept through all the homophobia and crying and really only woke up once we were airborne and our adrenaline rush was starting to drop and we were both soooo exhausted and really just wanted to sleep. And then Nico started to cry. And so…

She cried for a long time and then slept and we tried to sleep with her on one or another of our laps but it was not at all as romantic or cozy as I had imagined it when I first thought about the notion of flying overseas with Nico during our winter break. American Airlines seats are amazingly cramped for an overseas flight and the man in front of us decided to read a novel the whole fight so his light was in our faces and then I decided to buy a whiskey to help me unwind and Nico decided two seconds after that to kick my tray and the whiskey spilled all over and my pants and so…

We slept very little and I smelled like a bar by the time we wandered, dazed, of the airplane and into the Madrid morning. I thought then that everything was going to start to improve. But I had forgotten about jet lag. And more importantly I had forgotten that babies can have jet lag, too, and, if they do, that their jet lag will affect me, too, so that my jet lag will no longer just be my jet lag but also a shared and extended jet lag passed back and forth between two (make that three) humans.

Which is exactly what happened. We got here and Nico slept basically all day and Marta and I hung out with her parents and enjoyed being in an actual city again and then we got ready for bed and tried to put Nico down like we normally do in Lubbock and… She. Just. Wasn’t. Having. It.

Sometimes, back in Lubbock, she will cry a little bit when we put her down, but we always go in and see her in small intervals and eventually she falls asleep. This time, though, there was no falling asleep. There was just very angry crying. And when she finally fell asleep she woke up again in two hours, when we were both just falling asleep and cried angrily again. And then again, two hours later, and then again.

It was like having a newborn again.

And that lasted for at least three days. Though tonight it is 9 p.m. and she is fast asleep. She will probably sleep the night and wake us around 5 to feed, which is what she does in Lubbock. Which is to say that things are starting to improve.

So the good news is this: We got here safe and sound, if a bit tired. My Viren Viren name didn’t get us stuck in Lubbock, which would have been the ultimate tragedy. Madrid is even more marvelous than it was last time I visited because we now live in Lubbock and thus compare it to Lubbock all the time (Oh! The croissants are so good! Oh! There are like a dozen coffee shops within walking distance! Oh! There is a subway! Oh, there are independent films and good restaurants and people who don’t stare at us when we walk down the street holding hands!).

OK. Now for those tips.

When flying overseas with a young baby or child, do the following:

1. Expect that it will take three days for your child to get over the jet lag
2. Only allow your child to sleep the normal number of naps, though allow him/her to extend said naps fifteen minutes to a half-hour more than normal
3. Put your child to bed the first three nights only when he/she rubs his/her eyes and/or begins to show signs of tiredness. Do not, as the other blogs will advice, try to stick to your same routine. There is no same routine!
4. Let your child sleep in the bed with you if he/she wakes up in the middle of the night. If you don’t normally do this you can always transition out of this habit once you get home.
5. Feed your child more than your normally would before putting him/her to bed and, if he/she wakes up in the middle of the night, feed him/her again.
6. For your next trip, find a way to suddenly become very rich and hire an au pair.

Good night.

2 thoughts on “Jet lag is for babies

  1. 7.- wait till your sweetie baby turn 4 or 5 years old ,,,,, before that, you should expect having a whole energy sac inside a little box for more than 7 hours ,,,, and good luck! ,,,,, well, you will never and ever understand again why some people is bothered by flying with kids in the same plane.


  2. You and I have come a long way this year. Think about how much you’ve learned about babies, and think about how much I’ve learned about cats. For instance, Barbara bought Molly a little catnip toy, a blue donkey, and she’s been on a drug high ever since; she doesn’t sleep anymore, and this afternoon she took a running leap off the kitchen table and tried to fly. Have a great Christmas, and I’ll see you on the 7th.


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