13 February 2012

Or, why we love the Ergo

We are back in cold, but not quite as cold as it was when we left, Belgium. A brief thawing out in sunny Catalonia did me good, and having grandmother/auntie/cousins to entertain Gabriel did my sore neck and sore...whatever muscles are at the base of my belly...good. It's actually kind of amusing to hear our family and friends there complain about the cold, and solemnly admonish us to put on winter hats and scarves when we go out, because it's so cold "your fingers tingle."

The flight today presented different challenges than the flight going to Barcelona. It wasn't full, hallelujah, so Gabriel got his own seat. I'm actually really relieved this is his last trip as a "lap infant"--such a misnomer, and has been a misnomer for close to a year now. But since it was a mid-day trip, it fell right during Gabriel's nap, and of course he didn't fall asleep, despite our greatest encouragements, until the final descent into Brussels. Which left us with too many carry-ons (as always, we're transferring a large assortment of objects, such as stored baby clothes, G's birthday presents, inherited items, and books we need here, from one city to the other), a dead-weight sleeping two-year-old, bulky coats, and oh, a pregnant belly to haul through the long hallways of Brussels airport.

For here's something that makes me fume just about every trip we make: in European airports, they no longer bring up the stroller to the airplane after deplaning, leaving bedraggled families everywhere wondering how on earth to corral toddlers or lug heavy babies or sleeping children through large airports to get to the baggage claim. Even with modest amounts of carry on luggage, this presents a serious challenge, and it is beyond me how airport planners can allow the most urgent items--the strollers--to appear LAST of all, long after the last suitcase has rolled through and the rest of the passengers are merrily on their way. This is the moment when travel-weary children are at the end of their tether, when parents are exhausted and just want to get home, when the last thing you want to do is stand and wait without a way to contain or carry a child. Over and over again, I've watched parents having to make sure kids don't crawl on the baggage carousel, or escape in the crowds, or get in the way of large rolling objects and their human carriers. And of course, I've been that parent.

Thank goodness for the Ergo baby carrier: we always wonder--especially now that we don't use it much anymore--if we really need to bring it and we are always SO glad we brought it. I carried sleeping Gabriel on my back in the Ergo, plus assorted winter coats and Gabriel's mini-backpack, and the Mister carried two (pretty loaded) backpacks plus our two rolling suitcases plus a heavy bag with four landscape paintings in it (originals painted by his grandmother, which have always hung in her apartment and which will now hang in our house here). Needless to say, we went very slowly, taking breaks every once in a while.

This time, the one other family on our flight with kids (three! a tiny baby and two tots) were waiting, too, when we finally got to the baggage claim, and the father had gone off to find out where the strollers were. Of course they appeared while he was gone, and the mother asked the Mister to pull her strollers (plural!) and car seats off the baggage claim. But he couldn't open them (why does every stroller have a unique, non-obvious trick for opening?) and she couldn't explain how to open them due to a language barrier, and her arms were full with the sleeping infant, while the two older kids ran around in circles. So I offered to hold the baby (I was sitting down, with Gabriel still on my back) while they figured out the strollers and even though my back and belly ached I cooed at the baby and was glad I was not in her shoes, while simultaneously worrying that someday I could be.

Anyway, a short train ride (free first class for pregnant ladies!) and a fifteen-minute walk in the misty cold of Leuven later, we were home. With the stroller, everything was so much easier, although Gabriel whimpered the whole way, having woken up from his nap into the unpleasantly cold air, and the Mister still carried most of the luggage weight, with our ridiculously torn-up, still under construction, muddy, rubbly street being sort of the last straw.

The week ahead will be busy, but busy in happy ways: tomorrow is Valentine's day, of course, and M. and I had planned to meet for lunch in Brussels until I realized that I wouldn't make it back for my first (second, really, since I missed today's) Dutch class. So we'll probably go out for a not-terribly-romantic dinner with Gabriel in tow tomorrow night. Then Wednesday is Gabriel's actual birthday, and he already caught a glimpse of the presents that I wrapped for him before we left ("Open! Open!" he said until I distracted him with a short-lived valentine-making project involving doilies and felt shapes). I still have to figure out a snack for him to bring to school and something special for dessert that night.

Friday--or actually Saturday, but for the schools Friday--is Carnival, which in Europe means dressing up in costumes. Gabriel's got a cute hand-me-down ladybug costume made by M's mom and worn by his cousins. Then, Saturday, we're throwing a bash for Gabriel's birthday, to which we invited basically all the families we know who have kids. It's not necessarily a ton of people, but it's the most we've ever had over, and there will be soup and sandwiches and I plan to make an owl cake and some simple goody bags for the kid attendees, so there's (fun) work to be done. So! A week of celebrations, of all sizes and shapes. But mostly all about a charming two-year-old who we are so, so proud of, even when he's a heavy, sleeping lug needing to be carried through a very long airport.

1 comment:

JCasas said...

Were you here for the big 'snowstorm'??? Our school cancelled all afterschool activities, said that parents could pick up their kids early, etc, etc. My father-in-law tried to drive me three blocks back to my house because of the terrible weather (blue skies, a bit of a nip in the air, three snowflakes). Funny Mediterraneans... PS, love my Ergo carrier!!!