A few days ago, our family went thru a somehow exciting and stressful ordeal. It was full of new experiences and lessons learned that will forever be remembered, and now that we look at it in retrospective, it brings smiles and laughs every time we talk about it.
Our kids, who at the time of this event were both minors, were invited by their cousin to a concert in Mexico City on a Thursday night, which meant that they needed to travel on that the same day to minimize the lost school days. In this case, due to airlines regulations, they had to fly non-stop. Living in Cincinnati, that meant we drove for 5 hours to Chicago for them to start their journey and to avoid costly plane tickets
Minors who are American citizens traveling internationally need to be authorized by their parents using a notarized document. But in our case, one of them is a Mexican citizen, which means that in addition to the notarized document, a document provided by the Mexican government website had to be filled out, signed by the parents and printed, so it could be presented when returning home.
We missed to fill out the latter.. the result was total craziness…
But before, the good stuff…
After waiting until the plane took off from O’Hare (Mom’s
command wish), we checked in at a hotel close to the lake, so we could walk around downtown Chicago. Even though the day we arrived the weather was not the best, that didn’t change our plans. We walked by the lake shore and the downtown streets, visited a few malls while getting outraged at the parking fees. That taught us to use cabs or other public transportation. We even witnessed a couple getting married doing a photo shoot in the middle of the street. The bride was wearing a strapless dress… talk about courage (we were at 30 degrees). I guess for a Chicagoan that’s not a big deal!
We went to a Cuban cafe, were my wife ate caldo gallego (originally from Spain) served by a waitress from El Salvador. Diversity at its best! And my espresso was spot on!
And of course, being from Mexico, we had to go to La Villita (The Little Village), the Mexican neighborhood where English is not the first language spoken; where in every corner there’s a classic store where you can buy groceries, food, pastries, snacks, etc. We planned to shop for groceries in our last day before driving back home like we did in previous occasions, but that did not happen… you’ll see why in a bit.
We had the chance to visit my cousin, and we had a blast enjoying a lazy morning and going to lunch with his family. Damn, those kids grow fast… just like mine I guess.
Of course, we kept tabs on our kids. It’s either that or the missus going nuts about it, so we checked in with them more times than I could count. They had a great time at the concert, and then the next days going to parks and enjoying the local food.
Everything was on track to be perfect. Hey… I even went to the hotel gym two days in a row!
The plan for the last day was to check out early, do grocery shopping (fresh cheese of different varieties, meat cuts, delicious pastries for
my wife me…) and then head to the airport to pick up the kids and drive the 5 hours back home to reset to our normal routine.
But then it came Sunday morning. The kids’ flight was scheduled at 7 AM.
We (My wife) were was checking on them since 4 AM to make sure everything was fine.
And then, when they were ready to get their boarding passes at the airline counter, the dreaded missing document was requested, setting the paranoia into the highest possible gear. We were on the phone during the whole time, receiving instructions to fill out the document online, print it (thru the hotel front desk –they were awesome!), sign it and take pictures to send them to be printed at the airport and try to complete the documentation.
First try: wrong. We signed the wrong box. We were rushing without thinking. That meant we had to print the document again.
And here’s a little bit of context: we were in the 10th floor of a very old hotel, where everything is slow, including the elevators.
We finally got the document right, but it was already 7:25 AM. The plane had already left. Paranoia found new higher gears and made us think at a speed that sometimes I find impossible to do in normal circumstances. The situation required serious solutions and fast. The kids’ cousin had a schedule flight the same day, and when they asked about another flight, the next available non-stop was the next day. Some airlines don’t allow alone minors to fly at all. Others have strict policies and charge for services for these kinds of situations, but no tickets were available.
After going back and forth (the kids and their cousin) to multiple airlines, they ran out of options for traveling the same day, so they needed to stay another night at the hotel, and their cousin would loose his flight and stay also the night with them. He would not accept leaving them alone. We’re so grateful for that.
So… the solution?
To calm the evident anxiety in my wife as well as the not-so-evident-but-definitively-there anxiety inside me, we resorted to the expensive but effective option. First, we accepted the fact that the trip was not going to happen on Sunday. Then, around 8 AM we booked 4 plane tickets:
- One one-way ticket for my wife to fly immediately and non-stop to Mexico City, scheduled from 3 PM to 8 PM
- 3 one-way tickets for my wife and kids on Monday, with one stop, because at this point it didn’t matter as she was traveling with them, so the “minors traveling alone” issue was gone.
By the way, we wouldn’t have been able to get out of the hotel easily that morning, because the Chicago Marathon was happening. Beautiful to watch… from my window.
We finally packed and checked out, forgetting a couple of things behind, as usual. Lunch… irrelevant… under really bad mood… not at all enjoyed by my wife. I liked it, but it was not the same.
Grocery shopping… not even in question. Delicious pastries… 🙁
But most importantly, the anxiety level we were carrying on our shoulders came down to a manageable level (at least for me, I think), and now we needed to plan the last part of the trip. I drove my wife to the airport and after she cleared security, at her
command wish, I left immediately to drive thru tollgate highways and not carrying any cash, so there I was, receiving instructions to pay online 4 times and delaying whoever was behind me (it was not rush hour, so it wasn’t that bad).
By the time I made it to our hometown I picked up the dog from our friends’ house and went straight home to check my wife’s flight status. Everything went fine and I could hear her relieved voice when she hugged her sprouts and became convinced that everything would be all-right.
A mother’s deep connection to her kids is something I cannot explain, but definitively it’s admirable. I love my kids, but to see my wife loving them so profoundly makes me feel incompetent, and I can only try my best to show them my love and appreciation in my humble and sometimes naive understanding.
Sunday night at home felt like a vacuum, only me and the dog looking at each other wondering: Where is everybody? Why is the house so empty? Where are the delicious pastries?
Monday morning was supposed to be another day at the office for me, but it was far from it. Keeping tabs on the family’s trip was on top of the list, to then pick them up at the airport at 10 PM.
With a delay in the second leg of the flight (in case there wasn’t enough drama already) due to a mechanical issue that had to be double-checked and with the risk of having to off board and get on a different plane, they finally took off 40-plus minutes after the scheduled time, in the same plane.
But Mom was not too concerned, because she was with them… that was better than not being there.
The final balance was another day lost at school for the kids, a work day lost for my wife, and a house full of exhausted people who needed to rest… a lot.
And yes, the financial burden, but like in many situations, money is replaceable, but the stress and worry of a loving mother is something priceless. I learned that big time.
I hope there’s anything you can learn from this. I certainly keep learning something every time I reflect upon it.
And of course, I must go back… for my pastries!