Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thoughts On An Upcoming Airplane Trip

We are heading up to Boston to see some friends and possibly my aunt and uncle next weekend. Very excited! Why Boston in January? Good question! First, we wanted to see our friends--always a good reason. Also, the kids have been asking about snow and we figured Boston + January = Snow. (Little did we know we'd get snow here yesterday, but it hardly compares.) A further consideration--the airline had a sale and we got tickets at great prices. Can't complain about that. Finally, and probably most importantly, Brendan and I have evidently lost our minds.

So I mentioned our upcoming trip to Ryan the other day. Wow, was he ever excited! He immediately began listing ideas and plans for the trip and things to do with his friends. Almost the first thing out of his mouth was a list of all the weapons he planned to bring. I probably should not have mentioned our trip while he was attired in full Sir Ryan Knight regalia.

Of course it had never occurred to me that he'd want to bring every gun and sword he owned on the airplane. He told me it was to help the Security Guard Peopleguys guard the airplane. See? Isn't he thoughtful? He's only trying to help!

I told him we didn't have room in our luggage. Which is true. No worries! He'd carry them on!

Then I explained that the Security Guard Peopleguys don't want us to bring any weapons to the airport. He simply couldn't fathom why. Why wouldn't they need his help? Besides, they are only toy guns and he'd be happy to explain that to them.

So then I told him that they don't even want us to bring pretend guns and swords. (I just checked the website and it says we can bring toy weapons, as long as they are not realistic. Sadly for Ryan, his are all pretty realistic, because he is very serious about being a Military Peopleguy.) Well. It was plain to see he thought that was just ridiculous!

So then he says to me, he says, "Well, if I can't bring them, that's fine, but I'm still going to tell them all about my guns and swords that I have to leave behind."

It's funny, but it's not, you know?

And then I'm imagining trying to get through the security check with 2 kids, a car seat, a laptop, Epi-pens, diabetic devices, and sanity when all of a sudden my frighteningly loquacious boy pops up with something interesting and helpful like "Well, see, I WAS going to bring my guns today but my Mom told me to leave them at home." And then we're all strip searched and in lockdown because my 5 year old said the word "gun" at an airport security station.

Still reeling from that mental image, I tried to explain that they really don't even want us to talk about guns and swords to the Security Guard Peopleguys. Well of course that sounds silly--even to my 5 year old! Actually, according to the website, they don't want any "threats":

Talk to your children before you come to the airport and let them know that it's against the law to make threats such as, "I have a bomb in my bag." Threats made jokingly (even by a child) can delay the entire family and could result in fines.

What constitutes a threat? Who gets to decide if a threat has been made? I know that Ryan would never threaten a real, live Security Guard Peopleguy because he holds them all in highest regard out of respect for the important job they do protecting us from Bad Guys. (Sigh, if only I could really believe that.) But I can see how an innocent, "Well, I wanted to bring my guns today" might be construed by the highly paranoid and/or fanatical rules-follower as a "threat."

Ryan and I discussed this again a little while ago and he is still on the "I'm gonna tell them about my guns" Plan. Why? Because he wants to share a genuine common interest with people he admires. I get that . . . but I'm not so sure I can trust that they will. So I told him it would be best if we really didn't say too much at the security check-in.

I don't know . . . all this is hard to explain. He asked me why there were so many rules and why we can't bring certain things on airplanes. "Why, Mom, because sometimes there are real Bad Guys?" Yes, sweetie. Sometimes there are real Bad Guys. He looked a little worried, but I think he finally got it.

He doesn't know about 9/11 yet and I don't think 10 days before an airplane trip is the best time to enlighten him. !!! But the real reason it's so hard to help him understand all this is that he lacks context. He has a real need for lots of detailed information, but most importantly, context.

So if you hear of any unusual airport security stories next week that involve a little boy talking about swords and guns, please send me your sympathy. And bail money.


Monica said...

Whoa. This is why I have a dog and no kids, because my dog doesn't ask questions like this.

I laughed most of the way through that because your writing is so darn funny. But what's great (and kinda scary, too) is that his little mind is making perfect sense and he's totally logical. Wow.

This post is hilarious and sad all at once. You want to help your kids, I'm sure, understand the world, but at the same time, that's a very difficult task because of how screwed up and scary this world is.

I think I need some wine.

Rational Jenn said...

Thanks for your understanding! My life was definitely easier when it was just the cats!

When the little humans are brand new and small, it's physically exhausting because you have to do literally everything for them--change diapers, feed them, lug them around, all on about 5 hours of interrupted sleep.

When they get older, they are more physically independent and that's great and all, but then parenting becomes more mentally exhausting (at least for me!). The questions and the questions and the conflicts and the questions. And I've got to answer them--I hated when grownups gave me the brush off--but it can be a stupefying process.

He is a very bright little guy and I can totally see his point. And one day we'll have to 'splain about 9/11 and maybe that will clarify things. Or scare him to death. I dunno.

But really, when the kid can see through some of the stupidity of these rules--you probably shouldn't even SAY the word gun?--I feel very silly sometimes, the words coming out of my mouth. You're right--here he is trying to make sense out of the world--a big important job for every child--and sometimes the world doesn't make sense, not even to Mom and Dad. That's gotta be confusing and unsettling.

We haven't heard the last of this yet--I'm just hoping that we don't hear any of it at either airport. It's things like this that make me realize fully that they are independent beings and truly not under my control. Which is a good thing. I hope the TSA sees it that way!

bellevelma said...

Maybe you've already made it through security by now, but if it were my son I'd probably threaten him with something like "If you say the words guns, weapons, etc... they will not let us on the plane and they will lock us in jail forever..." Not exactly the truth but sometimes that is the only thing that works.