We all have our strengths while traveling.  For a family to successfully navigate airports for both domestic and international travel it’s crucial to identify those strengths and play to them.  It’s also helpful if you drop all concerns about falling into traditional roles and just do you.

Me?  I’m the organizer.  I check, double check, and triple check that we’ve packed crucial items. I hold the passports, the itinerary, and confirmation slips.  As tech guru I handle the airline kiosk, and I’m neurotic about making sure all bags are tagged with our contact info.  I’m the mama who’s handing out passports with boarding passes tucked inside at security then collecting them back up before baggage screening.

BrightSide’s our voice of reason.  When things get hairy – I’m stressing about a connection, the kids are getting on each other’s last nerve, airlines are being airlines – he’s the calm.  He can talk me off the cliff regardless of the travel catastrophe I’m focused on, and even when I’m at the end of my rope he can step in and defuse the kids.  BrightSide is the epitome of chi – the lifeforce, the energy of the soul, a force that seeks balance and harmony.

He’s also our brute strength.

My 20-year-old self would be horrified to read this, but BrightSide carries the heavy loads.  All those years of Are you saying I can’t handle it because I’m a GIRL? and Of course I can do anything a guy can do…well, my body is fighting back.  It turns out there are things too heavy for me to lift, and certain movements can yank my back right out of whack.  Knowing that throwing my back out puts me out of commission for three days makes me a lot more conscious about my weightlifting.

Which means BrightSide carries the heavy loads, and ever since my back went hinky he’s been in charge of putting carry on bags into the overhead bin.  This is critical to the whole being capable of standing upright plan seeing as it involves lifting an extremely heavy bag (hello, books and shoes), twisting as I lift it overhead, then pushing up and in until it lands securely in the bin. Basically it’s exactly the physical movement that kills my back so I stay way far away from it these days.

Until the flight home from Mexico.

BrightSide and the kids were further up in the boarding line than me.  BrightSide got pulled at the gate for additional screening (doesn’t he look like a troublemaker?), and since the mass of humanity had separated me from them there was a moment when T-man and Bear were floundering around wondering what to do.  I’m frantically waving at them to GO GO GO because they’re log jamming the boarding area and I didn’t want to draw more attention lest the attendants decided to paw through yet another bag.

Three minutes later we ran headlong into our problem: I’d hit the plane without my wingman, the guy who lifts the incredibly heavy carry ons into those overhead components.  But I can’t exactly stand around waiting for him so we kicked it into I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar! mode.

I herded those kids down the aisle like a well-trained collie, reaching our seats and moving as fast as humanly possible so others could continue boarding.  I shooed Bear into our row and started lifting our bags into the overhead bin, concentrating hard on using my biceps and not my back muscles.  (I dropped “I think I can, I think I can” for “Lift with your legs, not your back” a while ago.)

I got the first bag up and in successfully, silently patting myself on the back as I prepared to tackle the second one.  That’s when the flight attendant noticed T-man and I causing a traffic jam in her aisle.  She approached us quickly and offered help, but when she saw me hoist that second bag overhead she exclaimed, “You’re all muscle!”

I snorted a little, stepped backward, and ruined my whole I’ve Got This illusion by banging my head on the opposite overhead bin.

Yep.  Like a rock star.  Sheesh.