Flying the (not-so) friendly skies…
I have to admit, I was nervous. I’d sharpened my peripheral vision in order to avoid eye contact. I’d practiced witty comebacks to any possible snide remarks. I packed my carry-on with just about every distraction imaginable. Vacations are exciting but getting there is no longer half the fun. We were leaving on a jet plane with our daughter, 20-months-old.
Ordinarily my concerns would just be remembering everything and keeping it together (and her occupied/quiet) for the duration of flight. But recent news headlines speak of families kicked off planes, not just for out-of-control, tantrumming tots, but for the cheerful toddler babble of “bye bye plane.” Suddenly, bothering people was the least of my concerns…
I must admit, I had little sympathy for Julie and Gerald Kulesza, who were kicked off an AirTran flight when they couldn’t control their tantrumming 3-year-old daughter, Elly. The flight had already been delayed for 15 minutes while Elly screamed on the floor, and climbed under seats. Apparently they were ejected, not because she was screaming, but because she wouldn’t sit with her seat belt fastened.
***Note to self – will not get kicked off plane for tantrum if baby properly restrained.***
On the other hand, I felt enormously bad for Kate Penfield and her 19-month-old son Garren. After an 11-hour delay, Kate and Garren finally boarded their homeward-bound Continental ExpressJet flight. Garren’s repetition of his newly-learned phrase, “bye bye plane” didn’t go over too well with a flight attendant. After Kate dismissed said flight attendant’s suggestion to sedate her baby with Benadryl, she and Garren were booted off the plane. Apparently the flight attendant told the pilot that Kate threatened her, an allegation refuted by Kate’s fellow passengers.
***Note to self – keep baby’s mouth full of food to avoid repetitive babbling.***
Yep – that’s what I did. Trust me, I’m not going to win any Mother Of The Year Awards for what my daughter ate on that journey, but to quote a good friend of mine, “This is not about good parenting practices, it is about surviving the flight!” I thought about using the Benadryl. The thing is, I’d read that due to the sugar content, it can make some children hyper instead of drowsy. Since my daughter hadn’t had Benadryl before, Murphy’s Law (and my luck) would suggest that she’d be the rare hyper case. I decided not to take the chance and instead filled her gob with chips and cookies. (Aah – the mother guilt!! Does it make a difference that they were organic chips and gluten-free ginger snaps?!)
While I’d steeled myself for angry glares from fellow passengers and hostile looks from overworked flight attendants, I’m happy to say that none were forthcoming. In fact, some people were actually friendly! Trust me, nobody looked exactly thrilled to have a toddler in their midst, especially in executive class (thank you frequent flyer points!), but the overt sighs and disapproving glances I was expecting never materialized. The comments I’d read on the internet regarding flying with a baby implied that we’d likely be tarred and feathered in the departure lounge. Perhaps people are far ruder behind the anonymity of a computer screen than they’d ever dare to be in person.
For both the flight out and return trip there were a number of parents traveling with tots of various ages, but we all had one thing in common – a bulging carry-on bag. Mine was stuffed with the aforementioned junk food plus healthy snacks (untouched), new books, (more interesting), new trinket-y toys from the dollar store (wrapped for even more fun), diapers, wipes, sippy cup, cherished blanket (guard with your life), 2 changes of clothes for her (you never know), a change of clothes for me (you never know), plastic bags (to hold the aforementioned possible laundry), and her pacifier to help her ears for landing (the only times she slept on both flights). Organization is the key to a stress-free vacation and the journeys there and back are no exception. The annoyance of having to carry so much stuff is offset by the possibility of needing something mid-flight and not being able to get it!
Still, the idea of traveling with a baby or toddler seems so stressful to some that they either postpone travel until their child is older, or they leave the little one(s) at home. Yes, my daughter won’t remember the places she’s been in the past year-and-a-half, but my husband and I will never forget the wonderful times we’ve spent away from our busy day-to-day life, watching our baby girl experience new places, faces, flora, fauna, and food. Our vacations aren’t the same, they’re better.