Monday, March 10, 2014

Mama-on-Days: Surviving Airplane Flights: the toddler years and beyond

One of the worst flights we took was when the Biscuit was 2 years old. This was about his fourth or fifth trip. I'd prepared. I had bags of snacks, I made 15 busy bags, I had a bag full of no no items like rolls of tape.  I bought a special harness to buckle him into his seat. I bought a DVD player and 5 movies. 
 I. Was. Prepared.  
Unfortunately, I WASN'T prepared for the woman in front of us. She was a kid hating, word search loving, chair thumping grump. Biscuit wasn't interested in the movies, but I thought we had been doing pretty good. I realized, that was not the case, when she slammed into the back of her seat-hitting the biscuit in the face and then yelled to her husband about the kid who keeps hitting her seat. I didn't complain about her husband whose body weight kept slamming into my knees. I figured he couldn't help it-much like mt 2 year old-who was bumping his tray while playing quietly. But I get that it sucks when you aren't able to draw a straight line in your word search.

With relatives on both coasts, we've had lots of opportunities to travel with our son. He has his own frequent flier card and took his first trip at 2 months of age. As a parent you get used to people cooing over your infant when you go out in public. This is not the case when you travel. Get ready for people to roll their eyes or sigh when you get on board. They automatically assume that they are going to be sitting next to the screaming satan child for their whole flight.
It probably doesn't hurt to bring THEM snacks. It's hard to be irritated when someone just gave you a bag of cheezits. Traveling with a newborn wasn't that bad for us. Things got more challenging when the biscuit got a little older. Here are a few tips:
  • After the chair slapping incident, I started getting to the airport early to enjoy a preflight cocktail or two. I was never much of an airport drinker until I had a kid. I used to be more concerned with maintaining adequate hydration. But it is stressful to travel with small children. Having a drink before hand just made me able to tolerate the other people on the flight and deal with the unique challenges hat come when traveling with little ones.
  • Bring the stroller. It helps to navigate the airport PLUS sometimes you get to go to the front of the security line. Look helpless and overwhelmed and TSA will come to your rescue.
  • Be prepared for the awkward moment when they have to test your breast pump for explosive residue.
  • Busy bags are your friend. Bring lots.
  • Rely on the kindness of strangers. When we were going to Arizona after my dad died, I was not in a good place to parent. So when my four year old locked himself in the bathroom stall minutes before our flight took off. I had nothing. I threatened, I yelled. I bit back my tears. I was THAT mom. Another woman came up and said, Oh, is he stuck? I'll climb under and get him out. To this day, I am grateful for her.
  • Relish the ridiculous moments. We had a late flight that came in around midnight. The Biscuit was deleriously tired. He saw a no smoking sign and asked what it was. I told him and he said, "okay-but I WILL smoke when I am older." I said no and he proceeded to throw his largest tantrum to date. Crying, throwing himself on the floor, pleading and screaming at the top of his lungs: "I CAN TOO SMOkE WHEN I AM OLDER!!!!!" All the way past security, through baggage claim and to the car. You can only laugh.
  • Finally,I used to let people without children let me feel guilty. But I came to a realization that made me feel better. They were kids once. So regardless of whether or not they have kids that nosy other people-they probably annoyed people when they were young.
And it gets better: flying with a 5 year old was a breeze.  I just wrote this blog while he was playing some game on my iPad.  (Screen time only counts when you are on land, I think.)  Do you have any horror stories about traveling with small children?  I'd love to hear about them below.  Of course, if you found this post helpful or amusing, please consider sharing it with the world via Twitter or Pinterest by clicking on the links below.

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