Recently, we set out to brave the fine line between bold and stupid by taking our child on a lengthy international flight. When telling our vacation plans to others, we usually met with excitement, a question about who would be watching the baby, and then doubt and disbelief upon realizing that we were, in fact, bringing him along. We thought they were being a little bit silly – maybe even judgmental. We were so, so wrong.
These are the people we met on this flight, and have run into again on many, many others…
1. The Childless Businessman: He planned to use this time productively to sleep, work on his laptop, or read a book. He is invariably seated right next to you. He will try to be polite, even helpful at times, but the disappointment on his face will be impossible for him to hide. He will be scheduling his vasectomy immediately upon arrival at his final destination.
2. Mr. Comfortable: This guy, too, is unlikely to have children. He is also unlikely to have consideration for those around him. He speaks loudly, orders one or two drinks too many, and inadvertently teaches your toddler a new swear word. He is, of course, occupying the seat in front of you – a fact that you can’t help but notice when he reclines his seat as far back as it will go, squishing your already cramped infant-in-arms situation. If there is any justice in the world, his wife will someday give birth to screaming, colicky triplets.
3. The Flight Attendant/Warden: You are rushing to the plane’s bathroom (do not get me started on this filthy cubicle of tears) to change your baby, who has blown out his diaper all over the only set of clothes you brought that is not confined to the overhead bin. She kindly reminds you that the fasten seatbelt sign is still on. Shamed, you return to your seat, still covered in the evidence of your poor timing in introducing peas into said baby’s diet. She will spend the remainder of this flight rigidly enforcing the rules, as applicable to you, your toddler, and your baby. For some reason she will choose to ignore the 10-year-old kicking the back of your seat. Further attempts to change your baby or entertain your toddler will be met with passive-aggressive warnings over the PA system not to “roam about the cabin.”
4. The Brady-Cleaver Family: Their children are well dressed, well mannered, and cheerful. They happily partake in pre-planned quiet activities, such as coloring, reading, and smiling, for the duration of the flight. They may even nap (without the aid of Children’s Benadryl). They will eat healthy homemade snacks (definitely organic) and converse with one another softly and lovingly. The Flight Attendant/Warden beams adoringly at them, then quickly shifts her gaze to you. She hopes you are paying attention and taking notes. You are not. You are covered in mashed-pea-poop.
5. The Spawn of Satan: These children want to run in the aisles, scream, and press every button they find. They need to go to the bathroom at least six times during the flight, most urgently during takeoff and landing. Speaking of takeoff and landing, they have terrible inner ear problems that nothing in Mom’s bag will help. They cry, fight, and fidget for almost the entire flight. They definitely do not sleep. Their parents check their watches frequently, hoping for the flight to end – but unfortunately for them, and for the entire flight, time has come to a halt. Their parents are tired, haggard, and mortified by their brood’s behavior. Their parents are you.
Of course, travel is ultimately a wonderful experience for children. It enriches them culturally, intellectually, and socially, and is a great way to bond as a family. In theory, it is one of the most worthwhile ways that we can spend our time together. In practice, however, at least for our family, we will be limiting these trips to once a year (or five).
Related post: 7 Survival Tips When Traveling With Small Kids