Over the past week, I have had several opportunities to take to the skies as we have visited family in various places and spaces. As a mom who has traveled with children for almost 29 years, I often notice young children and their parents on these journeys. Some interactions make me cringe and others invite a heartwarming smile. All remind me of days gone by and the wonder and joy coupled with the stress and strain of flying with young kids in tow.
I recall the very first plane trip that our oldest son took when he could fully anticipate with wide-eyed wonder at least the general idea that we were going to fly way up in the sky. He was so very eager, but as we pulled up into the sky, he immediately fell asleep and missed most of this much anticipated flight. On an earlier flight when he took his seat upon my lap as those under 2 years of age were able to do, we sat next to a grumpy guy who several times asked me to please keep my son from touching him. I did my best. But this kid was an active wiggler. I had a one-gallon Ziploc bag of Cheerios (rookie mom mistake – sandwich bag size would have been more prudent) that I slowly doled out to keep him quiet and occupied. But at one point, he grabbed the open bag by the bottom and flung it up into the air. Cheerios rained down everywhere, especially on the grumpy guy’s lap. There were compassionate people and flight attendants all around that helped clean up the mess.
Our three sons were born in the span of five years. When our youngest was only a matter of months old, I flew cross-country to visit my parents in Arizona. On the trip back home, I was the solo parent accompanying our three boys. We took our seats in the almost very back of the plane. Our middle son, almost 3 years old at the time, loved to sing. He wasn’t much of a wiggler, but he started belting out some of his very favorite tunes – stuff like Wheels on the Bus and Jesus Loves Me. The elderly couple in front of us requested that I please make him stop. Once again, I did my best, but in my heart I wanted to say, “you have no idea how disastrous this situation could be right now – singing is the least of my worries.” Except for trying to keep my warbler quiet, this trip way exceeded my expectations.
When we adopted our two girls, it required 24 plus hours of travel to make our way halfway around the earth. There was a lot of pacing up and down the aisles with grief stricken toddlers. We weren’t the only ones. At one point when we were coming home with our oldest daughter, she fell asleep on the floor in front of us in a very awkward looking position. My husband felt like she must be uncomfortable and attempted to rearrange her splayed limbs. She woke up with a start and commenced to scream. I was not a happy person… On our second adoption trip, we juggled the needs of two toddlers as we made our long journey home.
Now that our children are well past the “I’m not sure what calamity might happen on an airplane stage”, I do my best to be kind and compassionate and helpful to all who travel along with children in this “wildcard” stage. Even when the screaming baby is disruptive to my peace and plans, I remember that there are earaches and overtired bodies and frustrated parents in the mix. Sometimes there are reasons that we will never know or understand that lead to meltdowns and freak-outs way up in the sky. Everyone can feel like a trapped animal in the narrow confines of a plane. Sometimes we make assumptions and judgments about people and situations about which we know nothing. It is a place where small acts of kindness and grace and recognizing that we never know the backstory of any one situation can go a long way.
Do you have any traveling with or without children nightmares? How do/did you handle it? I would love to hear your stories.