By Ginger Truitt
— A common complaint among pretty much anyone who has ever flown is that children on planes are annoying. On the one hand, I agree. On the other hand, I am often more annoyed by the grown-ups.
The most frustrating aspect of flying with kids is making sure that they do not disturb the other passengers. Overall, we do pretty well in this department. Others often comment that they didn’t even know we had children on the plane. But there are always exceptions.
I was excited when hubby got his first European contract, but I had no idea what stresses lay ahead of me. It seemed like a no-brainer. A nine-hour flight leaving at 7 p.m. meant that the kids would fall asleep shortly after take-off and sleep for the duration of the flight. Baby boy was three weeks away from his second birthday, so he was able to fly for free as long as he stayed on my lap. I still snort in disgust every time I recall how logical that seemed to a mother who had never been on a flight lasting longer than four hours.
The older couple sitting across the aisle from us seemed very pleasant. They spent a great deal of time chatting with our baby boy and three-year-old girl. “Phoebe and Hudson! That sounds like the name of a railroad!” the old man joked.
Phoebe complained that her lips were chapped, and the old lady suggested that I ask the flight attendant for lip balm since I had failed to put any in my carry-on. It would never have occurred to me to ask, and I was happy that our new friends were seasoned travelers who knew such things were available on long flights. “Yes,” I thought to myself as my precious little boy snuggled his tow head down into my chest, “this is going to be a very pleasant flight!”
Two hours later, my back was starting to cramp, my hips were aching, and baby boy was getting restless. It was then that they turned the cabin lights off for the night. Perhaps it was fear that caused him to start crying, and crying, and crying … and crying. I did everything within my power to console him, but he would have none of it. Unfortunately, he only wanted mommy, so hubby’s attempts to calm him resulted in louder screaming. Our “friend” across the aisle began casting dirty looks my direction, and loudly remarking to her husband about my lack of parenting skills.
I knew that if I could just get him to nestle with me again, he would fall asleep and all would be well. But the flight attendant came and strongly suggested that I walk around with him in order to “break it up a bit for the other passengers.”
Against my better judgment, I walked a screaming toddler to the back of the airplane, through the hostess station, and back up the other aisle — the walk of shame I like to call it. People were rousing from sound sleep just so they could glare at me and loudly sigh their disapproval. Still, the crying continued.
When I reached my seat, the lady across the aisle resumed making negative comments about my abilities as a parent. Tears threatened to spill as I silently prayed that God would please calm my little boy’s heart. I held him tightly, and tried to mimic the rocking of our big, comfy chair at home. I would have given anything to be able to stretch out in that cozy recliner with him, and see his sweet smile. But I was stuck 40,000 feet in the air, cramped into a tiny seat, with angry people staring at me from every direction.
Eventually, he balled his little fist up against my chest, and his sobs turned into a quiet heaving. His tiny body relaxed, and he was just drifting to sleep when the mean old biddy across the aisle actually cursed, “Finally! You got that g** d*** kid to shut up!”
I didn’t think it was possible for the little guy to scream any louder than he had been, but at the sound of her angry voice, he bolted upright and became hysterical.
Just remembering that flight still leaves me anxious, exhausted and angry. I told hubby I didn’t care what sorts of wonderful things were in Europe, I would never fly that far again. I’ve actually made that promise to myself many times, but each flight gets a bit easier. Baby boy is nearly five years old and growing faster every day. Hopefully, the crabby lady across the aisle has grown up a bit too.
Ginger is an author, speaker and mother of five. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.