It was the final leg of our most recent trip. It should have been a 5 ½ hour direct flight, but due to weather delays, it ended up being 8 hours inside a plane. My husband and I were traveling with our sons, ages 8 and 4, and we were seated on opposite sides of the same row. I was seated with my 4 year old and an older woman. In front of us was a family: mom, dad, 4 year old boy, and a girl approximately 15 months old on the mom’s lap. It was an evening flight, and the kids in front of me were in pj’s, clearly indicating the parents’ hope that they would fall asleep upon take off. Things couldn’t have gone more differently.
For the entire 8 hours in the plane, one of the children in front of me was crying. As soon as the parents got brother calmed down, sister would blow her top. Clearly overtired, they just couldn’t settle down. The only thing that caused people to roll their eyes more than the captain’s announcements explaining delays were the antics of these children.
I felt very sorry for the mom and dad. They were working so hard. They read, they sang, they bounced, and they bribed. When a woman in front of them turned to give a dirty look, the mom explained, “I’m trying!” I was about to offer to buy them cocktails when I saw they already ordered beer from the flight attendant.
When we finally made it to our destination and prepared to de-plane, the woman next to me quietly complimented my children on how well they behaved. Then a man behind us chimed in with what a great job I did with my kids. I politely accepted their compliments because, truth be told, my kids did a phenomenal job. However, part of me couldn’t help but feel that the reason they were outwardly praising me was because they couldn’t tell the mom in front of me what they thought of her children. My kids looked like angels compared to those demons in row 30. I heard these folks murmur all flight. I knew they were not happy with the kids melting down. And who would be?
Let’s face it. Hearing kids cry for hours is awful. We all want to lean back and have a peaceful flight. But the people for whom that flight was hardest was that family. I’ve been in their shoes. You make the best plans you can, and sometimes things just go horribly wrong.
It’s not that my parenting was spot on during this flight or that my kids were faultless. We just got lucky on the roulette wheel of kid travel. Kids have bad days. Adults have bad days. We each, at one time or another, have been the person at whom strangers rolled their eyes. The best we can do is cut each other some slack, utilize the ear plugs or headphones we should have brought on the flight as responsible travelers, and keep our grimaces to ourselves.
But why make little kids travel? Why put them and everyone else through it? Because sometimes you need to get from A to B in life even when it isn’t ideal. There could be a sick family member, a newborn cousin, or a returning service-person on the other end of that flight. This visit might be life-changing for everyone involved. As for this particular family, I overheard that “Auntie Rose” was the intended recipient of continual kid hugs.
I was reminded of a flight I took with both of my boys when my youngest was 13 months old. Traveling alone with them was not easy. At that age, you cannot reason why one needs to stay put while the fasten seat belt sign is on. However, at our destination, my baby got to play with his 90 year old great-grandmother before she fell into decline with dementia. The subsequent visits with her were never the same, and she soon after passed away. I have video of them playing together, which I can show him in the years to come to remind him of his Babci, whom he won’t remember meeting but with whom he did get to bond. So yes, that difficult flight was totally worth it.
As we got off the plane, the mother in front of me apologized. I told her she didn’t have to. She launched into explanations on how well her kids can sleep at home, and I politely cut her off. I let her know that I understand and have been there. Any mom who travels with kids has been there. She won’t get any judgment from me. I hope she had a great visit with her family and will travel to see them again soon.
What have been your experiences when traveling with children? How have you managed when things don’t go as planned?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara B. of Washington (State), USA.
Photo credit to Mitchio. This photo has a Creative Commons attribute license.