We’re heading down to Shanghai for a wedding this weekend. Been down a dozen times before so in theory this trip should be no big deal – but this time, it very much is. Soon, we will join the ranks of parents who have braved the skies with their toddlers in tow.
Many of you, especially those who have done the trans-Pacific/Eurasia treks with your tots multiple times, may roll your eyes at my apprehension. And perhaps rightfully so – it is, after all, just a plane ride, right?
Since Marianne was born, I have gained a new respect for those martyrs to parenting who boldly brave the “friendly skies” with their babies on board. I must confess that I was once part of the "scoffing brigade" – those apathetic souls who tut-tut at harried parents desperately trying to control their crying kids on airplanes. I, too, have cursed under my breath at the tiny terror in the row behind me who wouldn’t stop kicking the back of my seat, and I’ve thrown my share of annoyed glares at those seemingly moms and dads who didn’t seem to be doing enough (though in retrospect, they were probably just too exhausted to care).
"It’s really not that bad," a fellow dad with two slightly older kids told me last week. “As long as you’re making an effort to keep your kid under control, the other passengers will understand [and endure].” Reassuring as that may sound, it’s still hard to anticipate how our toddler will react as we jostle her about in a completely alien environment at what is usually her peak napping time (hell hath no fury like our daughter when she’s disturbed from her nap).
This weekend will be a practice run for what promises to be a much longer and more interesting flight at the year’s end when we visit my mom in the States. An hour and a half with Marianne on our laps this time around will surely be nothing compared to 13 hours in sardine class on the 9:30pm red-eye to LAX (and yes, we will be purchasing a separate seat)
Another dad I know recently completed an even longer flight to the States only to discover upon arriving that the airline had lost his luggage – when the bag finally turned up a day later, it came minus an ipod and camera. Of course the old maxim is that you should always pack valuables in your carry-on, but I can empathize – all available space in his carry-ons were devoted to toys, books and a mini-DVD player to keep his daughter amply occupied. I’m sure the "New Economy" check-in and carry-on policies of most American carriers didn’t help much either.
The ultimate props goes to my sister, who will once again be taking my two-year-old nephew on a trans-Atlantic flight from Oslo to LA this weekend all by herself. She’s done this on three separate occasions already, but admits that she’s even more nervous for this trip considering Emil’s age. "I hope I can get him to chew some gum,” she told me the other day, "he might freak out during take off and landing."
My only conclusion is that when it comes to flying with your tots, every time is like the first time – small wonder there are entire websites devoted to this phenomenon.