While perusing a parenting magazine at the doctor’s office last week, I spotted a reader’s tip for easing a child’s first flight. Before her eight-month-old son’s inaugural trip, this woman wrote notes explaining that “Henry” was a novice flier and might become agitated or noisy. She attached the pre-apologies to candy bars, which she handed to those sitting nearby before takeoff.
Wish I’d thought of that when my kids were babies. I’m still haunted by memories of flying with my young children:
– Wanting to hide as my first toddler joyfully, and loudly, cruised the aisles all night long on an overseas flight (we didn’t heed warnings that Benadryl could excite, instead of sedate, some children);
– Enduring glares from countless adults in the row ahead, who were clearly tired of their seat backs being kicked and the tray table being slammed up and down;
– Watching my husband emerge from the bathroom with a naked 19-month-old wrapped in an airline blanket, knowing that we had neither additional diapers nor a spare outfit;
– Trying to quell my three boys’ screams, while they fought over the window-shade’s position or turns on the GameBoy;
– Begging an older couple to separate, so my tearful two-and-a-half-year-old daughter wouldn’t be seated six rows away from me…
I used to dread flights with the kids, but knew they were a necessary evil if I wanted to visit far-flung family and friends. (And, of course, airplane rides were infinitely better than car trips…)
Now that the kids can entertain themselves, and I can even take girlfriend getaways without them, flights serve as the first stage of unwinding. After all of the pre-travel preparations, when I finally take my seat on the plane, I start to relax and let go.
The longer the flight, the happier I am. For instance, when flying from Seattle to Europe, I look forward to nine hours of peace, when I can just sit and be waited on. I can watch movies, read a book without interruption, complete an entire crossword or Sudoku puzzle or just stare at the airline-magazine maps and dream.
When I fly without family, I have the illusion of being in control of my time. I can take naps, knowing that no one will wake me to help find “stuff.” Nobody wants to talk about a bad day, and no one needs me to resolve conflicts. Phone solicitors can’t interrupt dinner and I’m not distracted by text-message or “You’ve Got Mail” chimes. I don’t have to cook, clean up, walk the dog or let the cat out. I don’t have to endure rush-hour lines at the grocery store, load eight bags into my Smart Car and then remember the one item I really needed.
Airplane fights are terrific “me” time now. If the flight is long enough, I can enjoy a meal that someone else has prepared, knowing that no dirty dishes await me. I can even drink a few glasses of wine without worrying about the impact. And, if I spill my drink, someone will hand me a few napkins and a “fresh one.”
I can put on an eye mask, insert ear plugs and tune everyone else out.
In fact, sometimes the flight feels like vacation enough. During rough stretches at home, I fantasize about cashing in frequent-flier miles, hopping on a plane and flying across the country and back one day, just to get a break and catch up on reading. In fact, I’m starting to feel the itch to do so now…
– Linda Williams Rorem, 14 March, 2011