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Air Apparent

August 25, 2010

So, I recently embarked on my annual family vacation to the East Coast with my husband and two wee ones.  We opted to fly - as we have done in the past, with moderate success - and while I wasn’t looking forward to this particular part of the journey (with or without toddlers and infants, I HATE to fly), I felt confident that we were aptly prepared for air travel and all of the unpleasantries that accompany it.  Of course, you know what is coming next.

Hubris never goes unpunished, and my particular brand of arrogance was no exception to this rule.  Armed with a veritable arsenal of snacks, drinks, toys, books and all manner of distractions, I had failed to account for one very important factor:  my own DNA.  It would appear that many of the more desirable traits that my children have inherited can be attributed to my kind-hearted husband – while almost all of the shitty ones (selfish, stubborn, impatient and equipped with a hair-trigger, berserker-style temper) can be laid squarely at my feet.  My genetic material is strong with these two, and as is the case with me, these unfortunate personality traits tend to emerge at the WORST POSSIBLE TIME IMAGINABLE.  It doesn’t matter how many comforts you bring along for the high-altitude, clausterphobic ride if your 19 month old son is embroiled in a furious-pissed RAGE and refuses to eat, drink, read, play or nap out of pure spite.

Because I am a natural contrarian, I only bothered to look up tips for traveling with children AFTER I returned from my trip - when all of that helpful information was useless to me - though I am pleased to report that the experts didn’t suggest anything that I hadn’t already thought of.  Given that, I realized that my biggest mistake wasn’t failing to make my children more comfortable on the flight, rather I should have put my own needs first.  After all, it says right there on the in-flight safety brochure that you need to secure the oxygen mask over your own face before tending to the breathing needs of your kids!  So, without further ado:

{Pancake’s Tips for Traveling with Children}

1. Don’t.  It’s such an obvious suggestion and I know my tone is probably sarcastic, but I really mean it, DON”T.  I used to be one of those parents who wanted to take my child everywhere and let them experience everything and I believed that dragging them around on every trip I took would make traveling with them easier in the future while instilling in them a passion for adventure.  I still believe all these things are true and ultimately benefit the children, but you know who pays the price?  Me.  (Selfish, selfish me).  Trust me, if you can foist them off on someone else (doting grandparents, maybe?) while you take your trip, you will be WAY more comfortable.

2. If you are like me and have willfully ignored my own, sage advice and have decided against all signs of reason to fly with your bebes – bring mood-altering medication.  Loads.  For you.  Obviously you should consult with a physician before taking any kind of drugs (and definitely don’t administer any to your child without discussing it with your pediatrician first) but Valium, Dramamine and Vodka can work wonders when things really go bugfuck on the plane.  Anxiety issues and motion sickness can be swiftly quelled by the first two –  throw in a nip or two of vodka (or whatever else your preference is) and you are well on your way to successfully blocking out any wailing, kicking or complaints that ‘my goldfish are TOO SPIC-EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE’.

3. Kids or no, I think it’s always a good idea to travel with some form of entertainment.  In the past, I preferred books and magazines, though now I really enjoy a personal listening device for music and podcasts.  This is good for two reasons, namely – donning a set of headphones will make you less approachable/accessible to chatty sojourners seated next to you.  Secondly, you are better equipped to drown out/ignore the sounds of distress that your children are emitting. Obviously this isn’t fool-proof (tiny, swift hands are deftly capable of snatching headphones out of earholes and phones from laps) but if you time your listening enjoyment well, this will afford you moments of respite while offering the valid excuse that you simply couldn’t hear when a certain someone was whining about needing to have their bottom wiped.

4.  Drink lots of water and make frequent – even if unnecessary – trips to the restroom.  It’s win-win, really - you are giving your body the hydration it needs AND you now have a legitimate reason for taking leave of your family.  Of course,  you don’t want to just hide in there and monopolize the space as that would be rude to your fellow passengers, but making several trips to the WC can give you some much needed alone time.  Also, no one can offer your their boogers once the door is locked.

5.  It’s good practice to work out some kind of plan with your spouse or partner before you board the plane.  Pre-emptively sorting out crucial details like ‘which one of us is staying sober for this?’ and ‘what do we do if someone barfs?’ is at least making an effort to avoid possible resentment in the future.  If you think of your trip as a kind of relay race in which the little ones are fleshy batons that must be passed from one parent to the other at varying intervals, you can insure some downtime for yourself.

Bon voyage and good luck!



7 Responses to “ Air Apparent ”

  1. T Dawg on August 25, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me! These are great words of advice, Jane! We opted for a road trip to Tennessee this year and I found myself questioning our level of sanity an hour after we left KC. Thanks for sharing- you are such a witty writer!

  2. Meshel on August 25, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    I had no idea that goldfish were tooooo spiceeeeeeee! Ha ha
    The love one shares with Vodka, surely helps in times of flight.
    I’m always delighted to read about the family adventures…
    Entertaining and amazingly funny.

  3. Glee on August 26, 2010 at 6:34 am

    I never flew when my kids were little, but Charla has done it quite a bit with her 3, often by herself. What bothered her more than the kids (crying, screaming, tantrums, etc. are an off and on part of motherhood) was the dirty looks she got from some other passengers. I know she felt embarrassed and did not know what to do to “calm the savage beasties”. I hope you had more sympathetic plane mates. Love your humorous posts.

  4. Grace on August 27, 2010 at 11:37 am

    So funneeee. The best airplane ride I’ve ever had with kids was the one where they couldn’t find us four seats together and I won the roshambo to get the solo seat. Ha, suck it, Jarrett! It was in the very last row, where all the turbulence is, right by the smelly lavatories, and the seats didn’t recline and I had to sit between two smelly, hairy strangers (I HATE strangers–all of you!), but it was like a wonderful, magical day at the spa.

    And the one time–ONE TIME!–I’ve flown alone since having kids (that’s one round trip in 6.5 years), I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. The whole way out to Boston I slept all 3 hours, mouth open, drooling, head thrashing back and forth like I was having a bad dream in the movies. Like I said: heaven. And then the whole back I spent the entire 3 hours leisurely paging through trashy magazines. US, Instyle, People. Oh the wasted, empty hours! Heaven again.

  5. Rebbe on August 27, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Lovey what where you thinking… I am to the point now that I can barely make it to day care in the morning without wanting to pull over and leave her with catholic charities.
    Trapped in hollow metal tube hurling through the air at 30,000 feet. Sheer bravery!

  6. cole on August 30, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    This is when I thank god for my genetic inability to fly. It makes me barf and the last time I did it I came back home with a blood clot in my leg and a pulmonary embolism in each lung. In other words…you could not get me back on a plane if I were already dead. So…that will be my go to excuse if ever my husband wants to fly somewhere. He is free to go and even take our son with him. I …will not be going.

  7. Travis on September 2, 2010 at 10:37 am

    When Alex was two, he cried on the flight from California to KC non-stop. As we disembarked, an old man approached me and said, “Now I know why parents smother their children.” Later, the flight attendant told us that the old crank tried to get us thrown off the flight when we stopped in Denver. She told him to suck it–or words to that effect.

    Good times.