2 October 2012

Flying with Toddlers: Whac-a-Mole with Wings

For some reason there's been a lot in the news lately about babies on planes. Remember these flying parents of newborn twins who famously handed out goodie bags to fellow passengers?

Please. Everyone (well everyone with children older than infancy) knows that little babies are a piece of cake on a plane. You feed them and they sleep. And if not, well their lungs are too small to make much noise. The roar of a jet engine easily drowns out any screaming newborn. Oh, and they can't yet walk.

Dear Goodie Bag Parents: It's easy now. In a few years you're going to need to pass out cash. Also, you had time to make goodie bags and type cute little notes? And I'm really jealous that your assigned seat number ahead of the flight matched the one you were actually given when you boarded. (In reality, flying with children is more like this: Wrestling 23 pounds of human and maintaining the alertness of a ninja for 12 hours).

Adam and I have entered the world of flying with a toddler and a 2-year-old. This can best be described as playing (read: suffering through) a 24-hour game of whac-a-mole. Except we're operating in a 1x1 foot space and the moles are a lot bigger. When we board the plane we have an entire arsenal of tricks. The first step is to threat assess the fellow passenger in our aisle. With one lap baby, our family of 4 only gets 3 seats. There's always one poor soul sitting in that 4th seat next to us. Do they seem like the kind of person who can be easily charmed by chubby baby cheeks? Are their clothes too nice for stray, sticky baby hands? Etc.

I congratulate this mom of a 6-month-old and 2-year-old for getting her $3.99 back from the TSA for her confiscated peanut butter. Like she said, you need your peanut butter in a baby-plane crisis. The exact thing has happened to us. I can still hear the thud of our peanut butter hitting the bottom of the TSA trash can. P.S. Since when is peanut butter a liquid?

Often after the plane lands, a grandmotherly type will fulfill her role as the veteran parent and tell us what a great job our kids did. We graciously accept the compliment on their behalf, but we're really thinking, "Are you serious? That was some expert parenting you just witnessed. Did you see those moves about 7 hours in when these kids were seconds away from simultaneous meltdowns and we balanced 4 meal trays, 2 babies and 5 petit sachets of French cheese on our laps?"

BANGKOK AIRWAYS fligth Bangkok-Koh Samui by Jota_BRAZIL, on Flickr
x4 plus 2 kids.
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Jota_BRAZIL 

Now, I am in full support of child free zones on airplanes. It's called flying First Class. Good luck keeping kids out of Economy. When I fly without kids, I quite like hearing crying babies. It reminds me that they're not mine and I can relax.

On our last flight, just as we all got settled in our seats, the flight attendant came to tell us she found our family another spot. She walked us up the steps to the second level of the cabin. I gave Adam a panicked look and said, "We can't sit upstairs, it's too quiet, we're too far away from the engines. People will kill us." We found our seats anyway then sized-up the woman in the 4th seat. We apologetically said hello and she said nothing. Adam whispered to me, "Great, she's a real barrel of laughs." It took a few minutes to realize they had geniusly seated us next to a deaf woman. That's right, the one person we could not possibly disturb with our noise. We breathed a sigh of relief and thanked Air France for their expertise, once again, in handling families with babies.


  1. I think about that confiscated peanut butter every time I walk past PB in CostCo. I hope someone took it home for their family. Thanks for the reminder about congratulating expert parenting. Maybe if I do that IN ADVANCE of the flight, it will inspire parents to rise to your mark.

  2. Thanks for the read.
    Next time... get the extra-crunchy PB. They can't possibly call that a liquid. Can they?


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