As a mother of five kids of various ages (my husband being the oldest), I’ve had a lot of experience traveling with and without children. Trust me, I completely understand the frustrations of my fellow passengers when it comes to flying with little ones. Therefore, I’d like to endulge you in what’s really happening when you see us at an airport.
Off to a flying start
Imagine, Tom the Traveler is patiently sitting at the gate, perhaps he’s on his way to that final destination of sun, sea and sand. Then, among the crowd, he spots me and my husband, burdened with bags, pushing our children in strollers down the bustling concourse—in his direction. He looks at the ceiling, hands clasped, and tightly closes his eyes.
Guess what? We’ve got a pretty good idea what that prayer is about. We’re also praying, adding a Hail Mary into the shuffle because it doesn’t hurt, with the hope that we’ll be on a flight with kid-friendly passengers who understand how hard it is for parents to travel.
Tom boards the plane with one bag that easily fits into the overhead bin. A flight attendant beams at him in delight and offers him a pillow and blanket, so that he’ll sit snug as a bug for the entire flight. He may even end up receiving extra peanuts or pretzels. I fondly remember those days, too.
If you’re curious to know why we look like vagabond peddlers with our five bags, two strollers and three stuffed animals, here’s the scoop: One bag has clothes for the whole family; one keeps spare clothing for the kids (trust me, we could use two); another contains diapers; one bag holds toys, and the last is our private mini-mart with the necessary snacks for the kids. Believe me, a hungry toddler isn’t a happy toddler. Have you seen the movie Chucky?
During the flight, Tom gets up to use the lavatory and catches sight of our kids’ eyes glued to video entertainment. He snears at me with disapproval of this sort of mind-killing and time-waisting event.
Yes, our kids will watch endless hours of videos on a flight, but my husband and I are okay with that. Sure, we could take out the travel-sized games and coloring books. Of course, I could read aloud their favorite bedtime story of Ruby the Roo and Kylie Koala on their big adventure across Oz with their pal Phil Platypus, each with their own unique and animated voices provided by yours truly. Although my children would be over the moon by this compelling interpretation, not everyone on the plane would share that same sentiment, especially when the kids ask me to “read it again, mommy!”
Let’s be real. We would get one maybe two hours of quiet time with those items, but videos, on the other hand, can enthrall our little crumb crunchers for the entire journey; be it for a one-hour or 20-hour flight.
Are we proud? Yes, we are. Proud that we found a solution to keep our fidgety kids occupied in such confined space for a period of time. Yet, if it’s any consolation, we’ll force feed them books for a week when we return home. If they behave, then they’ll get an encyclopedia for dessert.
Seen but not heard?
Tom’s snoozing with sugarplums dancing in his head until he wakes with a start upon hearing our bundles of joy whining, crying or screaming for attention. It’s their endearing way of letting us and anyone else within earshot know that they aren’t pleased as punch at the moment. Tom glowers at us, irked by the shrill and baffled by how it appears we can’t control them, while other passengers pop their heads above their seats in search of the source of the raucous. “What that child needs is a good spanking,” a few may grumble. Really? How many children giggle when they get a paddling?
I’ll break it down for you. Traveling with kids is a test, a test that’s so tough that many adults barely pass with a C-. Kids are irrational humans, and they only see the world through their eyes. When I try explaining to my toddlers that they’re disturbing others around them, they look at me as if I’ve just spoken in a language of clicks and whistles. Plus, as far as they’re concerned, life is only fair when everyone in their vicinity understands how miserable they are at that moment. In the end, some love and a hug usually does the trick to calm them down.
Yet, the peace any of us gets is to relish the fact that one day they, too, will be parents, and their kids will do the same to them. Oh, how I love me some karma. And if lovin’ karma is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right.
Thanks for ‘flying the friendly skies’
The plane arrives at the gate, and Tom the Traveler can’t wait to make a beeline to his connection that probably departs in 45 minutes, whisking him to the land of Get-Away-From-It-All. Weary with a dash of crabby, we schlepp our bags and kids down a jam-packed concourse to our 9-hour flight that leaves in fives hours, followed by another connection.
Perhaps some avid travelers can’t comprehend why we, as parents, would put ourselves through the trials and tribulations of taking a trip with children. The reason is that the rest of the vacation consists of dreams fulfilled, memories made and unforgettable family time that is so hard to come by these days. So, yes, it may look like our trip is going to hell in an family-sized handbasket, but I’ll never be sorry for traveling with my kids.