Flying With Children – A Mother’s Thoughts

Joanna is a guest contributor to Vacation Smarter and brings her own style and twist to the blog with accounts of her travels.

Walking onto a plane and being stared at with venom doesn’t happen so much to me now that Mini-Me is older. Having an almost-Tween who is easily lulled into a semi-coma with her head plugged into her iPad and her hand to mouth coordination being honed with a bag of Oreos, means traveling with a child is much easier. She knows her way around an airport and is unfazed by TSA and has a confident knowledge of the various means of getting lounge access.

When she was a baby, however, I could feel fellow passengers’ eyes boring into me, willing me to keep walking past them as I got onto the plane. Row after row, as I struggled my way along the aisle, Mini-Me held out in front of me at arms’ length, an apologetic look on my face, as if I was trying to claim she was nothing to do with me.

I am still mentally scarred from the first time I took her on the plane. It was a short haul flight, I was traveling alone with her, and I remember it much too clearly.

Having dealt with manhandling all her bulky baby paraphernalia at the gate and finally getting on the plane, I finished my walk of shame through the plane cabin and sat down in my seat. As I did so, the woman next to me turned towards me, with her hand on the arm of the man next to her and said with a half smile, “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry…this is our first trip away in eight years…without.. our young children.”

By this time, Mini-Me, aged only four months, had decided she needed to express what she was thinking – really, really loudly.

I, also, didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Anyone who has traveled with a young child on their lap knows that, despite the fact the child is travelling for free, you pay for it. In spades. Trying to keep Mini-Me still enough to strap her into the seatbelt extension, whilst she was doing a fine impression of a bag of snakes, tested all my resolve. Desperate to be minimally invasive to those around me and well aware that many of those people were staring at me with daggers in their eyes, questioning why on earth I had to bring a BABY on a plane, least of all one that didn’t want to be there, I wanted the seat to swallow me up. Instead I let them judge my parenting skills, as I ineptly rammed a pacifier into her mouth, dusting the fluff off it on my sleeve and tried to soothe her, faintly ashamed of my lack of a mental back catalogue of lullabies and settling, instead, for a ropey version of ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’. Cyndi Lauper would have been proud.

The screaming just got louder. I tried another tactic and ordered myself a gin and tonic.

I am happy those days are over. I no longer write lists of essential things I need for the journey. It wouldn’t occur to me now to have my handbag stuffed with spare underwear and a change of shirt in case of an accident or a spillage. And yes, I mean for Mini-Me.

CM – who wasn’t around in the early days and who is now my most regular travel companion – is one of the Scowling Dagger-Eyed types and thinks children should be checked as hold baggage. I regularly receive texts from him from airline club lounges when he is traveling, my phone almost bursting into flames at having to transmit such scathing remarks about Kids In The Lounge! I fully understand his point of view. No one wants to be disturbed in a quiet place meant for relaxing, working or simply minding your own business whilst focusing on important tasks, such as getting to the next level of Candy Crush.

That’s actually a whole other issue and not limited to children traveling. It’s to do with children in public places, when they are meant to be under the supervision of adults. As my mother occasionally said to me when I was a child, “There is a time and a place for what you are doing. Now and here is neither of those.” I have no doubt that, should CM’s rather too real presidential aspirations ever come to fruition, he would make the public possession of children illegal.

Sadly, air travel isn’t glamorous anymore; airplanes are buses in the sky. I love that one of my older relatives still puts on a tie when he travels by plane, as if it is something special. It really isn’t. The fact that it is available and affordable to many – as it should be – means children are part of that. So next time you’re willing a mother struggling with a baby to keep walking down the aisle so you’re not disturbed, ask if you can help her. Likewise, if you do have kids, buy some Oreos and teach them how to use earbuds.

Other posts by Joanna:
Ssh..Keep it a secret!
The Best of Both Worlds 
What Happens In Vegas