Traveling with Kids – Plane Exhausted!
Something about airports scares me. All the things I try to avoid—pressure, anxiety, boredom—are there, reflected on the faces of passing strangers. Watching everyone rushing to get to where they’re going makes me feel a little lost. It’s almost like the airport’s a giant waiting room, a place where no one stays for long. Usually, I can’t relax until I get on the plane and the trip actually begins.
This all changed when I had kids. On a recent flight with all three of them, I was fine in the airport, with its large stretches of carpet (“runway”) and snacks. It was only on the plane—a confined space—that I began to feel nervous.
My anxiety seemed to rise with the altitude. Take-off was “cool”; my kids were interested in watching the houses beneath them disappear, replaced by clouds. After a while, the glamor too, disappeared, replaced by the DVD player, marshmallows and 99 cent store treasures.
I was horrified when, a mere fifteen minutes later, my kids were done playing. All the carefully packed carry-ons, stuffed with toys, brimming with possibilities, had been explored, then discarded. They weren’t interested in watching DVDs. Didn’t want a snack. Tantrum time!
It was then that I began to relate to my six-year-old’s social classification system of “good guys” and “bad guys.” The woman playing peek-a-boo with my baby to preempt more crying? Good guy. The couple shooting me hostile looks? Bad guys, all the way. The man who complimented me on my parenting skills? Superhero status.
I also learned how to form instant, easy friendships the way my kids do. I bonded effortlessly with the flight attendant who showed us some empty seats in the back. She even offered me an alcoholic beverage, which I needed, and emergency instructions, which I did not. (Helpful emergency instructions would have involved dirty diapers and whining).
Two hours into the flight, my kids seemed to get the hang of what was expected of them. My baby, recently weaned, calmed down when I caved and nursed him. My other kids agreed to watch a DVD. I began to feel more hopeful.
Landing sparked a new series of tantrums, but I didn’t care. We were almost in sight of the airport, with its long stretches of carpet and snacks. An airport that was full of friendly strangers, strangers who hadn’t been cooped up with my kids and still found them cute.
What can I tell you? When you’re traveling with kids, airports are just friendly places.