Monday, September 10, 2007

We were ‘those’ people

This past weekend we flew, with Austin, to Fredericton for a friend’s wedding. It was our first time taking Austin on a plane and although confident that he’s a pretty good kid, I’ll admit, I was a little apprehensive about the whole thing.

The trip down on Friday afternoon was fine. Other than wanting to get up and explore for a bit, he was perfectly content sitting on one of our laps when he had to and colouring with crayons in his colouring book or playing with one of the other new toys we bought especially for the trip. (There’s nothing wrong with a little bribery every now and then.)

The weekend was great and went by way too fast. And before we knew it, we were back at the Fredericton airport on Sunday night waiting for our flight home.

When we booked our flights, we had two options for the flight home: 9 a.m. or 9 p.m. Since the purpose of our trip was to go to a wedding on Saturday night, the idea of being at the airport for 7:30 a.m. the next morning was not exactly appealing. So we chose the 9 p.m. flight, hoping and praying that Austin would sleep. Bedtime is after all between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

What I learned from this experience is you can hope and pray all you want, but when you have a strong-willed 18-month-old, neither work very well.

He was fine running around the airport waiting area, but screamed and squirmed when Ryan picked him up to stand in line to go through security. The meaning of that screaming – ‘I don’t want you to hold me, I want to run around.’ In other words, ‘I’m really tired and only want to do what I want to do.’

He stopped screaming as soon as we put him back down and let him run around.

We hadn’t bought him a seat – because kids under two are free as long as they sit on your lap – and thankfully, when we got on the plane, we were in the second-to-last row, and the last row was empty. So we spread out. One of us sitting with Austin, the other one sitting in the row behind. Austin was happy as long as he could climb on the seats. But when the seatbelt sign came on it was another story. I spent the next 10 minutes physically holding him down while he screamed so loud you’d think someone was torturing him – officially making us ‘the people who bring the screaming child on the plane to drive everyone else crazy.’

I managed to calm him down by getting him to look out the window at the lights and singing songs. And for the next two hours he played with one of us – exhausted as could be but refusing to sleep. And a few of the people around us were really nice, talking to us or playing with him.

Landing was worse than takeoff. This time, 10 minutes felt like 10 hours as I used all I had without hurting him to hold him down while he screamed so much a few people turned to look – maybe to see if I was torturing him. And he kicked and kicked and kicked. I kept trying to hold his legs in, but he kept escaping and kicking the seat in front while screaming – and the guy in the seat kept turning around and giving dirty looks. He screamed so much that as soon as the plane landed and started taxing to the gate and I loosened my grip, he jumped over to Ryan and then fell to the floor and closed his eyes. Had taxing taken even one minute longer, he would’ve been asleep on the floor.

I felt terrible. Not only was I exhausted from the experience and wanting nothing more than to go home and have a really big drink, I felt terrible for, in my son’s eyes, torturing him and I felt terrible for being ‘one of those parents’. Everyone hates hearing a screaming kid. Even as a parent, I find a screaming child grates on my nerves when I’m in the mall or a grocery store. But there’s nothing worse than a screaming child on an airplane when you can’t escape from it. And there’s nothing worse than knowing that that screaming child is yours, and you can’t make him stop and, at the moment, you’re the one that everyone is giving dirty looks to.

Needless to say, it was an adventure. And unfortunate too, because aside from the fact that Austin woke up in the hotel room when we got back from the wedding reception and wanted to play for awhile, the weekend adventure went off without a hitch. It just ended on a particularly rough note.

So, if I ever fly with a toddler or small child again, I'm going to do one of three things:

  • buy a portable DVD player -- although it can't be used at takeoff and landing, it will help with providing entertainment for the rest of the trip
  • drug my kid before we take off
  • both

Or then again, maybe we'll think twice about travelling with someone who doesn't yet understand reason.


Adam said...

I can't believe they didn't put you in the front row. Kids are the reason there's more space there. Austin could have at least sat on the floor and moved around a bit during the flight. I'm sure that although most of the people on the flight wished you weren't there, they also felt sorry for you. A screaming child at the other end of the plane isn't nice, but one in your lap must be much worse.

That Austin could kick the guy in front of you is amazing, and certainly says something about the way airlines are packing people in now.

janet said...

Even though he had flown a few times earlier in life, when Andrew hit 18months he flew with us to Vancouver and that was his last flight for a few years! That really is a rough age. I totally sympathize with parents now when I see them going through what you just described because you know there's absolutely nothing they can do. No matter how prepared, kids are gonna do what they want to do at that age.
We swear by the portable dvd!! In fact we're on our third machine, that's how well we've used them. And each time it broke down there was no agonizing or even discussion over purchasing another. It was a MUST HAVE! They're pretty dirt cheap now a days. I'm considering stocking up!