Crystal Clear: Young moms sometimes have to wing it
June 3, 2010
FORT JACKSON, SC -- Books and toys' Check. Juice and snacks' Packed. Extra diapers' Stashed. Ear drops' Ready. Six hours before a recent flight to Mississippi, it seemed as though everything was ready to go. But as any parent of toddlers can likely attest, my prior planning did little to calm my nerves.
My husband and I had flown with our little one before, when he was a tiny, quiet bundle who could be easily satisfied with a pacifier. Since then, however, he has become a ball of energy, singing songs and yelling at the most inopportune times, with a preference for running freely as opposed to being held by Mom or Dad. And that energy was what I feared most.
Upon entering the plane (we were the last scheduled passengers to board, and we rushed on right as the gate attendants threatened to give our seats up to stand-by passengers), one woman looked at our son and remarked, "Oh! He's awake!"
And though she made no further comment, I knew exactly what she meant. P.C., or pre-child, I was the one who stared suspiciously at children who dared accompany their parents on a flight. The crying, the kicked seats, the yelling - though I rarely encountered it, I always feared it. And I always spared a piteous glance at the poor sap holding the squirming toddler, whispering in vain for the child to shush. That day, my husband and I were those poor saps.
I was afraid of what people would think. I was afraid that despite the entertainment I'd brought aboard - books, vibrating teether and a kiddie "radio" - it wouldn't be enough to tire the kid enough for him to sleep through the entire flight.
I was right to be afraid.
Tucked safely in Dad's lap in the window seat, the take off went better than expected. Dad made the requisite airplane noises while I silently prayed the ear drops would take effect despite my not having put them in an hour before the flight.
But 45 minutes or so into the flight, the books had been thrown down, snacks had been rebuffed and the radio was uninteresting. On top of that, his diaper needed to be changed.
And that's how I found myself in a cramped bathroom, wrestling a 22-pound toddler into his diaper while fighting the turbulence that, of course, picked up once I shut the bathroom door. Fifteen minutes later, I emerged from the bathroom - beads of sweat dotting my brow - only to find the path to my seat blocked by the drink cart.
After another 10 minutes spent in the bathroom waiting for the drink cart to make its way back down the aisle, we eventually made our way back to our seats, swaying all the way.
And eventually, he did fall asleep.
Upon touching down in Mississippi, I was surprised to hear our fellow passengers say those four words that I think can put a smile on any parent's face: "What a good baby."
And I realized that for all of my worrying, all of my stress and all of my planning, my fellow passengers understood that a baby is a baby. That as difficult it may be for adults to sit still in a cramped aluminum box, it is even more so for those of the sippy cup set.
As much as I feared a tantrum at 20,000 feet, I realized that hey, sometimes those things happen.
And as annoying as it may be for the other passengers, being the parent of that toddler is stressful enough without having to worry about offending people whom you may never again meet.
But despite my newfound outlook, IAca,!E+have a confession: On the flight back home, as he drifted to sleep, IAca,!E+breathed a sigh of relief. And then I joined him.