It Gets Better: Flying With Children Edition

The first flight I took as a new mother was absolute hell. It was just 3 months after my daughter was born and we were only going from Washington to Orlando. A direct flight. And it was horrible. Just stressful beyond belief. I was still getting used to everything from diaper changes in public to breastfeeding in public. Getting through security was tough. Figuring out when to nurse on take-off and landing was tough. By the time we landed and were picked up by the in-laws, I was a nervous wreck.

Little did I know that it would get worse. I flew a lot with my first-born that first year and around month eight, she began disliking airplanes. A flight attendant told me that the worst months are between nine and 18 months. Sounds about right. When my daughter was about 15 months, and I was pregnant with the second one, we flew to Hawaii. It actually went all right, considering how long of a flight that is from Washington, D.C. We got bumped up to business class and we had two extra seats next to us. It was easy as pie. I mistakenly thought this meant the return flight would be similar. It wasn’t. That time we were smooshed in the middle of one of those five-seat sections of the plane. Our oldest was a lap baby. The moment she got on the plane she began screaming. The woman next to me was so mean from the get-go that I stressed out. It was a red-eye flight and everyone wanted to sleep while my daughter wanted to scream. I drugged her, I played with her, I fed her, I tried everything I could but for four hours (yes, four hours) she wailed. Finally she slept. I remember arriving in Chicago for our connection and meeting a lovely couple with a similarly aged child. And their flight nanny. And the parents were acting all exasperated and overwhelmed. I wanted to punch them.

At least I will never have as bad a flight as that, I thought. That was before an infamous flight to Denver when I was traveling with a 1-year-old lap baby and my 2-year-old. The 2-year-old inexplicably soiled her car seat (inexplicable because she was diapered at the time) within minutes of take-off. It was an early morning flight and I was sleep-deprived. There was no room to remove the car seat so I had to balance both kids on my lap. I was literally sobbing as I tried to keep them from crying. A random flight attendant from a different airline saw my distress and offered to take the baby (I didn’t actually throw the baby at her, but close). I was so grateful. The 2-year-old fell asleep and I somehow arrived in Denver.

And I’m going to just skip over all the stories of my children vomiting on me during flights.
Because I want to get to the good part: It gets better!
I’m in Mexico right now and my husband was so anxious before our flights. He remembered how difficult it is to travel with children. But they’re 3-years-old and 4-years-old now. They can be reasoned with (well, the older one can, at least). They can drag their own luggage filled with treats and activities. Their attention span has increased from 30 seconds to at least 20 minutes. And they’re actually fun and funny to talk to. I knew it would be easier. And I was right.
They don’t soil themselves. They can tell me when they feel like vomiting. They don’t cry for hours at a time. We give them miniature headphones to listen to music or watch television. Because they love television, it keeps them quiet for as long as the magic box is on. This would never have worked on an infant, obviously.
So to all the parents who question why they ever had children each time they fly, I am here to tell you: it gets better. It may take a few years, but it gets better.

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