Hello, fellow travelers. I have some bad news. I am going to be on your flight to Denver with my 17 month old baby. When you see me approaching your row, you are going to make that “Oh no, a baby, just my luck!” face, and my husband Odie and I will try very hard not to take it personally. Hopefully, you will simply insert your ear buds, turn up your MP3 player, and block us out for the rest of the flight.
We purchased her a seat, so there’s no worry about her overflowing onto yours while she sits on my lap (she’s got very long legs, like her daddy). We’ll be able to strap her into her own seat between us. I read some very sobering research about the dangers of lap sitting a toddler or infant during a survivable crash. I also saw the movie “Fearless.” Let’s just say, it’s worth the extra couple of hundred dollars to put your baby in a seat and buy a C.A.R.E.S. (Child Aviation Restraint System – it’s an FAA approved harness for kids 22-40 pounds) or bring your car seat. We did the former.
I have little doubt that my darling, verbal Baby V will make her displeasure at being strapped into an airplane seat well-known to everyone on the plane. Every morning, when I strap her into her car seat for the trip to day care, she screams bloody murder, arches her back, flails her arms and legs, and resists all attempts at restraint. Lucky us! We’re going to bring along toys, games, coloring books, and the laptop to try and entertain her. I’m going to risk public scorn by nursing her (I intentionally booked a flight during naptime). We hope she’ll be good, but we are preparing for the worst. You can expect to hear “Down. Down. Down,” as she pleads to be set free from her seat. I’m not sure what you would hate more, child-free traveler: listening to my toddler beg for freedom or dealing with her running up and down the aisle with her goopy, runny nose, reaching for your stuff and saying “Hold it?”
Cold looks. “Helpful” advice. Rude comments. That’s what I expect I’m in for.
If I were in a restaurant and my daughter misbehaved, I would take her right outside. People pay good money to go out and have a relaxing meal. I get that. I don’t have this option on an airplane. I read an article recently where people who hate traveling with children on their plane expressed the opinion that children should NOT be allowed on airplanes at all, or at least there should be child-free flights. Maybe there should. But the fact remains that an airplane is public transportation (albeit public transportation that costs three hundred times what a bus costs), and I have a right to pay my money and take my baby on the plane. We could drive 17 hours to Colorado and be the sole sufferers of our child’s tantrums and discomforts, but we are putting our lives more at risk that way. Hundreds of thousands of people die in auto accidents on average every year, versus fewer than 20 in airplane crashes. It would also put a great deal of wear and tear on one of our vehicles, neither of which can stand it at this point. We could skip the trip altogether, but it’s the wedding of the man who married us three years ago, and Odie is one of the groomsmen. Just because I selfishly chose to breed, should I be denied the safest, most efficient travel option I can afford (well, go into credit card debt for)? I don’t think so.
I know what you’re thinking: Benadryl. Everybody does it. I called the nurse at my pediatrician’s office to ask about it. I’m a rule-follower, you see. Very authority oriented.
“I’ve heard that people give their kids Benadryl to help them sleep on an airplane. Is that safe?”
Long pause. Hesitation, “Well, Benadryl is an antihistamine that we recommend for allergic reactions or bug bites or poison oak.”
“Yeah, but everybody says you can give it to your baby to help them sleep when you travel. I just want to know if it’s safe to do that.”
“Yeah… I can’t recommend an off-label use of a medication to you. Bring some fun toys on the plane with you. Maybe something she’s never played with before. Or introduce her to a new food you think she might like, or a juice.”
So, that was pretty much how that went.
As for medication on the plane, Mommy will be taking a smidge of Xanax. Not enough to make me sleepy or ineffective, but enough to keep me from suffering the paralyzing anxiety that causes me to curl up into a ball, clutch my knees, and rock back and forth. All I can think of are movies I’ve seen like the aforementioned “Fearless.” There’s also “Alive,” “La Bamba,” “Sweet Dreams,” and the tv show “Lost.” All contained very graphic plane crash scenes which my Generalized Anxiety Disorder forced me to run through my mind all night every night this week. Then there are the accounts I’ve read over the years of actual crashes, including one that killed a friend nine years ago. Airplane travel has been a phobia of mine all my life. Unfortunately, Odie is equally terrified. But, as I already said, this is a very important wedding of a key person in our life. We can’t miss it. Wouldn’t miss it. I’m going to put on my big girl panties and do this thing. I’m even telling myself to look at it as an adventure. Baby V’s first trip to the Rocky Mountain state. Her first airplane journey. Her first wedding. First visit to a church (yep, my pagan baby is unbaptized). Her first hotel stay. It will be grand! Grand, I tell you.
As for the plane trip, fellow travelers. Sorry.