I’ve never been hunted by an apex predator, but this past week I was the mother of an exhausted, screaming, one-year-old on a plane. So yes, my friends, you could say I know something about maximum anxiety situations.
Our first leg of the trip could not have been more deceiving for a new mother. I mean, friends tell you nightmares about traveling with children. The screaming, crying, constant movement, thoughts of throwing yourself sans parachute from the plane.
Prepared for anything, the coast seemed clear. My son is in a great mood at the airport, and I have all the essentials. I have bottles ready for take-off and landing, snacks lined up, toys, books, blankets. Short of making those obnoxious “I’m Sorry for the Noise” snack bags for all the other guests, I floated dangerously close to becoming a full-blown Pinterest mom. (True confession, I think briefly about making those bags, and then proceed to find literally anything else to do because that’s an absurd level of caring what strangers think about you.)
My plan to feed him every time something got out of line is going well. Looking back, it probably wasn’t the best idea. I am not looking to turn my child into Augustus Gloop before he’s two, but any plan is better than no plan.
My son surprises us all. The opposite of the nightmares I’d been warned about, he is a dream. Smiling at everyone who boarded the plane, peeking over the seats to wave at the strangers behind us. He is the highlight of the trip for an adorable young couple in front of us, so much so he ends up sitting with them for much of the flight.
“Is this what traveling with a baby is like?” I wonder, sinking into my chair to read my newly purchased gossip mag. Pass mommy a cocktail, this was a piece of cake.
We’ll call that beginners luck because the flight home is…different.
My son is teething and has spent a week in the sun, playing with everyone until he can’t keep his eyes open, totally off his normal schedule. Am I partly responsible for his inevitable meltdown? I’m sure I am with the lax nap time schedule, but if you’re looking for me to be Captain von Trapp on vacation, you’re out of your mind.
I realize a life truth on our flight home.
Our species is broken down into two kinds of humans; those who understand a one-year-old may cry on a flight…and snarling beasts who don’t have a soul.
Between an exhausted baby who is teething, the air pressure changes, the suffocating squeeze of the seats, and the ogre sitting behind us, the flight home is a bit of a nightmare. And by “a bit” I mean I’m not sure who is going to poop their pants on the plane first; my son from too many snacks, or me from the anxiety of trying to soothe a one-year-old who wants NOTHING to do with flying today.
I imagine most of you know the drill if you’ve traveled in tight quarters with a small child.
The first cries start. “Oh, God.”
Your blood pressure gets a little higher. Suddenly, it’s as if your child develops the lung capacity of an opera singer. This goes on for twenty solid minutes. There is no escape for the passengers. It’s just you, your child, and a plane full of people wishing you’d be sucked down the tiny black hole in the airplane lavatory toilet.
The reality is, there isn’t anything more I can do. The air pressure changes are making his poor ears hurt and he isn’t taking a bottle. (Protip: Feeding while you ascend and descend works wonders for air pressure problems. Naturally, my child wanted nothing to do with a bottle that day, so keep that in mind before you take my advice.)
I have to wait it out and comfort him as much as I can. Compassionate people around me tell me it’s okay, flight attendants kindly walk up and try to help, and the troll behind us discreetly complains because she wants to condescendingly indicate the situation sucks.
Trust me, you wicked witch, I KNOW THIS SUCKS. You can keep your catty comments to yourself as my husband and I are leaving the plane before I “accidentally” let this sixty-pound diaper bag fall on your head as I’m getting it out of the overhead bin.
I’d like to give a shout out to the patient people around us during the thirty minutes that felt like a grueling eternity. It’s embarrassing and scary. It makes you feel helpless. You know what else it is?
Babies are going to cry, and everyone on that plane was going to be just fine.
The person who needed to realize that most was ME.
So moms, when you see a struggling mom on an airplane, give her a smile that lets her know, yes, you’ve been there too and you’ve got her back. Kindly offer a piece of advice if you have a trick up your sleeve she hasn’t tried. Accidentally spill a drink on anyone saying unkind things. Don’t do that, save the money and buy that mom a cocktail. She needs it.