8 tips for holiday airplane travel with toddlers in tow

airplaneMy family travels with me despite the fact that I am a traveling liability for them. It’s our family joke.

I am the one in the security line that gets selected for the mystery line or pulled aside to be double-checked by scanners. We’re not sure if I just look shady (my kids’ guess) or if I look like I’ve kidnapped my kids. We just expect it.

It turns out that I have a magnet implant that activates when I travel by air. It attracts less than desirable seatmate situations and more often loud and sticky toddlers. As soon as we spot a cranky toddler or belligerent traveler in our terminal, my family starts betting money that they will sit next to me on the plane.

So, on our recent pilgrimage to our home state for the Thanksgiving holiday, my usual air travel magnetism did not disappoint.

En-route to our turkey destination, there was a belligerent man sitting next to me in the terminal who was bragging loudly about how many shots he’d been getting from the airlines all day. After a full fifteen minutes of this, I exchanged rolled-eye glances with another woman nearby who was also witnessing his glory.  I joked after he left his seat that I would end up next to him on my flight. She knew I was heading to the same place that he was (and she wasn’t) and she wished me Godspeed.  And yes, he ended up two rows directly behind me where I could hear him offering to buy his entire row discounted shots.

On this flight there was a very upset, crying baby directly behind me.  This I could handle because the poor baby wasn’t kicking my seat and I was able to listen to music and tune him out. Also I realize that babies are hard to travel with.  I’ve been there. And mainly, I could tell that the dad with him was trying as hard as he could to comfort him.

On the way home however (after waiting in the airport for a couple of hours due to weather and air traffic delays), I had a yelling, grabbing, kicking, sticky toddler creature directly behind me on our tiny, claustrophobic plane.   He sat next to a man who appeared to be his Grandfather who had no awareness or control of the situation.   This scenario is the expected result of my air travel magnetism.

So, in light of my plethora of experience in this area, here are a few issues with related requests to parents traveling with kids.  I know it’s upsetting that passengers are bothered by your angelic children, but please read the following while imagining that you are in our seat:

Disclaimer: I have two kids and I love them dearly. I realize that they were young once and they certainly weren’t perfect.  I also know that often when kids on airplanes act out, the blame usually falls squarely in the clueless or exhausted parent’s lap, rather than the poor kiddo.

1. Males in charge.  Letting a male adult (dad, grandpa, brother, uncle) be in charge of the baby or toddler on the plane is not a good idea (most of the time).  Moms, I know you are trying to catch a break by getting someone else to be in charge and I also know that this is rather sexist of me to say, but most guys don’t seem to notice when a child in their charge is losing it.  They for sure don’t seem to know how to exhaust the fumes once the tantrum has begun. Save us all some brain cells please and hold the baby.  Maybe a glass of chardonnay will help.

2. Games and movies on Ipads. We’re thrilled you’ve got them busy.  Really we are. But when the volume on those things is on high and the voice of Dora the Explorer is almost as loud as your child’s voice, we want to hurt them both.

3. Baby talk.  We realize you don’t want to miss any opportunity to squeeze in a vocabulary lesson, Mommy.  I bet you have teaching experience.  You’re good at it.  But please save the incredibly loud drawn out baby-talk lessons that point out each plane and cloud in grave detail for a road trip in your car when we don’t all have to take the lesson too. Maybe try talking quietly in your toddler’s ear.  Or get creative with that Chardonnay.

4.  Flying objects.  On my way to Thanksgiving the other day a pacifier from the row behind me landed in my lap out of no where.  I was listening to music with my headphones and trying to doze off, so it scared the heck out of me.  The event did make me laugh a little because of the randomness as I passed it through the seats and handed it to the Dad (who was really working to comfort the little guy).  But in general, try to keep flying objects at a minimum.

5. Space invaders of the toddler kind. Sorry Moms and Dads but unless I am in a particularly good mood, I don’t think your kid is darling as she peers over my seat, drools on my tray and blows snot bubbles at me.  And no, we don’t all want to play peekaboo with your little angel. Please, please, please get them to sit down or to at least try to contain their bodily fluids in your seat area.

6. Seat kicking. Surely you notice that your child is kicking my seat.  Are you just tuning it out?  Or does it not cross your mind that in the same way that it bothers you when people kick your seat, we feel your child kicking our seat at about 13 kicks per minute?  Please try to be aware. Even with my music and earphones, I can’t tune this out.  And my Chardonnay isn’t nearly strong enough to help either.

7. Sticky, grasping hands.  Even if your kid’s hands aren’t that sticky, we don’t really want them to reach out and touch someone, especially us.  The toddler creature behind me on the way home the other day was able to fit his entire head and arm between my seat and the window as he literally grasped my arm.  Once again I was trying to doze off, to no avail.  Grandpa, you can’t tell me you didn’t notice this happening. You seemed awake.  Honestly, the thought of grabbing this little toddler’s arm back did cross my mind — just to mess with him. However, I realized this might cause more screaming or seat kicking.  It was a no-win situation.

8. Kids running loose up and down the aisle.  I’m concerned for you if you think that this is okay because it seems so very obvious.  Even if the seat belt sign is off, please don’t let your kid roam up and down the aisles skipping and yelling.  Not only is it dangerous due to the fact that YOU ARE IN AN AIRPLANE, but it’s also dangerous because I’m guessing I’m not the only one imagining what it would be like if someone tripped them after the thirteenth time they pass our seat .  Plus, it sure doesn’t help the poor flight attendants trying to do their job of serving all of us. Lock ’em up, people.  It’s your job to bring games or snacks to occupy them, not our job or the flight attendant’s job to entertain them.

All snot bubbles and sticky hands aside, if parents and grandparents could just exercise the teensiest bit of common sense and courtesy, and try to be a little  aware of the fellow travelers around the kiddos in their charge, we can definitely all peacefully coexist on an any airplane.  And I’m guessing your kiddo could even develop some wonderful courtesy skills of their own.

You just might even catch me playing peekaboo with your toddler to help you out.

RUOK Day. Gratitude Experiment: Day 34



Photo from http://www.RUOKday.com

One of my lovely followers who lives in Australia liked the post I made about depression the other day after my friend lost her son (the funeral was today). This blogger mentioned Australia’s national  RUOK Day. I was intrigued and had to look it up.

According to the RUOKday.com website, R U OK? Day is a national day of action dedicated to inspiring all Australians to ask family, friends and colleagues, ‘Are you ok?’  The day encourages reaching out to one another and having open and honest conversations in order to become a more connected community.  And in the end, to help reduce the country’s suicide rate.

The day is celebrated on the second Thursday of September (last Thursday).  The site explains that in the time it takes to have your coffee, you can start a conversation that could change a life.

RUOK? is a not for profit organization that works wiith various Information Partners to provide national focus and leadership on suicide prevention by empowering Australians to have open and honest conversations and stay connected with people in their lives.

R U OK? Day was inspired by the son of Barry Larkin (1940 – 1995).  The day is dedicated to his father and all people who have died through suicide, as well as the family and friends who love them. The first RUOK? Day was in 2009 and after only three years an estimated 58% of the Australian population knew about the national day of action. By last week, which marked the fourth year, I’m sure the number had increased.

The website provides resources for connecting with people in the workplace, schools, health facilities, universities and community and sports clubs.

The Aussies are onto something.  I’m not aware of a single, unified suicide preventive effort like this here in the U.S., and I think we could use one.  And frankly, the more we rely on technology to communicate, the more disconnected we become. And the more we need a day like this to promote awareness for the importance of staying connected.

We should all think about asking R U OK? more often.  We never know when we could impact a life with a just few more moments of connection, listening and empathy. 

Today I am grateful for the many inspirations that come from my fellow bloggers, like this heartwarming and sensible concept.

For more information about the organization, as well as steps for how to reach out and start these conversations, visit http://ruokday.com.


Breakfast Club Flashback. Gratitude Experiment: Day 25

Today as I sat waiting in the high school parking lot to drop off my son’s tennis equipment before he left for a tennis match, I was transported to another world.  Actually back to my world back in high school.  And the world according to the Breakfast Club movie in 1985.

This movie has been hailed as one of the greatest high school films of all time, by John Hughes (God rest his fantastic movie making soul).  And the song – “Don’t You Forget About Me,” that instantly reminds my generation of scenes from the movie that have stayed with us since.

The movie follows  five students—Allison Reynold (Ally Sheedy),  Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), John Bender (Judd Nelson), Brian Johnson (my favorite Anthony Michael Hall),  and Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) as they surprisingly find common ground with each other throughout a single day of detention on a Saturday.  Each student represented a different clique or stereotype within the school.  If you haven’t seen it, rent it.

Watching the disbursement of high schoolers on a Friday after school took me right there. I watched each stereotype pass the front of my car. During a phase when I am feeling a little old and thinking things are so very different, I suddenly realized things really didn’t seem that different. Had nothing really changed except for the fact that they each had a cell phone and ATM card in their pocket?

The ‘Jock’s (although in this case both male and female) were gathered on the sidewalk high-fiveing each other.  The ‘punk’ hard edge type kids were all walking alone with a jolted gate, looking very guarded. I even saw one bump into a jock, then the jock got upset and held his hands out just like in the movies (if only he had been wearing a letter jacket), then the punker extended his hand and they shook hands and did a “bro” hug.  I should have been filming as it was stereotypical perfection.

Then I also watched as the many ‘princesses’ dialed for their rides exhaustedly while flipping their hair in frustration and simultaneously watching peripherally to see who was checking them out.  Then came the ‘brainiacs’/nerds as I watched them attempt to talk to the cute girl jocks while the huge guy jocks with gelled hair stood to the side fanning their feathers.  They didn’t stand a chance but I was rooting for them.  And I sadly watched a ‘misfit’ walk out to her car alone.

Maybe they will all be in detention together one day and bond over their similarities, but I doubt it.  More likely, they will all find themselves in different cubicles of the same corporate world and bond over the lack of sunlight.  Sorry, that was dark.

Today I am just grateful that the world isn’t really racing ahead as fast as I thought.  And that makes me happy.

Coming Clean. Gratitude Experiment: Day 9.

Okay I have to come clean on something.  I’m starting to get a complex that every day I need to have something profound to write about on my blog.  However, I’m finding that it’s not always that easy.  And I have enough self imposed guilt trips that I am not going to feel guilty about this too.

So, some days I will just list a few things that I am grateful for while ideas for more profound posts percolate in my head (I promise some good ones are forming up there).

– I am grateful today that my family is safe and healthy – I have heard lots of stories this week in our community of those not as fortunate and they are in my thoughts.

-Also thankful that I have a career that is flexible with nice clients (although I really need to quit procrastinating on my work projects – this blog is way too good of a procrastination tool.)

-And grateful for my dear husband, who puts up with all my bad habits and neuroses, making him  the most patient and kind human being on the planet.  For real.

***Can you think of one or two things that you are grateful for right now?  Think about writing just one to three things down each night before you go to sleep on a notepad you keep under your bed.  Nothing fancy required.  Keep a pen by your clock to remind you.

Studies show that those who practice daily gratitude feel better about their lives overall, are more optimistic about the future, and report fewer health problems. Studies have also shown that those using daily gratitude  get more sleep.  With less time spent awake before falling asleep, they end up feeling more refreshed in the morning — and who couldn’t use that?  Other studies show that gratitude can even have a protective effect against heart attacks.

And… it’s cheaper than therapy by a long shot.  Try it tonight. You will thank me later, I promise.