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.

On Manners … “The world was my oyster but I used the wrong fork.” ― Oscar Wilde

etiquetteMy parents worked hard to teach me good manners and for this I feel quite fortunate and grateful.   As always, I am a continuous work in progress and I have far from perfected all forms of manners.  I do however strive to set a good example for my kids when it comes to simple etiquette and common courtesies.

I stand wholeheartedly behind the power of manners and courtesy.  I will take on anyone who rolls their eyes about the importance of  teaching these skills to their children, for they will be sending their offspring out into the world with a severe disadvantage.  I guarantee you that, when it comes to job interviews and promotions and just plain life, simple etiquette and common courtesy will take children much further in life than the guy or gal who knows not of manners.

These skills – learned primarily by example – help children to be more genuinely grateful rather than entitled, to have more friends and meaningful relationships, and to realize that we are all interconnected.  Quite simply, manners help us to be more human.

These are a few of the many skills that children of all ages – and frankly humans of all ages – will do well by understanding and working toward practicing as much as possible:

  • When, how and why to thank someone.
  • How to listen and not interrupt, and to let others speak (I am always trying to improve on this one).
  • Eye contact, eye contact, eye contact.  Why it matters.
  • The importance of introductions and inclusiveness in group settings.
  • How to be thoughtful.
  • How to eat at a formal dinner table and sit still at a restaurant.  Even just the basics will empower kids later in life.
  • The art of being humble rather than boastful and aware of others’ feelings (This one is a peeve of mine.).
  • How to make note (whether electronically or otherwise) of important dates or events for other people and recognize them every once in a while.
  • Respect for elders (No matter how old school they might seem).
  • To politely greet and acknowledge a new person in their home or environment.
  • To hold a door open for a person behind them when they are in close range.
  • How to actually apologize (It’s amazing how many people really don’t understand how to genuinely apologize.  You’re not apologizing if you don’t truly own your actions. See The One Minute Apology.) And no child is too young to learn how to apologize and recognize others’ feelings.
  • Letting someone go ahead of them in a long line every now and then.
  • How to say please and thank you consistently and nicely.
  • How to be compassionate.
  • Helping those less fortunate or ill, whether it be by raking their lawn, shoveling a walk or making a meal.
  • Being helpful at a retail establishment even when it’s not your job (I’m baffled by how shocked grocery checkers are at my local store when they are short-staffed and I roll up my sleeves and start bagging my own groceries instead of standing there watching.  How is this not a given?)
  • Occasionally helping strangers who may have simply dropped something or who may be unable to reach or do something.
  • Why, when and how to say excuse me when you bump into someone or walk in front of them, interrupt them, etc. (Another peeve of mine.)
  • The art of writing a simple thank you note.
  • How to give someone your full attention.
  • When to PUT THE PHONE AWAY.  (When having a conversation or meal with someone, when at a restaurant (get up and take the call outside), when at a social event. Trust me, if it’s important they will call more than once.)
  • How to not be condescending to service people or wait staff no matter how old you are or how important you think you are (I’ve always thought of this as a sure way to really know if I like someone).

Thanks to the gals over at Grown and Flown for their post today which spurred my manners rant post: http://grownandflown.com/millennials-need-good-manners/.

What is your biggest manners pet peeve?

Note to self: Shut your mouth.

mouthSo, my sixteen year old son got his first speeding ticket.

Before you judge, know that he was reprimanded sufficiently and that he will be paying the fine.  And that the ticket was reduced to a defective vehicle violation.

He also beat himself up about it more than sufficiently, as he was clearly upset and remorseful. Days later, as his remorse continued, I decided that the best way to make him feel better about the whole thing would be to begin recounting my litany of violations and mistakes with regard to automobiles when I was young.  I was on a roll and my stories kept getting better and better.

As the words rushed out of my mouth at full speed, MacGyver looked at me puzzled, as if wondering why I thought this was a good idea. But I didn’t get the hint.

Then at some point, thank goodness, I realized that I needed to shut my mouth.  But … as it is on many occasions … it was too late.  I have only my lack of caffeine that morning to blame for this lapse in judgement.  Duh.

Ever realized you needed to shut your mouth when it was too late?

Playing the Ukulele By Virgin Ear

curse often

My youngest son (my Clone) is taking ukulele lessons (yes, ukulele – ‘ concert ukulele’ actually:) ) lessons from a young gal who is a private instructor.  Last night was his first lesson.

After my Clone showed us some chords that he learned, he told us a little about the lesson and the cute, young instructor (my oldest son heard how cute she was and might suddenly be interested in some lessons).

My Clone explained that during the lesson while the instructor was demonstrating a chord and slipped, she said “Oh crap.”  She then looked up at him and apologized profusely for saying such a bad word in front of him.

He had a terrific grin on his face as he explained this to his curses-like-a -truck-driver mother.

I asked him if he explained to her why she shouldn’t worry.

His Clone grin grew large enough to reveal his Clone dimples and he explained that he didn’t want to shock her … right off the bat, anyway.

We’ll save that for next week.

The Brothers Bloom. Gratitude Experiment: Day 75

For some reason my post yesterday didn’t actually get published until just now. And I just realized – thanks to Ambling & Rambling, that the countdown widget I added to my site told me I had 19 days left, when it was really 26. Duh. Yes, I am sometimes severely WordPress-challenged.  Still need ideas for my next challenge, but I have a little more time than I thought. So keep them coming!

Now, for today’s actual post…

I am grateful that today I got to see my sons hang out and laugh together like old times.

They are growing up far too quickly. And becoming a little too cool for our regular family goofiness. And as teenagers, they get on each other’s nerves a lot these days.

So when I see them laugh and hang out together like old times, it warms my heart. Today was one of those days and hearing their laughter made me smile. For this I am thankful.

PS: If you haven’t seen the movie The Brothers Bloom, rent it.  One of my favorites.

Reaching for Gratitude. Gratitude Experiment: Day 55

So it’s been a long day. My oldest son is seriously making me crazy beyond comprehension, I was a shuttle service for my kids today far more than usual despite the paid work I needed to get done, and I found the TV remote control that I’ve been missing for two days in my purse this afternoon.

It’s been that kind of week. And yes, I have a big ass purse.

So this is going to be short. I am grateful that I found that damn remote control. Embarrassed to admit where I found it, but glad I found it. Must have fallen off the bed on Sunday and into my purse on the floor next to my bed. Again, not proud of the fact that I just realized this today, but thankful.

Now it won’t be necessary for me to have a flashback to my grandma’s house watching her TV with huge rabbit ears and actually getting up to adjust the volume (the horror!) every time I want to turn down the bickering on my ever so critical Real Housewives of New Jersey episodes.

I’m also grateful that one of my besties (from my panty hose and purple pant suits days: https://lifeonwry.com/?s=panty#) is coming to visit tomorrow. I am lucky to have such wonderful friends who accept me despite all of my idiosyncrasies and all of the remote controls in my purse.

I promise I’m not nuts. But if I wasn’t a little, you probably wouldn’t find this near as interesting. Which is why I am ever so grateful for you, my readers. Thank you!

P.S.: Also thankful for the beautiful sunrise that I saw this morning and slowed down carpool traffic in order to snap a few pictures of. Life is short, we better enjoy it.

National “Think Before You Reply-All” Day. Gratitude Experiment: Day 44

I hereby declare today as National “Think Before You Reply-All to Emails”  Day.

It tends to happen a lot on kids sports team emails for some reason.  And a lot of work emails.

Pass the word.  If it’s not necessary to reply to an entire group on an email, please resist the urge.  And only reply to the person who actually needs to know that Johnny has an eye doctor appointment because his stye has been oozing for two and a half days, so he’ll have to miss practice today.

You get the idea.  This will save me from poking my eyes out repeatedly.  And most likely many others.

Today I am grateful that everyone I come across in the blogosphere seems pretty smart and they probably already know this.

Happy Friday.

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.

Kids survive first day back to school unscathed. Gratitude Experiment: Day 7

I am grateful that my kids had a seemingly great first day back to school with no complaints.  Instead they told some pretty funny stories on the ride home.  And even mentioned a few teachers they thought they were going to really like.  I’ll take that, plus a bag of chips, any day.

It was hard to get up at 5:45 am after a lazy summer, but we conquered.  For that I am thankful!

Gratitude Experiment: Day 3

Okay, so I think this gratitude experiment is definitely working because I can’t narrow this down to just one thing to be grateful for today.

Thoughts include:

A fortuitous and great conversation I had with a mother I barely knew at my sons’ haircut place yesterday which tipped me off on college coaches.  I seriously believe there are no accidents in life.

A wonderful call from my son’s tennis coach late yesterday. These tennis coaches continue to impress me with their genuine concern for the boys’ success.  And my son is making me proud.

The fact that my youngest son actually wanted to snuggle with me last night like old times (he is quickly getting way too cool for this so it was an unexpected treat).  And that he actually liked his haircut yesterday.

The fact that my kids can forgive me when I lose my temper sometimes and that I have the ability to apologize and help them realize that we are all human.

All clear on the concussion front

Gratitude experiment day 1 continues:

My oldest son was officially released to play sports after four months of concussion recovery!  Glad to have this chapter complete.

A few things about concussions I wish I had known:

Myth: A concussion only occurs as a result of a direct blow to the head. (My son’s was the neck) Fact: A concussion may be caused by a direct blow to the head, face, neck, or elsewhere on the body if the blow is transmitted to the head.

Myth: Only athletes in aggressive contact sports like football, hockey and lacrosse suffer concussions. Fact: While football has the highest number of concussions, and concussions are common in hockey, lacrosse and wrestling, concussions also occur frequently in boys’ and girls’ basketball and soccer.

Myth: A concussion occurs only when an athlete experiences a loss of consciousness (LOC). (My son was never knocked out) Fact: Concussions can occur with or without LOC. In fact, the vast majority of concussions (more than 95% in a recent study of concussion among high school athletes)5 do not result in LOC.

Myth:The signs and symptoms of concussion are always apparent immediately after injury. (In my son’s case it was two days later) Fact: While signs of concussion (those characteristics that can be observed by people other than the athlete) and symptoms (experienced by the athlete him or herself) are often present or observable at the time of injury, they may not appear until several hours later. In fact, delayed onset of signs and symptoms is more likely in younger athletes.
5. Meehan W, d’Hemecourt P, Comstock D, High School Concussions in the 2008-2009 Academic Year: Mechanism, Symptoms, and Management. Am. J. Sports. Med. 2010;38(12):2405-2409 (accessed December 2, 2010 at http://ajs.sagepub.com/content/38/12/2405.abstract?etoc).
11. Mickalide AD, Hansen LM. Coaching Our Kids to Fewer Injuries: A Report on Youth Sports Safety. Washington, DC: Safe Kids Worldwide, April 2012

Read more: http://www.momsteam.com/health-safety/debunking-common-sports-concussion-myths?page=0%2C1#ixzz23Y4D6Pb4

Thrown to the wolves by his mother

So thank goodness there are really nice moms out there. My faith in humanity is temporarily restored. My post-concussion former lacrosse playing son is now officially involved with his high school tennis team.  But he’s going in bruised and battered.

Once I realized his symptoms had ceased,  I researched and reached out to a very involved tennis Mom I knew from lacrosse.  Here’s the humanity part – she then took the time to talk to one of the main coaches about my son and his concussion situation and what a great athlete he is. In turn, that coach took the time to call me personally about getting him involved at this late date. This I am certainly not used to as it seems many high school coaches are not into parent conversations, to say the least.

After asking about his tennis background (he played team tennis a few summers back and was one of the fastest, though skinniest, kids in lacrosse), the coach suggested I bring him to the camp that was that very day in a few hours.  They had been running morning and afternoon training camps for two weeks.  Wow, I was thrilled, this was happening. He warned that these kids were pretty good but suggested my son ‘give it a shot’ and then come to the next day’s camps as well. It wasn’t too late.

Foreshadowing note:  these are the LAST two days of a two week intensive training camp. And my son’s only sport activity has been three private tennis sessions after a 4 month concussion sport hiatus from a lacrosse injury.

To my amazement, I talked my son into going.  We got there and my stomach began to sink.  These tennis kids looked beyond HARD CORE and I tried not to let the fear for my son’s very life show in my eyes before I left. I drove off afraid for his already fragile post-concussion ego.

At pickup, he was wrecked, both physically and mentally.  I felt horrible.  He felt he did not measure up to these kids’ skills and had no business playing tennis.  I think a few curse words were used, his head hung incredibly low, you get the point.  It was bad.  Fast forward a few hours –  I learned that the coach had failed to mention that the afternoon camps were for area CHAMPIONSHIP tennis players – some college aged.  These kids were lifers, had been playing since birth.  Some even had sponsors and everything. For real. What a great entry for my broken son.  I could not have felt worse.

Thank goodness the coach called that night (again, the humanity) to check on him and encouraged him to come to the less intense session the next morning.  The next day went beyond well (no comparison) and I now can see a glimmer of my son’s former swagger in his eyes, bruises and all.