The countdown is on for Baby’s First Plane Ride.
Lucette is 10 months old and has yet to meet her Great-Grandma Ruth. In a few days, we’re going to fix that. But the meet and greet requires an airplane.
I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve got some bad plane karma coming my way. In my younger–and much more arrogant–days, I lobbed quite a few hairy eyeballs in the direction of fellow plane passengers who were less than 3 feet high.
To be fair, a couple of them were kicking the back of my seat. Or trying to crawl under it. Or standing on the seat behind me, holding onto my headrest and also a clump of my hair.
So, at the time, I felt my dirty looks and loud sighs were completely justified. (And I still think that if you’re old enough to kick the seat in front of you, you’re old enough to be told to knock it off.)
But here’s the thing that I didn’t understand very well when I was a solo flyer: The only thing worse than a crying baby in the row behind you is being the parent of said crying baby.
I had my own Great Awakening to that fact when I started flying with my sister and nephew, who was then 6 months old. My sister was nearly nauseous with fear as we boarded the flight. Not because she’s a phobic flyer, but because she was so worried about how her baby would handle the flight… and how our fellow passengers would treat him if he handled it with screeches and squeals.
She needn’t have worried, that time. For a 6-month-old, a plane is a giant white noise and jiggle machine, and he nodded off to sleep like a bitty angel.
That was when I first began to understand just how hard it is to travel with kids. Because you’re not just dealing with all the extra stuff required… the bottles and snacks and diapers and toys and blankets.
You’re also dealing with all the unpredictable aspects of air travel (delays, cancellations, lost baggage, endless waits on the runway) and its affect on the sleeping, eating and pooping habits of a tiny human who can’t understand why they’re not allowed to get down and crawl up the aisle.
As if that all weren’t enough to frazzle your overly-exhausted nerves, you also have to deal with the disapproval–and often the outright disgust–of your fellow travelers. The muttering, eye rolling and exasperated sighing will begin as soon as they set eyes on your and your bundle of joy.
And even when you do your best to ignore it, even when you make superhuman efforts to keep your babe from bawling, even when you aren’t some oblivious,entitled parent-type who believes the entire universe revolves around little AshleyCaitlinLouise, even then, it still sucks to be treated like a pariah just because you had the audacity to both breed and travel.
(And for those prickly solo passengers who claim there’s never a good reason to take babies on a plane, consider this: My grandmother is pushing 90. She has bad knees and a bad heart. She can’t fly, take a train, or sit in a car for 3 days to come and visit her newest great-granddaughter in California. And she has been sending me letters for months saying, “Am I going to get to meet that baby before I die?!” Sometimes there are very good reasons to take a baby on a plane.)
So here we are, with the big day is almost upon us. Bruce and I have been planning for it as if it were a Seal Team Six operation, while at the same time remaining fully aware that babies tend to scoff at your plans. And then barf on them.
We’ve both been anxious about how this whole adventure will go. I have begun repeating to myself a daily mantra that goes something like this: “I don’t care what you think about my kid. I don’t care what you think about my kid. I don’t care…”
Bruce, being a more practical person, had a better idea.
It’s beautifully simple. We’re handing out bags of candy to all the passengers sitting near us.
The bags are cellophane, so you can see all the tasty treats inside them and not wonder why this stranger is suddenly shoving a mysterious package in your face.
And they don’t just hold candy, no. That’s where the brilliance comes in. These bags? They contain ear plugs.
Each bag also comes labeled with a little tag which has a picture of Lucette (standing in a cardboard box and waving) on one side.
And the other side has a message that reads:
“Hi! My name is Lucette.
I’m 10 months old and this is my first plane ride.
I am going to meet my 89-year-old Great Grandma
because she is too ill to fly to CA to see me.
I will try very hard to be quiet, but let’s be honest,
I’m not very good at it yet.
So I apologize in advance for any squeals, growls, wails
or endlessly repeated vowel sounds that might annoy you.”
I figure that half the battle of not annoying someone is to make yourself more human to them. To say: Hey, we used to be you. Flying all solo and fancy-free. We know you would rather not be sitting by our kid. But hopefully giving that wee growling kid an actual name and story will make a difference. As will the sugar. And most of all, the ear plugs.
-Lo, working the Baby PR.