“Flying with a toddler involves a series of humiliations and exhausting super human tests of patience and endurance.”
The actress Olivia Wilde recently tweeted “I assume flying with a grumpy toddler is the final level of SEAL training.” Every parent hearing that will chuckle with appreciative empathy for those days, or if you are still in it, you are probably already halfway to earning your SEAL certification. Flying with a toddler involves a series of humiliations and exhausting super human tests of patience and endurance.
Let’s face it, flying coach nowadays is, in and of itself, a special kind of hell. But add to the already demeaning reality of being shoved in a cattle car with barely room to move along with the copious necessary toys, the car seat, the snacks and the dictatorial demands of a two year old and buckle in because it’s gonna be a bumpy night.
With our first child, my husband and I used to create little happy, “I’m sorry you have to sit next to us” packs for our adjacent fellow passengers complete with a chocolate bar and ear plugs to assuage the dreaded “Oh God please don’t let them sit by me” looks. After you have two, who has time for little happy packs, because fuck it, this is survival mode.
I remember being on a flight, 3 months pregnant, sick as a dog with my two year old son, who was, shall we say, a tad grumpy. I think most of the passengers around me would have called him a nightmare. But for arguments sake, let’s just chalk it up to terrible twos. We were delayed on the tarmac for an extra 3 hours and he already was not having it. I was so gut wrenchingly nauseous from my pregnancy I could barely function much less contend with keeping him quiet and entertained enough to quell the dirty looks from the other passengers. This went on for an eternity until it got to the point where I finally just burst in tears myself. I just sat there and openly wept. At this point, I didn’t care what anyone around me thought, they already hated me.
If you are in the thick of the toddler years and have upcoming travel plans, my honest advice is; drive. Or rather, just surrender and understand this too shall pass. You will inevitably, eye the leisurely passenger across from you calmly reading her magazine and feel daggers of envy as you pick up an endless stream of knocked toys from the ground. You will invariably think to yourself, why, oh why did I not enjoy those flights more when I could just sleep, or watch a movie, or stare meaninglessly off into space all the while negotiating a poop filled diaper change with a flailing toddler in a bathroom the size of a locker.
Arming yourself is a mom’s best plan. Make sure you have the necessary comforts, activities, sanity keepers and strategies. It won’t be easy, but a good defense is a good offense. Bring the movies, the books, the portable games. And when they do finally, thankfully, tucker out and sleep, have a nice glass of red wine and watch a Ryan Gosling movie in peace.