Many, many checklists/tips/suggestions are available for parents on this topic. So, I will skip those and get on to the meat of this piece. Which are the tips I have for other people who are traveling with/in the vicinity of a two year old. Some of these tips could be generalized to all people using a mode of transportation that puts them in close proximity to other people.
- Do not, given any other option, sit in the empty seat of a row occupied by a mother and her child. I don’t care how cute the child is or how much fun you think it will be to play with them. Give them space.
- Should there be a mishap or tantrum–whether caused by your unnecessary proximity or not–do not, I repeat, do not tell the mother “It’s OK,” or “I don’t mind,” or “Don’t stress out.” It’s not OK, travelling with a toddler is tough, mommy doesn’t really care if you mind, and you have no freaking business telling her how to feel about it.
- If you are going to talk to your neighbor or a friend in another row, do not do this while listening to your iPod. Talk only loudly enough to be heard. This is especially important if there is a sleeping child near you. Especially if that child was involved in item 2.
- If you see a mom struggling, do, always, once the dust has cleared, offer her a drink. There is a special place in heaven for you if you do this.
I am writing this at something like thirty thousand feet, my sedated child awkwardly asleep in the seat next to me. He is sedated because, on the flight to our destination, he experienced fairly severe distress from pain in his ears. This was the first time this has happened. It was awful. Three full hours of him alternately crying and nursing. Made me very glad that I have kept up the nursing past age two. I know that freaks some people out but, seriously, it rocks. Nothing else can make a little guys ears feel better like mama’s ‘ba-bas.’ So get over it.
But I digress. For the trip back, I got the kid some Benadryl. First, the congestion that presumably caused his discomfort on round one of this trip has continued. Second, the return flight involves a stop in Las Vegas and is two, count them, two hours longer than the flight to Houston. Sigh. I know that it is further evidence of my horribleness as a mother that I even considered this in my decision to give my two-year-old child a medication that has recently been re-classified as inappropriate for children under four. The real deal is that the pharmacist, who ultimately told me “Unfortunately, I can’t recommend that for a two-year-old,” also told me that Benadryl was the best option for preventing the discomfort that had my baby in tears for the prior flight. My son has taken Benadryl before without a problem so I am rolling the dice and giving it to him again. He is, finally, sleeping soundly next to me, much to the relief of the passengers around us.
Which brings me to what I really want to talk about here. The passengers and flight attendants are relieved in great part due to the scene that preceded his sweet slumber. The kid was tired. The kid was antsy. We were hemmed into the window and center seat and there wasn’t space for him to lay down and sleep as he wanted. At some point in his efforts to settle down/express his frustration at the situation, he kicked my tray table up, dumping the contents of my full cup of juice into my bag below. Yes, folks, into my bag. Had I not invested the $12.99 at Target a few days ago to purchase a netbook sleeve, I would likely not be writing this little rant right now.
Now, my bad for having asked for the juice before he slept. Should have known our cramped quarters made that an unreasonable action. But, seriously, he had already nursed and I was thirsty.
All this could have been avoided had I done better on one thing. As the plane was loading, I got on and took a seat near the back, in an empty row. Now that AJ is over two years old, he has his own seat. It didn’t look like the flight was full and I was hopeful that we would have the row to ourselves so that he could actually lay down and sleep. We were settling in when a woman asked if the aisle seat was taken. I pointedly looked around, scanning for other rows she could fill, but answered honestly, ‘No.’ So she sat.
Hence, I did not have the extra table, out of reach of his tiny but surprisingly powerful feet, on which to put my drink. My son did not have space to stretch out without kicking something (which is stimulating enough to keep a two year old awake). I ended up with a bag full of cranberry juice and a hell of a bad attitude. I called an attendant who asked if I wanted another glass of juice. “No,” I told him, “I need something to clean this up.” He returned with about five paper towels. Great.
“Don’t worry about it, “ my helpful neighbor cooed, as I pushed the attendant call button for the third installment of paper towels, “don’t stress out.”
“Well,” I replied, “it is a little stressful travelling with a two year old.” Yep, I put the blame on my kid when what I wanted to say, what I should have said, was, “What is your problem? Who sits next to the mom with the kid when there are empty seats in two of the rows immediately across the aisle?”
Indeed, there were two seats, four happy travelers with an extra tray table between each pair, working and chatting and relaxing just across the aisle.
I was pissed and I was dealing with a huge mess in a small space and I talked to AJ like a mother never wants to talk to her child. In the presence of dozens of other adults. “Addison, SIT DOWN” I told him, as I desperately mopped juice off my netbook and camera. We struggled for ten minutes or so as I went through a stack of paper towels trying to soak it all up.
It sucked. I sucked. I was mean to my son and passive-aggressive with our row-mate. “We just need more space,” I muttered under my breath, refusing to look in her direction.
Finally, strapped into his seat belt, the Benadryl taking over, AJ crashed. Awkwardly, his head leaning to one side. I tried to prop it up with my jacket. I kissed his head, whispering, “I’m sorry.”
A few minutes later, I pushed the attendant button for what I hoped was the final time. One of the guys who had brought me part of the tree I had consumed in mop-up appeared. “Can I get a vodka cranberry? “ I asked. “Sure,” he replied, returning shortly with the requested beverage. “I’ll take care of this,” he said, “enjoy.”
My faith in humanity was restored. I love that man.