Saturday, January 27, 2007

Flying with babies

A recent article popped up about a family that was ejected from an AirTran flight because of their 3 year old's behavior. Supposedly the child wouldn't sit in her seat. Then yesterday I heard rantings about this from Neal Boortz on the radio and promptly turned the dial. (my rule of not taking child-rearing advice from people with fewer children than I had been violated) His take was that this girl was acting badly because her parents didn't whack her on the bottom. However, I have flown over 8 trans-Atlantic flights with infants and toddlers and know how difficult and frustrating it is to fly with little ones.
Children are not little robots that do exactly what they are told, especially in unknown situations (like flying). Think about how scary it must be from a 3 year old's point of view. A normal toddler wants to cuddle with Mommy, not sit in a strange seat on a crowded plane, knowing their ears are going to pop, that they won't be able to run around for a long time or play with their favorite toys.
Some suggestions for flying with small children:
Read several stories about airplanes and flying the week before the trip. At the airport and on takeoff remind him of what you read. Describe the steps the pilot must perform to get the plane to fly, to navigate, to land. Distract him from his fears by gettting him interested in the crew's job.
Bring lots of snacks that the child likes as well as asking for juice or milk (bring own sippy cup) as soon as you are seated.
Bring small and quiet new toys, wrapped, in a child's backpack to keep him occupied throughout the flight. Coloring books, etch-a-sketch, small books, magnet games, matchbox cars... I found some spinning light toys once that occupied my toddlers for over an hour on a trip. He is allowed to open one gift per hour or so.
Plan on spending all your flight time taking care of the child. This isn't the time to catch up on reading or sleeping. Your child is likely anxious and scared of all the strange sounds and sights, reassure him that you are taking care of him. You will likely have to read Scuffy the Tugboat 800 times during the flight, but will emerge at your destination with a cheerful toddler, a grateful plane-full of fellow travelers, and no ejection from your flight.


Anonymous said...

My husband seemed to think the kid needed a swat too. Yeah...that'll get the kid to sit nicely and quietly in her seat...sure...

As the mother to several difficult children, I know how hard it is to deal with unruly behavior. BUT, I never have had a serious problem when it was just me and one kid. A mixture of bribing, distracting and cajoling seems to work really well. It's when I have another child (generally a nursing infant) that a toddler or preschooler gives me immeasurable difficulty and makes me want to crawl under a rock. It's tough to say whether this was a case of bad parenting or just one of those unavoidable 3 year old child situations. I'm not judging the parents, but I'm wary of siding with them too!

Anonymous said...

I heard this story too! *SIGH* We've flown "over the pond" and back too many times to want to rehash. It was 12-13 hours just to the east coast (with all the layovers) and by the time we would get to Dnever, we had been travelling 36 hours!

Once, we were actually evac'd out of Turkey, and I was travelling with two boys who were sick and threw up in the outprocessing line. We had no idea how long it would be before we got to go back home nor how long it would be before we saw dh again. We were all a "little stressed" during that trip.

And then we get back to the states only to be treated like terrorists simply because our flight originated from Tu. I understand ppl have jobs to do, but do they have to be SO rude about it?

Also, if people see a parent flying solo with the kids, stuggling with car seats and diaper bags, would it KILL someone to offer to help?!

My point is, you never know the circumstances that someone has been through to be on that flight. Maybe that kid is teething of maybe that family just lost a love one is trying frantically to get home in time for the funeral.

It's never fun to travel with little ones. Kat you have a lot of good ideas for keeping them "good", btdt. 99% of the time the boys are good travellers. But even the best kids have off days, especially when they are out of their normal environment/routine.

I've seen adults throw temper tantrums at the airport, can't we cut the kids and their parents a little slack?

kat said...

The first time I flew with Will alone, he was 6mo old and sick with a bad fever. I had no idea what to do, no meds, and was a few thousand feet above the snow-covered Alps.
Thank God for a kind doctor at the Heathrow airport. He personally escorted me to Boots the chemist for meds and let me sit in his office to nurse Will during our layover. He then walked us behind the gates to my plane. When we finally arrived in Virginia after over 24 hours of travel I was wiped out.