The benefit of hindsight is incalculable in terms of the experience of having a child.
I recently gave birth to my second daughter. And that’s why I am overjoyed to be flying with her for the first time this Sunday. Overjoyed. She’s not quite 11 weeks old, and I actually can’t think of a better time to be flying with her. I plan on enjoying every minute of the flight with her, and all future flights.
Until her first birthday. That’s when, in my experience, it’s all over.
My older daughter, now 3, has turned into a decent traveler, but not without a lot of sweat and tears (all mine, none hers).
I remember when she was around seven months old and I nearly suffered a migraine by convincing myself (via a Google search) that her ear-tugging and drool were signs that she was on the verge of cutting her first tooth.
It wasn’t so much the thought of her being in pain that upset me as much as the notion that she might be in pain on a plane. (Although just for the record, Child Protective Services, the thought of her in pain, in general, did upset me, too.)
On her first several flights — starting just shy of turning three months old — she slept from wheels up to wheels down. It was the same way for the rest of her flights leading up to her first birthday (about 8 overall).
However, none of the smooth rides helped quell the anxiety I felt as we boarded each plane. She was only as good as her current flight as far as I was concerned. And for someone who prides herself on not caring (too much) what other people think, I got awfully concerned about the reaction from other passengers who might be less than thrilled to be seated near or next to a baby who has the aptitude to whine, cry or poop explosively while trapped in a pressurized cabin.
I always anticipated the worst, which is what forced me to prepare for each flight like I was responsible for keeping a cold war from escalating. No one was ever presumed innocent on our flights. I assumed people would be bothered at the sight of a baby, never mind the fact that she never uttered a peep. Until she turned a year old. And then all the worry preparation came in handy.
From the time my older daughter was a year old until her second birthday, flying was a nightmare. Not just a regular nightmare. The kind of nightmare that Wes Craven makes entire horror films about.
Like the time when we were clicking through pictures of her favorite subject (herself) on my computer on an airplane and the pilot instructed all passengers to power down their electronic devices in preparation for landing. Feral cats and certifiable lunatics are capable of more grace and dignity than my daughter showed at that moment.
“Pictures baby! Pictures baby! PICTURES BABY!” she screeched as she wriggled out her seat belt, kicking, hissing and shrieking for a full 20 minutes.
The women in the row behind us were sympathetic, telling me in soothing tones, “This is worse for you than anyone else.”
The people sitting in the row ahead of us appeared to disagree, turning around frequently to shoot daggers from their eyes, shake their heads and cluck their tongues. It probably didn’t help that when I swung out of the way when my enraged daughter tried to pull my hair, she succeed instead in grabbing what there was of it on the head of the man in front of me.
It’s that kind of misty, water-colored memory that has me looking forward to making new, happier memories on Sunday when we head into the friendly skies, knowing they’ll only be friendly for a short period of time.
Are you dreading the first flight with your baby, or looking forward to it?
Catch up with Babble’s Travel Safety Guide- Babies!