“I normally have a 7 year old with me who just happens to be the baby’s favorite toy.”
“Where is she now?”
“I sent her home last week, she had to go back to school.”
“Alone? You sent her back home alone? On a plane? Was she okay with that?”
After talking to my neighbor on flight 3421 from Salt Lake to Denver, I realized that this particular flight was only the third flight this girl from Minnesota had been on in her entire life. She couldn’t fathom being 7 years old and getting on a plane by herself. I also don’t think she could imagine sending her own child on a plane hurtling across the country at 548 miles per hour.
There was a time I thought the same thing.
My sister and I flew alone all the time when we were kids, to California to stay with our aunt and to Arizona to stay with a family friend. Addie’s first flight was at 10 months old when we went to San Francisco and Vivi’s first flight was from Salt Lake to Indianapolis at 2 months old. Addie’s first solo flight was last summer at 6 years old; most airlines allow unaccompanied minors at age 5. I was a nervous wreck the first time, knowing my kid was 36,000 feet above North America flying in a metal tube with tiny little windows. My parents dropped her off at the gate in Salt Lake and I was right there at the gate when she came of the plane, all smiles and giggles because she had made best friends with the flight attendants and suckered them out of endless amounts of hot chocolate and biscotti cookies.
This last flight she began to cry on the way to the airport because she didn’t want to leave Vivi and me. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to hold it together for her so when we got to the gate the agent asked if I wanted to keep her with me until the plane was completely loaded or if I wanted her to get on now.
“Good!” I thought. “A few extra minutes with her so she won’t be so sad when she has to get on the plane.”
Addie had other plans.
“I want to get on now.” she said.
My heart slumped a little lower in my chest. The excitement of the flight attendants holding cookies and hot chocolate was too appealing for her to miss me much at that moment. She hugged me, kissed me and walked away. I hung around until they closed the doors to the flight, just in case she changed her mind and needed her mom.
This darn kid, growing up so fast. *sigh*
(For anyone curious, unaccompanied minors are only allowed on direct flights when under a certain age. The responsible parties in each city are given a pass to escort the child to and from the plane through security. We fly Delta and they require an additional $100 unaccompanied minor fee in addition to the regular airfare. They do a good job. I totally trust my kid with them.)