Sunday, June 20, 2010 posted by Jen at 6/20/2010 04:20:00 PM
With just over three weeks until the release of FLY AWAY HOME, I know that I'm supposed to be in full-on pimp mode. I should be posting sassy pictures and sexy excerpts, or hosting fun-filled giveaways, or telling you all about the upcoming book tour.
But yesterday I had one of the worst travel experiences of my life yesterday -- a true and total bummer -- so I think that, instead, I'll tell you about that.
After a week in Los Angeles, I was flying back home with my seven-year-old and two-and-a-half-year old.
I’ve flown a lot with my kids before, and pretty much have it down to a science: I know when to leave, and what to pack (snacks, stickers, one inexpensive new toy, one small canister of M & M’s, fully-charged iPod, small gift for the flight attendants and earplugs to offer row-mates) and generally how it’ll go.
Yesterday, I figured that because we'd be leaving just after the two-year-old’s nap, there would probably be ten minutes of fussing, squirming misery, at which point she’d conk out for an hour or two, and be fine the rest of the flight.
We boarded early and settled into row nine. The woman in row eight – an older lady, in high heels and a sweater set -- was clearly trouble. When the soldier (in uniform) tried to put his backpack in the overhead bin, she snapped at him, “There’s a WEDDING DRESS in there. You can’t just go shoving your things ANYWHERE.” When I said, “You know, the flight attendants would probably hang your dress up front if you asked,” she turned to me, glaring, and said, “It’s not MY DRESS, and NO THEY WON’T.”
Now. It’s been my experience that flight attendants, when asked nicely, are usually happy to help, but maybe her experiences were different.
The flight took off. The lady in 8-A ordered two white wines. Phoebe started squirming and kicking. I did my best to soothe her…but, as other mothers of two-year-olds will attest, sometimes, your best isn’t good enough. Sometimes, your best doesn’t feel like it's doing anything at all. Especially when you’re dealing with a child whose favorite toy is the toilet brush and who has not, as they say, approached the age of reason. My daughter is a lovely, sunny, good-natured well-behaved little girl most of the time, but when she’s cranky and needs her nap, she is more or less the Kraken in Pampers.
The seatbelt light was on, so I couldn’t get up and walk her. We were in the row in front of the exit row, so I couldn’t even recline my seat to get a few extra inches. We were, in short, in hell.
She was thrashing, weeping, trying to squirm out of my arms, pulling down the tray table, clambering over my shoulder to peer at the passengers behind us – and yes, I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant for anyone around her. It sure wasn’t pleasant for me. I was trying to hold her still and keep her quiet. She’d just hit me in the nose when 8-A whipped her head around, “Exorcist”-style, and hissed, “MUST YOU keep KICKING ME?”
“I’m not kicking you!” I blurted….because I wasn’t, and because I figured that a little humor might defuse the situation.
“Do you have ANY IDEA how ANNOYING your CHILD IS?” she barked.
At this point, several responses occurred to me, the first of which was, “I carried her for nine months and have lived with her ever since and so, yes, I do…” but honestly, I was as shocked and speechless as Taylor Swift being Kanye’d. I stammered that I was sorry. She kept ranting, eyes narrowed, spittle flying from her mouth. I don’t even remember what she said, because I was so stunned. I just held on to Phoebe, trying to keep her quiet and still, until finally, she fell asleep in my arms, and I sat there for the rest of the flight, feeling angry and ashamed and like the worst mother in the world.
How should I have handled it? What should I have done? Offered to switch seats with the angry lady? Flagged down a flight attendant and bought her even more white wine? Told her that if she wants guaranteed peace and quiet she should charter her own jet? Suggested that the all-grouch section was in the back of the plane?
Is the answer to just not fly with the little one until she’s bigger? Or drug her ahead of time (I’ve heard good things about Benadryl?) Can I convince Kevin Smith to rent me that bus he bought after his bad air-time with Southwest?
I suspect that the real answer is just to realize that when you fly with kids, you run the risk of the kids being awful, and being seated near someone who doesn’t like kids, or had a bad day, or whatever, and just get over it. But if I’ve made it this far while still being this sensitive, getting over it doesn’t seem likely.
I honestly don’t know what to do here except….have a contest!
So here’s the deal. You send your most awful traveling-with-kids story….or your best piece of advice for how to survive the experience….or your snappiest comeback for the lady in 8-A to jen AT jenniferweiner.com.
On Friday, I will publish the five best/funniest/most helpful responses, and those hardy travelers will win fresh-off-the-presses, not-even-my-Mom-has-one-yet copies of FLY AWAY HOME.
Finally, for every entry I get between now and Friday, I will buy one book for the Philadelphia Free Library’s 10,000 Books for Children campaign, which you can learn all about right here…because some good should come of this, right?
Welcome to A Moment of Jen, author Jennifer Weiner's constantly-updated take on books, baby, and news of the world. Email me at jen (a) jenniferweiner.com.