A Moment of Jen
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Friday, June 25, 2010
posted by Jen at 6/25/2010 11:17:00 AM

I don't know if I can adequately express my thanks for everyone who sent their stories, snappy comebacks and words of wisdom about flying the (un)friendly skies with little kids.

I think the worst part of my experience was feeling completely isolated -- like I was not just the only one on the plane whose kid was being disruptive (for a whopping 10 minutes!) but that I was the only one in the world whose child had ever upset other passengers on a plate with her noise, actions, or bodily functions.

Four hundred plus entries later, I can safely attest: not true. I am not alone. And if you've ever had a rough time on the road with a wee one, neither are you.

Plus, I learned so many things! Such as...

1. Wrap skirts are not your friends.

2. But sometimes drunks are!

3. Murphy's Law is totally in effect once you hit 30,000 feet. If you child is prone to bawling, kicking, pooping through her diaper, projectile vomiting or screaming the word "PENIS!", it's going to happen when you're on the plane.

4. Bring extra clothes for your kids, for yourself, and bring your sense of humor. You're going to need it.

So hooray for all of my readers, for making me feel much better about my miserable experience with the Lady in 8-A. Hooray for the Free Library, which is getting 400 new books as part of its 10,000 books for children drive.

Without further ado, the lucky winners! Ladies, your books are in the mail.

From Heidi Bozek Regan:

Flying by myself with an 18 month old from Colorado to Massachusetts. Fly out of western Colorado where cranky stewardess refuses to help me with infant but is barking at all the things I am doing worng. The flight is etremely turbulent with ice flying out of peoples drinks and sudden drops of the plane. The Rocky Mountains rushing at you always... See More a welcome sight while flying with your toddler in your lap while you struggle to hold on to her in the sudden drops. Get to Denver and find out the connection is delaying a glorious six hours! Spend the next six hours chasing said 15 month old around the Denver International Airport. Good times. Finally board flight to Massachusetts to find it is me, my toddler and a large group of still drunk men on their way back from Reno. As I am rolling my eyes and thinking outside of a crash this isn't going to get any worse, drunk group of men fall in love with toddler and start entertaining her with exciting games of peek a boo and hide and seek. They proceed to buy me many drinks and even the movie! I relax as they entertain child who is returned to me as we are getting ready to land. Child falls asleep and as I struggle to gather my things, drunk group from Reno grabs my bags and the babies things and help me off the plane and to my ride. I highly recommend taking drunk men on any flight involving small children.

From Dana D'Amore Gilpatrick

When my daughter was a potty training toddler we had to travel for a family reunion. After the 6th trip to the closet sized airplane bathroom,my child went screaming down the aisle ( after I would not let her flush her training pants) chasing after her, my "wrap-around-skirt" decides to unwrap exposing me to all the annoyed passengers
This was the same trip the toddler decided to ask several male passengers if they had a " PENIS!!!!!!"

From Courtenay Carr Russo

Traveling alone with a 3 yr and one-year-old, plus stoller and car seat (hands full!) Mia-DFW-Lax. One-year-old threw up on me on plane -- had a xtra shirt :). In Dallas layover jumped up to keep 3yr from hugging strange children and I split my pants! Did NOT have xtras. Pried 3yr old off strange child, tied them both down in stroller, tried to cover gaping hole in pants and went to seek out the only pair of pants in the airport- at a mens golf store. Left in mens Nike swim trunks. Yep... Arrived at destination with clean shirt and mens swim trunks. Oh and black boots! Both kids unscathed. :)

From Courtney Burns

My husband is a cop in Vegas, so a few times a year I have to make the trip from Vegas to Michigan to see my family. This is extra fun, because the average Midwestern tourist cannot grasp the idea that some of us actually have to live in Vegas and so they treat me though I have spent the week entering my 4 year in slot tournaments. One old man was so nasty on a flight back and would clear his throat and POINT AT ME from across the aisle every time my son made a peep. Two hours in I lost it and (sobbing) told him that the only reason he wasn't robbed while sucking down an all you can eat buffet was because of men like my husband, which is subsequently why my parents don't ever get to see their grandkids. I haven't had a good meltdown like that since, but the man and my son were both very quiet for the rest of the ride.

From Tricia Wolfe Neerman

Mine is my best AND worst at the same time. My husband and I were bringing our daughter home to Texas from China. We'd only been a family for two weeks and I was still getting to know her. During our 27 hours of traveling she went through three sets of clothes and I went through two because she had the worst case of diarrhea ever. She got it everywhere. Here I was on a Chinese airline, a mom for the first time, trying to change this horrible diaper in a plane bathroom. My husband was behind me handing me wipes and I was in tears. It was awful. BUT, it was the best because I'd waited to be a mom for seven years and I didn't care how awful it was, she was finally in my arms!

From Jennifer O'Neill Coenen

Mine would have to be flying home from the Caribbean with my then 17-month old & my then 2 1/2 yr old daughters. Our flights were delayed, of course, and when we finally got up in the air we hit major turbulence. Both girls puked all over themselves, and me, and once I changed them both and handed them to my husband, they puked all over themselves AND him. I was out of clothes for the kiddos, so we ended up taking them through customs in their diapers only, and Doug & I ... well, let's just say no one wanted to stand by us in line! We MAY have used the stink-ass card to get ahead in line & were waived pretty quickly through ... they're now 5 & 6, and while I no longer pack multiple changes of clothes ... I DO try to seat them by their Daddy as much as I can when we fly!

From Meghan Price

My husband, mother kids and I were on our way home from Georgia to Wisconsin on a 19 hour drive with a nursing 9 month old and a potty training three year old. During the trip my 3 year old was traumatized by the automatic flushing toilets and was refusing to go potty. In the space of an hour she threw up all over herself, me and the carseat, and pooped her pants. During all of this I intermittently tried to nurse my 9 month old while he was still strapped into his car seat. We had to drive about 15 hours with the windows down because of the smell in the car. There was nothing we could do but laugh about it and keep going.

From Maggie Finley:

Worst experience with kid travel? Well, my little one (we only had one at the time) was 18 months old. We were flying and he wasn't doing all that well with the mini DVD player- he just wanted to hit the buttons. But we found that we could keep him fairly quiet with juice. If he was drinking, he was happy. It wasn't a long flight, just Orlando to Detroit. But juice does run through rather quickly.....when we landed, I went to get him out of the car seat to check his diaper. I was WAY too late, though. He had saturated his pants and his car seat. And of course, while I had a change of diapers with me, I had no clothes packed in the carry-on. (I had not, in 18 months, EVER needed a change of clothes for him while out and about, so the thought hadn't even crossed my mind.) While I waved other passengers past us, I tried to figure out what to do. I cleared the row, pulled off his pants, changed his diaper, and then pulled off his shirt and put it on as pants- each leg in an arm hole. At this point, my Mom looks back to see what the delay is and exclaimed loudly "something's wrong with his pants!" I pulled my own sweater out of my backpack and threw it on him as a shirt. Then we rushed off the now empty plane, carrying the child and the car seat separately, praying it would air dry before we needed to install it in the rental car. All this and it was 11pm and a whopping 12 degrees outside. There's a bit more to it, but these were the highlights. It took us so long to get that car seat installed that it DID air dry by the time we had to place him back in it. And my Mom snapped pictures of him dancing around the rental place, looking like a homeless elf, as we struggled with the latch system in the freezing darkness. Fun times!

How to survive? Oh you just have to laugh. Just roll with it and laugh. No matter how well you prepare, something will happen.

A comeback? I wish I could come up with a great one, but honestly, I'd just want to say, "My mother taught me that if I couldn't say anything nice, I shouldn't say anything at all, so I won't tell you how incredibly rude you're being. Everyone is allowed to have a bad day once in a while, even my child. And until we can teleport places, mothers will always struggle with keeping their children happy on planes. Have some freakin' compassion."

From Stephanie Elliot

My son was nine months old and had a habit of projectile vomiting. (Only years later did I discover what reflux was - I still can’t believe my pediatrician never diagnosed him!) We were in the process of relocating from Chicago to Philadelphia and I was taking a flight to meet my husband where he was already in Philly working. I had flown with AJ previously, but as a new mother, I was still very nervous.

Seated in the middle seat with my son, I noticed an older couple walk toward us and the woman looked up at the seat number and then down at me in utter distain as if her flight was already ruined. Her husband shrugged and took the seat next to me, while she took the seat behind us. I jokingly said to the man, “I take it your wife doesn’t like babies?” trying to break the ice.

His blank stare showed me that ice wasn’t breakin’.

After the requisite “put-your-mask-on-yourself-first-then-your-baby” announcements, it was time to take off and I knew what to do next because I’d read all the books. At take-off, you give your baby something to suck on so his ears don’t pop and hurt.
I took out my baby’s bottle filled with distilled water and scrambled to find the formula while holding AJ with my other arm. I poured the powder into the bottle within the confines of my seat trying not to jostle my seatmate, the curmudgeon whose wife was behind us. My other seatmate was a kinder gentleman in the window seat, who had had the decency to talk to me like I wasn’t the mother of the spawn of the devil when he boarded earlier. I started feeding AJ his bottle as we took off.

What the books don’t tell you is that if you’re feeding your baby in a cradling position and his belly is filling up, well, then it’s pretty likely that he may start projectile vomiting. And before we reached 10,000 feet in the air, that is exactly what AJ was doing, all over in row 14.

Kind Seatmate grabbed the vomit bag and held it for me while I tried my best to search for the diaper cloth I usually had on hand, while “I-Hate-All-Procreators” shot 9 millimeter bullets through his eye slits and I could hear his wife muttering behind us all sorts of horrible parenting commentary. I rushed to do my best to clean up what I could and calm AJ down, and held back hot tears.

I wanted to die.

Only when I could gather enough Mother Power, did I force my way past the man next to me, taking my soaking baby, baby bag, barf bag and what was left of my dignity, with me. The plane was completely full so there was no way I was going to get another seat, and surely no one would want to switch with me and sit in a formula-vomited-soak-stained seat now. And there was no way in hell I was going back to sit next to that horrible child-loathing man.

So I stood. I stood on that whole flight in the back of the plane and I rocked my baby AJ. And my arms killed and I stank like wet formula, and my baby cried, and I felt defeated and like the worst mother in the world, and I felt mad at those people for making me feel the way that they had, and what right did they have to make me feel that way?

And do you know what happened?

The asshole guy came to the back of the plane and thanked me for standing back there so he and his wife could enjoy the flight!

“We just can’t understand why we can’t bring our pets on board; that they have to go in the belly of the plane,” he said, “but people can bring babies on planes.”


I said to him, “It’s obvious that you two do not have children.”
And here’s the most shocking part of the whole story. This man then tells me that yes, in fact, they do have FOUR children, but they don’t see them all that much.

I can only imagine why.

I’m pretty sure that he also then went on to say they liked their pets more than their children, and that his pets didn’t ask them for money or need to be sent to college or eat them out of house or home …

And yes, I just hugged my AJ tighter.

It’s my only solace to know that that couple is going to grow very old and very lonely together and make each other very, very unhappy. Because I never wish ill-will toward people, I am pretty sure these people will bring it upon themselves just by being horrible people, and these were horrible people.

I also think that when they die, there is going to be a playback/rewind button on their lives, and they will be shown video of EVERYTHING and they’ll not only see how horrible they’ve been to people, INCLUDING THEIR OWN CHILDREN, they’ll also see stuff they weren’t aware of, like times they cried on airplanes or public places as infants. Because everyone starts out as a baby, and all babies cry and are imperfect, and do unexpected things in public.

I will never forget that couple, and since then I have taken many flights and some without my children, and yes, a crying baby can be an annoyance on a plane, and sometimes even my kids, (who are now 12, 11 and 8) still cry from earaches, a headache, or something painful on a plane.

But every single time I am on a plane and there is another fussy child near me who is not mine, I think back to THAT situation I was in, and that hurt and sadness I felt, and I try to do what I can for that mom or dad, whether it’s a kind word, a funny joke, some peek-a-boo with their baby, or a “would you like me to hold your baby so you can pee?” …

Traveling with a baby or a child is hard, plain and simple, even if everything goes practically picture perfect. And those who judge so harshly and so cruelly, either have no clue or no heart, as did these people I came in contact with so long ago.

From Ashley Taylor

Here you go, read it and weep...God knows, everyone on my flight probably did!!
I took my barely 2 year-old daughter Emma to visit a friend and her family in Washington, D.C. making it about a 2 hour flight from Charlotte. Great flight up there, great visit, etc. The day we were supposed to come home Emma decided to buck the system totally and skip her nap, despite my repeated attempts to make her take one. That afternoon, I started to not feel so great. Unexplainable stomach pain, borderline nausea, but whatever I am a mother, so I just sucked it up and my girlfriend drove us to the airport. By the time we got through security, I was really not feeling very hot at all and Emma was HYSTERICALLY sobbing in her stroller.

I got to our gate only to realize that our flight was, yes you guessed it, delayed. However, much to my surprise, I discovered that the very next gate had a flight to Charlotte leaving in 15 minutes. I rushed to the counter, explained my situation...not that it needed much explaining, given the sobbing coming from just below the counter and begged to be let on that flight. They told me that they could get me on, but my luggage would come on the later flight. Fine, no problem, who cares, just get me and my screaming, way over tired toddler home as quickly as possible. I got on board and wrangled Emma into my lap with her paci (yeah, yeah, yeah, 2 year-olds don't need pacis, bite me people!), knowing that just any minute now she would pass out from exhaustion. Which she totally did not. And then I got the overwhelming, sweat pouring down your face, feeling that I was going to be sick. Like right then. Couldn't find a barf bag to save my life, thankfully, was able to grab one from the seat across from me and proceeded to get violently ill while attempting hold my HYSTERICAL, UNCONTROLLABLY SOBBING, ATTEMPTING TO BAT AWAY THE BARF BAG THAT I AM ACTIVELY USING toddler. Did anyone offer to help? No. The only thing the flight attendant managed to procure for me was several more sick bags. We finally took off (oh yeah, this was all before we had even left the ground) and Emma sobbed. And screamed. And cried. And writhed. And I got increasingly sick. Now, I am a registered nurse, so I pretty much knew at this point that there was something seriously wrong with me. I was having uncontrollable stabbing back and abdominal pain with pretty constant vomiting. Emma finally fell asleep about 5 minutes before (that's right, just a mere 1 hour and 45 minutes into the flight, which means that she had sobbed uncontrollably for every single second since we boarded) we landed in Charlotte. I got the attention of the flight attendant and let her know that we would need some medical help on the ground.

The *only* and I mean *only* upside to this story is that my husband was flying back to Charlotte from a trip and was planning to meet us at our gate (being post 9/11 this would not have been possible otherwise), so I knew that he could take over with Emma once we landed, while I got some help. As soon as we landed, they told us that we would be another 20 minutes getting to our gate because it was not ready. I got on my cell phone, let my husband know that we had taken a different flight, told him to have my dad come and meet us at the airport to take our daughter home because I knew that I would need to get to a hospital. Finally, we got to our gate. The medics boarded the plane, carried the still sleeping (thank you sweet baby Jesus) Emma off to the plane to my waiting husband and loaded me up right then and there on a stretcher. My blood pressure was really high so they took me in an ambulance to the hospital where it was determined that I was having a terrible kidney stone attack.

Anyway, I feel like if this story doesn't earn me some sort of terrible travel pity and sympathy book, then I don't know what will!!!

From Ami Presley

OK, so I have no advice for flying with kids, as I have only done this once, and my daughter was already 9. Once she had her snack and her MP3 going, she was fine. I do, however, have a pretty awful travel story. This is not a "my kids were demons, and so I was mortified" story. This is a "learn from your mistakes to be more prepared" story.

My husband, my two daughters (Kristen, age 5, and Jordan, age 3), my father-in-law and I were in the car. As this was 15 years ago, I don't exactly remember where we were going... my F-I-L had just got a new-er car, and I believe he was taking us out for "a drive in the country". Anyway, we were a good hour and a half away from anything, on the highway. I am sitting in the backseat with the girls, and the two men are in the front. Kristen suddenly says, in a quivering voice, "Mommy... I don't feel so good..." I turn to look at her, and she is positively green. I think, "oh God... she's gonna spew in the new car. PLEASE don't spew in the new car". I roll down my window to get her some fresh air, and holler up to my husband what is going on. Both men start flipping out. I am trying to keep Kristen calm and breathing slow. Jordan is not sure whether or not to laugh or to cry. I ask my F-I-L to pull over, but because we were in the inside lane of a four lane highway on a beautiful Saturday afternoon (and in Ohio, where as soon as the ice melts, the entire interstate becomes a construction zone), this was not immediately possible. It is also becoming more and more obvious that puking will NOT be avoided. So I start asking for ANY kind of container, as FAST as they can get their hands on one. But before anything can be found, I hear the first heave. So, my mom instincts kick in, and I thrust my cupped hands under her chin.

I am still begging for a container, but as this car is a new acquisition, there aren't really any "things" in it yet. She heaves again. And again. And yet again. My hands are now brimming with vomit. And not just ordinary vomit. We're talking "breakfast full of milk" vomit. There is nothing I can do. There is nothing I can transfer it into... there is no chance of us pulling over any time soon...um, yea. We pass a sign that says "next rest area 60 miles". So I had to ride for an HOUR, with a giant handful of chunky, smelly milk puke, with the lovely summer sun beating in the windows, before we were able to get off the road and I could put down my load and wash my hands. The whole way to the rest area, I just kept chanting to myself "PLEASE don't let this turn into the pie contest scene from Stand By Me... PLEASE". Luckily, parenthood had already given my husband and I the gift of VERY strong stomachs.

Lesson learned - have plastic bags and baby wipes in the car and/or in your purse AT ALL TIMES. I still carry these things, and my girls are now 18 & 20 years old.

And finally, from Nevada Gutierrez

When my oldest son was about one, I flew overnight with him across country on the red-eye out of LAX. He was asleep in my lap until he awoke abruptly about 45 minutes into the flight. He was disoriented and startled and proceeded to bite a chunk out of my neck. The flight attendants were not the least bit helpful or sympathetic, and so I bled my way across the vast North American continent.

And a comeback: "I guess the best we can hope for is that one day she'll grow up & mellow into a sweet little dear like yourself."

Again, thanks to everyone who participated. Stay tuned for happier blog posts and more fun contests next week!
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