I was very happy to find this article yesterday on Huff Post. Then I was horrified to read some of the several thousand comments that it thread. Do I really live in a country that hates kids so much? Some of them were terrible, and borderline recommended abuse. Maybe it is because I come from a country where spanking your kids is basically illegal ( a couple of moms have ended in jail for slapping their kids), and drugging them would be unthinkable. I would never do any of the two, and I would certainly not give any drugs to my kid in an enclosed space without access to an ER in case of a bad reaction. Regardless of their behavior, kids are persons, not some second class citizens who need to be kept away from the public. A two year old is a two year old, and convincing them of not doing certain things is sometimes mission impossible, as much as the moms try. My kids pay as much as anyone else on a plane. They have the same right than the other passengers to travel. When you hop on a plane, you should lower your expectations. You are there to be transported from point A to point B, not to relax, work, rest, enjoy… If someone expects that from nowadays air companies, they need a reality check. Planes are uncomfortable with or without kids.
That said, I always try to keep my kids as quiet as possible, for everyones’ sake, starting with theirs. Some things I do:
1: Since he was 2, my now 5 year old Little L travels with his own backpack and carry on. Having to take care of the carry on ( a crocodile, in his case), keeps him busy in the airport and gives him a sense of responsibility. Plus, he can put there any heavy toys that I cannot carry on my backpack.
2: Until he was 4, I would bring his car seat along. Once he slept all the way from the runway in Chicago to the runway in Madrid. I actually had to wake him up. And I didn’t give him anything.
3: An IPad is a great choice if you travel often. You can load movies, games, drawing apps… On my first solo flight with it, my then 4 year old and his 4 month old brother I got complimented on his behavior at the end of the flight. And, trust me, as anyone who knows him would tell you, he is not the quiet kind. My friends call him “terremoto”, earthquake in Spanish.
4: If you are traveling with an infant, ask for a cot. They sleep there quite comfortably, and you can rest your arms.
5: Bring snacks. They keep them entertained for some time. Stickers and kids magazines are also great. Books are too heavy, and last for too little.
6: I don’t want to sound patronizing, but this is one more reason to breastfeed. You will always have a way to calm an comfort them if their ears hurt, they get upset, etc. Plus you may freak out the passenger on your side thus getting an extra seat.
7: Call the airline the day before and try to get a bulkhead seat. That way you get rid of the kicking problem altogether, and they have some space to play if they want. If the plane is not full, they will be willing to block an extra seat so you have some extra room. That helps greatly.
8. Take walks on the aisles to visit the flight attendants when they are not busy. As far as you don;t interfere with their resting time, they usually love it.
9. Try to fly with European companies. They are way more kid friendly. I didn’t like Iberia until I had kids. Now I don’t fly anything else when coming to Spain because they are very kid friendly and usually helpful. I even once had a pilot run after my stroller when the handlers mistakenly were taking it to the cargo bin. And last winter a flight attendant held my baby for some time to give me a rest.
Some of us need to fly with our kids. In my case, my parents cannot travel because of health issues, so if we wouldn’t come to Spain twice a year they would never see my kids. Plus I’m raising bicultural kids, and spending three months a year in Spain is a big part of that.
One of my most pleasurable flights started with a disappointment. Little L was 10 months, and when the lady sitting next to us saw him, she asked to be changed. A grandma offered to change her seat, and she helped me throughout the flight. Four years later, we are still good friends, and meet whenever we are in the same town.
The persons for whom flying with kids is the most challenging is the kids themselves and their parents. I cannot believe that 95% of parents don’t care. I’m sure they are doing their best, but sometimes, their best is not enough, and nothing will change that. I will post about my next flight in August with a 5 year old and a toddler. It will be my most challenging flight yet.
I will address socializing kids in the US vs Spain in another post. That should be fun 😉
Kuddos to the author of the article. She was dead on.