You. With the comfortable, extra legroom seat, with your headphones on, watching a movie on your iPad while sipping a Bloody Mary. I saw that look of panic on your face when I approached your aisle. You were wondering if my questionable 9-month-old baby girl and I would occupy the two empty seats next to you. You tried to be calm and nonchalant about it. As if having a baby sitting next to you for a four hour flight isn’t like sitting next to a bomb and wondering if or when it will suddenly explode on you.
You wanted a relaxing flight. Or as relaxing as flying can be these days without worrying about terrorists, mechanical failures and most recently – you and your plane just disappearing.
You breathed a sigh of relief when we slipped by you.
Then we took the row behind you.
You tried to remain placid but accidentally gave us the stink eye. You wondered why anyone would fly with a baby. You cursed your luck at having a seat right near one. When she started screaming within ten minutes of being on the plane, you thought about suggesting that the baby be drugged. Then you thought about drugging yourself.
I get it. I used to be you. Now that I’m on the flip side, I can offer you a little snapshot into the brain of traveling new parents. It’s a tension filled, insanity check of non-stop aggravation and fright. Forgive us. Look the other way. Here’s why:
We have prepared for this flight both mentally and physically for months. Our carry-ons are packed to the brim with distracting baby toys, baby food, changes of clothes and baby books. We have no problem handing over electronic devices to the baby if it stops them from crying. We’ve been strategizing on these items forever.
You get to go to the bathroom whenever you want. If you have to pee, your only restriction is hopping over a sleeping co-passenger if you’re in a window or middle seat or the captain’s decision to keep the fasten seat belt indicator light on. Other than that, the world is your oyster. With a baby, you have to make arrangements to pee. Hand her off or take her with you. Have you ever tried peeing with someone strapped to you?
We’re exhausted and as anxious to get this flight over as you are. If there was a way to magically whisk babies to other parts of the country without subjecting their screams to perfect strangers, we would be ALL OVER THAT, but for some reason, they force everyone to buy tickets to sit in one stinkin’ vessel. If I had unlimited money, I’d buy out First or Business Class just for my baby and me on all of our flights. I’d let the baby crawl around the aisles, chew on the plastic cups handed out with the drink cart and lick pre-sterilized pull out trays. Until that day, Economy class will have to deal with us.
YOU can actually sleep, or try to. Even if our baby is screaming for every second of the flight, you have the ability to put noise-canceling headphones on or listen to music or even go for a walk away from the baby. We have to make the screaming stop.
We would happily sign up for a Babies Only plane section. Stick our crying, stinky, angry, cranky babes and us into one understanding, codependent area of the plane and we’ll stick to our own kind. They don’t have this option when you buy a ticket, so it’s really luck of the draw. You could easily be sitting next to someone who eats a stinky tuna fish sandwich. Or who has the flu. Or a person with horrible gas. In comparison, a baby is a cakewalk.
Babies are mostly cute and you don’t have to change their diapers or pay for their college education. Entertain our baby with a little peek-a-boo and you’ll have a friend for life (both the baby and us!). It may also slow down or temporarily stop any crying.
Babies’ ears can really hurt on a flight and there’s not much anybody can do but feel sad for them. If you’ve ever had ear pain on a flight, imagine it a thousand times worse with no ability to understand WHY they kill, WHEN it will stop and HOW to communicate that you have pain. Poor baby!
We desperately need a vacation and it will be a very long time before we can call any trip with the baby an actual getaway. Our days and nights bleed into one. Our days of sleeping in are over. Take pity on us.
You’re witnessing fearlessness at its peak. Traveling with an infant can be a daunting, logistical nightmare that only the bravest survive. There should be awards given out daily for families bold enough to attempt such a feat. Since babies usually fly for free and flying isn’t cheap, I’ll have this living being sitting on top of me – an almost 19 pound weight to entertain for multiple hours in a row. I should bust out my Superman cape.
Once the plane lands, you get to exit the madness. Our journey has just started. We have to take the screaming, exhausted and soiled baby out of the plane, clean her up and soothe her for the next 18 years. You get to enjoy your destination in peace!
The next time you hear a screaming baby on a plane, forgive the tears. Forgive the parents. Remember that you were a baby and probably cried in public at some point.
Save your anger and frustration for the kicking toddlers with no parental supervision. Especially the ones that scream for no reason, throw food and jump up and down while their parents do nothing to stop them.
Give them the stink eye with all of the energy you can muster.