Traveling with toddlers is one of life’s great mysteries. You want to continue your life after having kids, so you aim to take them places. You want them to experience things, visit friends, have a relationship with grandparents or other family members. But, getting them from point A to point B is so damn hard, and sometimes impossible.
For awhile, I tried to fight it. I would make my son sit in my lap no matter how much he screamed. I would bribe him with endless snacks, milk, and toys, even trying to get him to watch something, anything, on the phone. Each distraction would last mere minutes before he was screaming for something new — very loudly, I might add.
As much as I patted myself on my back for bringing his favorite sip cup, most beloved car, and the most recent stuffed animal obsession, the reality was it was never enough. Even with an entire bag of arsenal, I would run out of options within minutes of taking off, if not before. Then, I would move to trying to rock him, singing softly in his ear, trying to calm him down long enough to give me and the rest of the plane some peace. But trying to rock an angry toddler is like trying to swaddle an octopus and puppy together. It doesn’t work.
Then we turn to all the pamphlets in the seat back pocket. Those are so much fun to pull out and toss to the ground. Yes, I know he is kicking and moving your seat while he’s doing this. Trust me, I am behind you giving my kid the evilest eye I can muster and telling him to stop in my harshest whisper, but my threats are useless against the mighty toddler — they just bounce right off him. The toys aren’t enough, the snacks aren’t enough; the threats aren’t doing a damn thing. Then, I realized: it will never be enough.
The truth is the only thing he wants to do on the plane is run. Run up and down the aisle, up and down, up and down, until you’re legitimately scared he will wear a hole in the bottom of the plane and we will all fall out. Once I figured this out, he was so much happier, but I quickly learned that was only half the battle.
You see, the toddler wants to run everywhere. He doesn’t understand that he can’t follow people into the bathroom or knock on the cockpit door (both of which my son has tried to do, by the way.) So, we started walking behind him. Closely, so he’s within arms reach of causing us to make an emergency landing. But, there’s a big problem with this: the other passengers. You know how tiny those aisles are — there’s no humanly possible way to walk up and down the aisle without bumping into an arm, a leg, sometimes a head. It’s inevitable.
Then come the stares. The stares from the other passengers because you won’t stop walking back and forth and bumping them. I’ve gotten the stares plenty of times and I just try to smile back, but really I want to cry. Look, I clearly know I am annoying you, but what’s my other option? To try and get my toddler to sit down? We’ve already established that doesn’t work. So pick your poison fellow passenger: screaming and kicking kid or me walking by you 100 times, bumping into you and apologizing profusely for the entire flight. Your choice.
As if my fellow passengers couldn’t hate me even more – my kid decides he wants to high five everyone. And I mean EVERYONE. If you are sitting in an aisle seat, you are not spared. You can count on getting a tiny, chubby hand in your face. And he will not move on until you give in. Try to ignore him, try to pretend like you’re asleep or that you don’t know what he wants, I dare you. My toddler has the stubbornness of a donkey — take my word for it.
Yes, I know you don’t want to touch germ sticky kid hands but again you have a choice — touch the hand or prepare for a toddler standoff that would make army generals proud. And, yes, I see that eye roll you are giving me.
All I can say to anyone flying on a plane with a toddler is: “I’m Sorry.” It’s a blanket apology to anyone who hears his screaming, feels his kicks, or is forced to give him a high five. Please know that I’m trying. And if I am getting all of my daily 10,000 steps in on this flight, it’s because I know it’s better than the alternative. Trust me.
So sit back, enjoy the show, maybe buy that parent a drink (they are probably more frustrated than you!), and high-five their kid already.