Dear Stupid Parents,
I’m currently sat with Baby Boy on a plane, on a runway at Naples airport waiting for my delayed flight to London to take off. It’s so far, two and a quarter hours since the scheduled departure time and apparently we could be here for another twenty minutes. Today, we’ve been very lucky in that we’ve got a whole row to ourselves so I’ve thrown toys across the seats next to me and Baby Boy is clambering over the top of them, banging on the window with them and generally having a lovely time. Despite the delay, this doesn’t feel stressful but I completely understand that this sort of thing, along with the unpredictable nature of babies and children is enough to put a lot of people off flying at all. I’ve been flying by myself with my sons since Toddler Boy was 5 weeks old, I’ve made countless errors and we’ve had a few disasters but it can (and if you like a bit of a jaunt now and then, it SHOULD) be done. I wouldn’t say I’m a seasoned traveller by any means but I’ve learned a thing or two, so if you want to brave flying with children or you’re dreading an upcoming flight or are worried about doing it by yourself, then here are some of my top tips.
1- Just Do It.
Don’t assess every possible shit show that could happen along the way, don’t preempt the tears and the fears, don’t freak out about logistics. Just book it and figure all that out later. You might prefer to plan every single movement from leaving home to arriving at your destination down to a T but you’ll probably find it easier and actually, much less stressful to go with the flow. If you’re set on what should happen, then things like delays or running out of clean clothes after yet another poo-nami on the plane will send you into a tailspin – you just have to live in the moment and deal with each catastrophe as it happens, if you think about all the possible catastrophes in advance, you’re likely to never leave the house at all.
2 – Breathe
I mean this in the most literal sense. When we’re stressed or scared, our body’s natural instinct is to hold our breath or to take shallow breaths – it’s a fight or flight thing and is somehow related to the production of adrenaline. Adrenaline is helpful in many circumstances but situations where you want to stay in control and not panic, adrenaline is a bitch – so practice the basics of yoga/hypnobirthing/mindfulness and deep breathe; in through your nose, out through your mouth, just like your PE teacher taught you. And when your baby projectile vomits all over you and him both, twenty minutes into a two and a half hour stint in a confined space, repeat in your head “this too shall pass, this too shall pass,” hand on heart, it works.
3 – Ask For Help
This doesn’t come naturally to some people and some cultures. Personally, I hate asking strangers for help; I get embarrassed and worried that the person I’m asking will be a dick or won’t understand my accent or that I’ll ask the wrong person entirely and end up like Kanye at that concert but when I need to, I do what I do when I feel anxious about teaching a class I don’t know – I pretend I’m someone else, someone who’s confident and sure of themselves and who doesn’t think twice about insisting on a complete stranger’s assistance to put the massive baby bag in the overhead locker . Most people are really lovely when you have a baby so naturally, most times, it works.
4 – Speaking Of Baby Bags
Use a backpack, not an over the shoulder bag. And make it big so it holds all the crap. The more hands you have free, the better. Plus, they look cooler. (In case you’re worried about that!)
5 – Don’t Be Too Proud
Everyone’s child plays up. Be it tantrums, bickering or god-awful crying, everyone’s child plays up some time. Including mine and including yours. When it happens, (because it will happen) even if you’ve done everything in your power to mitigate against it, just apologise to whoever might be annoyed about it, and do it sincerely. “I’m so sorry,” (the ‘so’ is important, I think) goes a long way to make most people see you for what you are – a parent in a challenging situation just doing their best, they’ll stop being annoyed and – in my experience – probably even offer to help with something. Anyone who stays annoyed is either a horrible person or just having a crappy time today – you don’t need to worry about them. (Easier said than done, I admit; see previous post.)
6 – Fly Early
Not for everyone maybe, and I suppose it depends on the ages of your children but I find early morning flights work best and usually, by the time we get on the flight after travelling to the airport and a few hours hanging around, Baby Boy will nap. The 3am start to get to the airport for our 6am flight last week though, was maybe a bit ridiculous.
7 – If Delayed, Don’t Think About What You Might Miss As A Result
Today is Saturday, I haven’t seen Toddler Boy since Sunday and so far, lost 3 hours of weekend time with him when I get home. That thought is driving me close to tears and is wholly unhelpful. Hence my trying to distract myself by blogging on a plane.
Delayed flights = free snacks
8 – Smart Phones and Tablets
Download TV shows/games apps in advance and be prepared to just keep hitting the play button for as long as it takes to get to where you’re going. Don’t judge yourself for lazy parenting, you’ve just packed half your house into an average sized suitcase to give you and your children a chance to make some incredible memories; you’re a fucking hero. Family jigsaw fun can wait.
9 – Paracetamol For All
Or whatever your pain relief of choice. Being sick on holiday is the pits and a cheeky dose of the pink stuff for healthy little ones, might just make them drowsy enough to sit still and stay quiet for a couple of hours. Not that I’d dream of doing that of course…
10 – Walk The Aisle
Feels a bit like waking the plank at time but if your kid is kicking off, new faces and the general hubbub of planes will calm them down at least for a minute or two. On top of that, the more people who see how goddam cute your baby is, the more likely you’ll be forgiven for the unholy screaming.
11 – Enjoy
This trip will end, you’ll be back in the rain, getting up at 6am, commuting on packed trains and fighting with your boss before you know it. Try to relax, try to enjoy. Everyone knows tantrums are way easier to deal with at 5,000ft anyway. Right?