When I took my 8-week-old baby on her first flight, I thought, "What are all these moms even complaining about?" She slept the whole way and if she fussed, I stuck a boob in her mouth. Problem solved. Silly, silly me. About the time my daughter turned 1, she become an absolute terror in the air. Increasingly manipulative and egocentric, she craves independence but doesn't have the skills to manage it. So, these days, there's a whole slew of things I'd rather do than fly with my toddler.
We're a military family, so we move every few years. We have friends and family all over the country, and we like to, you know, go see them. Since my daughter's first birthday, we've flown to Tennessee, Florida, Georgia and Washington (twice). Most recently, we met my deployed husband in Europe for his two weeks of rest and relaxation. It was 10 hours the first leg to London, then another two hours to Munich. This is a long time for anyone, but for a toddler it's an eternity. You better believe she let me know about it.
I realize that air travel is a privilege. Having to fly with young children is the first worldliest of first world problems. I choose to take trips, so yeah, I signed up for this. It's easy to recognize all that after the fact, but it's a little harder when you have a kicking, screaming, mini-you strapped to your waist while you're both stuck in a giant flying aluminum can with no escape. So, yes, the list of things I'd rather do than fly with a toddler is long, and definitely includes the following:
Deal With A Tantrum At Home
Tantrums are arguably the worst part of toddlerhood. Still, when you handle them at home you have a lot more tools at your disposal. When my daughter throws a fit at our house, I can ignore, put her in time out in her room, or lock myself in a closet and eat Fritos. It's a lot harder to do any of those when other passengers are trying to press their headphones inside their ear canals and judging your terrible parenting.
Clip My Cat's Toenails
This process involves sitting on top of a 15 pound feline, shoving a sock over his face to prevent bites, and wrestling his paws out from under him. This is not for the faint of heart. Still, if I do it right, it's over in seconds. I can't say the same for even a puddle-jumper of a flight.
Take My Kid To Target
My toddler has managed to ruin my one of my favorite experiences: shopping at Target. Heaven help me if I can't get a front-facing cart or if I don't pack enough snacks. Hell hath no fury like a toddler who's run out of bunny crackers. I've wrested stuffed animals from her furious little fists and pretended she wasn't mine as she lay prone on the tile floor. However, at the end of the day, I'm still at Target. I can get popcorn and score some sweet deals, so it's not a total loss.
You know what's not on an airplane? Bullseye's Playground, people.
Go On A Ruck March
I hate running, but I really hate carrying things. So when my husband described this military exercise (a march over a great distance, carrying a load), it sounded like my own personal circle of hell. But if I can carry a 30 pound limp noodle, plus three bags, all over Heathrow, a bunch of army gear can't be much worse.
Watch 'Elmo's World' On An Endless Loop
I basically did this anyway on the last leg of our journey. By that point, I would have done anything to keep her quiet, and screen time seemed to help. But if I'm going to watch Elmo, I'd much rather do it from the comfort of my own couch, where I can do something about it if my toddler pees on me.
Go Suit Shopping With My Husband
I swear to all that is holy, if Jos. A. Bank has another buy three, get one free sale, I will unleash hellfire upon their nearest suburban mall location. Still, I will gladly spend an afternoon admiring clothing that all looks the same to me if Scotty will beam us straight to our next destination.
Watch Grass Grow
When you're not frantic and anxiety-ridden over an unhappy toddler in midair, you're bored out of your gourd. I let my daughter plug into the screen, but she didn't want to have the headphones on. I also wasn't allowed, so I watched some Barbie superhero princess garbage. On mute. I'm positive grass grows faster than an intercontinental flight.