Travelling on a plane can be difficult at the best of times, nevermind when you’re travelling with children. Educational Life is Saluting Parents at 35,000ft!
I love flying. I love pretty much the whole process. Queuing to hand over the baggage feels like handing over all ‘real world’ stresses and dramas and the minute my bag begins its mystical little journey down the conveyor belt I get ridiculously excited.
It is irrelevant what time the flight is. That little strip of black starts the familiar tingle of a new adventure beginning to unfold. I know that the next step is to go through security with my hand luggage – my clear bag filled with electrical items, small bottles of liquids and my all-too necessary travel tablets in hand and ready to go sit in their tub for checking. It’s a running joke in our house.
I have never been stopped. My partner gets stopped every single time. Without fail. So I stand at the end, tubs neatly stowed back at the end and a broad grin on my face as my well-organised hand luggage is slung on my back and the other half has to unpack everything and re-pack it when nothing untoward is discovered.
I can imagine how irritating I am with my overly organised bags and excited bounce as he walks towards me none-the-wiser as to why he was stopped in the first place. Nothing can dull the adventure-tingle though. Next step. Departures!
I’m now at fever-pitch. The joy is palpable. I’m getting ever closer to boarding the plane! But, before that, I get to have breakfast “It’s compulsory. I can’t fly without it. I’ll be sick.” I’m not entirely sure this is true, but I’ve convinced myself so we always have a treat meal before boarding and then shop around in the duty-free and buy boiled sweets ready for take-off. I then sit and stare at the departures board…
Once on the plane, I get my pack out ready for take-off. I pay avid attention; I love watching out of the window and I try and anticipate at what point the wheels will leave the tarmac.
Then I settle down for the duration. I do not sleep on flights – regardless of how long they are. Within minutes, the other half will be asleep and I will have my nose buried in a book sucking on boiled sweet after boiled sweet.
It tends to be around the time that the drinks trolley rolls down the aisle that I become fully aware of the passengers around me [Unless they’re not great at respecting personal space, in which case I have no choice!]
It’s strange. By nature, I am a people-watcher. I love the little nuances of human experience and interactions but at airports, I don’t tend to do it much – I think because they are so busy and people are either rushing around or sitting pretty much stock still.
But on a plane, as the white noise begins to envelop everything my awareness spikes and I start to wonder where the gentleman in his business suit is heading – what does he do? Is he important? Will he fly back straight afterwards? Or where that couple are staying. What is the likelihood of any of these people staying in the same place as us? Then I day dream about what skyline the flight staff love most in the world. Is it during the day or a night scene?
The families always fascinate me. Those with small children. I cannot imagine organising everything and everyone, travelling to an airport with or flying with children in tow. It must be such a challenge and one that I really do tip my cap to them for. I impress myself with my in-flight bag packing skills, but I watch mums with their ‘Mary Poppins bags’ pulling out thing after thing to entertain their children in the hopes that they have as stress-free a flight as possible and realise that they have just blown my skills out of the water. In short procession comes: Flopsy bunny, blankie, coloured pencils, paper, ipads, leapfrog reading consoles, books, wotsits, bananas, bottles of formula, dummies, nappies, wet wipes, pillows and, what seems to me, to be a never-ending supply of quiet inducing or care items. I mean, can we just take a minute. That is seriously awesome in itself? That number of items in a conventional bag?!
Inevitably though, these items and any others that may have materialised lose their appeal and then they need the children want to get up and stretch their legs so the parents then take turns to parade up and down the aisle. Then the tears begin.
At this point, as an unobserved-observer, I can’t help but empathise with all parties.The child:
Trapped in a vehicle at however many thousand feet and unable to do what you want creates a boredom that just cannot be assuaged. That is as an adult. I cannot imagine what it’s like to be a child who may suffer more from travel sickness, turbulence or air pressure and cannot communicate how weird they are feeling. Other than knowing that I’d want to cry and that being surrounded by strangers would not improve that feeling at all.
It must be difficult as a parent to manage that situation too. You cannot remedy it as you normally would and are in a confined space again, surrounded by strangers are feeling sorry for said child or feeling exasperated yourself.
Cannot really do anything to help, are trying to work and get everything done in the time frame they are given whilst pretending to smile and be polite to everyone – even the passengers complaining about the crying.
The passenger just wanting peace and quiet:
Just wants to go on holiday and doesn’t understand why you are putting everyone in this situation. Usually, they won’t mind but are anxious and fed up themselves.
But this is the view of the situation if you are worrying you are being judged. I think you’d be surprised how many people aren’t judging you though. Sure, there will be a few who do, but that’s the case on terra firma as well.
I like to think that many passengers are like myself – empathising and silently cheering you on for taking your children on adventures and giving it a go. The flight will end and you will go off on a wonderful holiday. If we as adults can struggle in those situations, it is only fair to expect little people can as well.
So, this is a tribute to those tired parents who have bent over backwards to be considerate to your children and other passengers, those parents with the bottomless bags and endless supplies of fruit and Wotsits, soothing their children at 35,000 ft. You’re amazing and I salute you!
But if you’re a parent allowing your child to incessantly kick my chair, pull my hair as they stand on your lap or leave them to their own devices, being rude and shouting unnecessarily that’s another story! 😉
Here’s to adventures, flying and luggage conveyor belts!