Why Real Parents Don’t Round: Air Travel With a Toddler

“Don’t touch my eyes.”

“Quick, do a Google Image search for pigs!”

“That’s my neck. Gentle on my neck.”

“Why are you showing me Wheat Thins?  She asked for GOLD. FISH.


“I SAID don’t touch my neck.”

These are some of the comments I made on a  flight back from California this weekend. Actually, calling them “comments” makes them sound much more sophisticated than they actually are. Let’s start over. I actually said this stuff. There, that feels more authentic.

Every time I fly with Sweet Pea it is the worst flight ever. Until the next time, of course. Because, the next time, she is a little bit older, a little bit bigger, and a little bit louder. Which equals a lot worse.

The infant who used to happily sleep, cuddle, and nurse in flight morphed, practically overnight, into a caged animal when confined to my lap at 30,000 feet. Last summer, when Sweet Pea was a sweet, bald, five month old, strangers asked to hold her because she was so cute. I got to go the bathroom by myself and even read part a magazine, uninterrupted. This summer, strangers asked to hold my out of control toddler because after nearly four hours, they pitied me. With the brief respite, I had time to retrieve a new board book from my diaper bag before she was so graciously handed back to me.

This weekend, the flight was a mere two hours and fifteen minutes, and I had Dan with me. It would be relatively easy, right? Wrong. There is a reason I mention the flight was two hours and fifteen minutes.  Ask any runner how long a marathon is. It’s 26.2 miles. Not 26.  Those last .2 miles are as painful as the first 26 miles combined. And those last 15 minutes of a two hour and fifteen minute flight? As aggravating as the first two hours combined. If you meet a runner or a parent who rounds, you would be wise to question this person’s legitimacy.

Take Scenario A: Your toddler wants Goldfish 24 minutes into the flight.  It is kind of annoying that the child is in your lap and you have to move her to your husband’s lap in order to reach into your diaper bag which is stowed, per flight attendants’ orders, neatly beneath the seat in front of you, to reach said Goldfish. Meanwhile, your toddler doesn’t want to go to your husband, so she’s crying and clinging to your shoulder, even as you reamain less than an inch away from her. You are thankful that your husband is along to share the agony  load.

Now let’s review Scenario B: Your toddler wants Goldfish two hours and six minutes into the flight. She’s in the Ergo Carrier because you are about the lose your mind over the constant struggle between your will (to keep her in your lap while the seatbelt sign is on) and her will (to run up and down the aisle while intermittently demanding “UP!”). Your child is facing you in the ergo, and she is taking a break from the game where she jerks her body quickly from extreme left to extreme right, in an attempt to play peek-a-boo through the cracks between the seats with the stranger sitting behind you. (BTW, who named this thing the Ergo Carrier?). She is demanding Goldfish.

“Doh fish. DOH. FISH.”

Normally you would insist, “Goldfish, what?” until she responded with “Doh fish peez.” Normally you are not trapped with her in a confined space. You are basically her hostage at this point, willing to give into any and all of her demands, as quickly as possible, to maintain peace. You have no power. You have only snacks and an iPad that is supposedly connected to wi-fi but won’t actually load any tv shows.

You hand her two Goldfish at a time, which she chews, loudly, and slowly, with her mouth open, one inch from your face. Small pieces of bright orange mush form a mustache on her upper lip and a soul patch on her chin, which is perilously close to your chest. You’ve never felt airsick before, but now you are starting to wish you hadn’t ruined that vomit back with your bright idea to use it as puppet an hour ago.  Everyone warns new parents about close encounters with poop, vomit, and urine. No one ever says anything about close range Goldfish eating. You are thankful you didn’t bring Munchos. (Goldfish at least pretend to be made of cheese. What actual food are Munchos masquerading as?)

Eventually (after two hours and, ahem fifteen minutes) we arrive at our destination. We arrive safely and without incident, unless you count the fact that the iPad would not show us any tv shows.  I know I should be grateful. And I am. I really am. I’m just saying, next time I will take precautions to make sure The iPad TV Show Plan is totally failsafe.



6 thoughts on “Why Real Parents Don’t Round: Air Travel With a Toddler

  1. Third Culture Mama says:

    This post resonates with our recent travels so much that you inspired my most recent post! 🙂
    As a consolation, I was talking to a gal who just traveled alone with her 3 year old, 19 month old and 2 month old (oh my word) and she told me her 19 month old was by far the hardest to deal with. She had to peel her toddler off the seats behind, in front of her.. The others were surprisingly content in their seats. You and I have yet to reach the other side! 🙂

  2. Liz says:

    While Henry hasn’t had his first flight yet, I totally get NOT rounding. I feel the need to add in exact minutes of sleeping chunks (i.e. H slept for 3 hours and like 12 minutes last night!!). It just feels better than 3 hours! Let’s hope sweet peas next flight will be easier! Xoxo

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