Friday, July 8, 2011

Traveling with Tots Follow-up: How Not to Fly

My husband is a very frequent flier.  In fact, he travels so much that he uses the super-secret United security entrance and is more likely than not upgraded on every flight.  While I often enjoy these perks, along with free checked baggage and access to the airline lounge, they can prove problematic at times.  Last weekend was one of those times. 

On Thursday morning Ted and I packed for an extended weekend in St. Louis and Louisville.  Even though we would only be away four nights, we checked five pieces of luggage (two carseats, pack-n-play, two suitcases) and brought along four carry-ons (purse, backpack, computer bag, bag with an outrageous number of snacks).  When we arrived at the airport we learned that, via Ted's airline status, two of our seats had been upgraded to first.  In eight more years this would have been exciting.  Ted and I could relax in the luxury of first, while the kids entertained themselves in coach.  Needless to say, we are not there.

It was decided that the adult that sat in first had to accompany the more difficult child, in this case that would be the two-year-old who refuses to nap in unorthodox settings, and tolerates television only in half-hour chunks.  I was more than happy to sit in coach next to the four-year-old who was extremely excited for an opportunity of four-and-a-half hours of unlimited screen time.  I kissed Ted on the cheek and chirped "Enjoy your warm nuts!"

The first hour of the flight was all that I could hope for.  Elana happily played with my iPhone and watched a few episodes of The Magic School Bus, while I caught up on the latest news (have you seen the pictures of LeAnn Rimes in a bikini????).  Elana and I ate apple slices and crackers while we discussed who really did wear it best.

But, then she had to pee.

This is when Ted's status began screwing with us.  Even though Elana and I were not upgraded, we were placed in the first row in coach.  And the drink trolley was blocking the aisle directly behind us.  And, Elana had to go NOW.  We had no choice but to use the first class laboratory. 

Although I frantically tried to scoot past Ted and Maisy relaxing in their double wide seats, just as I was about to close the accordion door to the bathroom, Maisy calls out "Mommy!  Elana!"  And, that was the end of our merry flight.

Ted and I spent the next three-plus-hours alternating seats.  We tested every combination: Elana and Daddy in first, Elana and Mommy in first, Maisy and Daddy in first, Maisy and Mommy in first.  In the end the only arrangement that agreed with both girls was Elana, Maisy, and Mommy in first, while Daddy sat alone in coach. 

Unsurprisingly, we received many exasperated stares from the other first-class passengers, especially when Elana and Maisy decided to play "kitties"- cleaning their faces with licked fists and meowing in volume that would have been appropriate in coach, but not to the coddled first class.  "That's one," I told them. 

To my astonishment the threat of splitting our happy trio, calmed the girls enough to settle them for the remainder of the flight.  However, the descent put the final nail in our luxury coffin.

The seating arrangement went like this: Elana in 1A, me in 1B, and Maisy on my lap.  Unfortunately, now that Maisy is two, airline regulations require her to be in her own seat during take-off and landing.  The empty seat was now in coach, next to Daddy.

At the last possible minute, the ever so patient flight attendant grabbed the confused Maisy from my lap and brought her to Ted.  For the next five minutes, the entire cabin, both coach and first, was filled with the tortured screams of the toddler.  Legs kicked, arms flailed, and foam began to seep from the corners of her mouth.  I felt the judgment of every set of eyes in first glaring at me.  One passenger shook his head and mumbled "Sheesh."  "Mommy," Elana informed me, "Maisy is mad!"

As soon as the wheels touched the ground, the same nice flight attendant reappeared at my side.  "Tell me she's not two, yet," she implored.  "Sh-sh-she's only one-and-a-half," I stammered.  And with that she quickly brought Maisy back to my lap.

If every obstacle in life is a learning opportunity, then what did I gain from this?  Well, it is really three fold:
  1. Never separate the children.
  2. First-class is no place for a tired toddler. 
  3. The discomfort and anguish the other passengers feel is negligible to that of the exhausted parent.

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