"He's doing great. I know it's hard."
We've taken Trey on many, many, plane flights during his life. Our last one was definitely the hardest.
We were flying from southern California back to Seattle, and going north the flight is almost an hour longer than going south because of the direction of the wind. We had survived the two hour flight down kind of ok, there were tense moments, but nothing too crazy or unmanageable. Until yesterday. We had a three hour flight ahead of us, right in the middle of nap time, after a full weekend seeing lots of family, immediately following a two hour road trip, and Trey had been sick. The cards were already stacked against us.
We tried every trick in the book: magnets, stickers, the tablet, snacks, snacks, snacks, all the things we brought that entertained him (mostly) on the way down. (There is a great post on Instagram here where other moms shared what worked for them.) He was not having any of it.
Trey is a generally easy going kid. We haven't really dealt with extreme tantrums or screaming, and we've never had to leave a store or restaurant early, or even anywhere with him and us in publicly in tears. Maybe because we were so far out of our league, but at one point before we took off Daniel and I looked at each other and exchanged that glance that can only mean one thing: HELP. We didn't know what to do, and were drowning like we've never drowned before.
There was screaming. There was kicking. There was crying. There was so, much, crying.
There were moments of peace too, and the second half of the flight was easier than the first, but overall, it was kind of a nightmare.
Our one saving grace was, the passengers seated all around us were some of the kindest people we could have possibly had as neighbors. When we'd walk the aisles with Trey they'd smile and wave, the people behind us were playing peekaboo with him, the woman to our left told us she had four kids and flew with them many times. I've found that people, for the most part, get it. We were doing the best we could.
At one point the woman behind me leaned over her seat and said "He's doing great. I know it's hard," at which point I started crying. It was so, exhaustingly, hard, and to have someone see that and recognize that and verbally encourage me was just what I needed in that moment. She could have just as easily been annoyed. But she was the reverse. It was almost too much kindness to handle.
Flying with kids, like all of motherhood, is unpredictable. The things that I've found that help me the most are connecting with other moms (our text thread is my lifeline), having grace with myself, and wine. Lots of wine.
This is not a post about what to pack to have a quiet, painless, flight. This is a post about what to do when everything goes wrong and you're left staring at your spouse (or yourself), out of all your tricks, exhausted and spent, and needing a little encouragement.
They're doing great. I know it's hard.
Chances are, someone else has been there too. Toddlers can stretch us beyond what we thought we were capable of. But then we do it. And we do it again. And then someday down the road you get to be on the other side, encouraging a young mom, "They're doing great. I know it's hard." Because you do. You know it's hard, and that mom is doing the best she can. And just like that, the plane lands. They turn five. They can tie their own shoes. And then someday they're out of the house and you're wondering where all those years went.
The longest/shortest time, for sure.
I was asked to share the list of the items suggested to make flying easier. These are some of the things that worked as activities for us, mostly on the flight down:
-Paint with water reusable books like this
-Magnets in a tin
-Target dollar section toys and games - new toys are key
-Photos and videos of our trip and our family members (right now the videos where Trey knows the people in them are more fun for him than a TV episode)
-Wipes easily accessible
-His own water bottle. I am so glad I packed this, we avoided so many spills by having him drink from this instead of the airplane cups. Also worth noting that while adults can't bring liquids through security, you can bring children's water/milk/juices in their water bottle or bottles through security, and their shoes can stay on too.
-So many snacks
-Lollipops for altitude change during take off/landing (or applesauce pouches and other snacks)
-Quantity. Pack what you think you need then double it. Bonus points: Saving some toys/books for the return flight.
Didn't use but I thought was brilliant:
-Putting pipe cleaners in and out of a water bottle or old spice bottle with holes
-Wind up toys
-Window cling stickers
-Triangle crayons (they don't roll off the tray)
-Post It notes
-Wrapping the toys
I had this great idea to use this suitcase that he can ride on and converts to an in-flight bed, but he had his own ideas of pushing the other rolling suitcases through the airport. We will try again when he's older. It seems like a great idea for someday.
That's my flying with toddlers advice! Basically, over-pack, over-prepare, hope for the best, and if it all goes wrong, know that someone else has been there too. The plane will land and you will get through it. Preferably with wine :)