Apes on a Plane: Flying with Kids

This is a blog post I wrote for an American parenting website soon after our trip back to Canada with my toddler son. I was thinking about this trip this week since we’re about to head off to Canada again. It should, hopefully, go much more smoothly this time given that my kids are now six and eight years old. No diapers! No strollers! Travel is always an adventure…

When I was young, my travels were limited to my home province and the mountainous areas of our neighboring province – or, to put it another way, about as far as my parents could stand to be in a car with three bickering girls. I didn’t take an airplane until I was about 10, when we met our grandparents in California to see Disneyland.

Over the Rockies: the last leg of a long trip.

My son, on the other hand, is only 18 months old and has already logged several thousand air miles, having flown from Thailand to Canada and back again – twice – as well as 3-4 trips up to Bangkok from Phuket. Lucky him. Not so lucky are our fellow passengers on these trips, who get to see our wee one at his full, squirming, bawling overtired glory for segments of our long journeys.

I see their faces when we sit down near them – a wince, a cringe, a furrowed brow; wondering what they’re in for for the next 10 or so confined hours. I know. I was once a cringer. I used to wonder why anyone would breed, much less tote their brood along on flight after endless flight.

Now, I, as the cringee, would like to offer a note of belated apology to all of those around us on our latest excursion to and from Canada, which involved a grand total of 35+ hours flying time on 8 airplanes, between 5 airports in 3 countries.

To those waiting in line for the bathrooms, I offer a sincere apology for not only making you wait for several minutes, but for also leaving behind a lingering stench of pee. My boy seemed to think that the small, plastic room was designed for target practice and decided to try to spray every surface upon removal of his poopy diaper. I managed to contain the poop, but not the pee, I’m afraid. I did my best, but wiping the walls, mirror and toilet while trying to contain an excited child made for a less-than-perfect cleanup effort.

To the airline, I apologize for turfing the nice comfy slippers you provided for the flight, though I can testify they are made with the best absorbent materials ever, and you’ll probably be glad to know that they helped make your bathroom floor sparkly clean.

Apologies to the passengers unlucky enough to sit near us when our precious released a loose stool just seconds before we began a (seemingly endless) descent and therefore couldn’t leave our seats.

Home sweet home: back to Phuket.

To the flight attendants, we are sorry for leaving behind a rat’s nest of cracker crumbs, bread, fruit and noodle bits mashed into the floor, seats and blankets, as well as a mountain of paper wrappings, juice boxes, ripped up magazines and tissues.

To the people in row 57, we so regret the constant scramble in the overhead compartment above you through our backpack for diapers, change of clothes, books, toys and various snacks.

Lastly, to the lady in row 56, we are very sorry for disturbing your sleep with the relentless kicks and tray banging on the back of your seat, and the sharp shouts of “No! Stop it!” every five seconds.

Oh, and a big thank-you to the lady across the aisle who, upon witnessing our struggle to put our crying, tired boy to sleep, hissed at me, “Feed your child! He’s obviously hungry!” Because there’s nothing a mother appreciates more than unsolicited advice from a stranger, especially when it’s delivered with such kindness and care.

For you, I offer not an apology but a request that you keep your nose in your own business next time. And while we’re on the subject of noses, I hope that your plastic surgeon apologized to you for the work he did on yours. (Ah yes, the comeback I wish I had thought of then…)

For all the passengers and crew who had to endure our long journey with a toddler and managed to not only smile at us, but also offer assistance at every turn, we offer a huge thanks and good karma to all. And an advance apology…

Next year, we’ll be traveling with two.