Fear Lost in Flight

fear lost in flightFlying in an airplane with a baby for the first time isn’t as hard as they say. Unless you’re completely paranoid, overly excited and easily stressed out with a defense mechanism that involves cookies.

The Understudy and I accompanied The Wife to Orlando for a work conference. I got really excited for him to capitalize on his first flight as this would obviously advance his social maturity. He would get his wings from the pilot, I would get adoring looks from the hot flight attendants and The Wife would get looks of terror from everyone else as they prayed that they wouldn’t be sitting next to the screaming baby.

In our game planning for the day, I panicked. We have a baby, a stroller, milk in a bottle, a car seat to check and I’m overweight and will NOT be running to catch a plane.

I tried to convince The Wife to arrive at the airport several hours early. It makes sense. I lost. In the end, security was a breeze and we arrived quickly at the gate. I informed The Wife that as the man of the family I would check to make sure we were at the right gate. She told me to look around. “How many kids do you see? Wearing Disney?” I counted quickly, 4… 8… 15, 16 the number kept growing. “I think it’s safe to say we’re all headed to Orlando.” She didn’t marry me for my powers of observation.

As I recounted again and again, I panicked. The kids outnumbered the adults. By a lot. If the plane broke apart in midair and we ended up crashing on some deserted island, the kids would have majority rule. These kids could easily overrun the 23 adults on the island, create their own society using Disney paraphernalia as currency, develop their own rules, decide they don’t need the old people and eventually eat us. I needed to align with the kids quickly on the island so I went to the gift shop and bought anything that looked like it resembled Disney along with as much candy and cookies I could until my credit card was declined. And you wonder why I’m overweight.

When it came time to board, I put down the third cookie I was eating, focused on the task at hand, and prepared for the “families with small children pre-boarding” group just as they announced they didn’t have that for flights to Orlando. When we boarded the plane, the flight attendants said. “Hi,” and didn’t give any hint of “Awe, look how cute that baby is and how hot his daddy is for being his daddy.” None of the passengers looked at us in fear that we might sit next to them. Don’t even ask me if he got his wings from the pilot. You see where this is going.

Lost As they closed the hatch and backed away from the gate, I PANICKED! I have been on hundreds of flights in my life. But now I have a kid. I have never once paid attention to the pre-flight safety speech or looked at the safety thing in the seat pocket in front of me. How could I possibly save my family if we suddenly lost cabin pressure, or I needed to use my seat bottom cushion as a flotation device? I didn’t actually know this stuff. So, I frantically studied the pamphlet thing. Sensing my growing paranoia, The Wife handed me a cookie to calm my nerves. It took two cookies, but it worked.

The best advice we got for the flight itself, was to feed him a bottle as we took off to help with the ear popping. If this didn’t work, we were sure to have a screaming baby for the entire flight. So we gave him a bottle at takeoff, and then, he fell asleep. The entire flight… Sleeping. At landing… Sleeping… Taxiing to the gate… Sleeping. During the 42 mins that the baby a few rows behind us screamed like she was being chased by a giant polar bear in the forest… Sleeping.

In the end, it was the most uneventful flight ever. And all I had to show for it was a sleeping baby and a seat pocket full of empty cookie wrappers.

Dad Lesson Learned:

The best way to build confidence in flying with a kid is to fly to Orlando. Everyone knows what they’re getting into. Pilots, flight attendants and passengers all know they’ll be surrounded by screaming children the entire flight. All they can do is treat everyone the same, suck it up and hope it will all be over soon. I was so worried that The Understudy would bother other passengers that I almost missed the opportunity to enjoy his first experience on an airplane. I didn’t need adoring looks from the flight attendants or bulging, terrified eyes from passengers. The wings would be nice, but there will be other opportunities when he’s older and can think it’s as cool as I do.

When I finally relaxed and accepted my surroundings, I began to truly enjoy the experience with him. This is the first time my boy could be mesmerized by seeing the world from the sky. You know what they say… Planes move pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look out the window, you might miss it.


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