My sister is the expert in toddler observation and research, but as the kid who lives with us edges – makes that throws himself headlong- towards his second birthday, I identify more and more with her stories about Alex. I got to see him, and our little one, together in loud, nutty action two weekends ago when we traveled to Maryland for my husband’s college reunion weekend. The visit itself was amazing – if not a little messy, ear-shattering and yelly – but it was the getting there that made me want to buy a Winnebago or a Partridge Family bus and do all of our future travel that way until the kid’s, like, 12 and old enough to carry his own suitcase.
The above photo was taken on the first of our two flights back from Baltimore, to our stopover in Atlanta (that turned out to be more like a run-through.) We were already stressed from the logistics involved with traveling with someone who has more paraphernalia than the rest of us, but can’t carry it or logically understand what a stopover is, or why he can’t stand up in his seat when the seatbelt light is on. We found out that on our second leg, from Atlanta to West Palm Beach, we were seated in three different rows, which would have been disastrous, because in the overtired missed-nap moments, I don’t always love sitting next to my own toddler, let alone the toddler of someone who’s not in shouting distance to handle their business. Nobody wants that.
My husband had tried to handle it at the counter in Baltimore, but they couldn’t help, so he called the customer service number and was told they were looking into it. So we were nervous about that, and about the fact that we had a very, very short window to make our connection in Atlanta, where we often find that we land in Concourse A and our connection is in Concourse Z. (There is no Concourse Z. It just feels that way.) I sat with Toddler while my husband sat directly in front of me, next to a very nice lady who he accidentally knocked some water onto. She was lovely about it and said “Well, it’s water. Water doesn’t stain.”
But you know what does stain? Diet Coke! And it was that caramel-colored fluid that our kid, bored and trying to get my husband’s attention, hit dead-on with the above pink binky which we gave him to suck on to lessen the popping in his ears upon take-off and landing. He threw it backwards overhand and nailed the cup, which spilled all over the lady next to Scott. She was not happy. Scott and I were mortified and both offered to buy her a drink and pay for her drycleaning. She calmed down and smiled and said “No problem. I know what it’s like.”
I think part of our mortification is not wanting to be those parents, the ones that let their kids run up and down the aisle and knock into the flight attendants, who don’t comfort them when they freak out, who let them kick the seat in front of them (On or first leg to Baltimore, at 6:50 in the stupid morning, we turned Toddler’s car seat, which he was sitting in, around to face the back of his own chair, because he was kicking the back of the seat in front of him. The dude sitting in that seat was very appreciative.) Kids are humans, and cannot be expected to always sit quietly and be invisible. People don’t expect adults to do that, so the side eye I get when my kid sometimes even speaks on a plane is unfair. But I don’t want to raise a jerk. I will not raise a jerk. He knew he was being naughty, and when the binky was removed and only handed back upon landing so his little ears wouldn’t pop, he knew why.
I’m not sure when we’re going to fly again, but whenever that is, maybe he’ll be a little older and a little more…chill. And not knock over people’s drinks. I must add that the gate agent at our Atlanta gate, which was actually in the same concourse, not only didn’t make our kid sit alone, but put us all in the same row. Of course, we sat in the wrong row and didn’t realize it until someone came looking for their seats, but they were all cool about it and just sat in front of us. They might have been through this before too.