Humility at 30,000 feet

It’s Monday, so I’ll get the whining out of the way.

Our recent trip involved a two-hour non-stop flight between Austin and Denver. This was Hannah’s first time flying, and she was very excited about the “airpanes” and chanted “up, up, up, fly!” in a seriously cute continuum. I thought I was prepared. I asked friends for advice on flying with toddlers, I packed a giant bag of books, snacks, drinks, her baby doll, her blankie and packed the iPod and iPad with music and movies.

The flight up was a little tiring. She didn’t get fussy, but she did not want to sit still and we quickly rotated through our entertainment options. But there were no fits or disruptions, just lots of energy.

I thought the flight back might be better, second time around and all. Boarding the plane, I looked around and had my typical inner dialogue. “Wow, that guy is so fat I’m surprised he fits in the seat. And could that church group of teenagers BE any more rude?”

My ego started crumbling before we even pulled away from the gate. There was screaming and hitting and refusing to sit. The poor woman in front of us was having a cadence kicked into the back of her chair by little pink shoes. By the time we were actually in the air, I had already pulled out the books, the snacks, the drinks and the magnadoodle. This left us praying for the ding that would signal 10,000 feet and allow us to pull out the one thing left in our arsenal – the iPod. Unfortunately, this didn’t help either.

Time crept along. This was supposedly a two-hour flight, but I think that somewhere crossing the time zone line we picked up an extra five hours. The flight attendants came by with the drinks, and for the first time on a flight I contemplated actually shelling out for the tiny, over-priced bottles of alcohol. But then I realized the amount that would help was even smaller than Hannah’s attention span. A snarky remark from a flight attendant didn’t help.

About halfway through, I escaped to the bathroom to have a moment. I debated the pros and cons of actually breaking into tears in the middle of a commercial flight. I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Suck it up, pull yourself together. People fly with kids all the time. Maybe you’re just a bad mother because obviously you can’t handle this.”

Some of my family members enjoy hiking 14ers (peaks with an elevation above 14,000 feet). I am not a huge fan of hiking, but I started thinking of all the things that I would rather do than fly with a cranky toddler. One was have my eyebrows waxed every day for a week. Another was climb a 14er.

Then I started to get over myself. I realized this two hour flight was probably better than the alternative of two days of driving. And I gave myself some credit for preparing and doing everything I could possibly think of to entertain this child. My self-pity turned to humility. I was not in control; I gave up. Not in an indulgent lazy parent sort of way, just taking some deep breaths and realizing I could not force her to behave a certain way. I could merely do my best to maintain calm while providing distractions to a very tired little person with a 20-second attention span. I returned to my seat with more patience and was able to pull out the SkyMall catalogue with some success counting dogs and to engage her in a relatively long game of “This little piggy” (the shoes and socks were long gone).

When we were finally getting off, the gentleman across the aisle announced, “Well, she did pretty good. Except for a few times.” Um, thanks?

4 thoughts on “Humility at 30,000 feet

  1. Wow! Love this blog post, but so sorry you guys had such a hard time on the flight back. I have had those same moments in the bathroom (albeit not at 30,000 feet), and thanks for the reminder that we are not bad moms when we find ourselves not in control. I just wish people were more understanding to you. :( We have been blessed to have non-snarky people on our flights, I think. Finn seems to be most entertained by flirting with the people behind us, poring over the skymall catalog, and checking out the safety card (it’s like a big comic book). Hopefully your next flight will go better… wish us luck over Labor Day weekend – one of the last times he’ll be free, and we may be wishing we had purchased his own seat (I hear it’s easier when they sit in their own seat, and you take their carseat with you).

  2. Sounds like you did everything you could to set yourself up for success. Sometimes, no amount of preparation will change the outcome, so you have to be okay knowing you have done your best, this is just temporary, and you never have to see those people again! :) Easier said than done, for sure, but I have been there many times before and expect I will be there again many times in the future – some things must simply be endured.

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