Family Practice: Kids on a planeWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d like to extend my sincerest apologies to my fellow passengers on Flight 1217 with nonstop service from Detroit to Las Vegas. I’m not going to try to sugarcoat my children’s behavior on our voyage together. It was ugly. I realize that you probably saw this coming.
From the minute my husband and I came trucking through the airport struggling to wrangle our three big, need-to-be-checked bags, two carry-ons, four personal items, two sippy cups, a convertible car seat, a booster seat, a 7-year-old, a 4-year-old and an 18-month-old, I’m sure you were crossing your fingers, knocking on wood and saying a prayer that we were not coming anywhere near your gate. And, yet, sure as day, we came. We came down the aisle bumping you left and right with our backpacks as we tried to shuffle our children all the way to the very last row of the aircraft as swiftly and as unobtrusively as possible.
When we were what I assume to be randomly assigned to the last row, next to the bathroom, I thought it would be the perfect fit for a family with three young children. We would be well out of the way of most of the quieter book-reading and music-listening passengers and within a few steps of that all-important restroom. With halfhearted apologies to the crew, I didn’t realize, however, what a burden our close proximity to your workspace would be on you. It’s not easy to work with someone screaming and/or crying only inches from you. I know because I’ve been doing it for the past seven years and it certainly takes its toll. I respect your job; I really do. I would have appreciated a little respect for my job, however.
Your unrequested, semi-snide remarks aimed at my 4-year-old when she asked the simplest of questions was disappointing. Despite her obvious urinary agony and her witnessing adult after adult breaking the rules of the sky, I still would have honorably informed her that she would have to wait until the seatbelt light went off had you given me the chance. I do have to say that your company’s policy of giving 270 people the option of consuming any and every drinkable liquid imaginable with nothing more than a few pretzels to hold it in, and then offering less than a handful of receptacles to relieve their overfilled bladders for the next three hours could be considered some form of torture, especially to a 4-year-old.
When you figure in your company’s policy to turn on the seatbelt/stay-in-your-seat light during every little bump on Wide Blue Yonder Road, the chances of a child not experiencing at least one moment of restroom panic become slim to none. And, still, I encouraged my children to do the rule-abiding thing and wait it out. I have to admit that between your oh-so-transparent disdain for my family’s presence and the pilot’s failure to point out even one state as we flew interestedly over several of them, I was tempted to have my children use makeshift plastic cup potties right there in row 49 when push came to shove. In fact, push did come to shove, didn’t it? Yes, an hour or two after the portable DVD players ran out of what had been fully-charged batteries, the crabbing and the restlessness combined with bathroom emergencies and a brutal ear-popping period culminated into such a perfect storm of sky-high chaos that it surpassed the flying fears of even the most apprehensive parent.
I would have cowered under my seat in embarrassment had there been even the slightest chance of my post-birthing body fitting. I instead had to oscillate between offering understanding to my out-of-sorts offspring and putting my emergency “how not to lose your mind” plan into effect. I’m not sure that either worked. The only things that did work were finally breaking the “no bathroom during descent” rule and a miracle piece of desperation gum handed over the seat by a stranger. Regaining a few minutes of “normalcy” during landing was well worth the chewing gum obsession that has befallen my children, including my 18-month-old who is now digging it out of the bottom of trash cans and re-chewing it just to get a piece of the action. So much for peacefully enjoying an aerial view of mountaintops and the Las Vegas skyline as dusk slowly enveloped the city, but here’s to four hours of misery and public humiliation in a plane instead of four days of misery in a car. I’ll take it.
Shannon and her husband Michael are raising three children in Sylvania. E-mail her at email@example.com.