Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Parenting at 30,000 feet

Traveling provides ample opportunity to observe how other people parent. Some vignettes:

A well-dressed family near us entertained and managed their three-year-old and young toddler, trading kids, responsibility and breaks on the 13-hour flight and then requiring their kids to do their part while moving through the airport. Even the little toddler had a tiny backpack to carry. Their kids stayed with them and listened to them throughout the airport transfer despite coming off that grueling flight.

At the other end of the spectrum, we heard a mother trying to stop her baby from crying by whining "sto-op" over and over again. After about 15 minutes of this routine, she switched her sensitive parental communications to "sleep!"

Then there was the child tearing up and down the aisles of the plane, his moth
er never far behind. I understand letting your kids walk some, but acting like the plane is his own personal sprint track is both rude and dangerous to fellow passengers and crew.

In the unreasonable threats department, we had the father of two girls and a boy named Jackson saying across the aisle (and across his wife) to Jackson that if he didn't stop bothering his sisters he would be "put off the plane". Really, dad? Really? If you want your kids to take you seriously, don't say things that are patently untrue or will be in 3...2...1.

Somewhere on another blog, someone is probably complaining about our parenting. I think (hope) we did pretty well. We used the sequence of wrapped presents stretched out over the course of the flight. This is a well-known tip because it really works. Although it went over bigger with our four-year-old, our eight-year-old wasn't far behind. Seventeen dollars well spent at the dollar store. We also had plenty of snacks, which was good because Teddy will not consume airplane food. Even if they served his beloved pretzels in a little airplane dish, he'd reject them. Fortunately, he chowed on the ones we brought. And on his Christmas candy.

On the recommendation of friends, we dosed Teddy with Dramamine instead
of Benadryl in hopes of sleep. He shook it off like he has done Benadryl in the past and fell asleep three hours later when he was good and ready. Unforch, in the ensuing time, he passed through the pre-schooler's dark night of the soul; all he needed was sleep, but he was the last one to know it.

We also let Charlie watch Unstoppable, which produced a funny outcome. He reported very seriously afterward on the characters and the events of the movie, in which a freight train carrying hazardous materials gets away on the track with no one on board in a populated area. He talked about it like it was a documentary. (It isn't.) It took me until just now to figure out why. The child watches DVDs - mostly animated and all for Children - and sports and America's Funniest Videos on TV. That's basically it. A grown-up, scripted drama was as foreign to him as a performance of Shakespeare at the Globe theater would have been. He viewed it very literally. Through a quirk of airline media scheduling, he viewed it very literally both on the way to Asia and on the way back. Gotta love the same features on your 12-hour flight back as they showed on your 13-hour flight there two weeks ago.

Unfortunately, through a packing miscommunication, Charlie did not bring his iPod on the trip. He had a new song he was really psyched about and a few games that could have easily killed an hour here and there. Fortunately, he had homework to do and threw himself into the fourth Harry Potter nonsense and several Artemis Fowl nonsenses.

In the middle of the journey there, I realized that travel brings out a very elemental sense. The only goal is to get to the destination and pass the time, by whatever means necessary. Parents feel this more acutely than non-parents, I dare say because we not only have to survive ourselves, we also have to help small non-autonomous humans survive as well. To that end, please make sure your own mask is in place before helping someone else.


~liz said...

i believe in the power of dramamine. ask my mom sometime about being yakked on by my younger brother from NYC to London, and then covered in coffee grounds to cover the smell.
ps. can't wait to use "unforch" in a sentence!

Lauren Jackson said...

I'm sure you and Paige are the subject of some blog's praises somewhere. There was a lot of intense parenting on that trip (what with 12 hour flip flop time-change jet lag, 36 hour multi-leg flights, 12 hour 3rd world bus rides, 8 hours straight of historical touring, no familiar snack food in sight. . .) and you two showed your stripes. (Is that the right idiom?) proved you're pros. hit it out of the ballpark.
You also proved you're a fantastic team.

JFo said...


I have no doubt that dramamine works to keep the wretching down, but it did nothing to put the intended patient to sleep.

I've sent you the "unforch" license agreement in the mail. It's one tenth of a cent per use, payable quarterly.


JFo said...


Thank you. It makes it easier to travel when the other family parents so well, too.


Anne H. said...

Airplane travel is a crucible for parenting, good or bad. Everyone is stressed (generally speaking) and lots of folks are watching, at close quarters. I would travel anywhere with Charlie and Teddy, though with some prep beforehand. Would I wrap all those presents? Maybe — not sure.

Love the sleeping photo!