I recently came across a blog by a man. One who, I would presume, has not had the experience of flying with his own young children.
He is suggesting that arriving on the plane armed with goody bags for your fellow passengers is a great way to mollify them in the event that your little people might get upset and/ or annoy them. He suggests that including some earplugs, a chocolate bar and maybe some chewing gum could be the way to go. He’s not the first to bring this idea forward either, with a number of ‘mummy-blogs’ writing about it. Seriously?! People who get annoyed with children on flights need to invest in good headphones and get over themselves.
I’ve flown many times, both with my own children and without. And do you know what I’ve noticed? Most babies and toddlers are actually really great on flights!! Their reputation for being horrible, screaming little bundles is actually very unfair. Often the first time I notice when a small baby or toddler is on a flight with me is when we all stand up at the end to disembark. For the children I do see, if they are sitting close to me or toddling past, I always try and catch their eye and engage them for as long as possible. I figure that every minute that I manage to entertain that child, is a minute that the parents can relax! Win / win, I say.
Travelling with an upset baby is SO stressful and it’s hard enough worrying about your own child without worrying about everyone else! The most stressful flight for me was when travelling with my 9 month old daughter on a return flight from Brisbane. I spent two full hours standing in my tiny space, with her in the front pack. I don’t even know how many dozens of times I sang ‘hush little baby, don’t you cry’ to her. That song still reminds me of that flight! She was teething and tired. But I can tell you that 100% of my focus was on trying to keep her quiet and get her to sleep. Which she did… just as we were told to put our seat belts on for our descent. I refused and kept her in my front pack* – there was no way I was risking her waking up after all that effort!!! Do you know what? Even though I had stressed out for the whole flight, as we were disembarking, the lovely older couple behind us commented to me at what a great job I had done with her.
*NB these days there’s no way you’d be allowed to get away with that, the flight attendant would insist that they had to be secured in your arms and belted in.
There are certainly things you can do to assist your own child – breast or bottle feed on takeoff and landing to get them to swallow (or get them to drink water from a drink bottle), bring a small selection of new books / toys / activities to bring out as they get restless, and of course an iPad is a lifesaver! Older toddlers and children can often be entertained for hours at a time with a favourite game or movie, putting them down only to eat or have a cuddle! Young kids of most ages love exploring the cabin, even if that simply consists of endless trips up and down the aisle. Hey, if that keeps them entertained, let them do as many laps as they want to! They will probably make lots of friends along the way, which eases your job as a parent.
If your child does become upset, after checking they’re not in pain from sore ears, redirection is always a good option. Give them a change of scene by taking them to the flight attendant area. You never know, you may even get a clucky flight attendant offering to help!
If you’re travelling unencumbered, remember that children absorb the atmosphere around them. If their parents are stressed, chances are it will add to the child’s stress. So anything you can do to ease the parent’s stress may just help everyone onboard have a happier flight. Playing peek-a-boo, giving them a hi-5, or even just a friendly smile towards a stressed parent to let them know that you’ve been there, done that and totally understand, goes a really long way.