The unfriendly skies

Written by: Josh

Last weekend, we flew out west.

This was Bub’s second time flying, and he did fine the first time (at nine months), so we were feeling good, feeling confident, competent and prepared. But obviously, Bub had other ideas.

This is how much things change in two months. That first flight he was very mellow, immobile, slept on our laps when he got tired, we fed him some milk, he was fine. Easy breezy, hence the aforementioned confidence.

Well, Bub crawls now. He’s much more interested in things, but this is tempered with a typically short attention span. Two months ago a barf bag provided a good half-hour’s worth of entertainment; this time maybe ninety seconds. He also likes to Dora all over the place, which inevitably makes me Swiper the Fox, constantly taking things like CDs and keys and tissues away from him (oh, maaaaaaan!). He also has a lot of energy, and, as previously dictated, when said energy is not expended, bad things are in store for Mommy and Daddy.

I should give him some credit—he was pretty good on the way out. Completely full flight, smushed together between, on and around our laps. He managed a nap in there somewhere, and though it was full-on and exhausting, we survived. A woman even came up to me in baggage and said ‘Your baby was so good!’ I immediately offered him up for the bargain price of fifty bucks, but alas, she didn’t have a car seat on hand. There’s always logistics.

What, exactly, was so good about it, lady? is what I meant to ask. Even when we were ‘off-duty,’ we couldn’t read or do a crossword or listen to music. Whatever we were doing, he wanted to shove in his mouth. I suppose it’s just a matter of perspective—by “good” I guess she meant he didn’t cry his face off and ruin everybody else’s day. Just ours. So yes, following that rubric, I suppose he was slightly above average. B-minus baby.

Not such high marks on the flight back, however. Mr. Crabby McCrabberson was in prime form. He took his early nap at around 10, slept for an hour on the way to the airport. Flight wasn’t until 2 p.m., about the time he should have been ready for his second nap. The flight attendant told us that the flight was not full, and we would have an extra seat—score! This was going to be a cakewalk, for sure. Or not. Apparently Bub doesn’t like cake. Nor can he walk.

He was actually great for the first two hours. Unfortunately, that was only half the flight time. Trying to get him to fall asleep on this flight was the equivalent of trying to appease an angry wolverine with a graham cracker. We tried to make him a little nest in the middle seat, full of cuddly smells and familiar friends. No dice. We tried singing, rocking, holding and pleading. We tried sideways, the laps, even the floor (that lasted about 3 seconds). Nada. The more we tried to get him to sleep, the more he resisted. Kind of like the GRE; the more we did right, the harder it made it for us.

After an hour or so of solid and undeniable failure, we resigned ourselves to our fate. Instead of a crying, indignant baby, we would deal with a crying, whiny baby, who in the end, managed to stay awake for 8 hours straight (I called Guinness, it’s not a record), finally conking out somewhere on the car ride home from the airport.

This is going to take some time to heal. The wounds are deep, fresh, will take time to scar. I, normally “patient guy,” have realized that I have my limits. And those limits are about 30,000 feet above sea level. It’s one thing if you’re at home and Baby is upset, or you’re in the car or even a restaurant—you can just leave. But flying is a lot like that underrated Arnold movie The Running Man—nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and everybody is watching you, taking bets on how long you’ll last.

So I already told my wife I’m not going anywhere for the next 15 to 20 years. Give or take. She, normally the stressball of our family unit, handled the whole situation with a deft balance of grace and diligence while I nearly Chernobyled. It’s going to take some practice. Luckily, that practice is a good two decades away.

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