The surprising thing about Bea’s first flight

By Published On: February 4th, 2015

Do you ever over-think things? Especially first-time things? I’m a […]

Do you ever over-think things? Especially first-time things? I’m a chronic over-thinker. Taking our first flight with Bea, like all of our other firsts before this one, took me weeks of physical and mental preparation—picking out the perfect umbrella stroller, making packing lists and running through dozens of mid-flight mitigation strategies to deploy in the event of an aerial freak-out.
Before we hit the skies, Andy casually mentioned our anxieties to our pediatrician. “Remember,” she said soothingly, “she will seem much louder to you than she is to anyone else on the plane.” And then, as if she knew that really wasn’t much of a reassurance at all, she added, “Plus, you’ll never see any of those people ever again, so it doesn’t really matter if she is awful.”
I found that last sentiment to be the most comforting.McKinley_BeaPlane_2-4-15
As it turns out, though, we didn’t need her soothing quips—and we sort-of underestimated humanity. Bea’s first flight was amazing. I’m sure packing well and the umbrella stroller helped (actually, having a small stroller was a total lifesaver!), but the most beneficial thing was something Andy and I never thought to account for: other people’s kindness.
As it turns out, people in airports freaking love babies. Like, a lot.
From the ticket counter through security and on the plane, we were floored by how genuinely friendly and helpful everyone was. Flight attendants, TSA workers and fellow passengers went out of their way to offer a smile or lend a helping hand. We were inundated with stories of people’s first flights with their children—the, good, bad and remarkably gross—and reassured that Bea was a welcome addition to their day, even if that meant getting pelted by the occasional projectile puff.
All of the niceties made me feel both relieved and a tad bit guilt-laden. During my many years of baby-free travel, I’m not sure I ever extended the same courtesies to the parents I saw trudging their way through the airport. To be honest, I’m pretty sure the only time I noticed them with their armfuls of babies and car seats and carry-on bags was when I was trying to scurry in front of them in the security line. Terrible, right?
But maybe that’s what made my appreciation of our first flight with Bea all the more acute. Even though I consider myself to be a people-are-inherently-nice person, I’m certainly not quick to turn to others or expect their help. However, if I could give any first-time family flyers advice, it would be to do just that. Don’t worry about not having enough hands, enough stuff or enough patience because there will very likely be someone there to offer a little relief in the form of an understanding wink or a wet wipe. (Maybe it’ll even be me!) Remember that your baby is making others happy just by being there and being cute. And if that doesn’t make you feel better, or if things go particularly badly, you can always take my pediatrician’s advice and walk off the plane with your spit-up splattered head held high. After all, you survived parenthood at 30,000 feet—and that’s pretty impressive.