Plane Travel with Small Children?

I’ve flown with one kid, but attempting plane travel with small children? Plural? The boys and flew to Illinois last week to attend my grandmother’s funeral. We spent the week in a house that Ooncle Wray (Uncle Ray) built, going to and fro.

Yes, I took both of my children on a plane. Alone. My Other Self was an expert air traveler. I have no concerns about security checks and no fear of flying. And Zach, before he was 18 months old, had flown 5 times—so I had an idea of what to expect from him.

It was the wee one–the “I sit still for no more than 5 minutes at a time” kid, Elliot–that I worried about. Well, the need to balance him, a 3.5 year old, and too many carry on bags. We arrived at the airport, ate lunch, watched arrivals and departures, and then boarded. Zach had his own seat and I (GASP) decided not to lug the carseats through the airport since my dear cousin had arranged for loaners during our trip.

On my lap, Elliot wriggled, hollered and kicked the seat in front of him. He attempted—unsuccessfully—to play peek-a-boo with the two businessmen seated behind us. He snacked. He whined. Sometimes he sat still for a minute or two.

Whatever. It was 3 hours out of my life and I’ll never see any of those people again. I can’t even complain about their reactions–not really. Other Self spent the last minutes on a plane trying to finalize information for whatever meeting I was flying to–I didn’t like playing peek-a-boo either.

The awesome thing about traveling alone with kids is the random people that offer you assistance. It’s times like this when you realize that the simple presence of children provide strangers with an instant camaraderie. A Blue-Toothed-Enabled businessman—“I have two small boys at home, too. They are a handful—can I help you with your bags?” At O’Hare, a really expensively dressed woman (her diamond would have paid off my house, my student loans AND a semester of college for each kid), though impatient and demanding with the TSA, was perfectly lovely to me as she loaded our bags into the empty bins; reminiscing the whole time about a trip 20 years ago with her now-grown boys. The other woman that rode herd over Elliot while I broke down the stroller for gate check probably saved me 5 years off my life.

There you have it. Something not as bad as I thought it was going to be. Thus I am done with not doing stuff with them because I’m afraid it will turn out badly (not tragically, just pain-in-the-ass-ly). Lugging kids through an airport is a sweaty affair, to be certain. But then again, so is going to the park.

My next big hurdle was to contain them for during a 4 hour funeral. Sheesh, I have trouble sitting still that long and we didn’t know any of the attendees beyond our immediate family. A lot of small talk with strangers…my favorite. Redirecting Elliot from large flower arrangements turned out to be a nice diversion. And I must say, even though I had to stay on top of them for every minute of those 4 hours, they behaved beautifully.

I fully expected the funeral to lead to questions. There were lots of layers of things they have never been exposed to–death, grief, preaching. Smart me had anticipated some of these questions and formed benign, yet honestly age-appropriate answers. But, in a wonder of wonders, Zach didn’t ask me any hard questions. There are times when the very literalness of the 3 year old mind is a good thing.

He chose to go with me to look at grandma in her casket. I can only wonder what his brain is cataloging with that experience. I purposely did not tell him she was sleeping. Later, during a reading from the bible, he asked me why the pastor was “reading her a story”. I got a nice snort out of that one.

But other than that, his questions were rinse and repeat out of the following list.

Why is Grandma Banner dead?

Because bodies have batteries, too and sometimes they run out and can’t be recharged anymore.

Oh, so she’s broken down like my Bull and Bruno GeoTrax train?
Um, kind of like that.

Batteries don’t run out until you are really old though, right?
For most people, yes.

Why are people going to be sad?
Because when your batteries run out, your body quits and you don’t get to play with anyone anymore.

What is a cemetery?
A place where some people go after they die.

Can I see them?

Look—do you see that fountain over there?*

*Cop out? For sure.

The internment was on Friday the 13th. I’m superstitious enough that I wouldn’t travel on that day unless I had to. The morning started with Elliot grabbing on to a hot curling iron. He had contact for less than a second, but I think he is clued in to the “don’t touch, it’s hot” thing now. Poor kid. He didn’t start crying until everyone freaked out about it, either.

Then, at the cemetery, that big hole under the casket was a likely Elliot-magnet, for sure (argh, can you imagine?). Jeff, the For Real Fireman, hoisted E up on his shoulders for safety purposes. Which was all well and good until Elliot attempted a back-flip of a very tall Jeff. Lightening quick reflexes saved Elliot a trip to the ER.

Zach jumped up and sat on someone else’s headstone. Sure, to a kid it looks like a bench, no? I was mortified—everyone else was laughing. I still maintain that sure, it’s cute from a 3-year old…but that same behavior is the stuff that will get a 7 year-old written into family folklore. Best to start the teaching of proper cemetery etiquette now, since I hope to not spend a lot of time in them.

I’m sure the hard questions will come out of left field—like 6 months from now when all of my carefully prepared answers have long been forgotten.

But it wasn’t all about funerals–at least not for them.
To Be Continued…

4 thoughts on “Plane Travel with Small Children?

  1. Pingback: Traveling with Children: Sight-seeing « Scattermom

  2. Shame, shame Lisa! Checking your precious carseats!

    Terri–aw, thanks. Right now it is a straight up copy from the template. I’ll get around to updating the pictures. Someday. 🙂

  3. First, I love the new look on the blog. Love it.

    Second, Wow. What an adventure. Isn’t it great to do something like that and even though in the moment everything is a big sweaty blur you can look back and say “That was actually kind of cool”. Not saying that a funeral is cool, but I think you know what I mean.

    “Reading her a story”…HAHA! I never would have thought about the EMQ (Elliot Magnet Quotient) of the big hole. That’s great.

    I don’t think I’ll ever look at a funeral the same way again 🙂

    PS-Love the explanation about the whole death concept. I remember G helping *me* explain it to *him* by comparing it to the dead battery in the vehicle (that happened the day after returning from a funeral because yours truly was distracted and left the lights on).

  4. That’s funny because this is about when I embarked on my trip to NH with both kiddos and no husband. And I also tried to explain death to my 3 year old – I took him to visit my brothers grave. Basically he got: when you die you go underground and get grass in your eye. Then he proceeded to use the word ‘die’ in completely wrong ways like, “when I died last week…” you’re going to die tomorrow…’ etc, clearly not grasping the concept and also sending my poor mother into tears every time.

    People are super helpful though. I has lots of help. And (DOUBLEGASP) I CHECKED the infant carseat. Omg. No way was I carrying 2 kids, their crap AND a carseat strapped to my back.

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