Taking a toddler for a ride on an airplane is a lot like making her wait in a gray room for an hour before strapping her down with a belt to a fast moving object, that makes her ears feel funny, that’s full of mad people who want complete silence for two hours. It’s a whole lot like that. Throw in the fact that if the toddler moves around enough to jostle the seat in front of her, she will enrage the person sitting in that seat and it makes for a whole lot of good times.
On our way back from Salt Lake City, where we were visiting family for the holidays, Wanda was actually delightful. She was more patient than a lot of grownups I’ve flown with and on top of that, she was AMAZED and thrilled with everything the airplane had to offer. The biggest thrill as we taxied around the runways was seeing other airplanes up close.
We’d drive past another airplane and her little gray matter would detonate.
“MOM!” she'd yell, “I SEE IT AIRPLANE! I SEE IT AIRPLANE SO BIG!”
I’d respond that yes, it really was so big and she’d grow quiet for a moment before – BOOM – another cranial explosion.
“MOM! AIRPLANE GO SO FAST! IT GO SO FAST! WHEEEEEEE-MAZING!”
And it was wheeeee-mazing to watch an airplane take off at such close proximity and she was so dang cute with her little pigtails bouncing and her face turning beet-red with excitement. I kept telling her to be a bit quieter and she would whisper, “Okay Mama,” and then another plane would enter her field of view and all bets were off.
During takeoff I made myself believe that everyone else around me found her as adorable as I did because it made me feel better and because all she was doing was being delightful… very loudly. They only wished their traveling companions had that much zest for life, right?
As the flight continued, I struggled to keep her occupied, to keep her from kicking the seat in front of me, to get her to stop opening the window shades and them slamming them shut again. She wanted to drink SODEEEE and turn the overhead fan on and off and on again. She wanted me to read her a story out loud so everyone could hear their daily dose of Dr. Seuss and then she wanted me to read it again. She wanted choo-choo Thomas and she wanted to go home. PLEASE.
At least when she was begging for mercy, she said, “Please.” That has to count for something.
As we got close to landing, I watched the posture of the woman in front of me gradually change. It’s possible that it was just a coincidence that Wanda was growing more and more restless and loud and the woman was growing more rigid and angry-looking at the same time. She put her hands to her temples and covered her ears to block out the noise.
I whispered to Wanda that although the clouds and the snow were exciting, we could talk about them quietly. Then she saw the HOUSES and the WATER and I had to ask her to be quiet again. At this point, I felt bad. What if that woman had a headache or was scared of flying and Wanda was getting on her last nerve? Maybe she hated kids or Wanda’s voice was just the right pitch to send little drills into her brains. Whatever the case, she did not seem pleased and I did feel bad about it.
I never want to be one of those parents who lets their kids drive everyone else crazy with their obnoxiousness and finds every little annoying habit cute. Neither do I want to repress my kids’ delight and wonder about the world on the off-chance that it might bother someone. It’s a tough balance and if you were the lady in row 17 on our flight this afternoon, I hope your head is feeling better.