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Wednesday, October 25, 2006  

First Flight

When people heard we were going to be bringing M. Small on his first plane ride, we got any number of helpful suggestions. Coloring books. Stickers. Toys. Snacks. A portable DVD player. Preprinted letters of apology with enough copies for all of our fellow passengers.

We admit that we haven't always been big fans of noisy babies and toddlers on airplanes; that's one of the perks of being childless. In the past two years, however, we've been a lot more understanding when we found ourselves on a flight with a little one who didn't care for the popping ears, or the close quarters, or the not being allowed to go outside for as long as two hours. We always think, that could just as easily be our kid. Except that we always leave him at home when we fly, either with the other parent or his grandparents.

Until now.

Once we were committed, the big discussion was whether to bring his car seat on board the plane, or just strap him directly to his seat and hope for the best. The ride to the airport settled that, when he found himself in a car seat designed for someone a little older, and used that as license to try to sit up and climb out. So that was a vote in favor of his regular car seat: not only is it cozy for long periods of time, it's also a very effective restraint system.

On the plane, we had a row of three seats to ourselves. The second-to-last row, as it happens. Trash wanted to put him in the middle, so we could both reach him and talk to him and what not. I've never put a car seat in an airplane before, so it took me a couple of minutes, during which I took back every mean thing my formerly childless self ever said about people with small children being allowed to board planes first.

Finally, the car seat was firmly strapped into the middle seat, with the toddler comfortably ensconced inside it, me on his left in the window seat, and Trash on his right on the aisle. Then the flight attendant, who had watched me struggle with it in the first place, came to tell us that the car seat was going to have to be in the window seat. Something about my not having to clamber over it should the aircraft crashing into something and becoming an infernal deathtrap from which escape will be a dicey proposition anyway. So M. Small got the window and I got the middle.

I thought he'd be fascinated by the window, and I was right. Except it wasn't so much the view, as the ability to slide the plastic shade up and down from where he was sitting. "Open it!" he'd say, and open it. "Close it!" he'd say, and close it. He'd demand that I turn the reading lights on and off, as well as open and close the air nozzle pointing at him, which he assumed was a fan. Plus he gave quite a workout to the new question he had learned that week, which was, of course, "What's that?" I think I explained the purpose of the "No Smoking" sign a dozen times. He was glad to know that there would be "no fire."

And this was before we even took off.

We all know how tedious it is to sit on the tarmac, waiting for your flight's turn to take off. Try being a two-year-old who doesn't even understand why the car he's in always stops at red lights. "GO!" he kept yelling at the front of the cabin. Finally, when our turn came and we were hurtling along the runway and then the ground was dropping away from us, it was all worth it for his first look out the window. "Trucks!" he announced.

He was fairly well behaved on the actual flight, although I had my hands full trying to physically prevent him from kicking the seat in front of him. I'm sorry to say I only succeeded about two-thirds of the time (sorry, 20A!) Trash wanted to keep him too busy to get into trouble, but I was more inclined to stretch out the entertainment options for as long as possible. One little Cars sticker was good for about ten minutes. Needless to say, the portable DVD player never even made it out of its carrying case, which made me glad we'd borrowed one instead of buying.

Eventually he fell asleep. After a couple of hours he woke up and asked me to raise the windowshade. Now, I knew this kid must be used to waking up disoriented -- I can't tell you how many times he's woken up in his crib when his last conscious memory was riding in the car. But when he looked out the window and saw the arid mountains and scrub farms of the Southwest instead of the pastoral flatness of the Midwest, I could tell it threw him a bit.

The final approach was quite turbulent, so we calmed him by calling it an "M-Quake," which has been our word for gently bouncing him up and down on the bed since he was three months old. I'm not sure it made a difference. I do know that as soon as the plane came to a stop at the gate, he was demanding to "get out!" That's my boy.

By the time we boarded our return flight four days later, he was an old hand. He waited until we got above the first layer of clouds, then turned his head to the side and shut down until we were ten minutes out of Minneapolis-St. Paul. It was a quiet landing, the kind of quiet where everyone in the cabin can feel a wicked crosswind just when we're right over the Minnesota River. We touched ground, bounced, and slowed to taxiing speed.

"Yaaay!" M. Small crowed, applauding. Twenty rows of passengers laughed.

I don't know what we were so worried about. We have to get that kid a frequent flyer account. And a car seat with wheels, because that thing he flies in now is a bitch.

posted by M. Giant 10:16 PM 2 comments

2 Comments:

We found that the best way to deal with unwieldy car seats with out two kids was to by a couple $15 luggage carts and strap the car seats to it with a couple bungie cords. It also makes for a fun ride through the airport for the kids.

By Anonymous Capt Cosmic, at October 25, 2006 at 10:38 PM  

I bought a great set of wheels that attach to our Britax carseat: it's called GoGoKidz (one link at http://www.elitecarseats.com/Gogo-Kidz-Universal-Travelmate.pro). I wheel the kid around like he's a piece of luggage! I've seen similar things for other seats.

By Blogger RH, at October 26, 2006 at 12:57 PM  

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