For me flying meant severe backache, swollen legs, horrible food and an onset of a migraine that could sustain for an entire day. And that compounded by the thought racing through your mind – “Please don’t let there be kids on this plane”. Cut to – There are kids on the plane and one of them is sitting right next to you trying to test your hearing abilities. The joy of flying!
Enter fatherhood and my perspective on life, and flying, changed. Instead of dreading a flight with a bawling child, you come to pity the parents who, not only have to deal with a cacophonous child but also deal with those piercing, judgmental eyes. At one point I too possessed those set of eyes but today I share my solidarity because sooner than later this is going to be me and my wife with our daughter.
Recently I was in a 90-minute domestic flight and a young Punjabi couple with their very adorable son took the seats right behind me. He seemed like a nice and quiet kid but I was going to be proved wrong. This was a perfect opportunity for me to take copious notes on child management on a flight. I was about to witness a live case.
From this experience I realized that there are three stages of the flight for controlling your child – pre-takeoff & takeoff, in air, landing. In the pre-takeoff stage it is very important to harness the child on your body. The flight attendants will provide with an extra seatbelt and help you with the same. (NOTE – Different carriers follow different rules, the one that I was travelling by considered children less than the age of 2 as infants and are not required to book an additional seat. If planned well you can get the front row seats, which has extra leg room, carry your own car seat and place the child in it)
Be prepared, the child will cry. This little kid behind me was a little over the age of 1 and had a really mean kick. He was on his dad and he didn’t like it one bit so obviously he removed all his frustration on my seat. I took deep breaths, really deep. It had just begun, we finally took off.
Once we were up in the air, things got worse, you can only guess what could annoy the child – high atmospheric pressure, claustrophobia, hunger or just plain boredom. Now mom and dad had to do their jobs. The mother started to divert his attention by talking to him, gradually increasing her volume, he started crying louder, clearly he was in no mood to engage. Other passengers started to sense it, their eyes were ready for the judgmental look and the “tsk tsk” were coming in steadily.
Mom moved onto stage 2 and out came the high-decibel rattle, and wow did she go at it. The noise of the rattle was directly proportional to the wailing of the child, the harder she rattled the louder he got. It was dissonance of supreme level and the mother was the conductor of this choir of din.
Now I could tell that the parents were getting a tad desperate, trying everything in their power to calm the child. They offered food, tried to distract him and then suddenly, the mum broke into a nursery rhyme “The wheels on the bus”. It wasn’t exactly the most melodious rendition of the rhyme but it worked… for 5 seconds, the son was not having any of it. No disrespect, but now at this point it was anyone’s guess as what was more nerve-wrecking, the crying or the singing.
Finally, the dad got involved and started walking with him, that definitely had an effect and he went quiet. Silence had been achieved. We were 25-30 minutes away from our destination.
After the plane landed the parents were the last passengers off the aircraft, I thought that was a very clever move. The last thing you want is to wake a sleeping child in all that hustle and bustle.
My respect goes out to all those parents travelling with their young ones. It takes immense patience and tolerance to manage a child in-flight, especially when you are aware of all those stinky eyes upon you. One day, very soon, my wife and I will be tested too. Let’s hope all the notes I collected will help us through.
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