Traveling with Small Children

The Practicalities of Traveling with Small Children

“Is it really necessary to take a tiny baby on a long flight? I think there’s an element of selfishness from parents who insist on not changing their lifestyle once they have their children because there are some things that just aren’t practical.”

So said journalist (and mother of a 12 year old) Kelly-Rose Bradford on British television recently. Not surprisingly, it ignited a bit of a shit fight from both sides of the aisle and, for me, at least, got me a thinkin’.

In particular, that word ‘practical’. Because I’m guessing what she really meant was ‘convenient’.

Because the fact is today’s modern family is hardly the nebulous entity it once was. Long gone are the days of hitching up the horse and buggy to visit ‘kin’ one or two towns away.

Love and life’s many subtle nuances moves and scatters us. And sometimes quite far away. To different states, altogether different regions or, even completely different countries. But if we’re lucky, getting back always factors in to our plans eventually. To catch up, to say hello, I love you or to introduce a niece, nephew or a grandchild….

Not via an email, skype, Facebook or an instant message…but, IN PERSON.

And these days, to do so in person often requires packing up ungodly amounts of your family’s belongings and enduring countless hours (or days) spent in airports, hotels and restaurants–all while in transit getting between points A to B.

Is it ‘convenient’? Of course not. Who really enjoys being cooped up in cramped confines for extended periods of time, bad food, jet lag and lost income from time taken off from work…and all while having to entertain a little person whose world has inexplicably gone pear shape? But as for whether it’s ‘practical’…? That answer is a resounding “Hell Yes! It’s actually very necessary, thank you very much.”

If not, why would we have set out in the first place? It is something that, out of a sense of familial duty, we endure and, in doing so, makes boarding a plane with a small child anything but the ‘selfish’ endeavour Bradford labels it as.

To the contrary, ‘selfish’ would be expecting people to stop visiting the people they love and engaging in activities they enjoy all because they’re doing it with a small child whose crying happens to irritate you. Has it really come to child free flights? Can’t we all just harden up a tad? Or, at the very least, simply invest in a better headset?

I was the childless traveler for 95% of my life and I’ve endured my fair share of noisy flights and repeated kicks from little feet to the back of my already uncomfortable economy seat. The truth is it’s not really the crying or the kicking that bothers me the most. It’s the rare mom or dad who, with a magazine or head set of their own, blocks it out and pretends it’s not happening.

On a recent five hour flight over to Bali with Kaia to visit friends, I can assure you, that was not us. Like what I feel is the vast majority of parents with small children in tow, we’d prepped Kaia’s carry-on bag with a level of scrutiny comparable to elite special forces members preparing to be dropped behind enemy lines and done everything short of injecting heavy sedatives into the girl to avoid an ‘episode’ in transit.

Compliments of a kind flight crew, we even managed to commandeer the often, off limits back row of seats near the lavatory figuring if worse came to worse, we could walk the possible tantrum off.

But in the end, it was all for not and our worse fears played out as a minor whimper slowly but surely escalated into a full-fledged, 40 minute tantrum. Nothing worked to placate our irate daughter and, with the lavatory directly behind us apparently the only option for 90% of the plane, an impenetrable line assured we were trapped.

Stuck there at the back of the plane with an inconsolable child…

Dying the death of a thousand small cuts all the while futilely racking my brain for a means of somehow gagging Kaia that wouldn’t get me arrested for child abuse once we finally landed.

Anything that would both silence our daughter and, better still, the judgmental stares of the many KellyRose-Bradfords waiting for the loo…

Something easy, swift, efficient and effective.

Something, you know, practical.


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