Air Travel with a Spirited Toddler and a Sensitive Preschooler

When Mikail was an infant and small toddler we traveled with him a lot. His first airplane trip was when he was just a few days old when he was airlifted to the Stollery Children’s Hospital. Then when he was six months old I took him home to see my family for a week. After that I have lost count on how many times he has been in an airplane. He is a great traveler.

This August we took trip to visit Jason’s family. It was Olivia’s first airplane trip at 15 months of age. It was Mikail’s umpteenth trip. Mikail did great for the most part. Olivia? Nightmare! All of the flights were a challenge with her, but one of them was especially challenging:

Olivia does not like to be held unless it is on her terms. So, you can imagine her reaction when we took off and landed. Because she is under 2 years of age, she is considered a lap baby. She doesn’t get a seat and for take off and landing, lap babies have to be held against you in the burping position. Oh my! Cue paint peeling screaming. She does not like to be confined and lets everyone know it. On this one particular four hour flight she started screaming at the start of the flight and did not stop for three hours. One of those hours she slept out of sheer exhaustion~until a flight attendant rammed a cart into her sleeping head. Cue paint peeling screaming and classic toddler tantrum full body thrashing in close quarters. Then as we landed, Mikail got motion sick and threw up. But he is such a trooper with such a good attitude that after he was done, he looked up and giggled, ‘Me puke on airplane, Mommy!’

What made this flight extra difficult was that the flight attendants kept giving us that ‘look’ of ‘do something already!’ with no help with distracting Olivia or asking if they could get us anything. Well, we tried every trick in the book. I had games, toys, books. I sang every song I could think of. I prayed and prayed. Of all the people on this very full flight, there was only one woman, two rows back who attempted to help me out by playing peek-a-boo with Olivia. She was a God-send. As we finally deplaned, this beautiful woman, whom I will never forget, came up to me and told me that I was doing a wonderful job and that she loved seeing how patient I was during a very difficult few hours. Those words gave me life again and helped us get through the next hours as we continued our trip home.

When we finally arrived home, we looked at each other and said we were N.E.V.E.R. flying anywhere again. We would cancel our trip to Manitoba and forget about going to Bolivia in the new year. That was just too much. Of course the trauma of it all wore off and this past week we flew to Manitoba. With a different airline. With a new attitude. With a 16 month old instead of a 15 month old. I am not sure what made the difference. The shorter flights? The very friendly and helpful flight attendants?

Olivia did great. She fought take off and landing, but the flight attendants weren’t staring us down all the time and said that as soon as we were sort of level in the air she could sit normally. Sigh of relief. No waiting for the seatbelt sign to come off. Instead, they came to us at the start of the flight welcoming the kids and making them feel special. Yes, they still gave us the safety procedures they had to, but it was in a different attitude. Every time they walked by they acknowledged the kids by name. Olivia is quite social, so this worked wonders. Olivia did not sleep on any of the flights, but she was happy and felt safe.

So, here we are, ready to book tickets to Bolivia. Oy veh! What are we thinking? Mostly that 24+ hours if airplane adventures will be worth the headache once we get there and experience another part of the world with our kids and their Oma and Opa.

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