Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Leavin' on a jet plane

I may be speaking too soon and it is never a good idea to be smug, but as I write this post (on a cool blog application on my iPhone) my children are acting like little angels! I have never been more proud. Eating snacks, playing, watching movies...I should've brought a magazine.

Which leads me to my next point which is that if you have children on a plane with you and they are under the age of four, you should not be reading anything. Not even the safety pamphlet in the seat pocket in front of you. Especially if you have brought not one iota of entertainment supplies for your children. And if you are traveling with small children, why wouldn't you bring anything to at least attempt to entertain them with? This is the burning question I wanted to ask the family that sat across from us this morning. I have bad luck with aisle mates, as you may remember from my last trip.

Reading the Skymall magazine while your child asks over and over "are we in the clouds yet!?" irritates the other passengers. Especially those of us who have brought our A game and are working overtime to keep our little ones happy in order to avoid such behaviors as running up and down the aisles unsupervised or standing up on the seat and playing with the air conditioner vent.

I have never proclaimed to be mother of the year, but I have the flying thing down to a science. I have to, if I want to maintain my sanity, my kids' sanity and the other passengers' sanity. No one, including me, wants to be sitting near a screaming, whining, generally misbehaving child. Is it easy? No way. It is a meticulously planned, carefully choreographed and artfully executed dance that I do in order to maintain Eli's optimal traveling temperament (I say Eli because Ethan is really pretty easy going and almost self-sufficient these days. Sadly). So, while the lady across the aisle from me flipped through magazines while her son begged (for the fourth time) for her to "say YES! to take me to the potty!", and she snapped and sniped at her husband who conveniently had a "worksheet to work on" while their three-year-old daughter played with a - get this - kitchen timer that kept going off, I sweated. I smiled. I contorted myself to reach the depths of my diaper bag in order to get my hands on the precisely packed items that I would be able to hand to the boys at the precise time. And the precise time? Exactly 30 seconds BEFORE they need them. It is a heck of a lot easier to stave off a melt down than it is to recover from one. I packed that diaper bag as if it was my field bag and I was preparing to march into battle. I know exactly where everything is without having to cast so much as a sidelong glance. I pack the diaper bag in such a way that I can lay my hands on anything I need in about 4.4 seconds.

As I said, I'm not mother of the year, but I can usually pull off a long day of travel with reasonably happy children. But that doesn't mean tht I don't sweat. I do. A lot. (And not just on planes with my kids but that's another story for another day). While I may over pack the carry-ons, I don't really think that there is such a thing as being overprepared when it comes to traveling with small kids. I anticipate what they will likely need and then dig deeper to think about what they might want beyond the obvious favorites by staying a step ahead of them and trying to think the next most likely thought that they'll have.

For example, if I pack an acitivity book and Crayons for Ethan, he'll probably get bored of using the Crayons, but will still probably enjoy the activity itself. If I toss in some colored pencils, I've bought myself 10 more minutes because the change that the pencils provide will keep him interested. And if I throw in a pad of plain paper, I've bought about 10 more minutes since he will do some drawing once he is bored with the activity book. So the 20 minutes of entertainment that the original Crayons and activity book provided is increased to 40 minutes by throwing in a few colored pencils and a pad of paper. And today, I enjoyed a bonus...Eli used the Crayon box as a toy and entertained himself almost the entire time Ethan was drawing by taking the Crayons out of the box one by one, creating a pile on his seat, and then returning them back into the box. We did this about 30 times and though it was a little tedious, it kept him happy for 1/3 of the flight.

So with 1/3 of the flight spent on an activity, that leaves 2/3 of the flight where I'm left managing the kids. In an ideal world, I can divy these up by allotting 1/3 of the flight to personal neccessities such as snacking, having some milk or juice and using the potty and/or changing a diaper and the remaining 1/3 is allotted to some form of electronic entertainment. In today's case, Ethan's electronic equipment was his Nintendo DS and Eli's was our DVD player where he was able to watch 3 of the 10 movies I brought along. And yes, I did bring 10 movies for a 2-hour flight. But, again, I brought a variety. Most of them were geared toward Eli and at least 3 I knew were among his favorites, but I did throw in a few movies that I know both boys like and one or two that would just be enjoyed by Ethan. And while 10 may seem to be a little over the top, it didn't take up much more room than just one or two DVD's would have. I keep them all in a CD/DVD sleeve that is meant to be hung up on your car's sun visor, which slides easily into a backpack.

How can I get my hands on everything so quickly? Ziplocs. A Ziploc for each category of items. One for snacks, one for toys (if you have teensy babies, one for bottles, blankets, soothers, etc.). I put my diaper/wipe sack on the very bottom of the bag because typically, I am not trying to get my hands on that quickly from my seat. If I'm going to get up and change a diaper, I have a bit of time to move everything that's on top out of the way and I probably am not trying to grab a diaper with cat-like reflexes in order to stave off a meltdown. So, diapers/wipes at the bottom. Toys and snacks share the top, while books like the back of the backpack. Oh, and that's another thing...must have a backpack because it leaves hands free when chasing after, carrying and managing little ones. The pockets are also packed carefully...lollipops (for sore ears on the decent) are in a outside pocket that I can get to easily. Another pocket holds my phone and another one holds a sippy cup. It isn't just bag to carry diapers, it is base camp for triage.

So, in addition to being able to grab anything I need, I also watch my kids like a hawk. I don't read, I don't watch the inflight movie, I very rarely even order a soda because I'm usually not thirsty and needing to have my tray top down just adds to the chaos. When I'm traveling with my kids, there's no relaxing!

Today's flight was textbook (a little preparedness and a little luck go a long, long way). And by textbook, I mean that my formula was followed to the exact allotted proportions. One-third of the flight was spent on an activity, one-third was spent snacking and using the potty and changing diapers and one-third was spent playing video games/watching movies. I couldn't have asked for it to go more smoothly. Now, whose taking bets that I will be wishing I could rescind my smugness when my kids' behavior horrifies all the passengers on the return flight home?


Jen said...

I am with you on bringing something for the kids to do! I have flown dozens of times with my kids and overall they are pretty good! I am going 3000 miles next week with my soon to be two year old and Im mad the DVD broke :( But im sure it will all work its self out, have a great trip

Jen said...

I have been known to purchase a "back up" DVD player. Those things have been like gold during our travels! Good luck on the big trip next week! Hope your little one does great.