While I am busy getting myself and my family halfway around the world, I have asked a few friends to guest post for me. Rounding out the trifecta is Josh of The Weed. (Ha! A boy is guest posting on my blog - suck it, monkeys!) Josh is here to instill confidence in parents everywhere - right?
So, there's a man, a woman, a deaf guy and a one-year old on an airplane...
No seriously. This is not a joke. About a year after our oldest daughter, Anna, was born, my wife and I braved a round trip airplane flight with her. We were flying from Seattle to Utah and back so we could see family, and the flight to Utah was a resounding success. It was so incredibly successful that I can't even remember a single detail from it. See, that's the sure-fire way to detect the success of traveling with toddlers: if you aren't so traumatized by the experience that you have memories of it seared into your mind years later the way combat veterans have PTSD flashbacks of near-death experiences, you were successful. Congratulations, self!
Well, except for the flight home. Uh, yeah. I have memories seared inexorably into my mind on that one. I might never forget that flight. Even if I get early onset Alzheimer's like my mom, I won't forget this flight. I might forget my daughter's name and age and everything about our relationship. But I won't forget this.
It all started when, being the young, naive, and totally thoughtless parents that we were, Wife and I decided to accidentally keep Anna up very late the night before our flight. It's an understandable mistake, I guess. We were saying goodbye to lots of people and we were trying to relish in our time with family members. And we were stupid. Painfully, awkwardly stupid.
Because sweet Anna was so late to getting to bed, when we woke her up the next morning, she was wittle miss cwanky pants. (Yes, I did just drop baby-speak on you right there. Don't hate.) She was not a happy camper, and she was letting us know it. She was grumpy on the car ride to the airport, and she didn't eat very well. On top of that we were running late. Everything was frantic, and we just wanted to get on the plane and get home. She complained minimally as we went through the airport process, but it was clear that she wasn't happy. We craved to just get everything checked in, and then sit down so we could all relax and take a breather.
At last, we got to our seats. We sat down, took a deep breath and...things got ugly. Fast
Instead of the relaxed two hours of travel we were hoping for, our tired, travel-weary daughter had apparently completely lost her mind. She launched into a crying fit which soon turned into a prolonged sequence of straight-up, blood curdling screaming which resembled what a mix between a fire-alarm and a really angry hyena would sound like. We did our best to comfort her and get her to stop crying, but our attempts were met with louder screams so shrill I thought she might actually physically assault me.
When we started getting looks from our fellow passengers that said "shut that kid up, or I'll shut her up for you..." we knew we had to do... something. But what?
I don't know if you've ever been on an airplane before or not, but the truth of airplanes is that they are tight, confined spaces flying in the sky. There is absolutely nowhere to take a profusely screaming Anna if she decides she's too upset to stop sounding like a police siren on crack. What this leads to is a little something called "tension." And when babies know that their parents are feeling "tense," those babies feel "panic" which leads to more "screaming" and "scary-baby nearly homicidal rage."
We were so embarrassed. You could tell most of the people around us were trying to not be annoyed. But they were annoyed. I would have been annoyed. Heck, I was annoyed. I wanted to sit back, listen to my iPod and read a Grisham novel just as much as the next guy. So I could only imagine the level of annoyance I would have been feeling if the grinding, unbearable racket I was hearing didn't happen to be emanating from the lips of my first born child who I am biologically compelled to love, shrill torture devices notwithstanding.
I'd be pissed. I knew it. Wife knew it. We knew we had to shut her up. But we had no idea how. So, we just tried to act casual for a little while, hoping it would end. We tried to talk calmly to each other hoping Anna would calm down. Not paying attention to her, though, made her even more angry. Somehow, her piercing screams got louder. We were especially worried about the man sitting a row in front of us. Surely, we thought, his eardrums must nearly be bursting. But then we realized how lucky we were as we saw him signing to his neighbor. He was deaf! He couldn't hear Anna at all. Everyone else around us was trying desperately not to court fantasies of infanticide (or murdering "that kid's crappy parents"), but not the person in closest proximity to us. This brought us some level of comfort and we went forward trying everything we could possibly fathom to try and calm her down--snacks, drinks, games, holding her, suffocation, etc. (that last one was a joke, btw. CPS not required.)
When something like this is happening, it's all you can do to keep your cool. You know that everyone around you is in literal pain because of your screaming spawn, and you're not sure how to respond. Do you give everyone a knowing look and a shrug and risk people actually murdering you with their cold, enraged stares? Do you keep sitting there, talking "calmly" hoping it will pass? Do you ask a stewardess what to do? Do you engage the emergency exit, grab each other's hand, and launch your little family of three out of the plane in a desperate suicide? Nothing sounds just right.
So, we kept on... talking. And trying to ignore it as best we could.
And that's when Anna got really mad.
She started flailing like she had epilepsy. We're talking gran mal seizure type flails reminiscent of the exorcist. I was half expecting to see her head spin on her neck, or for her to spew vomit everywhere. But not Anna. No, she did something worse. She took the last remaining shred of dignity we had as parents and pooped into it like it was a diaper.
She kicked the chair of the deaf man in front of us. Repeatedly. And as it turns out, that guy was not very nice. Have you ever been yelled at by a person who can't speak or hear? I have. It happens with their eyes. When he turned back and looked at us, it encapsulated all of the rage building up in everyone around us. We were hated. We were the most hated "incompetent" parents ever. And he turned, and looked at us with rage and frustration and judgment and shock in his eyes, and Wife and I knew in no uncertain terms that we had probably literally ruined every person on that plane's life irreparably.
I shook my head solemnly as Wife picked Anna up and raced to the back of the plane, weeping. It was ugly. Really really ugly.
I wish I could say there was some magical lesson learned from this experience. But there wasn't. There was just a young set of parents trying to calm an extremely disruptive baby and failing miserably. And then there was a mom in the back of the plane crying because her baby would not stop crying no matter what she did, and a harried father sitting near the front of the plane, feeling embarrassed and angry and awkward and alone, and yet at the same time relieved that the crying had been taken elsewhere.
Actually, I guess there is a lesson, kind of. Because eventually, that flight ended. Even though things were about as bad as one could possibly imagine, the minutes passed by, and we all got to our destination, and now I have this story to tell on Tamsin's blog, and every other passenger on that plane has a really great "Worst flight ever" story to tell all their friends. And, truth be told, we will never have contact with any of those people again. Unless you, reader, were on that flight. And you're going to look me up and hunt me down for ruining your life. Um, sorry.
Oh, and the stewardesses were really nice. And they warmed Anna's formula up for us. So they win.
Happy traveling everyone!!