Wednesday, August 10, 2011


We've been in Tallinn for nine days now. I have the following observations:

1) Really, if you can't be happy here, you can't be happy anywhere.

2) My section is blessed with exceptional staff.

3) I am out of high-heel shape. My feet are killing me.

The kids slept through both flights, which is a parent's dream. It may have prolonged jet lag a few nights, but it was worth it. As someone who has heard all the reasons people hate traveling with kids on a plane, I am incredibly anxious that my kids may make other people miserable. Here are my thoughts on such things:

Not flying isn't an option for us, nor should it be. Kids are people...irrational and under-developed people, but people. The suggestion that kids should not be allowed to partake in a basic modern need is a bit absurd. This isn't a movie theater, it's transportation. Plus, they have paid seats. They are, like it or not, customers.

Parents who aid, abet, or ignore their kids' disruptive behavior are generally the source of the problem. But here's a little secret many parents have learned, most pediatricians would confirm, and most spectators would not suspect: the quickest way to end a tantrum is to ignore it. Little kids flip out either because they are stressed (read: on a plane, strapped in a seat, past bedtime, and with some stranger's reclined seat in their lap), or because they want attention. You can't slap or scold a kid out of stress. You can, however, soothe or, more likely, distract. I recommend every parent have an iPad for just such occasions. As far as attention, ignoring the tantrum is usually the best long-term solution. For the short-term need of keeping your fellow passengers happy, may I recommend: an iPad. As for babies: well, if you can show me a failsafe way to convince a screaming baby not to scream after you've exhausted all the normal soothing options, then I'll give you $20.

The sad truth, disappointing for many, is that you cannot completely control the actions of another person. The best you can do is predict, plan, and pray.

The airlines could do a bit more to make the flight a less stressful experience for every passenger, certainly, but particularly for parents and children. I suggest the following:

a) Pre-boarding. Most places and most airlines do this, but I know one did not until very recently. I flew from Dulles to Mumbai, via Frankfurt, by myself with Boy. That's a long trip, and only two hands to carry a small child, his car seat, my purse, and a diaper bag on the plane. If you don't let someone like me go first, that's a whole lot of other passengers' heads I'm going to bang into as I struggle to get to our seat.

b) Help. I traveled round trip from India to the United States by myself with a toddler (and one time with two cats as well) three times. We flew round trip to Europe once. Roughly 60% of the time, the flight crew would watch as I struggled down said aisles, with said small child, with said amount of crap, and roll their eyes and sigh if I dared to ask for a little assistance. The other 40% of the time a flight attendant stepped in, assisted, and went out of his or her way to not make me feel guilty about it. I shouldn't feel guilty about having spent money to fly on your plane. How rude of me for being a customer!

c) Increase your damned legroom. Business class is actually best for kids (they can lay down, sleep better, and have a footwell to play in--all resulting in better behavior), but that thought is very unpopular. So if we relegate families to coach (where I spend 95% of my time), please consider the following concerns: When the passenger reclines into your lap, it's very hard to get your poop-covered baby out of the seat next to you and to the bathroom. When the passenger reclines into your toddler's lap, it's very hard to feed him/her, set up the miraculous iPad, or keep little feet off the seat in front of them.

d) Seat me with my kids. Always. This should be a given, but it's so very often not.

e) Bulkhead seating. So many reasons: a bassinet for baby, a little play area for toddlers, easy to get in and out, no seats for little feet to kick, and easy access to diaper bags and all the necessities in them once you're in flight.

I say all this as a parent and as a business traveler.

At any rate.

Yes. The kids. They slept through both flights and arrived WIDE AWAKE in Tallinn. Compared with the twelve and a half hour time difference from DC to India, seven hours isn't too bad. Boy was happy to finally be in his Estonia house, as he calls it. He's even happier that there's a trampoline.

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