Thud refused to sleep for the first 14 months of his life and it was torture. But getting on a plane for five hours was the very first time I considered drugging my child.
It was our first time flying with a toddler. We were off to Fiji with our extended family and we were so excited. Until we got on the plane…
He wasn’t even that bad. I’ve seen worse. It’s just that we were so…. trapped. And in public. And there were eyes everywhere, looking at us. Disapproving faces judging our inferior parenting skills.
It started as we were walking on to the plane. The looks. The terrified side-eye from young couples as we walked towards them, followed by the epic sigh of relief as we kept walking. It turns out that having a toddler sit next to you on a plane is about as appealing as sharing a row with a morbidly obese man with offensive body odour.
They needn’t have worried. Whether by coincidence or some unspoken airline policy, all the families with young children just happened to be seated right up the back of the plane. I would’ve made allegations of segregation if I didn’t kind of see their point.
We were stuck in toddler ghetto, ready to harass all the other parents. Ah well, it’s not like they were about to enjoy their flight either.
We had all the tricks in our bag. Books, toys, snacks, pencils, iPad, sleeping bag, bottles of milk. We thought we’d planned it perfectly.
We were wrong.
As soon as the plane started to taxi down the runway, Thud was up in his chair and squealing with pure joy and excitement. It was just about the most life-altering thing to have ever happened to him. We laughed at his mini-conniption fit (we naïvely assumed it would end) and managed to get him to sit on my lap with an extension belt for him as we took off. I think the whole plane heard how much he enjoyed that.
Once we were in the air we pulled out the bottle and took off his shoes and let him know he could have a little sleep now (hahaha… these parents are STUPID). We’d all been awake since four am and figured he’d have to be a bit sleepy by now.
Optimistic! And incorrect.
Thud smashed his bottle in record time and sprang to his feet to start his flight. And by flight, I mean his campaign of terror.
It was five straight hours of negotiation and compromise with some old-fashioned pleading in between. We had occasional moments of calm when he decided to sit and watch exactly one episode of Peppa Pig at a time (I need to have serious words with the creators of Peppa Pig. WHY are the episodes so short? WHHYY???) but on the whole he refused to be still or quiet.
He was mostly excited and loud. But there were pockets of time we lost to insanity, with wild screaming, kicking and that really fun thing where they arch their back and buck right out of your arms and collapse on the floor like they’re having a fit.
Sarge and I kept looking at each other with eyes that said “I am not equipped to deal with the demon that has overtaken my child.”
The Power of Christ compels you!
This was not our child. Our child is a hurricane in human form but he’s not evil. He doesn’t have tantrums and he doesn’t lash out. THIS child on the plane? I don’t know who he was. He was like an animal. Trapped in a very small box. On LSD.
Although he wasn’t even all that trapped.
I’d like to know what airlines think those lap sashes are protecting us from. Seriously. I mean, firstly, my two-year-old managed to undo his within about four seconds of being strapped in. Secondly, he could get out of it even when it was done up. We spent 90 percent of our time trying to strap him back in which enraged the beast even more. HE WILL NOT BE CONTAINED.
He spent most of his time trying to escape us. He’d perform neat little circus tricks to flip himself over the seats in front so he could
terrorise visit his grandparents. They thought they were so lucky to score a free seat between them. They were wrong.
In the end there was no nap. He was delirious with exhaustion but pushed through it to rage on in protest against his confinement. My dreams of reading a book while my child slept peacefully on my lap were dashed. Probably karma for being so goddamned naïve and idiotic.
The best thing about the flight was that it ended.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
Oh… and we are doing it again in two weeks. For TEN hours.
Have you had an easy flight with a toddler? HOW?? Give me all your secrets.
Come on over and join the fun on The Thud’s Facebook page.
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Oh my, I had palpitations reading this. Kids on planes can be hard. We haven’t attempted flying with all our three toghether… not until Phoebe is older I say. Hope the flight back from Hawaii is as successful as the flight over. xx
Ah you poor thing! We were lucky with our 2 year old as he became quite quickly addicted to peppa pig (compilation!) and stared at the screen for ages. And a kind flight attendant had propped up a pillow in his seat so he gradually fell asleep. What I’ve heard other people suggest is taking on your car seat and sticking it in the airline seat – apparently most airlines let you do this now if you call up first – the familiarity might help them sleep and they are also strapped in!
Here is where I read about the carseat thing. http://togetherweroam.com.au/flying-with-a-car-seat/ We were told Qantas could do it on one leg of our domestic flight but not the other so just checked it, but might be worth checking for your 10 hour flight? Assuming Thud actually LIKES his carseat of course, if he hates it you might just have to resort to drugs 🙂
I feel compelled to share my horror story too. I flew to New York return with my 18 month old – about 30 hours door to door. 3 separate legs. Alone. He was too old to sleep much and too young to watch the wiggles for more than 5 mins. Therein lay the challenge.
He didnt really cry at all on the way over but the 5 or so minutes he did scream (the longest 5 mins of my life) was enough to cause the guy sitting next to us to ask to move. I was trying so hard !! It made ME cry. We were in business class so probably fair call for the other passenger.
He just DID NOT sleep. Even the flight attendants were suggesting phernegan.
So you can imagine my relief on the return journey when he fell asleep on lift off. Lift off!! And then into the bassinet. Yay!!! I cant describe the relief. I was imagining movie wine…..
BUT the mother sitting across the aisle, when discovering she did not have a bassinet made such a scene (together with her mother, father and husband) including pointing in my direction and demanding that if anyone should move it should be ‘that lady because she is alone’ and bullying the flight attendants to the point that – yes – wait for it – they asked me to move. Pick my sleeping baby up and MOVE. I did. I wish i hadnt. And then came the tears (mine again)!!
My tip – never travel long haul with an 18 month old ☺
We took our then 21 month old from Perth to America and I was stressed to the max beforehand having nightmares that he would squeal and I mean highest pitch squeal you have ever heard the whole way there.
There was 4 adults and 1 toddler travelling all together….. And the airline in its brightest wisdom put me and max together (he was in a bassinet) and then sat everyone else behind us. So no one to help with him and strangers had to put up with whatever he was gonna throw our way!! Stress levels just went up!!!
To my surprise and pure delight he was so good… Sleeping a lot of the way and when he wasnt sleeping he would watch tv. Went through a lot of milk but he was happy.
We had a short stop over in Hong Kong where we ran him around to burn off energy.
Thankfully the next flight to Chicago (longest one) I had my husband next to me so he could help but again he was really good. We arrived in Chicago in the afternoon and had a quick shower at the hotel and then straight to a cubs game…. Probably not the best idea as we had a major meltdown at the game but once he settled he was good ….. Got back to the hotel around midnight and he slept for 9 hours straight and then was all in sync time wise and the rest of the holiday he was awesome!!!
We just let him run his own course within reason…. He would tell us when he was ready for a nap which never happens at home and he would tell us when he was ready for bed…. And then he would sleep for 12 hours… Waking a few times during the night for bottles which was unusual but he was go go go all day and out in the sun and fresh air.
I couldn’t have wanted anything else from him….
Back at home took a day or so to get back into sync, key thing was to get his routine back in force and not let him sleep past his normal nap duration and make him stay up till his usual bed time… Even though we could see how tired he was. He only took 2 days to get back into Perth time but we took over a week to get sorted…..
Kids are funny little creatures!!!
Oh I am feeling for you lovely. We did that hawaii flight two years in a row when our youngest was 2 then 3. Flight over was an overnighter and a nightmare. We stupidly thought because it was nighttime that they would sleep. Nope. Wrong. We also found out the little guy suffers from motion sickness… That was fun. Take 2 changes of clothes for both of you and lots of wipes! Xx
Sorry, I had a good laugh at your article. And it will come to bite me in the bum as I’m taking my 22 month old to Malaysia in Nov (with my mum so an extra pair of hands thank god). And I agree, why are Peppa Pig episodes so short. My husband used some sort of software to join up multiple episodes so one video ran for like 2 hours or so on the IPad.
Don’t stress to much, who cares what the others think, you’re doing your best and you’ll never see the other passengers after anyways.
I’ve taken my almost 3 year old daughter to the UK 3 times (soon to be 4). Solo every time. She was 3 months, 18 months and 31 months. The second journey was the worst by far – she had never watched TV, was crazy overtired and wouldn’t sit still. Screamed for 20 hours straight and only slept in the airport!!
At 31 months I had trained her in the art of watching Frozen and gave her doctor prescribed vallergan (yes -I’m one of those).
Look around at all the perfectly behaved children on the flight…. I bet they’ve all had a little something to help them be calm ?
Oh god you’re brave Pauline. I couldn’t have done the flight alone. And it’s when they’re overtired that they’re at their worst. JUST GO TO SLEEP!!!!
I’m seriously considering Phenergan for our next flight. I mean, I’d be doing it for the good of the other passengers. It’s like a community service. Does that make me a bad mother??
She actually dealt with the time change better than I did because the vallergan had made her sleep at the right time.
Having a crying distressed toddler made me a much worse mother than giving her some vallergan. It can make some kids hyper so make sure you try before you fly!
My mantra has always been “It’s only a day. So long as we get there, we’ll probably never see these people again.”
10 hours….that’s no way to up the ante….board a flight to Europe and keep him seated for what seems like a million hours lol !!
He looks to angelic to have caused any fuss!!!!
Don’t let the photos fool you. We only snapped pics of him when he was still and quiet because we wanted to preserve those memories. The phone did not come out when he was thrashing wildly. No need to remember that!
okay so ditto to all the above. Esp. toddler falling into a DEEP sleep just as the plane lands. Repeating the mantra ‘this too shall pass – he will be a teenager and turn into a comatose member of the family – one day’ will occupy you while the plane takes off. Then good parenting techniques be dammed. Lollies, headphones, iPhone ( they can be on for the whole flight now), load up games, dancing animals – audio book. Is your ten hour flight a day flight. That is the best option hands down. And yes it is airline habit to ‘cluster’ families at the back of the ‘bus’. It’s a bummer but in years to come you will be grateful. When you actually can sit there and read your book. Hang in there. Or book hubby and toddler on one flight and you join them later. Lol. Xx
No it’s a night flight! Going to Hawaii. Yikes! Thinking of asking the check-in desk to seat me somewhere way up front for the flight and putting the boys way down the back. That’ll work, right?
Reading this gave me anxiety for my up and coming SOLO trip with the toddler. Help me!
You did an amazing job at capturing his stillness though, he looks like a sweet angel child in all of your photos.
Oh no Krissy, solo sounds scary!! And yes, all the photos make him look perfect. Because I certainly wasn’t taking any photos of the wild animal on board!!
A ten hour flight next, are you fucking mental?!
I am still trying to get over the mental scarring inflicted after our recent flying-with-toddler experience. We had close family decide to get married interstate recently (don’t get me started on destination weddings…), so we packed up the 2yr old & 2mo. The flight itself was only 2.5hrs, but it felt like it went for a month. The toddler’s grizzling upon boarding gradually progressed into an almighty tantrum that paused momentarily when we gave up hope of calming him down & eventually he to sleep sprawled on the floor under our feet… for 5 minutes before the bloody flight attendant told us we would need to buckle him in. Waking him REALLY roused the beast & he reached a zenith of a platinum scale meltdown about 20minutes before the plane landed. Think thrashing, animalistic mess. The flight home was much the same. The newlyweds will soon be taking off to live across the other side of the world, and in my husband’s words, “be FUCKED if we are going to visit them when they move.” Amen, brother.
Thud kept trying to lie down on the floor too! I seriously thought about leaving him down there but the flight attendants kept wandering past and eyeing him off. Cue similar thrashing animalistic mess….
OMG – how stressful for you. Firstly – I can echo the whole “put all the kids and families together’ experience – was the same for us. My parents – row 4 – us row 36 amidst kids and toddlers (mine are 15 and 12). So it’s not your imagination on that one!
I know you’ll be dreading the next flight – and 10 hours – yikes. Lots of running around the airport lounge before you board!!
Yes, we’ll be running laps of the airport before the flight. Run baby run!!
Exhausting. Exhausting. Exhausting.
In a nutshell, WINE.
The air hostess even offered me one without me asking. I looked desperate.
I got NOTHING except dirty looks because he was climbing up the chairs.
Toddlers suck on plane flights. Like, big time. But you already know that. My family lives in WA. I live in Qld. It’s like hell when I have to get on the plane with my young son to visit the other side of Australia! I have no tips sorry. I actually hope I get on the plane with heaps of parents and young kids just so I can hope they are going to be worse than us. Wine helps too. Heaps of it. But your preggers, so that tip is useless. Sorry!
Oh lord how I wanted some wine Kelly. Actually I could have done with some hard spirits.
And I was searching for the kids who were worse behaved but I couldn’t find them. I think it was the small blonde child who kept bouncing on his seat and trying to climb the walls…. And that was my kid.
Ouch! Well, as you said, the flight is always over….eventually. Just don’t fly again until he’s like 15. Then I bet you he won’t make a noise. He probably won’t even talk to you.
Oh my GOSH!! My worst nightmare Lauren. We did a 2 month old newborn all the way to Canada and back. Which was insane in its own way. Pumping on the plane and pumping while waiting during the lay over. Sterilising bottles in an airport bathroom. Waiting for 15 minutes for a airline employee to use the parents only room in the other airport. We think he may have been eating lunch in there. What an asshole.
But I think The Thud takes the award for cray cray. Charlie would be the same now (same age). He is awesome at public tantrums. I was trying not to have a very public meltdown myself in Bunnings today. Imagine if they gave The Thud his own mini trolley to push up and down the isles of the plane? That would have kept him busy for 3 minutes until he started jamming it into people’s legs right.
Oh that sounds like torture Jess. But I think I’d rather do the newborn flight because at least they can’t move.
Thud doesn’t tantrum in public usually, there was just something about the plane that made him a bit feral. He was ok at times but there were other times when he just blew his stack completely and it was REALLY UNFUN.
Oh dear, let’s face it flying with toddlers is never going to be fun. I’ve flown a fair bit with both of my boys and find bribery is the way to go. I also bought them each a toy plane at the airport before our last flight ($40 later…) and it was the BEST money I’ve spent. Yep it probably annoyed the people around us with the noise it made but compared to a 2 & 3 year old whinging and screaming I know what I’d prefer! Good luck with your 10hr flight, I’m currently bracing myself to fly down to Melbourne next month with both of the boys on my own….
We had planes, trains and automobiles! A whole case of toys. Seriously, we were so stocked up it was ridiculous. He wanted NOTHING except his freedom.
Good luck for your flight Lauren. I shudder at the thought of having to do it alone.
Our son has been on three holidays abroad in his 2.5 years (4 if u count in utero) He’s been very good and mostly slept for them all! I thought the last one at 2yrs old would be worst be we bought a slim fit car seat for the plane and it was great. Strapped him in and told him he has to stay in because it’s not safe to get our and he was mostly fine. Bit tantrummy towards the end – boredom I presume but otherwise snacks and books/chatting kept him happy 🙂 Sorry if I sound smug!
I don’t think I can talk to you right now Mel. #seethingjealousy
Lol, sorry! Hope ur feeling better now. Also I wasn’t pregnant while travelling with him so it was always going to be more difficult for u. Hope all is going well with the pregnancy and Thud is letting u get some rest, does he go to daycare now?
There is no such thing as an easy flight with a toddler. My kids often (as in 90% of the time) nod off 10 minutes before landing. So fucking convenient. All the extra kid luggage and then hauling their sleeping ass off the plane too!
Oh he fell asleep as soon as we got in the car for the ride to the hotel. SO HELPFUL.