I’m planning a trip back to South Africa next month and have been debating whether to take a kid with me or not. I’ve pretty much decided not, but all this thought of travel reminded me of my extra special travel with kids trick that I wanted to share:
When Max was about 9 months old we took a trip back to South Africa. It’s a huge trip for even an adult. After a flight from Denver to Atlanta, you’re then on a plane for about 18 hours, sometimes with an hour stop or plane change in Dakar, Senegal. No easy feat for most. It’s ripe for trouble, right?
On this flight, an older South African woman caught my eye even before we departed because she yelled at her husband to go and use the bathroom. He meekly obeyed. Just after we were seated, another woman, traveling on her own, moved to a seat behind Darian’s. I don’t know anyone in their right mind who actually moves closer to people with kids, but that might be an indication of her mental state. First she started bashing on Darian’s seat when he reclined it. You’re flying toilet class lady, there is no room for anyone! And then just as Max was falling asleep, he started to cry a little. He probably cried for about 15 minutes in all, but this lady lost it. She stood up and yelled at me, saying “Why don’t you take him for a walk”. To which I repied that this made no sense to me, since I was trying to get him to sleep!
Out of desperation, I got up to change his diaper, and out of the corner of my eye I could see the older yelling Afrikaans woman from earlier heading towards me, of course. I booked it for the toilets, but she managed to intercept me, and started telling me that Max was teething, and that I should give him, of all things, Brandy! I tried to explain that he wasn’t teething, and that no, his ears weren’t hurting him. He was simply a tired 9-month old on an 18 hour flight. But this lady was resilient. She was a boere bulldog and wasn’t going to give up. Thankfully a male flight attendant had been watching the interaction and came to my rescue, telling the woman to leave me alone. As he escorted me to the back galley of the plane, I burst into tears and vowed that I was never again going to let people bully me like that again!
And so, before we took the flight home, I developed a plan that I still use to this day if necessary. Once everyone is seated, just before we take off, I stand up and give a little speech. I tell my fellow passengers that we are traveling with 3 kids, and that we have every vice available to make this a pleasant trip for all. But in case things go a little awry, I do have some earplugs if anyone would like them (and people actually do get up and take some!) and if things get really bad, come and ask me for some valium. Nobody has, to date, but it always elicits a laugh. What this crazy little speech does, is cut people off at the pass. I’ve let you know that we have a bunch of kids, and that we’re cognizant and respectful of everyone around us, and that we ask you to be the same. And if you have a problem with that, well then, it’s your problem. And it works. It really does. I’m comfortable. They know what to expect. And don’t say I didn’t warn you!
One of my proudest parenting moments ever came as we deplaned after a trip to Africa with all 3 kids. We were collecting all our goodies at our seat and a woman grabbed onto my arm and said, “I have to tell you something”. My heart dropped. “You guys are a brilliant example of how to handle kids on a plane. Well done”. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried a bit.