Screaming the Friendly Skies

“I’ve been watching you for a while now, and you’re a good dad.”  This tip of the cap came from a total stranger at the Boston Logan Airport roughly one week ago, as we waited with dozens of other people to start boarding for our 6.5 hour flight to LA.  Little Miss is a seasoned traveler before the age of four, and she’s already been a trooper.  We’ve been at the airport for over an hour, and Little Miss Junior is not faring as well as her big sister.  It’s roughly her bed time, and all this waiting around is not much to her liking.  She’s letting me know.  She’s letting everyone at gate 18 of the United Terminal know.  She’s letting most people in gates 16-20 know as well (just for good measure), and many of the dozens of impatient travelers are secretly praying they are not within 3 rows of us.

Red and I have been taking turns attempting to placate Screamy Smurf.  I had just been hip holding her, and standing at the glass windows to show her the airplanes coming and going.  She grew bored of this and slapped me in the head.  Then she started to scream some more.  Then she put her head down on my shoulder because she’s tired and it’s her bed time.  Then she leaned back so far you’d think she was back diving off a platform, came back up, looked at me, and promptly grabbed my nose hard and twisted.  I trudged back to Red with a vocal Screamy in tow when this older gentlemen offered me his 2 cents on my parenting.  I appreciated his comment, but I can’t help wondering that Dad’s have it easy.

Michael Chabon clarifies this notion in his book Manhood for Amateurs… on how there is a ‘low bar for parenting’ when it comes to Dad’s.  If we’re in public alone with our children and nobody is bleeding out their eyes it’s a moral victory.  Red is doing the same things that I am, but she’s doing them for longer, often by herself, often with both kids… and rarely (if ever) receives praise.  This is certainly a double standard.

We took two flights to and from Los Angeles in the last week with both our children.  I can safely say that Little Miss Junior was HORRIBLE on both of those flights. On the flight out to Los Angeles, I was able to coddle her to sleep with a bottle and she passed out about 30 minutes into the six and half hour journey.  Did I mention that it’s a SIX and a HALF hour flight?  No?  Well it is.  That’s a long time.  A very long time.  LMJ slept for about 2 hours on my lap.  I sat frozen in time, afraid to breathe as every second ticked by and the nervous passengers around us probably forgot about the screaming kid making all that noise pre-boarding… suckers.  Eventually she began to stir, and then she woke up.

We cajoled, we threw snacks at her.  We shuffled up and down the aisles when possible… and for upwards of 2 hours she screamed at us.  We played ‘pass the screamy’ for the last hour of the flight… alternating turns of holding and gently rocking her.  She’d get close to sleep and decide that she’d rather be angry and screaming than dozing and it would start all over again.  Enemies were made.  I’m sure some twenty-somethings sitting within earshot felt vindicated in their own personal decisions not to have children.  A screaming one year old is marvelous contraception.  In the end she passed out when we eventually got to the hotel … which happened right after picking up baggage (where we waited an extra 20 minutes cuz nobody on United told anyone that strollers get sent to a different claim location than luggage – I hate flying), then the airport shuttle to rental car, then the line for a rental car, then the LONG rental car transaction (NO I DON’T WANT YOUR STUPID INSURANCE OPTIONS), then the install of car seats while mom and dad are running on fumes and even Little Miss is tired… then off to the hotel… all of which seemed endless after a six and half hour flight.  Did I mention our flight was six and a … oh, ok, just checking.

Our flight home was not much different… except this time Red was a warrior, and brought the ergo baby carrier on board… she buttoned up screamy and literally stood in the aisle rocking her to sleep for a VERY long time.  The only saving grace on the return flight was that it’s shorter.  Bless you trade winds, bless you.  LMJ may have fallen asleep on me for 2 hours on the first flight, but Red rocked out on the return.  She took one for the team.  She rocked back and forth, she cajoled, she played, she sang.  She was super mom.  Nobody said anything to her.  I’ve been watching you for a while now Red, and you’re a great mom.

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