Baby Steps with Behavior on Planes

R, during happier times en route.

R, during happier times en route.

The meltdown came with about 75 minutes left in our flight home. Somewhere over the Pacific, thousands of miles east of Honolulu, where the flight began, R, our baby, went berserk.

We weren’t entirely sure what set her off. Perhaps it was exhaustion. Perhaps it was a slight-but-noticeable change in cabin pressure. Perhaps it was the sight of the setting sun from above the clouds, a beautiful-but-blinding spectacle that, to her 20-month-old eyes, must have been bright and shiny and cool and scary all at the same time.

Whatever triggered the freak-out, the poor girl went nuts. I mean, NUTS.

Shrieks. Tears. Kicks. Slaps. At one point, she was crying so hard we thought she might puke. At another point, she “went boneless” in the middle of the aisle like only babies can. (Some of you might call this “pancaking.” If you’re David Stern, perhaps you prefer the term, “flopping.”)

For 15 minutes, we were that family—the one with the wailing kid, the one that family travel-haters love to hate.

In the middle of the insanity, I looked up to count dirty looks. I lost track after 16.

And they were all unjustified. It’s not like we were just sitting there drinking free Mai-Tais, blatantly abrogating our responsibility as parents. I tried shushing R first, and when it became evident she didn’t want Daddy, I handed her to Powerwoman and tended to L (who was having a psychosomatic/jealousy freak-out of her own). My wife took the baby and walked to the rear of the airplane, where she bopped her in the galley until calmness returned.

Yes, my baby was a raving lunatic for 15 minutes during our flight home from Hawaii. You know why? BECAUSE SHE IS A BABY. As I’ve written previously, when you fly with children, it almost a given that, at some point during the flight, they will act like children. This is not a catastrophe. It’s biology. It’s reality.

It’s also a perfect reason to focus on the positives. Little R, the object of 15 minutes of ire, also was a little angel for 4 hours and 15 minutes of that same flight. By my math, this means she cried for 5.5 percent of the trip home.

For any parent, this kind of performance is a resounding success. And until the kiddos are old enough to know better, we’ll take all the forward progress we can get.

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