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First Flight with the Kids

Remember those all those fun and happy trips, traveling with your kids? No? Well, don't worry, you're not alone. A postcard from Susan Kepner, who writes to us from Berkeley, California.

First Flight with the Kids
by Susan Kepner

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Dear Rudy,

Three of the kids are taking off for somewhere within the next month. One is going to the Bahamas to swim with dolphins. One is going to Paris...to go to Paris. And one is going to Frankfurt to pick up a German Shepherd for a friend. All grown up, and flying around the world on their own. And today I am remembering their first jet-set experience. Three kids under three, on a fourteen-hour flight from Bangkok, where we then lived, to Tel Aviv. From there, we would go on to Wisconsin to visit Grandma and Grandpa. It was to be our first trip back home -- and after it, we decided that Grandma and Grandpa could come and visit us.

There we were, in the bulkhead seats we had thought would solve all our problems, trying to ignore the vicious glances of the people around us, anticipating the worst flight of their life. The theory went, my husband and I would take turns having Tom, the two year old, sleep on our laps. Julie and Nick, the one-year-olds, would occupy, respectively, the basket on the floor and the canvas hammock suspended above my husband's head. That's how it was done on Air France, 30 years ago. Or, the kids would occupy those places, so the theory went, as soon as they had had a nice dinner -- and the drugs took effect. The pediatrician had given us some medicine to spoon into them that he promised was harmless and would result in a long, sweet slumber.

The first two hours of the flight consisted of feeding, cleaning, changing, pawing through bags and crawling around on the floor to get out, put away, retrieve, or otherwise deal with diapers, baby food, bottles, toys, pajamas, socks, and the mini-bananas from Bangkok that Tom, the two-year-old, consumed by the dozen. During the third hour, he announced, "Go home now," which I suspected did not bode well for the remaining eleven hours of the flight.

Goodnight, Moon

The first big surprise was that the stuff the doctor had given us to produce the long, sweet slumber had the opposite effect on Julie, who swallowed her spoonful and immediately sprang to life like a cartoon super-heroine roaring out to quash injustice in the cartoon world. Nick, on the other hand, went down like a tree as soon as he swallowed the stuff. Stifling our guilt and fear, we rolled him into the little hammock above. Tom lolled across my lap, staring morosely at Goodnight, Moon ate four more little bananas, and finally crashed, his little cheek glued to my neck by banana pulp.

Six hours into the flight, even Julie the infant super-heroine conked out, and all was quiet. And it was then that my husband, reclining gratefully in his seat, felt a drip on his forehead...then another drip. It was coming from the hammock above. Talk about your Hobbes' choice: do you wake the baby, and let the revels begin all over again, or do you lie there in the dark and the quiet, and be peed on?

You know, Robert Benchley once wrote that there are two classes of travel: first class, and with children. I can only wonder: What was his trip like?

Savvy Resources for Flying with Kids:

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