A woman recently told me that years ago, when she was about to take her two babies on a long plane trip, she sought out the advice of a British mother who had five children. This older and wiser mom was a seasoned traveler with children--back and forth from London to the U.S.
"How do you do it?" she asked, seeking advice on entertaining children on board.
Very composed, and in the most British of accents, the woman responded, "Dahling, I strap them in and I drug them!"
Recently, I took JetBlue flight from Boston to San Francisco, marking the start of a vacation to wine country to celebrate the end of chemo and radiation for breast cancer. Mike and I boarded the plane at 8AM, settled into our seats after recovering from a bit of overhead bag tension, and even though we had not started drinking yet (we had a very strict no drinking before 10AM policy on this trip) we took a deep breath, and melted into our seats for the six hour trip across country. Our vacation had begun.
It was before we had our seat belts buckled that the child behind us began to cry. I looked over and smiled at the mother. I felt a little bad for her. She was traveling alone, with two kids, a fidgety preschooler and his younger sister. I get that it is not easy traveling solo with young kids. But it wasn't easy for us either. It turned out that we had 6 full hours of listening to this kid scream. Six full hours of full on, baby screaming. An hour in, I was no longer smiling at the mom. I was glaring.
Mid-flight, after about three hours of non-stop screaming, I heard the guy behind me blurt out on his way to the bathroom, "I don't think I can take it much more." Any one of us in the surrounding 6 rows could have pounced. That baby was lucky to have made it to California alive.
JetBlue recently recognized how awful it is to have a baby screaming during one's flight by offering a mother's day promotion for screaming babies, where 140 passengers received a free ticket to anywhere due to 4 screaming babies on one flight (and it appears that they only had to scream for a little while, so what the heck, JetBlue? Got anything for me?)
The Flybabies video shows a young mom packing up all her baby paraphernalia getting ready for the flight. She explains (as if we didn't know) that there is a lot more to think about when you fly with a baby: "Do I have everything ready? Have I forgotten anything?" she wonders while packing her bag.
"No! No! No! You don't have everything!" I yelled at my computer, "Lady, you forgot the most important thing...You forgot the Dimetapp!"
Now I am fully aware that this post will get me hate mail of the sort I got when I wrote that it was okay that my 15 ½ year old yellow Lab had finally kicked the bucket (my favorite: "you should never have been allowed to procreate!"). But I really am wondering why parents don't drug their kids any more before they get on a plane. When did dispensing Dimetapp pre flight become so un-PC? A dose of yummy, grape, over the counter, decongestant...does that really hurt?
That used to be standard operating procedure. Everyone I knew drugged their kids before a long flight. Even the moms that made their own baby food and used cloth diapers drugged their kids. Hell, it might have even been pediatrician recommended (or is that just wishful thinking?)
"Did you remember to bring the Dimetapp?" Mike would ask on our way to the airport. I'd give him that ring around the collar look. Would I forget the Dimetapp? It would be akin to forgetting my birth control pills.
We'd check to make sure the plane was on time (timing is critical.)
"Mike, I think little Eddie is getting the sniffles!"
"Honey, what do you suppose we should do?"
"I think it's best if we give him some Dimetapp before the flight!"
"I do believe you are right!"
And within an hour, that kid was sleeping soundly on my lap, and everyone around me breathed a big sigh of relief.
It wasn't as if we didn't have standards. Boston to New York or Washington, we could handle. Boston to Fort Lauderdale was borderline, Boston to LA a no brainer. If they were under the legal drug age (6 months?) we didn't risk it. If they could otherwise amuse themselves by reading, they had aged out.
And I do believe to this day that to administer Dimetapp before flying with children is a public service. It is not only good for the kid, who will fly without misery and very clear nostrils, but it is good for many rows of innocent travelers who do not wish to be subjected to miserable, screaming children. Stress is a killer, you know.
And that baby on the way to San Francisco that cried for 6 hours? You know exactly when that baby finally stopped crying, don't you? As we pulled up to the gate, that poor mother looked like she had been in world war III, and that baby was sleeping peacefully in her arms. As we were leaving, I couldn't help myself.
"Next time... try Dimetapp," I whispered to her.
And for me? I think it may be time to splurge on some of those very expensive, noise canceling headphones. And JetBlue, for sure, a free ticket to anywhere certainly would have helped.