Last night just got added to my list of top ten worst parenting moments ever. A good half of them revolve around air travel, and this was no exception. See, we went to Paris for Thanksgiving, and the only flight back to Yekaterinburg from Frankfurt takes off at 8:30 pm. It's a 4.5 hour flight. I'll do the math for you - we arrived at 1:00 am Paris/Frankfurt time, which is 6 am Yekat time. It's bad, people. Just bad. Jack fell asleep (as usual) about an hour before landing, after crying and whining and being a general pain in the ass for the three hours prior. Then he woke up while we were landing and shrieked like a banshee - a combo of ear pain from a cold and just being plain old tired and pissed off. I didn't blame him, but I'm pretty sure the other 100 or so passengers did.
In the face of doing this all again in three weeks, only to a far worse extent (5 hour flight, followed by 2.5 hour layover, followed by 10 hour flight, followed by 2 hour layover, followed by 2 hour flight), I've come to realize that what is truly so horrible about air travel with a small child is not the child itself; it's the constant fear that I'm pissing off the people around me. But here's the thing: no amount of cajoling, yelling, bargaining, pleading, bribing or sobbing helplessly seems to make a difference when it comes to Jack. Yes, I was once one of those judgmental people who watched dazed parents sit idly by while their child had a tantrum mid-flight. "Why don't they DO something?" I would hiss to John, who would nod in agreement that when we were parents, we'd at least smack our kids around a little if they insisted on behaving like monsters. (I kid, I kid. Mostly). Hindsight, my friends. Hindsight.
The worst part is that there are other PARENTS out there who are just as awful and judgmental as the non-parents. Google "ways to help toddler sleep on airplane" (not that I've done this or anything) and you'll find all kinds of parenting message boards where one poor dope asks the question, clearly hoping for some magical solution like Benadryl, and is then bombarded with stories from mothers who have traveled around the world non-stop for eight days, who when not nursing their twin three-year-olds - who of course sleep for 24 hours straight - are entertaining their precious children with handmade puppets and educational flashcards or feeding them snacks of raw granola and fresh squeezed carrot juice. How dare you even think of drugging your child! The horror!
Let me tell you something - the only reason NOT to drug your child on a plane is that it may have the cruelly ironic side effect of making your child hyperactive. Trust me, I've tried it. And Jack is either one of those kids that responds poorly to Benadryl, or he's just freaking hyperactive when it comes to airplanes. (Considering I give him allergy meds on a semi-regular basis for actual allergies, and he usually sleeps like a log, I'm leaning toward the latter).
So what is a Foreign Service parent (or any parent who has to travel with their child every now and then on a flight longer than two hours) supposed to do? I'll tell you what THIS Foreign Service parent is going to do: make like all those glassy-eyed, frazzle-haired parents I used to judge and not do a damn thing. The other passengers may hate me for it, but I'm pretty sure my blood pressure - and John - will thank me in the end.