"Excuse me. Is there anything you can do about him?"
"If I knew, don't you think I'd be doing it??"
"Did you bring anything to help him sleep?"
"You know, I forgot my Ambien at home."
"Well, is he going to scream like that for the next 7 hours?"
"I don't know. Are you going to be ugly for the next 7 hours? Because I'm pretty sure there's nothing we can do about that either."
In my head, this is how the conversation went when the lady sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder, 45 minutes into our 8 hour flight coming back from France. In actuality, she said all those same things, and I sat stunned and only managed to mumble an "I'm sorry," as Jon Jon squirmed and screamed in my lap. The good news, is that soon after this, Jon Jon took a nap and proceeded to be as well behaved as you could ever expect an 18 month-old to be on such a long flight. 3 weeks prior on our flight over to France, I can't same the same thing.
He let me put his little earphones on, and sat quietly for about 1/2 an hour. This isn't so bad, I thought. Those were the only peaceful 30 minutes of the flight. I tried everything to help Jon Jon go to sleep. We put his pajamas on, read his favorite nighttime books, and gave him his favorite stuffed animal, Panda, and his blankie to snuggle. But he was just too excited to settle down. Then, he puked. Fear number one, check. Katie and I tried to strip him of his clothes without getting puke on ourselves. We wiped him down with baby wipes, and sadly had to wrap his PJ's, blankie and panda in a plastic bag. So much for the bedtime routine.
Not too long after, Jon Jon pooped. Fear number two, check. And not a neat little poop, but a nice and messy one. Have you ever seen what they call a "changing table" on an airplane? Airplane bathrooms are barely big enough for an adult to use, but they had this fold down plastic shelf that you're supposed to put your baby on. Yeah, right. So there's Katie and I both crammed into the bathroom with Jon Jon standing on the "changing table", banging his head on the slanted ceiling, as we did our best to clean up the mess. I joked with Katie that we would be forever bonded as people are when they've been through a traumatic experience together.
I tried every trick in my suitcase to keep him happy - new toys, stickers, books, more movies - but Jon Jon was now too overtired to even function. As we got close to Madrid - our layover point - it was about 2 am EST and Jon Jon still had not slept. He began crying and screaming and didn't stop until we got off the plane. I am sure there were people plotting our death, and shooting us dirty looks, but I was beyond caring and just trying to get through it. I remembered the advice a friend gave about flying with small children, she wisely told me, you just have to know that it's going to be awful, but it will end eventually, and you will all survive.
When we landed in Madrid, and I placed a sweaty and delirious Jon Jon into his stroller, he was asleep in about 5 seconds. At that point I had pretty much decided that I would call Jon at home and tell him to send the rest of our belongings to France, as there was no way in hell I was getting back on a plane and we would now make France our permanent residence.
Our vacation was amazing, stupendous, fantabulous, and then some. And as our flight home grew closer, I worked hard to not dwell on the idea that it was possible for things to be even worse. So when that "lady" tapped me on the shoulder at the start of our journey home, I knew it would be a rough ride. But miraculously it wasn't. In fact the only other dirty look we received was when Jon Jon was laughing too loud. Seriously people, get over it.
Am I eager to jump on a plane anytime soon? No. Am I the only mom to ever have a horrible experience with a toddler on a plane. NO! But I do feel a little more confident as a mom who can possibly "handle it." Terrible twos? Temper tantrums? Bring it on. I've been through an international boot camp and am ready for you.