Child Air Travel: The moment you realize that your tot isn’t the difficult one.


We traveled overseas twice in my son’s life. The first airplane ride was actually somewhat easy considering the events that took place which can be revisited here. This last trip to Switzerland was a little more of a life lesson that I never would have thought we’d be having. It began when we boarded the plane. 

The flight was full. It was the end of the day and security was long and slow. We were so excited and jittery about our flight that we arrived at the terminal early. My son Abram introduced himself to everyone he saw with his usual charm, “Hi I’m Abram, what’s your name?” They would respond and he would quickly reach out his hand say, “Hi (name), nice to meet you” and smile as big as he possibly can while shaking their hand approximately 3 times. We smiled as we watched the boarding of the plan, examining passengers  to see if our group will be the only group with children. I know the stigma with children and planes, especially long trips like ours but I’d been prepping my son for weeks by then and just wanted the experience to be at the very least tolerable.




We were not able to get a seat with my husband so as we walked towards the back of the plane, I methodically counted rows to catch a glimpse of our middle row mate. This point of this story is very much as dramatic as I portray it because for some reason in a situation like this I always hope that we are seated next to a kind person- as if I could tell just by looking at them. Once we established our row, my son walks in and up to a woman who I can only describe as older and nicely put together. As he opens his mouth and politely says, “Hi I’m Abram, what’s-” she cuts him off, looks at me and says, “Is he sitting here? Is he quiet?”

Let me begin by saying that every stereo type of motherly protection overcame my body like a warm sensation of “Excuse me?” and “What did you just say?”.  If I had been wearing earrings I would have had to use every ounce of muscle to prevent me of taking them off but instead I said “yes” with a faded smile and a whole lot of side eye. This well put lady began to exclaim to the other passengers that she could NOT sit next to a child because she has been awake for 24 hrs and needed rest before arriving to Switzerland for work. She got up and saw the family behind her and told anyone that would listen that this would not work for her. The flight attendant offered her a seat in the back where no children were seated and she responded that it would further delay her already delayed trip. In the most stern and motherly way I said, “Well, you are going to have to deal with it.” At that moment I wasn’t sure if I was speaking to myself, my child or the woman who was so publicly against sitting next to him.

My husband/my hero chimed in and offered her a seat that was again, away from the children, which would have worked in our favor as my husband could then sit with us. She agreed moved and came back 5 minutes later to reclaim her original seat as she felt was more comfortable and roomier than his. I asked her if she was kidding and she responded with, “If you’ve lived my life of flight delays this last 24 hrs, you’d understand.”  I looked at my son who at up to this point hadn’t made a peep and thought to myself, this has to be the first “villian” he’s encountered. What do I do or say to show him that this was not an okay behavior from an adult? I looked up as she settled in her seat again and said, “We all have difficult things in our lives and it’s the way you behave that matters.” I looked down at my son and said, “Thank you for being such a great listener Abram.”

I’d like to say that she learned her lesson at least for the next 8 hrs in flight but unfortunately she did not. She eyed my son every time he moved and he was so scared to make her mad he attached himself to me while I coldly stared at her. He was as still as most adults in that situation, never raising his voice and politely maneuvering himself within his seat.  I even had to loudly (and passive aggressively) say to him that I wouldn’t let her do anything to him when she huffed that his leg touched her arm rest as he was getting ready to sleep. I loudly thanked him again for being a great boy when we arrived to Zurich. We talked about her a few days later as I tried to make him understand that she was having a bad day and not being very nice to us. She taught us both a great deal that flight and I was the one who learned the lesson of trusting my son because after all that prepping it was not him who needed the discipline, it was me. Days later, as we were visiting the observation deck of Mount Jungfrau, a gentleman that Abram introduced himself to at the airport recognized him. He told us that meeting Abram had made his day, the same day he was so unfairly rejected by another adult. A stranger.  A life lesson indeed.

Now for those of you that feel like she didn’t get what she deserve: the two children seated behind us… well when one wasn’t crying the other was kicking the back of her seat. I definitely do not think she got the sleep she was hoping for. 

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