Let me rest your fears about flying with a baby for that first time. Here's my story...
I have just returned from the first holiday I wasn’t excited about. Between Christmas and New Year, I booked us a week in March in Finland. I did this because I was annoyed about going back to work, and because I was watching an episode of The Hairy Bikers that was set in Finland, and also because I am apparently incapable of making good choices about things.
That is not a slight against Finland, by the way. Helsinki is beautiful. It is full of young families, there are loads of playgrounds and anyone with a stroller gets to ride free on public transport. Finland is incredible. I would move to Finland in a heartbeat. Instead, my lack of excitement stemmed from the fact that we somehow had to get our son there.
Flying with a baby doesn't have to be a scary thought. Relax!
Those of you with decent memories might remember the heaving anxiety we experienced simply by taking our baby on a train for the first time. But now we were sticking him on an airplane, and that is much more of a tinderbox. Trains aren’t pressurized, you see. Trains don’t require you to wear seat belts. Trains aren’t full of people who are all overwhelmingly preoccupied by the thought of their own imminent, fiery death. A crying baby on a train is an inconvenience. A crying baby on a plane, meanwhile, is hell on earth. Flying with a baby? It was a scary subject I didn't know if I wanted to explore.
I couldn’t find much solace in others. I told a relative stranger that I was nervous about taking a baby on a plane. “God,” she replied, “I hate it when they make me sit near a kid.” A parent friend told me that they keep their baby calm with crayons and coloring books, because they have one of those weird kids who doesn’t instinctively try to jam a crayon into a stranger’s ear the second you hand it to them. My mom, bless her heart, bought some toys to keep him occupied, which would have been a nice gesture if they didn’t all make a noise like history’s loudest cattery fire.
My wife spent an entire week researching ways to keep babies quiet in-flight. She came back with two equally spurious suggestions. We could distract him by gift-wrapping his toys, she said, or she could load up on a ton of medicine before boarding. This was her favorite because the drugs would seep into her milk supply and knock him out, or she would fall unconscious and I'd have to deal with everything.
When we landed, he clapped and laughed to himself.
In the end, we needn’t have worried. The kid was a dream. He watched three episodes of Teletubbies, fed and went to sleep. Then, later, when we landed, he clapped and laughed to himself. We couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome, frankly, which was handy because he got recognized from this column twice and a tantrum would have destroyed his burgeoning fame.
Plus it turns out that the whole process of catching a flight is completely different when you have kids. You have your own special security gate at the airport, staffed by the least outwardly aggressive subsection of workers. People constantly give you shortcuts and assistance without you even asking. And, while it didn’t happen for long enough for me to confidently state it as fact, I think someone at the immigration desk might have actually smiled at us. I didn’t even know they could do that.
If anything, flying is easier when you have a kid with you, because your mind is totally occupied with them. Everyone should take their kids on planes, all the time. It was a piece of cake, and it set the holiday off to the best possible start.
And then, when we were there, he called me “daddy” for the first time. That helped too.