In a time when nearly all tales of air travel double as horror stories, it seems important to tell the ones that don’t. Typically when I read blog posts detailing flights taken with children, they are chock full of less-than-helpful airport personnel, rude in-flight staff, or aggressive fellow travelers. The Internet would have you believe that there is no such thing as a pleasant flight anymore.
I feel an obligation in this climate to share my experience flying alone with my 15-month-old and not-quite-4-year-old from Virginia to New York and back. Don’t let me mislead you–it was a relatively awful few hours in both directions–but not because of the reasons so often discussed.
The whole trip got off to a grand start when I went to check us in online and realized I couldn’t reserve my toddler a seat next to me. I figured I’d be able to fix it at the gate, but then I was informed about Frank Strong’s story, and I began to worry.
As it turns out, the Delta staff was remarkably helpful and did not behave at any point as though separating us was an option. They located a seat where I was able to sit with an infant in my lap and then made sure to place my toddler in the seat next to us.
Once checked in, we headed to security. At this point I needed to put all the electronic devices away in order to send them through the scanner. This included the cell phone that my toddler was using to watch a video. I braced for the ensuing tantrum and expected plenty of eye rolls and deep sighs from the folks around us, but they did not come. In fact, the TSA agents were patient and kind and several different people took the time to come over and tell me what a good job I was doing. “You’re a great mom, we can all tell,” one woman said to me as she passed. The moment was so rife with frustration; the impact of those few encouraging words from a stranger was enormous.
As we walked to the gate, I was pushing a double stroller, carrying a large backpack, a diaper bag, and a purse. Before each of our flights we were stopped by at least a dozen people who all offered to help. “I got it, but thank you,” I replied, grateful for the offers, but feeling that there wasn’t much anyone could really do to help.
On the flights themselves, people continued to impress and amaze me. When my older son began wailing on the descent into Virginia because he had a cold and his ears were hurting, not a single person gave us a hard time. Several people even tried to help him alleviate his discomfort by showing him different ear-popping tricks, and the flight crew came by with extra water. When he then fell asleep and I realized that he would need to be carried off the plane, three other passengers were there, offering to carry my baby, hold my bags, and get my stroller from the pile of bags checked at the gate. This time, I gladly accepted.
I would never describe flying solo with two children as a particularly enjoyable way to get from point A to point B, but the entire experience could have been much worse had it not been for the benevolence of the people we encountered along the way..It served as an important reminder of just how far a kind word can go and how much the offer of a helping hand is appreciated, even when it isn’t accepted. I won’t always be the mother traveling alone with young children, but I will always remember the way it felt when I was. My faith in humanity is tested often; this trip has done a lot to restore it.