Waiting to get on a plane at Reagan National Airport last week, I listened to a TED Talk given by Ric Elias. Ric was one of the passengers on Flight 1549, the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in 2009. His brief, moving talk describes what went through his mind during the landing and the lessons he learned from that experience (if you have 5 minutes, click on the link and listen). Perhaps a plane crash wasn’t the best pre-flight topic choice but the lessons he shared were well worth hearing: “I no longer try to be right. I choose to be happy.” “Above all, the only goal I have in life is to be a good dad.”
Thankfully, I’ve never had a plane experience that comes close to Elias’ but several flights and their lessons came to mind after hearing his. First, was the flight my husband M and I took home from California with 13 day old baby K. We had just survived 12 days and nights in a hotel room. Most significantly K had survived while in the care of two terrified adults 3000 miles away from anyone they knew. We now all needed to get through the 6 hour flight home. M and I created a precise timeline with tasks and responsibilities. We discussed how we would handle the rental car drop off. We discussed the check-in process in detail. We discussed our pre-boarding and seat assignment strategies. We stuck to our plan and K did her part by sleeping most of the way. The plane touched down at Logan and we were home.
I took away two lessons from that flight. Lesson #1 – With enough proper planning, one can avoid all problems while traveling with a small child. (See next flight for just one example of that lesson’s flaws.) Lesson #2 – I chose very wisely in marrying my husband.
When K was 1, we flew to Florida to visit my mother-in-law. In compliance with our master planning list, we gave K milk in a bottle to alleviate any pressure on her ears during takeoff. We tried this again on the return trip but takeoff was delayed. She drank a bottle before we left and then another one during takeoff. A short while later, I took K towards the bathroom to change her diaper. I was about halfway there when my senses were suddenly and dramatically assaulted. There was the collective gasp from the people in the rows around us, the sound of liquid splattering all over the floor, the wetness on my back. I turned and took in the scene – the recently consumed milk on the floor, on shoes, on pant legs, the horrified looks on people’s faces, and it must be said – the smell. M watched this all unfold from his seat but within seconds was beside us saying “what can I do, what can I do?” He helped the flight attendant clean up the mess while I cleaned up K and me in the bathroom. Walking past everyone to our seats gave new meaning to “the walk of shame.”
That flight provided me with three lessons. Lesson #1 – There is no such thing as proper planning while traveling with a small child. (I was learning.) Lesson #2 – Strangers should be grateful if all a baby has done to disrupt a flight is cry the whole way. Lesson #3 – I absolutely chose wisely in marrying my husband.