Last Wednesday Addie and I flew to New England to visit my family.  When I booked our trip I didn’t buy Addison her own seat because I didn’t have to.  As far as the airlines are concerned, anyone under two is an infant and can ride on an adult’s lap.  Plus, the economy sucks and who in their right mind would pay for two tickets when they could just pay for one?  But that was over a month ago and now, on the other side of that experience, I know exactly why someone flying with an 18 month old should go ahead and spring for the extra seat.

This was not my first rodeo.  I’ve flown plenty of times with Addison both on my own and with Scott.  Sure, it’s easier when you have two extra hands to deal with all of the baby equipment and bags, but if you’re well organized and have a plan for each step of your trip, it’s really not all that difficult to navigate alone.  I was nervous but optimistic in the days leading up to the flight.  I had been collecting new toys, books and stickers for the carry on bag.  I knew exactly which snacks and drinks I would have on hand (all of Addie’s favorites).  I even had a back-up battery for the portable DVD player so we were covered if she just had to watch Dora the Explorer for four straight hours.

Oh, how I wish she only wanted to watch Dora for four straight hours.  My first mistake (after deciding not to buy Addison her own seat) was to take the DVD player out of my bag while we were still sitting on the runway.  I just wanted to have it ready to play once we were up in the air and the captain had approved the use of portable electronic devices.  Try explaining that one to an 18 month old.  You can watch Dora…eventually.  In the meantime please just sit here and look at the DVD player tucked into the seat pocket in front of you. I tried to distract her with a magna-doodle, coloring books and stickers.  The fit she threw over the damn DVD player was one for the record books.   When people started to get curious about exactly what I was doing to my child to make those noises come out of her body, I gave up the fight.  I broke the rules of air travel and turned the DVD player on just to make the screaming stop.

Addison was cool with this until drink service started and she saw the flight attendants walking around the plane.  It was like she didn’t, until that moment, realize that there was walking allowed on this flight.  And since she likes to walk she wanted to get down and practice that in the aisle.  She screamed and writhed and punched me (along the poor soul sitting to our right) until I also lost it and asked her in a not-so-nice voice to kindly get her shit together.  Fast.

It was then that a flight attendant from first-class approached us and with big, kind eyes leaned in and quietly asked if there was anything I needed.  I just stared at her thinking of all of the things that I needed in that moment and how none of them was  something that she could help me with.  Except a Bloody Mary.  Instead I weakly shook my head and lied, “No, thanks.  We’re fine.”

Addison thankfully, mercifully, settled down and slept for the last hour of the flight.  Still, I departed the plane in an exceedingly foul mood and fought the urge to cancel my return ticket.  At that point I would rather drive the 1,500 miles back to Texas than go through another flight with Addison.

Luckily, our return trip was nothing like the first.  It seems as though all of the stars aligned to create the perfect conditions for flying with a toddler.  Addison, sick and teething, had woken up at 5 AM the morning we were scheduled to fly home and could barely keep her eyes open by the time we got to the airport.  The plane was empty and, as luck would have it, Addie would be able to fly home strapped into her car seat.  Since she couldn’t breathe through her nose she was hopped up on Benadryl.  Addie had been on a hunger strike all week and decided to end it when we got to the airport, wanting to eat everything in sight.  All of these things resulted in Addison sleeping soundly for almost the entire flight, even through the landing.  I didn’t know what to do with myself so I slept too.

I hope someone can learn from my mistakes.  My best advice to nervous parents flying with toddlers:   Don’t be cheap.  Buy the extra seat and bring a car seat.

*Not really