When I mentioned to some of my friends that I was planning a trip to New York with the Popple to visit family, I got a lot of advice on how to survive a long-distance flight with a baby. This was well-meaning advice, and I’m sure most of it was very good advice for travelling with your average baby.
But the Popple…well, she always does things her own way.
What I was told: Don’t worry about the long flight. She’ll probably sleep the whole time thanks to the white noise from the engines.
What actually happened: The Popple slept for the first 40 minutes of the flight, then was wide awake for the next SIX AND A HALF HOURS.
Those six and a half hours involved the following:
- Bribing her to stay quiet with unlimited baby corn snacks.
- Walking her up and down the very narrow aisle while she pointed at other passengers.
- Watching her rip up the in-flight magazine.
- Listening to her bang my fold-down tray repeatedly.
- Lots of watch-checking, followed by lots of saying things like, “FFS – we still have to do this for another THREE HOURS?”
- WINE. (For me.)
What I was told: Buy a few new toys and give them to her on the plane.
What actually happened: Adrian and I bought the Popple a few small toys and a book, all of which she threw on the floor as soon as we handed them to her.
Things she actually played with: a pen, a pair of free airplane headphones, the plastic bag that the headphones came in, and the flight safety card.
What I was told: Breastfeed her during takeoff and landing to help relieve the pressure on her ears.
What actually happened: This actually worked during takeoff on our flight to America. On the way back, she was so furious that I had to try to boob her as soon as we boarded the plane.
It didn’t work.
If you’ve ever sat on a quiet, crowded airplane with your boob out while your baby howls and tries to escape from your arms, you’ll know how stressful it is. The people who are seated near you are staring. The people who are seated away from you are feeling pretty f***ing lucky. Everyone kind of hates you.
After 20 minutes of purple-faced shrieking, the Popple finally screamed herself to sleep on my shoulder, and I nearly wet myself with relief.
What I was told: Just load up lots of videos onto your iPad and let her watch as much as she wants.
What actually happened: I’m a big fan of some cleverly-deployed screen time. Would I usually plop the Popple in front of the telly and leave her for hours? No. Would I let her watch back-to-back episodes of Peppa Pig on an airplane if I thought it could get her to actually sit still for more than five minutes? Hell yes.
But here’s the problem – the Popple can’t watch anything on the iPad because she can’t stop herself from touching the screen. Or, more accurately, hitting the screen as hard as she can until she’s closed the video and opened up some weird programme I’ve never heard of.
I did try to get her to watch Kung Fu Panda 3 on the little screen on the back of the chair in front of her. And she did – for about 15 minutes.
Those 15 minutes were epic. She pointed at the screen and laughed her a** off, even though the film was on mute. I marvelled at how cute she can be. I watched a few minutes of my own grown-up movie. I drank some wine and didn’t have to worry about spilling it on her head.
Then she wanted to get out of her car seat. And this happened. For pretty much the rest of the flight.